The Library Book, by Susan Orlean

What a great book!
I read it cover to cover in two sittings. Simply superb...! 
Read on, then go to your library and check it out.

About The Book



“A constant pleasure to read…Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book.” —The Washington Post


A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries—from the bestselling author hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post.

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Why I Write
Susan Orleans points out in The Library Book (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018, p.93) that she wrote this book to preserve memories of her childhood visits to libraries.

I convinced myself that committing them to a page meant the memory was saved, somehow, from the corrosive effect of time,” she says.

The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten―that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed. If you gaze into that bleak­ness even for a moment, the sum of life becomes null and void, because if nothing lasts, nothing matters. It means that everything we experience unfolds without a pattern, and life is just a wild, random, baffling occurrence, a scattering of notes with no melody. But if something you learn or observe or imagine can be set down and saved, and if you can see your life reflected in previous lives, and can imagine it reflected in subsequent ones, you can begin to discover order and harmony. You know that you are a part of a larger story that has shape and purpose―a tangible, familiar past and a constantly refreshed future. We are all whisper­ing in a tin can on a string, but we are heard, so we whisper the message into the next tin can and the next string. Writing a book, just like building is library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a decla­ration that you believe in the persistence of memory.

In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase. I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s conscious­ness is a collection of memories we’ve catalogued and stores inside us, a private library of a life lived. It is something that no one else can entirely share, one that burns down and disappears when we die. But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it―with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited―it takes on a life of its own.”#


Lo Manthang: Cycling to the Lost Kingdom on the Other Side of the Himalayas

What a wild place to go biking!
The blocky white peak (top left) is Dhaulagiri, the world's 7th highest. 

(Lo Manthang in northern Nepal is also known Mustang to outsiders.)

Here's a good story. The author, Ravi Man Singh of Kathmandu, starts it here in Part-1 with a challenge from Walt Disney: 

"If you can dream it, you can do it!

"At the age of 66, my mountain biking trip to Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, 
not only made me realise my dream and rise to the daunting challenges put 
up by the punishing and unforgiving terrain, but also curiously helped me 
rediscover my own strength and grit.
"Believed to be a mystical Shangri-La, the 500-year old capital of Mustang, “the Kingdom of Lo”–Lo Manthang–was off limits to the foreigners until 1992. Today, the tiny enclave hidden within the folds of rolling mountains on the Tibetan plateau has become a destination of a lifetime for foreign tourists and Nepalese alike. ... "
Read on, for the adventure is interesting with stunning photographs... You can access the story online at http://english.onlinekhabar.com/lo-manthang-cycling-to-the-lost-kingdom-on-the-other-side-of-the-himalayas.html


Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery by Daniel C. Taylor

YETI: The Ecology of a Mystery, by Daniel C. Taylor

In the mid-1950s, when Daniel Taylor was a schoolboy growing up in the Himalayas of North India, he was assigned to write a paper on any subject of his choice. “At first,” he says, “I thought I’d do tigers―tigers were the ultimate quarry for Taylor boys―but I decided to write about Yetis.” That choice, that paper, was his first step in what became a lifelong quest to discover the truth about the mysterious critters. His quest has taken him on many trails and, ultimately, to writing his insightful memoir, Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery.

“The Yeti is more than just a footprint,” he says. How much more, both really and physically, and metaphysically, is what this natural science study is all about. The mystery of the yeti began during a 1920s British Himalayan expedition with the photograph of what appeared to be the footprint of a large hominid-like creature. Combine that photo and others taken over the years with myths, legends, and startling true-life stories of encounters with yetis told by Himalayan folk, such as the Sherpas of the Mount Everest region, and you’ll understand why he calls it a mystery. Taylor’s breakthrough discovery of yeti-reality came after years of careful search and research. The book sometimes reads like a detective novel, chasing clues. Is it some heretofore unknown creature, maybe prehistoric, hiding out wild in the Himalayas? Or, does it have a more rational explanation?

In Yeti, Taylor guides us on a series of exploratory treks to find out. His revelations are strengthened by his lifelong work in nature conservation and education, and many years tramping across north India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.

And what does he tell someone else who wants find the Yeti, or any other strange beast, rare bird, puzzling plant form, or another unexplained phenomenon? His advice is like Kipling’s: “Do it! Go for it. Find it.” Go out “with a packsack on your back, and an open mind.”

And what are Taylor’s conclusions after more than a half century of research? To find out, I recommend you read the book, no matter if you hope to trek the mountain forests and snowfields to see for yourself, or if you prefer reading it at home by the fire as an arm-chair explorer. But be prepared, for it is such an alluring saga that once you start you may not be able to put it down ’til the book is finished, the mystery is solved, and you have learned something remarkable about both the beast and the man.

Originally posted on Portland Book Review at www.portlandbookreview.com/2-18/11/yeti.
Publisher: Oxford University Press / Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Kindle / Purchase: Amazon


Plogging For Plastic Wastes, by Hemang Dixit

Question: With this sort of awareness of the bane of plastics in tiny Nepal (below) and in Europe, what are we in the USA and the rest of the world doing to address the plastic pollution crisis?  Don't leave it up to government; it's everyone's responsibility.


In Europe there is awareness about recycling of plastics

The Guardian reported recently that the figure of recycling of plastic in Norway was as high as 95%. Norway recycles each used plastic bottle twelve times. Germany claims to do a lot of recycling too and claims that its efforts are more successful than that of the Scandinavians

The Swedes were perhaps the first to burn their trash and use the energy obtained for heating purposes in a major town. This is an ongoing project which is being copied in other parts of the world. In Sweden they have gone further and adopted a novel idea to deal with plastic waste. The originators of this activity which is being copied in many countries of Europe with enthusiasm are the Swedes. Basic idea is from the Swedish word ‘ploke’ which means to collect. One starts by putting on running shoes, picks up a container, even a plastic bag in one’s hand and jogs around the park or city streets / lanes, stooping periodically to pick up garbage which has been strewn around by ‘Litterbugs’ of the community.
Going around parks with their pet dogs and collecting the ‘poo’ in plastic bags and throwing it in the bin does not solve the problem of the plastic bag which is not biogradeable. Styrocene cups for coffee are also major offenders. What are required are cups made of paper which are biodegradeable or even of plastic which decompose quickly.
In Europe there is awareness about recycling of plastics. The Guardian reported recently that the figure of recycling of plastic in Norway was as high as 95%. Norway recycles each used plastic bottle twelve times. Germany claims to do a lot of recycling too and claims that its efforts are more successful than that of the Scandinavians.
This is not possible in Nepal. Kathmandu Nagarpalika is said to have a plan for management of wastes in co-operation with different municipalities in the valley. The road to the overused dumping site at Sisdole cannot be used during the monsoon season so our wastes pile up all over the town. Long term solution was said to be at Banchare Danda together with the construction of a plant to convert the wastes into compost. Reality is that during this monsoon period the wastes of Kathmandu have not been removed. The hope is that private parties will do this.
However on 1st Asar 2075 (15 July 2018) a stretch of 100 meters of Anupam Tole of Pokhara Municipality of Gandaki Pradesh became the first Municipality of Nepal to asphalt a road with plastic garbage. The wastes were first converted to pellets, mixed with bitumen, spread on the road and finally compressed to make a metalled surface. This section of the road was inaugurated by mayor Man Bahadur KC. Congratulations to all the pioneers of Gandaki for their initiative.
It is interesting to note that this technology of using plastic wastes by converting into pellets and then for building roads has been introduced in India. About 15 kilometres of metalled such road was made in Jamshedpur, the steel city of India. Roads built in this fashion last must longer than those constructed in regular fashion. It is cheaper too as the amount of bitumen required is reduced by almost 10%.
An article in the daily Star newspaper of Bangladesh states that about 15 kilometres of road has been built in Jamshedpur, the steel city of India. As from 2015 the Government of India has made it mandatory to utilise plastic wastes for making roads. Currently as many as 11 states in India have utilised this technology to build as much as 100,000 kilometres of metalled roads in the country.
Apparently plastic use has increased greatly since 2005 and is becoming a problem. To counter it the Bangladesh government is implementing its 3R policy (reduce, reuse and recycle) in two major cities of Dhaka and Chittagong where it is a major problem. The use of plastic, it is felt will make the metalled roads more durable and longer lasting than the existing process. Ghana, in West Africa is building roads out of plastic bags too.
We in Nepal, taking the examples of India and Bangladesh and in line with the initiative of Pokhara should set up medium sized plastic pellets manufacturing units in some selected sites in Nepal for recycling plastic wastes. Our newspapers have reported that a number of our highways and newly constructed roads need urgent repair to lessen the daily accidents that occur. Using these plastic pellets for the building of our roads will solve two major problems that we Nepalis have been contending with.
Later information about plastics that was posted in Facebook is that so far about 6.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced. Of this 12% have been burnt, 9//5 have been recycled. The estimate is that there is currently 4.9 billion tons of plastic remaining in the world. However, plastic is also a necessity for modern day living. For example the keeping quality of much what we eat is preserved for longer periods and does not have to be thrown away if not consumed. It is used for making modern day clothing but plastic has become the bane of modern living. Plastic is a basic component for the development of the information technology which modern living cannot do without. The debit aspect of all this is that because of it erratic disposal, much of it finally ends up in the oceans and leads to the death of fishes, turtles and even birds which thinking that it is eatable end up by being suffocated or clogged up by this indigestible material. The present plastic wastes, if heaped at one site will create a mountain that is bigger than the 8848 metres high Mt. Everest of our land and reach up to the skies.
Sweden now has a shortage of plastic wastes and has to import these for utilisation to heat cities during winter months. Another piece of news is that the Japanese have found in their garbage dumps an enzyme that digests plastic and are developing it further. Is this the saviour of humankind?
(Spotlight magazine, Kathmandu, Aug. 17 2018)
SEE MORE - FACTS & FIGURES, at: www.thecivilengineer.org/news-center/latest-news/item/1498-the-plastic-pollution-problem-in-charts