Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Reviews in the News: "The Thousand" by Kevin Guilfoile.

In yesterday's New York Times, Michiko Kakutani gave a positive review to The Thousand, a new thriller by author Kevin Guilfoile.  Kakutani wrote that the pleasures from reading The Thousand come from "Mr. Guilfoile's keenly observed characters, his gritty feel for the city of Chicago and his ability to weave artfully all sorts of philosophical questions - like the relationship of music and math, and the morality of using scientific knowledge - into his hectic, bloodstained plot."

The plot, even as summarized in the review, is too complicated to further summarize here.  Check out the link above where Kakutani describes the book's various twists and turns as "nonsense" that is "made beguiling" by the author's skills and and showmanship.  It sounds interesting; I'm adding it to my reading list.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

E-Readers in the News: David Pogue at the NYT Looks at the Kindle 3 and the WSJ Reports on E-Reader Usage.

Amazon takes on the iPad with Kindle 3 and David Pogue at the New York Times takes a look at the state of e-reader market here.

Players in the publishing biz are measuring the impact of e-readers on consumer spending.  Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that a May 2010 study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources, Inc. "found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books.  Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before." 

The results of this study are interesting not only because of the financial implications for book sellers, but also because of the idea that this new format for books may actually create an up-tick in reading by Americans.  Decreased interest in reading books has been a concern since a 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts reported that Americans are spending less time doing so, and that about half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Night Music - Nina Simone

Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a performance by The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma.  It was a fantastic program from musicians performing at the highest professional level with visible joy and energy.  The music was influenced by the traditions of  China, Spain, Sicily and India.  This thrilling show that was a delight to see and hear, and which opened up for me new ideas about what is beauty.  And of course there was Yo-Yo Ma!

Perhaps my favorite piece from the program was Ambush from Ten Sides, which is about a battle that occurred in 202 B.C. between two dynasties fighting for control of what would become China.  Hearing Ambush from Ten Sides was amazing, filling the imagination with images of riders racing to war on horseback, of battle and swords.  Forget Hollywood:  Real performance magic is a dozen or so people, standing on a plain stage, using just their bodies and their musical instruments to vividly and beautifully conjure up an entire ancient battle scene.  Ambush from Ten Sides is available on the New Impossibilities disc, below, although on that particular version is performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and thus has a different sound than what I heard live.

Yesterday's show was the last performance for this particular tour by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma.  If you have the opportunity to see them when they hit the road in the future, take it.       



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back from a Break

It's August and just about everyone I know is going on vacation, returning from vacation, taking long weekends or just generally trying to create a little space to relax away from the daily grind.  I took a trip last week to Kohler, Wisconsin,  to check out the PGA tournament being played at the spectacular Whistling Straits golf course.  It is a fantastic place.

While traveling last week it occurred to me that, despite all the talk about books for summer, not much reading actually occurs during summer holidays, except perhaps on airplanes.  On summer trips people are doing things:  Hiking, biking, golfing, boating, or moving around and seeing the sights.  Enjoying these activities is good.  Life goes by quickly and we should take every opportunity we can to go places, do things, and experience the world.  But when we can't get out there, when we are buttoned down by duties and obligations, people who love to read know that a good book can provide a fantastic escape.

Holidays end.  Summer turns into fall.  But the pleasure for reading, and of finding and talking about good books, is always available.                 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Music We Like: "A Quiet Revolution: 30 Years of Windham Hill"

It's early on a dark, rainy, humid Sunday morning.  This is the perfect time to listen to A Quiet Revolution:  30 Years of Windham Hill. The easiest way to categorize the Windham Hill sound is to call it 'new age' music, but that might be a bit limiting.  Artists who recorded for Windham Hill produce melodic, graceful, accessible music.  Just call this four disc collection good music. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Books for Cooks, Foodies, and Oenophilias.

If you enjoy reading about food and wine, check out this list of books from Serious Eats. I've read only one book from this list, My Life in France by Julia Child, but it is a very good book and I highly recommend it.

Speaking of France, Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence) has a new book out, The Vintage Caper.  Mayle's recent books have been rather "thin", but they are pleasant, light entertainment which is perfect for an August day.  I may check out this new book soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Music We Like: "Jasmine" by Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden.

Late-night jazz from Keith Jarrett on piano and Charlie Haden on double-bass.  The perfect disc to listen to while unwinding at the end of the day or for playing in the background during a relaxing meal.  Beautiful music.