Roundup / Local Interest

December 21, 2008|By Diane Scharper | Diane Scharper,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

By Peter Manseau

Free Press / 370 pages / $25

Peter Manseau's novel creates a Marc Chagall-like world of pathos, humor and enchantment. Beginning in 19th-century Russia and ending in 1990s Baltimore, the plot concerns a library of Yiddish language books on Lombard Street near Corned Beef Row in Baltimore's former Jewish District. The collection, aptly called "The Library of Broken Dreams," suggests the tale's bittersweet territory. Manseau chronicles the origin of these books from the perspective of Itsik Malpesh, a nonagenarian Yiddish poet, and his 20-something Christian translator whose job rescuing Jewish books leads him to Malpesh's life story. Having loved and lost the eponymous butcher's daughter, Malpesh tries to memorialize their relationship through poorly written Yiddish love poetry. Drawing on history, poetry and local landmarks, this winsome story brings lovers together - and drives them apart.

And Never Stop Dancing

By Gordon Livingston, M.D.

Da Capo Books / 177 pages / $12.95

Dr. Gordon Livingston, a Columbia resident, believes that people can lead self-fulfilling lives - despite living in a turbulent world. A follow-up to his 2005 best-seller, Livingston's latest book offers uncommon wisdom seasoned with irony. Based on principles such as being realistic and letting go of the past, Livingston's advice includes hard-won truths. Some originated from the stories of his patients and his work as a psychiatrist. Others came from his own mistakes such as his efforts at being a stepparent, a circumstance that, he says, is difficult for all, especially the kids, who almost universally want their parents to stay together - even if "the marriage was an unhappy one." Livingston writes in a style reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, making this book not a self-help tome as much as the musings of an insightful mentor.

High Altitude Leadership

By Chris Warner

and Don Schmincke

Jossey-Bass / 210 pages / $27.95

Climbing Mount Everest offers lessons that can be applied to business. That's the bottom line of this motivational book by Chris Warner and Don Schmincke. Warner, a mountain climber and local entrepreneur, and Schmincke, a business writer and scientist (the Johns Hopkins University), believe that storytelling inspires passion and that passion is essential to good business practice. Citing Norse sagas as well as more contemporary tales of endurance, the authors claim that passion is an ancient management concept. Throughout history, leaders created compelling stories of gods and heroes to inspire their followers to succeed. Trying to do likewise, Warner and Schmincke open their book with the riveting tale of someone falling 10,000 feet to his death. They follow the account with business lessons that can be learned from this and other mountain-climbing experiences. Although the concept seems farfetched, this unique book yields some profound - and memorable - truths.

Diane Scharper is co-editor of the anthology "Reading Lips, and Other Ways to Overcome a Disability," winner of the first Helen Keller international memoir competition. She teaches English at Towson University.

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