Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Books for Spring 2010

A few new titles to look for in the coming weeks:

1. These Children Who Come at You with Knives, and Other Fairy Tales by Jim Knipfel. (June. A Publisher's Weekly Pick of the Week).
    2. Mr. Peanutby Adam Ross (June.  Mystery / Thriller).
      3. Innocentby Scott Turow (May.  Legal Thriller).
        4. Beautiful Maria of My Soulby Oscar Hijuelos (June.  Continues the story from Hijuelos' book,The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love)

          Saturday, March 27, 2010

          In the Dog House: "One Nation Under Dog" by Michael Schaffer.

          NPR's Fresh Air recently repeated an interview with Michael Schaffer, author of One Nation Under Dog.  The book reportedly looks at the amount of money Americans spend on pets, and why.  On NPR's web site, the story begins,
          "When Philadelphia-based journalist Michael Schaffer's [Saint Bernard] started messing the house and barking non-stop while he and his wife were at work, he went to his veterinarian for help.

          "It's called separation anxiety," his vet said. "There's a drug for that."
          My thought at this point was that Schaffer should switch vets.  When I next read that Schaffer actually purchased antidepressants for his Saint Bernard, I decided I would not be buying his book.  Antidepressants?  Really?  How about more exercise and attention instead?

          But the great part was when I read the comments to the story.  Here is Steve from Texas:
          Ok so here is a guy why adopts a really large working dog, and then leaves the dog at home alone in the house. This pet owner is an uncaring uniformed person. This is a dog designed for covering large distances, which must eliminate every 1.5 hours and needs other dogs and humans around it. Then he medicates the dog because he doesn't understand the simplest things about dogs. Oh and then he writes a book about it, and NPR puts him on the air. Most adoption agencies ask about how the dog will be maintain and housed either he lied or they didn’t ask.  To treat a dog like this is nearly a criminal act. Wake up people, dogs need specific things, room, exercise, companions, work to do, and a place to eliminate. If you can't take care of a dog, don't drug it to make it sleepy. This story is such a sad commentary. This writer and his wife need to get over themselves and take care of their dog. One of the few NPR pieces that really made me mad, so mad I had to comment.
          I have to agree. 

          Thursday, March 25, 2010

          In Ancient Times, Books Were Printed On Paper and Paper Came From Trees.

          Although paper was perhaps not made with mesquite trees.  I love the shape of this mesquite; it reminds me of a wild-haired dancer.

          Posted by Picasa

          PW's List of the Top Selling Hardcover Books in 2009: Like Fast Food, A Million Sold Doesn't Make It Great.

          In 2007, an AP poll found that, in the prior year, one in four adults had read no books at all.  Of those that did read, the typical person claimed to have read four.  When a relative of mine, who I'll allow to remain anonymous, found out I had a book blog, he said, 'books? no one is interested in books'.  Needless to say, we don't see eye-to-eye on some things.  I do read.  A lot. 

          Looking back on the last year, it's difficult to put together a hard number on just how many books I've read since I read multiple books as once and am willing to abandon books that lose my attention.  However, my guess is that I complete about two books a week.

          Despite being a relatively big reader, when looking over Publishers Weekly's list of the top selling hardcover books in 2009, I noted that I had read just one (1) of the 30 best selling fiction books.  That one book was, frankly, read by accident and in desperation:  It was the lesser of evils available on the library's new book cart late on a Friday afternoon.

          Popularity is not always a useful means of selecting a book.  In fact, if someone who reads very few books asked me to recommend something, I wouldn't recommend any of those 30 top selling books.  And I suspect  that of the folks only marginally interested in reading who did dive into one of those titles, the book did nothing to convert that person into a dedicated reader, searching out the next great book.  A great book does what singer/songwriter Tom Russell once said a great song does:  “It draws you into it and stops time.”

          A great book, one that draws you in and stops time, is one of life's joys.  Last summer a woman who was reading a book I recommended told me that she wished the book would never end.  That is exactly the reading experience that this blog is all about.  To achieve that goal, I'll likely continue to pass by the book world's equivalents of fast food and keep looking instead for something really great. 

          Tuesday, March 23, 2010

          Book Snapshots: "The First Rule" by Robert Crais.

          Murder, mayhem, Eastern European criminal gangs, liars, strumpets, and corruption:  In The First Rule, these elements add up to fast-paced entertainment.

          The story's protagonist is Joe Pike.  Joe Pike is loyal to his friends.  And he is a dangerous dude.  Author Robert Crais shows us how those characteristics play out when a bunch of bad guys murder Pike's pal from back in the day when he worked as a mercenary, Frank Meyer, along with Meyer's wife and children.  Pike is peeved.  He sets out to find the killers.

          Now, our society frowns on people taking the law into their own hands.  Accordingly, Pike's quest for vengeance is given a veneer of respectability when an ATF agent piggy-backs on Pike's pique, coercing him into helping her recover a cache of three thousand Kalashnikov rifles that these same bad guys are holding.

          On top of all of this, the life of an infant is also at risk.

          So, Pike sets out to save the infant, help his country, and deliver payback for the murder of his friend.  Can he successfully do it all?  To find out, check out The First Rule for yourself.  It's a fun read.            

          Thursday, March 18, 2010

          This April: A New Book from Yann Martel, Author of "The Life of Pi".

          Yann Martel, author of the best-seller and 2002 Booker Prize winner Life of Pi, has a new book coming out in April, Beatrice and Virgil

          The Life of Pi can be characterized, I suppose, as magic realism.   Wikipedia, the world's most convenient authority for the desk-bound blogger,defines magic realism as "an aesthetic style in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even 'normal' setting."  The Life of Pi is about an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi, who, after being shipwrecked, spends 227 days in a lifeboat with a tiger named Robert Parker.  It's an excellent book. 

          Martel's new work purportedly continues the magical, fable-like format found in Pi.  According to the National Post, Martel's new book, Beatrice and Virgil,  is  about a man who is drawn into the world of a taxidermist and "'becomes entangled in the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey - named Beatrice and Virgil.'"

          The Life of Pi was an amazing read.  I look forward to checking into Beatrice and Virgil

          Tuesday, March 16, 2010

          New Book Available in the Crime Series by Jo Nesbo: "The Devil's Star"

          A third book in Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo's crime series featuring Oslo police detective Harry Hole (oy! what a name) is available, The Devil's Star.   A recent review of The Devil's Star in the Washington Post called it "wildly readable," pitting the detective "against a serial killer and an enemy within the Oslo police department."

          Nesbo's second book in the series, Nemesis, is a 2010 Edgar nominee for best novel.


          Monday, March 15, 2010

          Recommended Reading: "Drink This: Wine Made Simple" by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl.

          I've been browsing around in Dara Moskowitz Gumdahl's entertaining book, Drink This:  Wine Made Simple.  If you have even a casual interest in wine, pick-up a copy.  Funny and informative, the book resolves many mysteries surrounding the selection and consumption of wine.  In fact, there are many "light bulb moments" in Drink This.  Read this book and adjectives applied to wine, such as "flabby" or "lean", will suddenly become meaningful to you.

          There is also a fair bit of wine-related history salted throughout the various chapters.  The history is presented in a very interesting manner and is wonderful means of making the information about the wine itself more memorable.

          Drink This is a useful and enjoyable book.  It is definitely recommended reading.

          Friday, March 12, 2010

          Book Snapshots: "Things We Didn't See Coming" by Steven Amsterdam.

          Things We Didn't See Coming is a book about an imagined future and, as these things typically go in books, the future is not looking great.  Fortunately, in Steven Amsterdam's book even a bad-news future makes for interesting, fresh, and bright reading.

          Remember the millennium bug?  Y2K? the fears of disaster associated with the year 2000?  We return to that time as the first chapter of Things We Didn't See Coming begins, and it turns out the the gloom-and-doom, end-of-the-word types are correct.  Following the millennium, the world changes dramatically, both socially and environmentally. The book's narrator navigates this new place, tries to get work and avoid new deadly diseases, survive environmental challenges and keep together a relationship.  If this sounds a bit like life right now, it is.  However, the context is changed to an imagined new future.   

          Each chapter lands the book's narrator into a new story, with little transition or continuity between chapters.  This strategy in a book about a melted-down future is quite successful.  Just as the story's narrator must constantly adapt to new norms, in each new story the reader must also quickly come to grip with changing circumstances.  As a reading experience, this is at times both a bit startling and even disappointing, as some of the story lines are exceptionally creative and engaging and worthy of continued exploration.  However, in Amsterdam's postapocalyptic world we must all adapt.  The quick changes do make you feel more vibrantly the upheavals being experienced by the book's narrator.

          In sum, the stories told in Things We Didn't See Coming make for an interesting read.


          Saturday, March 6, 2010

          More on "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

          Based upon my comments on this blog about The Help, I received a complimentary copy of The Wench from   the publisher.  I find that I am weirdly embarrassed to be reading a book called "The Wench".  It reminds me of my teenage years when I read bodice busters like The Flame and the Flower.  It's one thing to be reading such stuff when you are 17-years old, but now I'm . . . well, never mind how old I am.

          The point here is to clarify my opinion about The HelpThe Help is to reading as Cheetos are to dining.  It is easy to mindlessly rip your way through both products.  But with respect to both, you can do better.

          Guess I'll see how things go with The Wench.      

          Monday, March 1, 2010

          Music We Like: Gretchen Peters with Tom Russell, "One to the Heart, One to the Head."

          Say:  Listen to Gretchen Peters and Tom Russell sing Bob Dylan's song  "Billy 4".  Then go ahead, treat yourself and buy the whole CD, One To The Heart, One To The Head

          Why not?  You've been good.