There’s been a lot of talk in the store today about tree houses, and not just because we have a couple of books that lavish a lot of love on fabulous designs in that regard. We’re not entirely sure that tree houses are built with reasonably sized library shelves in mind, but we’ll forgive them for that if they succeed in other important regards. Like: fabulous views; distance from annoying neighbors; proximity to wild animals that make interesting noises but stay at a respectable distance away, thank you very much; and, surprisingly good proximity to a decent winery/distillery/brewery.
But, if we were going to scamper off to a tree house this afternoon, we’d probably take one of the following books with us.
Let’s start with Naomi Williams’s Landfalls, which came out last year, but which we’re just now getting to. What? Like your To Be Read pile isn’t threatening to fall over and spook the cat. Anyway, Landfalls charts the Lapérouse expedition that set sail in 1785 and was supposed to circumnavigate the world. Maybe they made it; maybe they didn’t: let’s not spoil Williams’s narrative, shall we? Regardless, Williams pieces together the story of Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse, by telling the story of people, places, and objects that come into contact with the expedition as it sails around the world. It’s a marvelous approach to a historical narrative that paints a fascinating picture of a time and place.
Speaking of around the world travels, you can actually stay in tree houses at the Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses resort in New Zealand.
Which might be a fine place to sit out on the deck and read Maestra, the new Gone Girl meets Girl With a Dragon Tattoo meets The Art Forger by L. S. Hilton, which introduces us to Judith Rashleigh, the “femme fatale of tomorrow who’s sexy, smart, and very, very bad in all the best ways.” I think we’d all rather read about her exploits from the other side of the world than get in the way of whatever she has set her sights on, right?
Speaking of badasses, how about a story of librarian action out of Timbuktu to save some of the world’s most precious manuscripts. The book by Joshua Hammer (you can pretty much guess the name of the book, right) tells the story of Abdel Kader Haidara, an intrepid librarian from Timbuktu who was quietly cataloging and salvaging crumbling Islamic and secular manuscripts along the Niger River. All fairly standard fare so far, but then Al Qaeda shows up, and our badass librarian hatches a plan to get all 350,000 volumes out of the region and to safety.
That’s like taking all eight of the treehouse at the Treehotel in Harada, Sweden, (ten times over, in fact), and then sneaking them out of town when the bad guys are distracted. It’s like some booknerd version of the greatest heist ever, especially when the treehouse cabins have names like “UFO” and “Mirrorcube” and “Dragonfly.”
While on the subject of team building and working together, we have, on the one hand, the Scout Treehouse built by a group of local scouts in the forest near Wolfsburg, Germany.
And, on the other hand, we have Sam Quinones’s Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (now in paperback), which is what happens when communities don’t quite work together as planned. Now, we’d much rather visit the Scout Treehouse in Wolfsburg, but we should probably read Quinones’s book and get a handle on what Slate.com calls “a catastrophe unfolding all around us.”
Some of these pairings work better than others. Such are the hazards of attempting to glue art and commerce together sometimes.
But hey, let’s keep talking about success stories and strong-willed teams that refused to give up. Like the Dambusters, RAF 617 Squadron, who suffered 75% losses over their fly time during World War II, but who were involved in some of the most daring and audacious raids every performed against the Nazi threat. John Nicol (who was a former RAF flight lieutenant himself) has managed to collect stories from the surviving members of the Dambusters, and combine them with heretofore untold stories to produce Return of the Dambusters, one of those non-fiction books that reads like fiction. We suspect this one is going to hit a lot of lists by the end of the year.
Also striking for the lists is William Geroux’s The Matthews Men, the story of seven brothers who were part of the US Merchant Marines during World War II, and who got caught up in the deadly cat and mouse games of submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean. The Merchant Marines suffered twice the casualties of the US Navy during the War, and probably had half the armament, and the story told in The Matthews Men is a rousing and gripping tale of brothers and a community coming together to defend themselves and their loved ones in a time of great conflict.
Closer to home, did you know that Treehouse Point out in Fall City, Washington, has treehouses you can rent for the night? Or how about Out’n’About down Cave Junction, Oregon? Hmmm. Maybe we should have a readover.