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I’ve come to the end of the book-a-day calendar (thanks again to my brother, for a 2006 Christmas gift that kept on giving). From the last few pages, here are my recommendations:

1. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith—and its sequels, and pretty much any other book by Mr. Smith, whose quirky sense of humor and flexible style make each of his protagonists uniquely enjoyable.

2. Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper, by Jack Coughlin & Casey Kuhlman, with Donald A. Davis—For my brother-in-law, and my husband, and maybe my nephew, and anyone else who enjoys this kind of truelife adventure which “invites you into the mind and world of one of the U.S. military’s most successful snipers….His journey…to Iraq (with stops along the way in other fiercely dangerous places like Somalia) is a gripping, enlightening, and one-of-a-kind account.” Then re-read Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” from The Things They Carried.

3. The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, by Jacques Steinberg—this book about how admissions works at Wesleyan University (or did in 2003) may or may not be helpful to students and parents of students who are applying to similar or less prestigious colleges, but it sounds interesting anyway. Someone should write a book about the Campbell U admissions process—but not me!

4.    Patience and Fortitude, by Nicholas A. Basbanes—It seems perfect to end the year with a pilgrimage through the world’s great libraries, past and present, “from Alexandria to Oxford, from New York to the Vatican,” chronicling their unusual denizens as well as their volumes. Several years ago I attended a literary conference that included a tour of Biltmore House. As the guide led each group of professors into the gorgeous library, lined with beautifully bound books from floor to ceiling, a collective sigh of delight and longing arose from the group and we just stood there, gazing. The tour-guide reached the end of her spiel and was ready to move on, but we would have happily spent the rest of the evening in that library—if the shelves hadn’t been cordoned off with velvet ropes! As fantastic as it is to be able to find so much—nearly anything—in the way of scholarly articles online now, or through inter-library loan, nothing can replace the awesomeness of an enormous and beautifully designed library.

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