The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Rainy day weather perfect for a good book

ll be on the way. What better excuse to grab a book, a chair and a warm, dry corner?

Now and again I love to share some of the best books I’ve stumbled across. I like to think my list is a bit out of the ordinary since I indulge a habit I’ve had since childhood of just strolling the library or bookstore shelves until something catches my eye.

It’s my happy place, surrounded by an endless choice of goodies, and when I find one that turns out to be great, I feel like I’ve found buried treasure. One takes one’s small victories where one can find them, no?

My favorite find this year was “Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies” by J.B. West, a former White House Chief Usher from 1941 and Roosevelts through 1969 and the Nixons.

His primary job was to assist the First Ladies in every facet of their position. This is pure dessert for political history buffs. You get such an intimate view of what each first lady was like and how differently each family made their time in the White House.

I found more engrossing history in,  “The Sugar Girls” series by Duncan Barret and Nuala Calvi.

It gives an interesting and charming look at the lives of the women who worked in London’s east end factories, which included the sugar and syrup factories, from before the First World War through the ‘60s, when many shut down.

For my fellow Sci-Fi fans, I just discovered “Saucer” by Steven Coonts. I just love the original premise of how the saucer was found and the story built around it. I also loved rereading Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starman Jones.”

To satisfy a love of historical fiction, I recommend “The Women of Magnolia.” I preferred its tale of plantations and slaves to “The Invention of Wings.”

Since the birth of my own children, I have been fascinated with the historical accounts of midwifes throughout the centuries. “The Birth House” by Ami McKay is a wonderful story of midwives and early women doctors, set in the late 1800s. Another good midwife saga is “The Midwife of Hope River” set in America in the ‘20s.

I also love tales of my Irish ancestry, which led me to “The Linen Queen.” It is set in the north of Ireland and tells of the young women who worked the spinning mills.

And to wrap things up, highlights from my fascination with the deep South, include “Chimes from a Cracked Southern Bell” by Susan Reinhardt and “Fat is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life” by the funniest woman on earth, Jill Connor Browne.

OK, people. That’s enough chit-chat. Now go get busy reading, and make it by a roaring fire, if possible — with tea. Yes, tea would be lovely.


Jean Gillette is a freelance writer still a captive of her long love affair with books and libraries. Contact her at [email protected].