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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books for graduation and beyond reviewed by Susan Olasky

What Now?

Ann Patchett avoids clichés in this wise little book based on a commencement address she gave to the graduates of Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater. She uses stories from her life to illustrate how she learned that "what now is not just a panic stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now can also be our joy."

Although Patchett refers to luck rather than providence, her advice is good: "There are too many forces, as deep and invisible as tides, that keep us bouncing into places where we never thought we'd wind up. Sometimes the best we can hope for is to be graceful and brave in the face of all the changes that will surely come."

How Women Help Men Find God

Murrow does a good job of explaining why many men don't like church. It's the same reason many boys don't like school: School is female-oriented and makes stars of people who are verbal, studious, and sensitive (all traits more associated with women, he says). Since men are less likely to feel competent at church, "they focus their time and energy in venues where they can be stars. The workplace. The golf course."

Part three of the book offers much that's practical, especially for women who can't get their men interested in church. Even if you don't agree completely with Murrow's diagnosis or solutions, he offers plenty to chew over.

The Last Lecture

On Sept. 18, 2007, computer scientist Randy Pausch gave "The Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University as part of a series in which professors discuss their lives and the lessons they've learned. But Pausch's lecture was different. His cancer had recently metastasized and he knew his time was short. The lecture was an immediate internet phenomenon.

In this book Pausch fleshes out the lecture's content-how to fulfill childhood dreams-but makes explicit his desire to leave a legacy for his wife and children. It's more personal than his talk-viewable at watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo-but it is also flatter, since words on the page do not convey the man's energy, good humor, and generosity.

Three Cups of Tea

In 1993 Greg Mortenson tried and failed to achieve the summit of K2, the world's second-highest mountain. On his way down he got lost and wandered into the village of Korphe, a place so small it didn't appear on maps. Mortenson, who had been raised by Christian missionaries in Tanzania, grew to appreciate the Balti people in Korphe. He promised to come back and build a school.

This book tells how he fulfilled that promise and built dozens of other schools in the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is both an adventure story and travelogue that depicts well the variety of Muslims with whom he worked. Readers will have to guess if his childhood Christianity still plays a role in his life.


One of the best aspects of Three Cups of Tea is that Mortenson allows us to see his Pakistani friends as real human beings who work incredibly hard, sacrifice for their children (even their daughters), and value honesty, thrift, and education.

One Hen, a vibrantly illustrated children's book about microcredit, brings to life for elementary students the creative, hardworking people of Ghana. The book by Katie Smith Milway tells the story of a poor child who with the help of a small loan is able to buy a brown hen. That hen lays eggs and the boy sells some of the eggs at market. The eggs and hens multiply so the boy is able to pay his school fees and then go to college, buy a farm, marry, employ others in his egg business, and provide wealth for his family, community, and country.

The author wisely decided to tell the story primarily through pictures and rhymes on some pages-"This is the hen that Kojo buys with the loan he got"-and through words on others.


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