Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I have to confess that until I picked up the Sunday New York Times Book Review, I was oblivious to the wild popularity of Sookie Stackhouse. Stackhouse, in case you haven't run into her, is the telepathic cocktail waitress who serves as the protagonist in a series of bestselling vampire novels by author Charlaine Harris.
Harris clearly knows the craft of writing. How else to explain the fact that five of her Sookie Stackhouse books are on the Times' top 20 list for mass-market fiction paperbacks?
But doesn't it strike you that in the midst of the holiday season, the current popularity of vampires is a little odd? Whatever happened to "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly" and "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire?"
One of the most popular Hollywood movies this season is "Twilight," the romantic tale of a teenage girl with a crush on a young vampire (one who prefers not to drink blood). The second film based on the Stephenie Meyer novels, "New Moon," already is in production.
On Donner, on Blitzen, on Dancer and Prancer and Lestat! What would Santa's elves say?
I'm not putting Harris down. In fact, I envy her. I'll be able to tell you more about what I think of her prose by the end of the week - I just checked out "All Together Dead" from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Monday afternoon.
The books deal with Louisiana vampires who are out in the open and trying to co-exist with humans. The Times reports that when Sookie Stackhouse's boyfriend is kidnapped in "Club Dead," "she goes to Mississippi to find him with the help of an undead Elvis."
Hold on just a second. Elvis was no vampire, was he?
Just in time for the holidays, I'm coming through with some reading recommendations from leading librarians in Steamboat. And these books have nothing to do with blood-sucking vampires.
David Willis, director of the Alpine Campus library at Colorado Mountain College, is offering young readers a specific alternative to vampires at the holidays, one that should resonate with J.K. Rowling fans. He recommended "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Liba Bray.
"I love young adult literature, and the genre has come a very long way since I was young," Willis said. "For those who have finished the 'Twilight' series and might be longing for another Harry Potter, this first book of the Gemma Doyle trilogy presents another young heroine worth rooting for."
Michelle Dover, circulation services manager at Bud Werner Memorial Library, has uncovered a 25-year-old book by Octavia Butler, "Kindred," that blends social issues with science fiction.
In "Kindred," a contemporary black woman who is married to a white man travels back to Maryland of the early 19th century and saves a white boy from danger. The boy proves to be one of her ancestors.
Head Librarian Chris Painter has a recommendation for guys. She admires "City of Thieves" by David Benioff for its literary qualities despite retelling the stories of horrific incidents in World War II Leningrad, all with a quirky sense of humor.
Kristin Weber, a library technician at CMC, has been reading heavy titles this fall.
She favors "Tallgrass" by Sandra Dallas. It's a novel that revisits Colorado's history with Japanese internment camps. Weber also recommends "The Garden of Last Days" by Andre Dubus III.
"It's tragic and disturbing, but I couldn't put it down," she said.
Jackie Kuusinen, who works in the reference department at Bud Werner, is a fan of nonfiction.
"Everyday Survival" by Lawrence Gonzalez is "one of the best books I've read in awhile," Kuusinen said.
The book blends evolutionary theory with complex concepts like entropy and systems theory to explain why intelligent people make mistakes.
"The beauty of the book is that he makes this academic material accessible," she said.
If you're still hung up on vampires, you might dig up a copy of Nina Auerbach's "Our Vampires, Ourselves," published by the University of Chicago Press in 1995. Auerbach presents a history of societal views on vampirism and takes the sometimes controversial stance that each generation reinvents vampires to suit the needs of contemporary culture.
I just hope I don't have a nightmare tonight in which Dancer and Prancer are vampires.
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