Thoughts for Thursday: What's in the news

Hi, everyone, and thanks for hanging in with me. I've experienced a steep learning curve with my new job (which I started Aug. 1), and the fall is when I tend to feel more sluggish. Just to explain the relative paucity of posts.

Today, I'm focusing on tying the news to books.

And, of course, we've all heard about the Southern California wildfires. I know several people who have been affected by the fires, and my sympathies are extended to the thousands who are suffering loss.

For the rest of us who are only experiencing fire primarily through TV, a book that gives you the experience from a smoke-jumper's point of view is Norman MacLean's Young Men and Fire. This is a gem: thoughtful, well-researched (if loosely edited; MacLean died before it was finished), and unforgettable. From Publisher's Weekly:

On Aug. 5, 1949, 16 Forest Service smoke jumpers landed at a fire in remote Mann Gulch, Mont. Within an hour, 13 were dead or irrevocably burned, caught in a "blowup"--a rare explosion of wind and flame. The late Maclean, author of the acclaimed A River Runs Through It , grew up in western Montana and worked for the Forest Service in his youth. He visited the site of the blowup; for the next quarter century, the tragedy haunted him. In 1976 he began a serious study of the fire, one that occupied the last 14 years of his life.

Other books I've read concerning fire:

Fire and Fog, Dianne Day. A detective novel featuring a heroine who surives the 1906 earthquake and fire. I'm not a genre reader, but this one gives a good feel for what it must have been like to have experienced the quake and fire. And a pretty decent story, decently written.

San Francisco is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires, Dennis Smith. Firefighter-turned-writer Smith gives some interesting accounts of the famous disaster, though Smith isn't the best writer in the whole world. (Report from Ground Zero was...not a favorite. I'm sure Simon Winchester's Crack in the Edge of the World is equally good if not better -- I haven't read it yet, though.) Still, it's an amazing story no matter how many ways it's told.