“Giving” by Bill Clinton

giving.jpg If you’ve ever put down the daily paper and wondered, where has all the good news gone? you might try this book by ex-president and author, Bill Clinton.

Although it’s impossible not to look for the political angle, what you find instead is an amazingly level-headed, well-written account of what Clinton calls “an explosion of citizen service” since the conclusion of the Cold War. In a world where l00 million children in poor countries don’t go to school, and half the world’s people live on less than $2.00 a day, it’s perhaps no surprise that information technology and globalisation of commerce have made everyone more aware that the name of the game is sharing, so that all may benefit.

As for his involvement, Clinton points out that when he met Hilary in law school, she was working to provide legal services to the under-privileged. In Arkanas, she ran the legal aid clinic and prison project. She did it, he notes, because it made it her happy. Clinton himself left the White House in 200l. In 2002 he started the Foundation in his name and in 2005 convened the Clinton Global Initiative at the annual opening of the UN General Assembly. Their pledges rose from $2.7 million the first year to more than $7 million the following year.

This book looks at the various ways we can give: with money, time, things, skills, good ideas, even including organizing markets for the public good (companies are making money by cutting greenhouse gases in Denmark). He discusses the part governments can play. He examines non-governmental organizations and looks at the results of their giving and how these have to checked. He includes a thorough list at the back of the book of names, books and websites.

Next year may be an election year in the US….but this seems to me to be a book for all time.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Law of Dreams” by Peter Behrens

lawofdreams.jpg This is the story of the Great Famine in Ireland and the violent adventures of young Fergus O’Brien who undertook to escape it.

Set in l846, in County Clare, the book describes the inhuman living conditions of farmers and their tenants ruled by overseas landlords. This is not a political account. Behrens points out in remarks at the end that the British people probably had no more idea of the suffering in Ireland than most of us in North America do of the people today living in Somalia, or Eritrea. “The Law of Dreams” simply recounts the horrific life Fergus experienced from the moment his father and mother and sisters were burned to death when their cabin was destroyed and he escaped, to tramp his way first to a ship to Liverpool, living a rough life with the Bog Boys en route, then to work on the railroad in Northern Wales, and finally to a ship going to Canada with a life on board that you can hardly believe for its suffering.

Fergus has both courage, and indomitable dreams. The Toronto Star points out that this book “has to resonate with North American readers, no matter how their ancestors came to these shores.”

It is vividly-written historical fiction, with a story you won’t soon forget.

Review by Anne McDougall