It's a James Lee Burke Kind of Day

Whenever my local world is too much with me, I often turn to a book to get myself out of the doldrums (perhaps many of you do, too). Once when I was feeling weltschmerzty about working in academe, I read the book, Blue-Collar Journal: A College President’s Sabbatical, and then during vacations took a series of blue-collar jobs (doing inventories, picking and packing toys in a cut-rate factory, and others) to get some perspective on life and work. Another time I read William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways and embarked on a number of trips around the U.S., seeing for myself what some of the rest of this country was like, and talking with folks whose worlds are very different, yet in some ways, remarkably similar, to mine.

Sometimes, I’ve let Georgette Heyer take me to 1930’s-40’s England, into whodunnits with witty, sophisticated characters whose repartee always brings glee to a reader’s heart. Other times, Joan Hess, Janet Evanovich, Caroline Haines, and Margaret Maron take me to foreign places right here in the U.S., peopled with characters that fascinate me. But when I get really cranky and distressed about the world immediately around me, I turn to James Lee Burke — he is a sure-fire cure for what ails me. When I compare my life with Dave Robicheaux’s tribulations, and those of most of his other characters, I realize just how good I have it, comparatively speaking (although God knows I envy Robicheaux the house his Daddy built, all those pecan trees, and his bait shop in New Iberia).

So even though I have lots of work to do this weekend (an e-review, a book in progress, etc.) I took some time this AM to immerse myself in Neon Rain, the first Burke / Robicheaux novel, which makes my lot look like paradise. And now I’m ready to face my work, knowing it’s a helluva lot easier than what many folks have to do.

More as it happens on an overcast, humid October day in southern Mass.,

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.


  1. Rod says:

    OMG – yes! After you have slogged through Robicheaux land and its assorted criminals, psycho and sociopaths – just about anything looks good. I can only handle a couple of these at any given time – but he’s such a darn good writer, he’ll pull you back in with the characters, the mileau, and the story.

    • Cheryl LaGuardia says:

      He makes libraries seem particularly safe and unthreatening by comparison, doesn’t he? I agree about only being able to read these a bit at a time; the characters, settings and language are fascinating, but the violence can be hard to take in large doses. I wonder how Clete Purcell would do in a library setting…?