Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
This was an unexpected treat from the New Fiction shelf. Language Arts is the heart-breaking story of a father with an autistic son – a teacher who loves words and writing, with a child who cannot speak or write. It goes back and forth between the father’s childhood in Seattle (when he won handwriting awards and published a short story in the newspaper), his college years when he met his wife, and his current life as an English teacher and parent. Kallos gives readers a better understanding of what it’s like to live with someone with autism, and also gives us a great story.
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (Penguin Group, 2012)
As an environmental activist, I didn’t expect to learn anything new from this book, but I was really surprised. It was fascinating and well-written with many revelations. Humes doesn’t just quote statistics, he tells the story of trash from the perspective of real people who are involved with it. He interviews ocean explorers who research the “great Pacific garbage patch,” heavy machine operators who work in huge landfill operations, entrepreneurs who invented reusable bags and trash to energy facilities, artists whose medium is garbage, and families who strive for zero-waste lifestyles. Humes manages to simultaneously makes the reader very concerned and strangely optimistic about our future relationship with garbage. This is a must-read.