A DOG NAMED LEAF
By Allen and Linda Anderson. (Globe Pequot Press, 224 pages, $16.95)
Part "Marley and Me" and part Jon Katz, "A Dog Named Leaf" by the Minnesota writing team of Allen and Linda Anderson is the story of an abandoned cocker spaniel the couple rescued, despaired of, learned to love. When they first bring Leaf home from the pound, the dog is frantic. He pees in the house and screams in the night. He terrorizes the cat and is so difficult at the vet that they muzzle him and label him "aggressive." The Andersons hire dog communicators to get to the bottom of Leaf's problems. ("I was left," Leaf apparently tells one of them mournfully.) But more problems loom: Allen Anderson is found to have a brain aneurysm, and he faces risky surgery. And then doctors find a blood clot in his leg. It is Leaf, Anderson wants us to know, who helped him through this terrible time, just as he helped Leaf adjust to his new home. The Andersons' writing is plain and unpolished, but sincere. While you might not believe everything in this very spiritual book (and how I wish their method of calmly explaining the rules to Leaf so that he will stop misbehaving would work with my Rosie), the story is endearing, and the many photographs of Leaf running, swimming, and chasing a tennis ball in south Minneapolis are adorable. Allen and Linda Anderson will launch the book from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and will sign books at 4 p.m. Nov. 8 at the University of Minnesota Bookstore and at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul.
GEORGE ORWELL DIARIES
Edited by Peter Davison (Liveright, 597 pages, $39.95)
The mind that delivered "1984" and other dark prophesies comes into unflinching focus in "George Orwell Diaries." Page upon page reveals a man who brought the same scrutiny to all about him, from the events leading up to World War II to the number of eggs the hens were laying. He missed nothing. He wrote everything down. The diaries, from 1931 to 1946, describe an unrelenting reformer going back to the time he upset the locals by helping an English coal miner's wife with the dishes.
The voice might remind you of the hero in "1984." Orwell can be eerily dispassionate, assessing his physical decline more like a coroner than a patient. The domestic details logged day after day are likely to ward off fainthearted fans. But editor's notes provide helpful context and fill the gaps. Sadly, this collection does not include some key turning points in his life -- such as the Spanish Civil War. But what's there offers deep insight for the devoted Orwell reader.
METRO TEAM LEADER