I have a thing for watches. It hasn’t yet reached the level of a problem, at least in my opinion. Others may disagree, including my two nieces who I dragged to a pop-up museum of Patek Philippe watches in New York City over the summer. They deserved it, I had to go to the American Girl store twice! I also have a thing for being on time. That’s why I was intrigued by a new book called “Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time,” by Simon Garfield.
Garfield’s book explores how we have become obsessed by time. “Time, once passive, is now aggressive” he states. We are obsessed with deadlines and every time we pick up our phones the time glows and glares at us as we try to take a call or send a text. Garfield clearly has done a lot of research for his book, and he makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read by filling the pages with fascinating anecdotes about the history and science of timekeeping.
When I picked up that book, my eye was drawn to another non-fiction book called “The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine,” by Lindsey Fitzharris. It is an absorbing history of how Lister pioneered antiseptic methods for surgery. Lister, after reading Louis Pasteur’s study on food spoilage if micro-organisms were present, began sterilizing wounds and surgical instruments with carbolic acid in order to stop the spread of infection. It seems impossible to even fathom, but this idea was controversial at the time! Fitzharris’ descriptions of hospital and surgical conditions during the Victorian era are not for the faint of heart, but makes a compelling read.
There are a few other newish non-fiction books that are on my ever growing list to check out. One is “The Gourmand’s Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy,” by Justin Spring … because I love food, so why not? Another one is “The House of Worth 1858-1954: The Birth of Haute Couture,” by Chantal Trubert-Tollu. It’s probably not a book I’ll read right through, but the pictures and illustrations are gorgeous. There are plenty more books available at the library for every interest. If we don’t have it here, we can always order it from another Rhode Island library. All you have to do is ask!
Caroline Badowski is a reference librarian at the Westerly Library.