Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

It is Friday.

Kim Jong-il has more Twitter followers than you.

(Via Gizmodo).

Jonathan Yardly Reviews "Brooklyn" by Colm Tóibín

From the Washington Post: Jonathan Yardly reviews Brooklyn, a new book from Irish author Colm Tóibín. An earlier work by Tóibín, Blackwater Lightship, was short-listed for the 1999 Booker Prize.











Thursday, May 28, 2009

WSJ: Crime Novels from Scandinavia

Tom Nolan has an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal today about crime novels produced by Scandinavian authors. The column was inspired by the running on PBS "Masterpiece Mystery!" of a three-episode series based upon the Inspector Kurt Wallander books by Swedish author Henning Mankell.

I've been a fan of Mystery! (now "Masterpiece Mystery!") on PBS ever since it was hosted by Vincent Price. The Wallander series is great. In addition to interesting plots and good acting, what is particularly striking about the series is how beautifully it has been filmed. If you have the chance to watch these programs on a big screen, HD television, do so. But it is also looks great on your computer. The Wallander programs can be watched on-line at pbs.org until Sunday, June 7, 2009.









Music We Like: "Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass - Tribute to 1946 and 1947" by Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Bluegrass

Bluegrass is linked in my mind with Sunday afternoons in a Wisconsin country bar, listening to live music, dancing, and drinking cold beer to quash a dance-driven thirst.

Put some great bluegrass into your weekend with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder's CD, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass - Tribute to 1946 and 1947. The disc is Mr. Skaggs tribute to Bill Monroe and his "Original Bluegrass Band", the founders of what is known today as bluegrass music. It's absolutely great listening.

Imagine a lazy Saturday afternoon with hot weather, cold beer, and great bluegrass music. Bring on summer.



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Christopher Hitchens, Author of "God is not Great"

Christopher Hitchens' book, God is not Great, is now available in paperback. Mr. Hitchens is always interesting. Check out below his appearance on Hardball along side Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council. If you can't watch the entire bit, skip ahead to the eight minute mark to hear Mr. Hitchens' closing lines, including the absolute truth that ". . . our [the United States] worst enemy in the world, the one that most seeks to destroy us, is very obviously a faith-based one . . .".



More Buzz About "How to Sell" by Clancy Martin

A review by Garth Risk Hallberg of How to Sell: A Novelat The Millions.com.

New Fiction Recommended at Salon: "How to Sell" by Clancy Martin

From Salon.com' s "Must Read": Laura Miller recommends How to Sell by Clancy Martin, a "crackling novel of scams, sex and druggy escapades in the jewel trade."




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Borders Book Deal

Borders is running one of its book deals in which you buy one from a specific collection of books and get 50 percent off a second book from that group. The deal lasts until June 8, 2009.

The selection of books in this sale is pretty good. Current best sellers are in the mix, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

Two from the group have been listed as recommended reads at this blog: My Life in France by Julia Child and White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

There is one offering which is a definite clunker, in my opinion, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. This book was irritating and juvenile. I understand that it is going to be a motion picture. Figures.





(Via Dealhack)

Recommended Reading: "Ms. Hempel Chronicles" by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a novel by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, is a funny and engaging story. It perfectly captures that delicate bubble of time following college when twenty-somethings, after decades of being special at home, exceptional at school, and dreaming of an exciting life ahead, meet the reality of work and adult life.

The protagonist is Beatrice Hempel. Hempel, in her late 20s, is teaching 7th grade English. Was this the right career choice? How to get the job done: the evaluations, parent-teacher conferences, presenting the material correctly? Bynum lightly and brilliantly captures the problems of this young, new teacher so that anyone who recalls starting a new profession will recognize themselves in Beatrice Hempel. Hempel's family and friends are also woven into this story of a young woman trying to get her work and personal life into a satisfactory groove.

My description of this book sounds much heavier and ordinary than the book itself. Bynum uses a light touch with language. The structure of Ms. Hempel Chronicles is wonderful. If it were a painting, it would be a watercolor; if it were a food, then it would be a delicate meringue. Bynum provides a lot of intensity and content without overworking the story.

A lovely, funny book.



Best Seller Round-Up

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life
from the reading of a book.”
- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862), Walden.


I. The New York Times.
Published May 21, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Wicked Prey, John Sandford.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities Elizabeth Edwards.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published May 24, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Fiction Hardcover: Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir Christopher Buckley.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending May 17, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.
Nonfiction Paperback: In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending May 17, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Wicked Prey, John Sandford.
Nonfiction Hardcover: The Girls From Ames, Jeffrey Zaslow.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.


Monday, May 25, 2009

"City of Thieves" by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff is now available in paperback. Check out my September 2008 review of this highly recommended book.




Sunday, May 24, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

This week's Best Seller Round-Up is on hiatus for the Memorial Day weekend. It will appear instead on Tuesday.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Shuffle Off to Buffalo, Pt. 2

Coincidentally, yesterday's Wall Street Journal, the May 21 edition, featured an article about Frank Lloyd Wright's work in Buffalo, N.Y. The article, by Richard B. Woodward, discusses in detail the Martin House, pictured below. Mr. Wright designed the home between 1903 and 1905 for the Darwin D. Martin family. The house is comprised of a number of structures and was finished at 32,000 square feet. It's huge.

As Mr. Woodward notes in his article, in addition to the many projects by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo, the city has a beautiful park system by Frederick Law Olmsted, credited as the founder of American landscape architecture; the Guaranty Building designed by Louis H. Sullivan, considered the "Dean of American Architects"; the Kleinhans Husic Hall, designed by Eero Saarinen; and the Albright-Knox Gallery and Burchfield-Penny Art Center.

As Thursday's post stated, there is a lot of cool stuff to see and do in Buffalo.













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It is Friday.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shuffle Off to Buffalo

Buffalo. The Queen City. Home to some fabulous architecture, including a number of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings. Several of these are pictured below.

If you go to Buffalo, and you should, you will find good food, amazing museums, a great independent book store, nearby Niagara Falls, and lots to do. (The children, incidentally, are all extremely well educated.)

Until the time you make your trip to the Queen City, check out Too Close to the Falls. Too Close to the Falls is a delightful memoir by Catherine Gildiner about her years growing up in Lewiston, N.Y. in the 1950s. Lewiston is a short drive from Buffalo. This is a very enjoyable book. Thanks again to the Buffalo Gal who gave it to us to read.



Now, is everyone humming the tune which ends ". . . and dance by the light of the moon"?



Wright's Fontana Boathouse



The Davidson House.




Blue-Sky Mausoleum, above and below.






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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring Tulips


Tulips living a carefree life, unmolested by their enemy the chipmunk.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Snapshots: "Nobody Move: A Novel" by Denis Johnson

Nobody Move: A Novel by Denis Johnson. Good writing. Fast read. Crime, corruption, gamblers, bikers, hit men. A bit raunchy; the material first appeared as a number of short stories published in Playboy. Airplane book.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are rotten,
either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.”
- Benjamin Franklin .


I. The New York Times.
Published May 15, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Vision in White, Nora Roberts.
Fiction Hardcover: Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris.


Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published May 17, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: City of Thieves, David Beniof.



Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer.
Nonfiction Paperback: The Soloist, Steve Lopez.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending May 10, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.
Nonfiction Paperback:Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending May 10, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The End of Overeating" by David A. Kessler, M.D.

Dr. David A. Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, was interviewed on the Diane Rehm show last Wednesday. (Link to the program here. Kessler was the guest for the 11:00 hour). After listening to the show, I looked over the book.

Kessler makes the case, based upon various studies, for the conclusion that foods containing tasty proportions of sugar, fat, and salt make the brain as hoppin' crazy as a teenybopper at a Jonas Brothers concert. An amped-up brain sends signals to eat even more, and consumption of food we perceive as delicious makes other areas of the brain send out positive vibrations.

Thus, when eating Cheetos, a complex set of chemical reactions occur in the brain/body that make some folks say, "Ahhh, delicious Cheeeeetos. I think I will eat until the bag is empty." Overeating can result in weight gain, feeling like an idiot, or both. By contrast, this compulsion to continue eating without regard to satiety or common sense does not typically occur when eating celery, a food that lacks sugar, salt, and fat.

Kessler also describes how manufacturers use this knowledge, that an attractive product loaded with sugar, fat and salt will sell like crazy, to invent items sold as "food" for the marketplace.

For those interested in the details as to why the sugar, salt, and fat combo can exert such a hold over some people, Dr. Kessler's book is for you. He also offers proposals on how to change undesirable eating behaviors.

If you don't want to read the book, do this instead:
  • Eat three meals a day, at approximately the same time every day.
  • Pay attention to how you feel at a meal. When you feel 80 percent full, stop eating.
  • Don't eat between meals. Note: Beer is food, people. This rule applies to beer and other alcoholic beverages.
  • The more something has been changed from its original state, the less of it you should eat. Example: There are no streams flowing with Brandy Old Fashioned and candy bars are not dug out of the ground, so consume them rarely.
Knowing and doing are different things, of course. Merely reading my rules, like reading Dr. Kessler's book, will not change what goes on in someones head. But for people interested in doing the hard, hard work involved in changing how they think about food, The End of Overeating may help.





Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Snapshots - "Small Crimes" by Dave Zeltserman

Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman. Read a third of the book. Didn't like it; couldn't finish it. Life is short and there are books with better writing and better plots out there to be read.





Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mexico's Response to Flu Garners Kudos

From the Washington Post: "I think we should all shout, 'Gracias, Mexico!' I believe the Mexicans have prevented a true pandemic from happening," said Laurie A. Garrett, senior fellow in the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations."

President Obama at The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

Via The New York Times.




Best Seller Round-Up

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
- Dr. Seuss

I. The New York Times.
Published May 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Vision in White, Nora Roberts.



Fiction Hardcover: The 8th Confession, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.




Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published May 10, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri.
Fiction Hardcover: First Family, David Baldacci.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending May 3, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.
Nonfiction Paperback:Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending May 3, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Home Safe, Elizabeth Berg.



Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Recommended Reading: "Black & White and Dead All Over" by John Darnton

"Write about what you know" is the old axiom offered to young scribblers. Author John Darnton's entertaining book, Black & White and Dead All Over, masterfully illustrates the soundness of that advice.

Darnton worked at The New York Times for 40 years. He was a reporter, foreign correspondent, and editor. Darnton perfectly distills a lifetime of newspaper experience into Black &White and Dead All Over, a witty, funny novel about murder in the newsroom of a major paper called the New York Globe.

Theodore S. Ratnoff, the powerful and widely despised assistant managing editor at the Globe, is found murdered near the page-one conference room. The murder is not only shocking, it is a big news story breaking under the very nose of the Globe's reporters. Jude Hurley is assigned to the story, and from here the novel shines as a portrait of a contemporary newspaper, its characters, power struggles, and pressures.

As Jude Hurley works the story, Darnton supplies wonderful details that only someone immersed in the business might think to include. As a result, this is a book to read slowly so that, as the mystery unwinds, its fine points can be relished. For example, some cops hate Jude because he wrote an expose about officers "cooping" (sleeping inside the patrol car while on duty). The Globe's food critic is Dinah Outsalot. The book reviewer, Vera Slaminski, is loathed and feared by authors. Says Slaminski of the latest Updike novel,
"It's pathetic when what emerges from a year of so-called creative artistic agony is nothing less than an abomination, a putrid excrescence, a metastasizing cancer on the body politic." "Doesn't sound good," said Jude. He was always amazed, those few times he had spoken to Slaminsky, at her ability to come up with newer - and stronger condemnation of literary works.
And if you are a New York Times reader, you can imagine which character in the novel is drawn from which real-life character at the Times.

Black & White and Dead All Over is wonderfully written and a very enjoyable novel.




Monday, May 4, 2009

Author and Feminist Scholar Marilyn French Dead at 79

Marilyn French died. When I was an undergraduate, every female student that I was friends with owned a copy of The Women's Room.

More about Marilyn French here and here.





Sunday, May 3, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

". . . there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts."
- Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist
I. The New York Times.
Published May 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Note: June 2008 article about The Shack from The New York Times.

Fiction Hardcover: First Family, David Baldacci.
Note:
On Amazon this book has been given 51 customer reviews and rates 2.5 stars out of a possible 5.



Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published May 3, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Unaccustomed EarthJhumpa Lahiri.
Fiction Hardcover: Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer.

Nonfiction Paperback: The Soloist, Steve Lopez.
Note: Movie tie-in. See Rotten Tomatoes.



Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending April 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.



Nonfiction Paperback:Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Macolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending April 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Friday, May 1, 2009

2009 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America awarded Edgars last night. Among the winners are:




  • Best First Novel by an American Author: The Foreigner, Francie Lin




  • Best Fact Crime: American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century, Howard Blum.


  • Best Motion Picture Screenplay: In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh.



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May Day - International Workers Day


Today is May 1st, a date that has a long history for being a time of celebration and of the rallying together of workers.

The New York Times reports that in Europe, the crowds of workers out today are frustrated and angry about their loss of jobs and retirement savings while at the same time corporate executive make out like bandits.

Yes, I said bandits. A 2008 report from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy found the following:
CEOs in the United States, despite our current hard economic times, continue to pocket outlandishly large pay packages. S&P 500 CEOs last year averaged $10.5 million, 344 times the pay of typical American workers.Compensation levels for private investment fund managers soared even further out into the pay stratosphere. Last year, the top 50 hedge and private equity fund managers averaged $588 million each, more than 19,000 times as much as typical U.S.workers earned.
Given the distortions in the economy, it is only fair that President Obama's agenda is implemented: tax cuts for the middle class, health care reform, help for folks who want to attend college, and so on.

Solidarity! and don't forget on this May Day to celebrate the end of winter and our turning towards warm and sunny weather.


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