The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008 (235 pgs)
During the siege of Sarajevo, a man watches from his window as 22 of his friends and neighbors are killed by a single shell while waiting in line for bread. He quietly puts on his tux, picks up his cello, and plays in the wreckage for 22 days. From there, the narrative shifts between three other survivors in the war zone, one of them a sniper charged with keeping the cellist alive during his “concerts.” A moving novel without veering towards maudlin or sappy. It’s a haunting look at how hope sustains people during war and how sometimes survival means creating your own hope.
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locallyby Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon 2007 (264 pgs)
In our modern economy, the average food item now travels 1500 to 3000 miles from farm to plate. Even locally grown food is often shipped overseas for processing before sale. In Plenty a Vancouver B.C. couple, hoping to decrease their ecological footprint, commits for a year to eat only food grown within 100 miles of their urban apartment.
I like this book more the further I get away from it. The concepts are intriguing, but the writing is off-putting. In alternating monthly chapters the two authors chronicle their food-life experiment. MacKinnon’s writing is so overly ornate and convinced of his own profundity that Smith’s more practical approach is a welcome relief. Both authors tend toward minutia and never delve into the personal. There is a resulting sense of disconnect and readers are left feeling uninvested.
In spite of its faults, the book is a good jumping-off point for examining your personal consumption and the ecological and economic consequences. My library selected this book as our “all staff read” for an upcoming in-service and I’m excited for the discussion.