Becoming Wise

By Krista Tippett. (The Penguin Press, 288 pages, $28.)

Most of us can only dream of the dinner parties Krista Tippett could put together. We’re lucky, then, that her new book is the next best thing to an invitation to sit down, make ourselves at home and prepare for a mind-expanding exploration of what it means to be human.

With “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living,” Tippett expands on interviews that became fascinating fodder for her award-winning NPR program and podcast, “On Being.”

The reader (at least this reader) cannot help but become a grateful voyeur, as Tippett prods and dives into robust exchanges with physician Rachel Naomi Remen, scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn, essayist Pico Iyer and countless other big thinkers.

Divided into five chapters — words, the body, love, faith and hope — these conversations reveal the dilemma of a complex and increasingly crass world that begs to be better.

Getting to that place is not a mystery, Tippett says. It will happen when we choose to truly listen to one another, especially to those with whom we virulently disagree.

“The crack in the middle where people on both sides absolutely refuse to see the other as evil,” Tippett writes, “this is where I want to live and what I want to widen.”

Not light reading, but inspiring reading, for those willing to pull up a chair.

GAIL ROSENBLUM, features writer

 

Boar Island

By Nevada Barr. (Minotaur, 374 pages, $26.99.)

 

When we last left Anna Pigeon, the intrepid and oft mauled park ranger in Nevada Barr’s riveting series of murder mysteries, she was recovering from a harrowing visit to Minnesota’s Iron Range. She’s still nursing a sore shoulder (while not crucial, it helps to read Barr’s now 19 books in order) but has been called to work in Maine’s Acadia National Park. Right. We wait for someone to be shoved from a cliff into the surf below, but Barr throws us a curve. This novel’s villain lives in cyberspace, stalking, posting, texting and so destroying a teenager’s life.

Elizabeth (whom we met in “Hard Truth”), her mother and aunt accompany Anna to Maine to gain some distance from the harassment as they work to identify the stalker. Could Anna be merely another brain on the case here? Ha! A concurrent story line provides several ways in which Anna is variously drugged, half-drowned, dragged and duct-taped.

Yet the villain here also is a victim, of love and genetics, and our knowledge of these factors confounds the easy revulsion that most of Barr’s villains inspire.

“Boar Island” is refreshingly topical, bringing the here-and-now terrors of cyberstalking to the fore, and perhaps for that reason it seems marginally less violent than recent books. Anna Pigeon, red hair now streaked with gray, remains an indelible character, even as she mutters about age starting to have its way with her. But with national parks offering senior discounts, she’ll likely be with us for some time. With any luck. Which she always needs.

By KIM ODE, staff writer