published Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Cleaveland: Thinking about books for graduates graduates

By Clif Cleaveland

As our eldest granddaughter graduated from high school in June, I considered books that I would recommend for her room in college. I whittled a list of a dozen to a more manageable five. I presume that graduates will pack a text of their religious tradition.

* "The American College of Emergency Physicians First Aid Manual" (4th edition). Most college students have had little experience in assessing and caring for the wide range of minor to major illnesses and injuries that can befall any of us. This manual offers excellent illustrations with concise, readily understandable text.

Ideally, high schools should offer a course in first aid before launching 12th-graders into the next stage of their lives. Until that time, this manual

will provide a safety net of useful information. A basic first aid kit should accompany the manual.

* "Good Poems" by Garrison Keillor. This book is based upon his Writer's Almanac, a daily, five-minute feature on many public radio stations. Keillor is adept at selecting poems from famous to lesser-known poets that may comfort, challenge and inspire. Amid the inscrutability of much contemporary poetry, Keillor offers a guide to poems that are necessary and worthy of periodic revisiting.

* "In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind" by Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel. Integrating autobiography and brain science in a wonderfully paced narrative written for the curious lay person, Kandel takes us from the function of single nerve cells to the formation of circuits that underlie how we think and act. As neuroscience expands rapidly, this is an excellent starting point for the discoveries that will soon let us know how brains respond to healthy and toxic environments. Advances in this branch of biology will affect how we structure educational enterprises, comprehend criminal behavior, and address dementia.

* "The Distant Land: The Collected Stories" by Wendell Berry. I hope that the stories in this collection, featuring 23 short stories about the fictional, Kentucky farming community of Port William, will lead the reader to Berry's novels, which follow over several generations the people who make up the Port William Membership. Berry takes the reader from first settlements to modern times to show us the influence of our many home places upon our subsequent lives. He brings us to an understanding of what constitutes fellowship within a family and among friends and neighbors. Relationships change as life's tempo and distractions increase.

Against the fragmented, electronic experiences of modern American life, Wendell Berry reminds us of devotion, compassion and collective memory. We can better comprehend who we are as we consider our people and their origins.

* "The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America" by George Packer. Recently published, this page-turner narrative examines various crises in our country as they affect individuals and communities. In this unique overview of the past 35 years, Packer explores issues that today's high school and college graduates must address if opportunity is to be restored for everyone and not simply to a shrinking minority of people who control great wealth and power. The text is disquieting but points to possible solutions. Business, educational and political leaders of the future can use this as a starting point for assessing the future of their nation.

Book recommendations are always subjective. I hope my selections open doors to fresh thinking.

Please email me your five book choices for a recent grad so I can include them in a future column.

Contact Clif Cleaveland at cleaveland1000@comcast.net.

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