Jeff Garrett's Best Reads of 2014

December 11, 2014

jeff bookendsMy name is Jeff Garrett.  I am a born Evanstonian, the son of Northwestern parents and the father of two Northwestern graduates. After graduating from the University of Munich with a degree in linguistics and history, I worked at the International Youth Library in Munich as a language specialist for five years before returning to the US in 1988 and getting my library degree from Berkeley.  I worked as a librarian at Purdue University for five years and at Northwestern for 19, retiring this past February from Northwestern as Associate University Librarian for Special Libraries.  With my wife Nina, I opened Bookends & Beginnings, an independent bookstore catering to the reading needs of the Evanston community, in June 2014.

1) The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon’s Josephine by Andrea Stuart (2005)

My wife and I vacationed on Martinique in the French Antilles this year, and this book seemed like a great way to satisfy my curiosity about its (completely unknown!) history and combine it with my general interest in 18th century Europe. And I was not disappointed! The book looks at what it was like growing up Creole in the French colonies 250 years ago, gives a credible, detailed look into slave culture on the sugarcane plantations, then whisks the reader off to Paris where a young girl from the provinces goes through the Revolution, meets and then marries the most dazzling figure of the age, Napoleon Bonaparte.

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The Suicide Index

February 2, 2009

suicideindexphotoWickersham, Joan. The Suicide Index. 2008. (155.937 Wicke.J)

When Paul Wickersham killed himself in 1991, he not only ended his own life, but also shattered the lives of his wife and two adult daughters, irrevocably altering their futures, as well as their pasts. Every former notion, thought, and memory of the man that they had known and loved so well is called into question by the final act of his life. Now, 16 years after the fact, his daughter Joan, attempts to make sense of the man, and the action that has come to define him. Rather than tackle the memoir as a straight chronological narrative, Wickersham tells the story in the form of an index. Imposing this formal, orderly structure on such a chaotic and emotional event allows her to bring a level-headed objectivity to the story and enables her to clearly organize the labyrinthine and erratic nature of her thoughts and feelings about her father’s suicide. Wickersham recreates her father’s life by skipping backwards and forwards through time, gradually unpeeling layer after layer of the man, searching futilely for a motive which she knows she will never find. As the details of the suicide and her family history unfold, painful truths about abuse, failures, and betrayals kept hidden for years are revealed, and to her credit, Wickersham never backs away from the conflict, confronting it head-on with an unflinching intimacy. Despite the heavy subject matter, the book never gets bogged down in despair. Wickersham’s beautiful writing is fluid and concise throughout, and she occasionally finds room for humor amid the darkness. This book will appeal to fans of biographies, memoirs, and psychology texts, as well as anyone personally touched by suicide. Wickersham puts a bold human face to an oft hidden topic.  (Andy R. Reader’s Services)

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