Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 4, 2012
From My Shelf
Delicious Mother's Day Ideas
I used to have a lot of fun with Mother's Day displays when I worked in a bookstore. A few cookbooks, a few pretty books, then mix in a few sex books, car repair manuals, carpentry guides, etc. But now I am surrounded by cookbooks and more cookbooks. And they look luscious. So cookbooks it is.
Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli (Ecco, $45). Do we need another Italian cookbook? Yes, we do, if it's 400-plus gorgeous pages of recipes and photographs.
The Little Big Cookbook for Moms by Alice Wong and Natasha Tabori Fried (Welcome Books, $24.95). Easy, delicious recipes, plus charts and tips (what to definitely buy organic), with old-time illustrations.
The Book Club Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp (Tarcher, $21.95). Almost 500 pages of books, stories about book clubs who have read the books, and recipes connected to the books (e.g., Caramel Cake from The Help).
Joy the Baker Cookbook by Joy Wilson (Hyperion, $19.99). "Simple and comforting recipes," indeed. And photos that will make you salivate. Baked Chili Cheese Fries. Araby Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze. Coffee Bacon!
Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater (Ten Speed, $40). Nigel Slater can do no wrong. The book is lovely, the recipes are scrumptious, the prose is delightful.
Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden (Lyons Press, $19.95). A 20-something chef with a sense of adventure and a sense of humor. The recipes include suggestions to tweak them and tart them up.
If a cookbook doesn't do it for you, take a look at The Book for Dangerous Women by Clare Conville, Liz Hoggard and Sarah-Jane Lovett (Grove, $20). An A-Z compendium of advice for the modern life; from Grappa to Libraries to Schadenfreude, it's all laid out here with panache. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness
'An Ice Cream Truck for Books'
Thanks to a recently donated bookmobile, Just 1 Book, an organization started by 12-year-old Sarah Dewitz and her family two years ago, can hit the road to reach more families in need. The East Orlando Sun reported that Just 1 Book has collected and donated more than 75,000 books to kids "who might otherwise not be able to afford them, set up mini libraries in community and Head Start centers in areas where reading material is more scarce, and created state and nationwide partnerships to expand Just 1 Book's reach."
A bookmobile, however, was Sarah's dream. "I wrote down a list of things I'd like to see with Just 1 Book when it started. On that was an ice cream truck but for books," she said.
After the family discovered the existence of a no longer utilized bus on a county lot last year, they began working to acquire it, an effort that paid off last month when Mayor Teresa Jacobs arranged for the vehicle, which needs some work, to be donated to the cause.
"I can't think of anyone in this county who could do better with a bookmobile than Sarah Dewitz," said Jacobs. "This is the most remarkable young woman.... If we could clone her, we could change the world and even if we don't, she could change the world herself." Give Back Central Florida, a nonprofit organization, has offered financial assistance to fix up the bookmobile.
In August, the Florida Kiwanis Governor "is scheduled to announce Just 1 Book as the statewide service project, which means all 261 clubs in the state will be collecting books and dispersing them to kids in need," the Sun wrote.
"I thought it would take longer for it [Just 1 Book] to catch on and for people to realize that kids want and need books," Sarah said. "People say, 'Oh, kids don’t like to read anymore.' They do."
POTUS as Critic; Gentrification; Drink-off; Willie WonkaPOTUS as critic-in-chief: Politico looked at recently released excerpts from an upcoming biography by David Maraniss and noted that "April is the cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot, but May is proving to be pretty kind for President Barack Obama’s reputation as a literary critic."
Bookcase of the day: "Do the Lean" with your book collection if you're in a tipsy mood, Lovely Listing suggested.
Urban Book Gentrification Dept.: In Seattle, developer Craig Skotdal spoke with Book Patrol about his idea to cover an electrical transformer in front of Library Place apartments (and adjacent to the Everett Public Library) with the "Book Stack," a fiberglass installation comprised of seven books that "were chosen to acknowledge themes for urban renewal."
House tour, with books: Apartment Therapy explored an Austin, Tex., flat where the tenants "knew they'd have to work to create a charming home and fit their book, art and media collections into a tiny space."
"Mad Men vs. Game of Thrones: The Drink-Off" was featured in the Vulture, which noted these two shows have helped "make the Sunday nights of spring 2012 some of the booziest on TV" and tallied "every sip on each series so far this season."
Them's fightin' words. Flavorwire showcased "a few of our favorite author vs. critic dustups."
For Willy Wonka's Literary Mixtape, Flavorwire thought "the candy master would listen to a mix of trippy stoner music, weird circus rock and, of course, songs to satisfy his sweet tooth."
A Reader's Life
The Pleasures of Favorite Books
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pleasures of re-reading, and my mention of Mara, Daughter of the Nile unearthed some die-hard fans of the book. Kathy Borgen wrote, "I too, loved that book, read it at a young age, and kept it for many years while the pages slowly turned yellow. I re-read it not too long ago, and could still enjoy it even now that I am 70. My most re-read book? Pride and Prejudice." Ariel Richardson from Chronicle Books said, "It has long been one of my favorite books, and a favorite re-read. In fact, I have two copies: one that is water worn and well-loved, and another that is slightly less banged-up. I'm also not generally a big re-reader, but Mara is a notable exception... other than my mother, I've never found anyone else who has read Mara!"
Pride and Prejudice tops the list for sheer enthusiasm. Margaret Devere read it at least every other week when she was a girl--"it was one of the accessible books in my parents' library. I've read it at least 100 times." She has found time, too, to re-read Lois McMaster Bujold, especially Barrayar and Memory. Linda Miller said P&P is the only book she's ever re-read. "And let's not even count the number of times I've watched Colin Firth plunge into the Pemberly pond. As good as Downton Abbey was on PBS this winter, I still find the A&E adaptation in the mid-'90s a hard act to follow." And Kathy M. Johnson never gets tired of any Jane Austen novel or Portrait of a Lady.
Wendy Krauss wrote that the only book she's re-read recently was Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud by Jonathan Safran Foer: "I had read it when it was released, but then my book club was reading it much later and I had forgotten the details. On second read, I loved it even more." When she was younger she frequently re-read Catcher in the Rye. Another modern classic was mentioned by Paulette Schwarting: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, a book that often turns up as people's "most memorable book" answer. Eileen Cavanagh re-reads Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary, saying it's like a mini-retreat.
One of my favorites (and a popular book World Book Night giveaway) is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Beth Asigri said, "This book is, I think a teen book BUT... I never had so much fun and feeling; the truth of living expressed in this book is tremendous!" Beth also listed seven more books including two by Thomas King--Truth and Bright Water and Green Grass, Running Water--and Rabih Alameddine's The Hakawati. But the Alexie is "the dearest to my heart!!" As it is to many.
Mike Sylvester pulled out an oldie with Richard Bach's Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah--"a great reread. Also a great book to use as a foundation of one's philosophy." And John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces "takes me back to my times at Tulane, and education in New Orleans." Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow was a favorite of both Stephanie Varga's and her mother's: "I have since turned my daughter on to it. We would compare people we encountered to characters in the book, like other people would compare them to their favorite TV characters. Since my mom passed on I re-read it every few years to revisit my old friends, and my conversations about them, with my mother. I'm always a sucker for pioneer stories, and the female characters are incredibly independent and uncompromising. All that, and early Los Angeles history too."
Jill Stephenson is a fan of Elizabeth Peters, Laurie King and Diana Gabaldon. She has just started re-reading Peters's Vicky Bliss books saying, "Better than comfort food. Or at least as good." Annie Carl loves to re-read. "It's sort of like sitting down with an old friend and talking about the regular things, only you're a year older, a year wiser. I get something new out of each re-read, something I missed before in my wild sprint to get to the end. And it always seems a wild sprint to suck up every detail because I get to the end much too soon! Besides the obvious Harry Potter and Hunger Games books, I also enjoy re-reading the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon, Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, and many others. I couldn't possibly name them all. Every good book I read, I want to read again and again!"
When I read the e-mail from Janet Snyder, I literally smacked my forehead. How could I have forgotten to mention the books that I have almost memorized? The Laura Ingalls Wilder books! Snyder said, "In 2003 I was living all alone in a house on 35 acres at 8,500 feet in the foothills just West of Denver, Colo., when we had a massive March blizzard. I got out the group of books set in De Smet, South Dakota, especially The Long Winter, and enjoyed the shared feelings of being isolated because of feet of blowing snow." She also likes the Betsy-Tacy books. "As an adult I searched for and purchased a complete set of the Betsy-Tacy books. They were such a part of the summer joys in my grade school and beyond years. Even now it is joyful to journey back in time. I'm not sure that real life in those times was really as joyful and 'simple' as the books make it appear but still they reflect a time in American History that should not be forgotten." Her other compete book sets are by Laurell Hamilton and Jean Auel, and her newest favorite author is the fabulous David James Duncan. "The Brothers K is especially meaningful this spring because my Colorado Rockies Baseball team just made Jamie Moyer, at age 49, a starting pitcher. Jamie, like 'Papa' Chance, has an unusual pitching style. And Duncan's 'garden angels' in The River Why really made a profound impact on me."
Why do we re-read? It brings us comfort and joy, yes, but so often the message of the book changes as our lives change. Reading Jane Austen at 15 is not the same as reading her at 35, or 55. Many books won't hold up as we get older, but for the ones that do, we are so very thankful. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness
The Writer's Life
Veronica Roth: Full of Surprises
We caught up with Veronica Roth on Tuesday while she was in New York City for the launch of Insurgent (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99), the second book in the planned trilogy she began with Divergent, her debut book. She confesses she'd most likely choose the fearless Dauntless faction, if she had to pick one, just like her heroine and narrator, Tris Prior. She makes a few other confessions, too, though we promise no truth serum was administered.
With Divergent, you mentioned the factions were inspired by the way teens as well as adults form cliques and categorize people. Were there developments in Insurgent that surprised you?
Definitely one of the things that has surprised me most is the way the characters continue to form new boxes. They even come up with new names for the new groups they form. You'd think they'd be less inclined to form groups [after the events of Divergent], but I think it's what we do as humans.
It's refreshing that there's no love triangle in your series.
It's not that I don't like a good love triangle. But sometimes it's a default for a tension, when relationships become slightly more boring. I challenged myself to find tensions in a new relationship with more complications. I see Tris and Tobias developing like a real couple.
In Divergent, Four tells the initiates, "Cowardice is the failure to act in the midst of fear." When they're attacked in Amity and Tris can't shoot, Tobias seems almost angry when he confronts her about it later.
Tobias thinks Tris is stronger than she is. He has unreasonable expectations for her sometimes. The book is very much about guilt and grief for her. She couldn't touch the gun until she forgave herself [for a death she caused]. She takes all these crazy risks because she loses sight of the importance of her own life.
We gain such insight into the factions in this book--Candor has its truth serum and Amity has its peace serum.
Amity's all about subterfuge. I think I say something about Candor commenting on Amity: "They'll always lie to keep the peace."
Tris recites that rhyme about how "Dauntless is the cruelest of the five" as she surveys the wreckage of the traitor Dauntless.
I didn't expect her to have such a cruel streak. But I think it's one of her greatest flaws. She is pretty selfish even when she's trying to be selfless. I think book two really brings out her unlikable side. It's difficult for readers, I think, but it was also difficult for me as a writer. Yet it was important. I've been around grieving people, and it's tough to be around people who are going through that kind of inner battle.
We see Tris and Four gaining equality with the adult faction leaders in this book. In your mind, was there a point when they begin to even out the power?
I remember a point as a teenager when adults started talking to me as a peer. Suddenly, because consequences are so dire, Tris inserted herself and she's treated as a peer by the adults because of her actions. Tris decided to take that spot, and so does Tobias. And they have to deal with the consequences of that. Right before they go into Candor headquarters, Tris thinks, "I can fade into the background and let other people fight this." She makes that choice, and it's a pivotal moment for her.
Truth takes on an even greater complexity in this book.
Tris says something about how the truth can change everything--because it does in Divergent, when she found out what the Erudite were planning, and what her mother was doing. I think she feels crazy throughout much of this book, going after the truth. It's more important than anything else that's going on.
Did the plot of Insurgent surprise you?
I knew where Insurgent would end. But the rest of the book came out of nowhere. The first draft is what I'd planned. But then I scrapped it and wrote the book. The second draft was full of surprises. The truth serum in Candor, everything at the Erudite compound. This, more than anything I've written, was totally out of left field. But I'm happy with what happened.
Is it the same process for book three? Do you know the ending?
I have no idea how it's going to end. I know how it starts and a bit of the middle. I figure if it surprises me, it will surprise other people. I keep myself in the dark until I get there. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Given that I'm a tenured professor at rural Virginia Tech, where I direct the MFA program in creative writing, I suspect some readers will wonder what I'm doing writing a prequel to The Godfather, an urban novel full of characters more comfortable in a Brooklyn social club than a college classroom.
Well, first, I came to academia relatively late. I was raised on Ainslie Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which at that time was a working-class, Italian neighborhood. My father was a house painter and my mother was a seamstress. I'm Italian, and I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn surrounded by other Italian kids with tough fathers and tougher mothers--so I know a few things about urban Italian family life. I lived in Brooklyn until I was 13, when my father moved us out to Long Island. When I finished high school, I went to college at SUNY New Paltz (the kind of college where working-class kids can get a good, affordable education). After graduating, I spent almost a decade working odd jobs, including a three- or four-year stint as a farmhand and a groom for standardbred race horses. I worked briefly as a trainer of standardbreds at Monticello Raceway in upstate New York, where I was quickly schooled and sent packing by the pros. It was after that experience that I went back to grad school and started on my current academic career. I think it's fair to say that I haven't led an insulated life.
Beyond those issues of personal biography, though, I was drawn to writing The Family Corleone because I was interested in the material Puzo explores in The Godfather. Those relatively few readers familiar with my writing will know that questions of violence and corruption come up frequently in my work. I'm especially interested in the monster beneath the mask of civility--and Puzo's characters, Luca Brasi in particular, gave me plenty to material to explore in that regard.
My agent, Neil Olson (who also represents the Puzo family), knows my work thoroughly. It's because of him that this project came my way. He always felt that my interests as a writer and Puzo's interests overlapped. Now that I've completed the novel, I see that he was very much on target. As for everyone else, we'll have to wait and see if they agree--but the fact that I'm a professor shouldn't give readers pause. I was a Brooklyn street kid and a factory worker, farm worker and laborer, before I went back to school to study literature and writing--and I drew on all my experience to write The Family Corleone.
Memoirs About Moms; Crazy Cat Lovers; Sporting Life; Architecture
Homework assignment for an upcoming holiday: Flavorwire recommended "10 of the best memoirs about mothers."
Cat Lit 101: Cracked.com highlighted "8 books that prove cat lovers are insane."
The sporting life for readers:
"Keen reader" Roy Hodgson, the new head of England's national soccer team, chose his six favorite novels for the Telegraph and explained "why he might turn to them when the going gets tough."
Shehan Karunatilaka, author of Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, chose his top 10 cricket books for the Guardian.
For its selection of "10 beautiful buildings inspired by famous books," Flavorwire looked for structures either "inspired by particular novels, stories, or a writer's entire oeuvre."
The Folded Earth
by Anuradha Roy
The Folded Earth and its themes of love, loss and finding oneself may initially remind some readers of chick lit, but Anuradha Roy rises above that genre's traditional machinations with a powerful piece of fiction that weaves together history and politics, tugging at the heartstrings while reveling in the hope that comes at the end of a difficult journey.
Roy's (An Atlas of Impossible Longing) story takes place in the idyllic Himalayan hill town of Ranikhet, a village evocative of the mystical Shangri-La, where the young Hindu widow Maya seeks refuge and solace after the death of her husband in a mountaineering accident. Maya's life revolves around her duties as an inept missionary school teacher and a small cast of characters--the sweet, naive peasant girl Charu, whom Maya teaches to read and write so that she may communicate with a secret lover in Delhi; Charu's gossipy, superstitious grandmother, Ama, and her animal-whisperer uncle, Puran; and Maya's reclusive landlord, the Diwan Sahib, who acts as a companion and voice of reason. Maya enters into a burgeoning romance with Diwan's mysterious nephew, Veer Singh, whose sudden reappearance opens old wounds and precipitates the monsoonal changes that threaten to turn Ranikhet into a political circus.
Roy's confident prose echoes the sedate harmony Maya finds in her new small town existence. Even at its most conflicted moments, The Folded Earth manages to maintain a credibility that would be lost in lesser hands. This elegiacal novel of love, loss and personal identity is a stunning achievement for this rising star of Indian literary fiction. -- Nancy Powell, freelance writer
Discover: A stunning novel of love, loss and personal identity, shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.
by Meredith Goldstein
While it may be difficult to attend a wedding alone, imagine the pressure of having to scrounge up a date when you've got nobody on the horizon. Enter The Singles, Meredith Goldstein's debut novel about the most fascinating people at the wedding--and they aren't the bride and groom. As Goldstein traces one day in the lives of five single people at a mutual friend's nuptials, what could have been a mishmash of concurrent stories ends up coming together seamlessly.
The best part of The Singles is the surprises. This debut novel doesn't follow the prescribed formula for romantic comedic fiction, and Goldstein--an advice columnist and society page journalist for the Boston Globe--doesn't trot out the tired concept that love was under their noses the whole time. The character of the bride is mostly ignored, which is a nice touch. After all, once you make it the altar (and until your husband begins his first affair or loses all your money on an online gambling addiction), your story has pretty much already been told. Actually, the novel's wedding is thoroughly upstaged by blitzed bridesmaids giving long-winded toasts and various guests gettin' jiggy in the honeymoon suite. The astonishing ending provides a satisfying crunch, too. The Singles crafts a tale about an wedding that will make anyone RSVP "yes, yes, yes." --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend
Discover: A debut novel about the joys of being a single person at a wedding reception.
by Douglas Kennedy
As Douglas Kennedy's Temptation opens, David Armitage has been trying for years to break into the screenwriting game. (In a nice touch, he's working at the West Hollywood bookstore Book Soup.) Then, a production company buys his script. It's picked up as a series, and David is hired on as the executive story supervisor.
Kennedy fast-forwards through David's meteoric rise, where he abandons the marriage that had been strained by his previous failures and takes up with a hot, young network exec, then slows the story down again as David receives an invitation from a reclusive billionaire. Philip Fleck made his fortune in investing, but he's always wanted to make movies. Now he has one of David's scripts, and he wants to turn it into a 21st-century version of Pasolini's notoriously, deliberately obscene Salo.
At first glance, Temptation looks like a smart, snappy update of the Jackie Collins/Jacqueline Susann novel, with sleazy brokers who can quote Adam Smith by memory and illicit romances sparked by quotations from T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson. Poke at the glitzy surface details, though, and you'll begin to see a lean, mean noir thriller, as a gossip columnist's accusation of plagiarism snowballs into David losing his job, his girlfriend and even his Emmy. It doesn't take too long to figure out that Fleck is behind the systematic dismantling of David's life.
In some ways, including the first-person narration, David's existential crisis and the path he finds out of it echo Kennedy's debut novel, The Big Picture (1996). As Kennedy continues to tackle the theme of upended lives, Temptation demonstrates a literary confidence that lifts his stories above much of the competition. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com
Discover: A new release of Douglas Kennedy's fast-paced, quirky psychological thriller from 2006.
Helen Keller in Love
by Rosie Sultan
From the time she learned to speak via finger-spelling, Helen Keller--blind and deaf since she was a toddler--was regarded as a miracle. Her hunger for learning and tireless work ethic made her famous; her gifts to charity made her beloved. Until she hired Peter Fagan as her private secretary in 1916, no one expected her to fall in love.
Debut novelist Rosie Sultan's Helen Keller in Love spins a tale of forbidden love, invoking scents, textures and tastes on every page to show how Helen "saw" the world. She grounds the story in well-known incidents from Helen's childhood, but draws on later biographies, speeches and letters to show Helen as a woman, intelligent and determined but forced by her handicaps to be dependent on her family and employees.
Contrary to its title, the book revolves around Helen and her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, who have spent their lives together and know each other so well. Both women are well-drawn, while Peter Fagan is an unsettling shadow, almost two-dimensional. But Sultan skillfully expresses Helen's main frustrations: at the public for refusing to take her seriously when she speaks on political issues unrelated to blindness, and at her family and friends for refusing to see her as a grown woman, with a woman's desires. Helen Keller in Love holds readers' attention with a fresh depiction of a woman famous for overcoming her physical handicaps, forced to fight for her right to love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Helen Keller's little-known romance and her struggle to maintain control over her life.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Mongoliad: Book One
by Neal Stephenson , Greg Bear , Mark Teppo , E.D. deBirmingham , Erik Bear , Joseph Brassey , Cooper Moo
Seven writers are listed on the cover of The Mongoliad: Book One, but for many readers it will feel most like a Neal Stephenson novel--specifically, the sub-genre of sprawling historical epic that made his Baroque Cycle trilogy so much fun. This story, however, is set in an alternate 13th century, where the sons of Genghis Khan have begun to push the Mongol armies into Europe. As a small band of warrior monks from the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae ("Knights of the Virgin Defender") makes their way across two continents to assassinate Ögedei, the current Khan of Khans, at his stronghold in China, a young Mongol soldier must negotiate his own position in Ögedei's court--charged with protecting his emperor, but with no idea whom he can trust.
The Mongoliad has been digitally serialized in weekly installments (with multimedia enhancements and fan participation) since September 2010. This means that individual chapters crackle with a fast-paced energy, particularly the vigorous action scenes. One gladiatorial battle, between a Christian monk and a Japanese prisoner-of-war, is a showcase for the authors' research into archaic martial arts techniques. Unfortunately, it also means that this initial print installment ends not just in media res, but on an abrupt cliffhanger that feels rather low-key considering the stakes that have been established. The story of the Mongoliad is consistently engrossing right up to these scenes, which makes the non-ending all the more frustrating. Of course, if you can't hold out until Book Two is published, there's always the Mongoliad website.... --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com
Discover: A team of SF writers and historical martial arts enthusiasts put a new spin on epic adventure.
Food & Wine
The Gardener and the Grill
by Karen Adler , Judith Fertig
If you're weary of cookbooks sprinkled with "must" and "should" and references to rare ingredients, turn to the down-to-earth recipes from The Gardener and the Grill. Karen Adler and Judith Fertig will inspire you to plant a garden--even it it's just a few pots--and hose down the barbecue with their guarantee of four seasons filled with good, healthy eating.
While Adler and Fertig, the "BBQ Queens" of TV food shows, encourage complementing the solitary hobby of gardening with the social benefits of a barbecue, devotees of farmers markets will also find much to savor, with ingredients ranging from early snap peas to butternut squash. "Flexitarians" (semi-vegetarians) will delight in the many meatless entrees: only one of the five chapters features meat, but the grilled pizza, sandwiches and breads will satisfy any appetite. Soups are included, made with leftover grilled veggies; fruits from regions nationwide--apples to citrus--find a place on the grill, too.
The "tong-wielding" duo intersperse tips among the recipes. (A pound of asparagus is about what you can encircle with both hands, for example; you can use companion planting techniques in your garden to pair crops that will repel pests or enhance the soil for their "buddy plants.") Their user-friendly cookbook isn't just lovely to look at: it limits each recipe to a page, doable for even the novice griller, while detailing more esoteric aspects of cooking over fire such as planking, smoking or grill-roasting. Browse The Gardener and the Grill along with your seed catalogues, but NOT when you're hungry! --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller
Discover: Gardeners and outdoor cooks alike will enjoy these recipes for grilling fresh-harvested ingredients.
Biography & Memoir
Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan
by David Dalton
Most biographies of Bob Dylan co-opt the name of one of his songs for their titles, so Who Is That Man? stands out just for its title. In fact, this book is not an average biography. Nor was Bob Dylan an average man. As David Dalton makes clear, it's hard to know whether "Bob Dylan" has existed at all.
Born Robert Zimmerman in Hibbing, Minn., the man who became Bob Dylan has always been a moving target, as ambiguous and yet as vivid as his lyrics. Dalton captures this chameleon spirit through an in-depth look at Dylan's life, work and constant self-reinvention that follows in his subject's lyrical, figurative style. Dalton describes repeatedly how Dylan's perception of himself, and his accompanying public persona, often shifted in the middle of a project, so that by the time an album capturing one Bob Dylan came out, the "real" Bob Dylan had become someone else entirely--making "who is that man?" a constant quandary.
In his mutability, his repeated reincarnations and his constant willingness to lie (even Dylan's own memoir, Chronicles, is said to be a put-on), Bob Dylan reflects a quintessentially American tradition: overcoming life's obstacles by becoming someone else. Dalton traces this habit throughout Dylan's life, from his early tales of being orphaned and joining a circus to his capitulation to middle-class pedestrianism with his 2009 Christmas album. Who Is That Man? provides an artistic and lucid portrayal of an American icon--both "real" and invented. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket
Discover: A collection of biographical snapshots that add up to--or at least describe--the "real" Dylan.
Falling for Eli: How I Lost Heart, Then Gained Hope Through the Love of a Singular Horse
by Nancy Shulins
Nancy Shulins begins this memoir with the devastating realization that she will never become a mother. Surrounded by fertile neighbors and a baby stroller on every corner, Shulins struggles to leave her house and is in danger of succumbing to depression. Fortunately, an off-the-track Thoroughbred enters her life and a new dream begins.
Shulins's prose is a pleasure to read. She vividly depicts the dedication and passion required to love a horse long-term, as well as the limitless rewards in doing so. Shulins explores many facets of horse ownership--from the fear many riders experience atop an unpredictable, 1,200-pound animal to the inherent fragility of these massive, majestic creatures. Initially hoping to master the art of dressage riding, Shulins endures a number of strict, relentless trainers and must face her own fears and insecurities in order to find a trainer who is as compassionate as she is talented.
As Shulins shares her challenges and triumphs with Eli--her lovable but injury-prone gelding--and nurses him back from a series of ailments, including lameness, hives, Equine Protozoa Myeloencephalitis and a fractured shoulder, her heart is healed as well. The last line of her acknowledgments exemplifies the extent to which the former Associated Press special correspondent is able to embrace her new reality: "I wish to express my admiration for the countless women who have cobbled together their families from hooves and hearts, feathers, and fur. You are all mothers in my book." -- Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: An inspiring memoir about how "motherhood" can take many forms.
Health & Medicine
The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness, and Happiness
by Timothy Caulfield
Timothy Caulfield's inspiration for The Cure for Everything came from "an obsession with facts... a personal interest in health and fitness, and two decades of involvement with science policy." The result is a highly informative, often surprising, thoroughly entertaining handbook to health that focuses on four areas: fitness, diet, genetics and remedies.
The first section begins by differentiating fitness from simply "looking good." Caulfield debunks the myth that exercise alone will result in weight loss and learns that true fitness involves high-intensity circuit training with heavy weights. In the section on diet, he verifies that portion control is the key to weight loss; while researching this section, Caulfield lost more than 20 pounds by following the basic principles of a healthy diet: 50% fruits and vegetables; 25% whole grains; 25% meat and dairy.
He then discovers that genetic research is largely funded by "addiction industries"--gambling, junk food, alcohol and especially tobacco. In the section on remedies, he attempts to overdose on homeopathic sleeping pills (and fortunately fails). In addition to debunking naturopathic and homeopathic "cures," he also exposes the influence of Big Pharma over conventional medicine, emphasizing the necessity of an independent entity to conduct all clinical trials.
While many of his findings are surprising, Caulfield's ultimate conclusion is not: "There are no magical cures or programs," he writes. "Exercise often and with intensity... eat small portion sizes [of whole foods], try… to maintain a healthy weight... do not smoke... drink moderate amounts of alcohol." While a magic cure for everything may seem easier, the true path to fitness simply requires hard work and discipline. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: A fascinating treatise on sustainable health, with some obvious answers and some surprising ones.
Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health
by Martha Rosenberg
Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, Martha Rosenberg's exposé of Big Pharma and agribusiness, argues that multibillion-dollar corporations bilk consumers, leading them down paths of self-destruction with little consequence. It begins with the role pharmaceutical companies play in stoking the widespread American impulse toward self-medication and hypochondria and pushing new and untested products into off-label uses, often rewarding physicians and federal experts for their participation in marketing campaigns.
Yet medications are not the only evils that Big Pharma wreaks, the author writes. Agribusiness promotes and uses antibiotics, hormones and other harmful chemicals, often without scientific grounding, in order to provide the public with cheap nourishment. Rosenberg's title points to the difficulty consumers have distinguishing fact from fiction when bombarded with wildly contrasting tidbits of information by industry insiders, FDA experts and various pundits who may not have our best interests at heart. The images Rosenberg delineates have the same sickening power as those in the unflattering corporate food documentary, Food, Inc., and she makes no attempt to disguise her contempt for and astonishment at the American food system. While no one can deny that her exposé skews along the lines of animal activism, her heavily researched reportage will make readers pause to consider what might be lurking in their next meal. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer
Discover: How pharmaceutical companies are controlling the food supply and dictating public health policies.
Children's & Young Adult
The Wicked and the Just
by J. Anderson Coats
The voices of two female narrators sweep readers along in this gripping debut novel set in 13th-century Wales, tightly controlled by the English.
Cecily deserves a life of luxury, especially after she and her widower father were cast out of her uncle's home when he returned from war. She orders Mistress Tipley and Gwenhwyfar about as if she were head of the household. But Cecily doesn't realize that the local English-appointed government usurped the homes and household goods of the Welsh to set up English burgesses like Cecily's father. As the English to bend the Welsh to their will, the Welsh have other ideas about reclaiming what's rightfully theirs. And while Cecily tries to amass pretty dresses befitting a burgess's daughter, Gwinny fights to keep her ailing mother alive and her brother safe from harm.
The title comes from Cecily's growing awareness of the injustices incurred by innocent Welsh citizens, and Gwinny's slow thaw where "my brat," as she calls Cecily, is concerned. "Justice for those who deserve it," Cecily says while pulling a prank on a power-hungry official. Debut novelist Coats creates a harrowing picture of life as two cultures clash. Through the keen observations and sharp wit of Cecily and Gwinny's first-person narratives ("God save me from being a shrewish harridan when I'm grown," thinks Cecily about her highborn neighbors), we see they're more alike than different. Their senses of humor leaven the life-or-death circumstances in which they find themselves. Riveting. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Two teens on opposite sides of their countries' conflict, with more in common than they'd care to admit.
by Daniel Pinkwater , illus. by Adam Stower
Fans of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will adore Mrs. Noodlekugel, the latest invention from the curious mind of Daniel Pinkwater (children's book advocate on NPR's Weekend Edition and author of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency).
Mrs. Noodlekugel may not have an upside-down house, but her little old-fashioned abode is nestled in a forest of skyscrapers and surrounded by a yellow picket fence. An aroma of cookies wafts through the windows, and a hint of magic lingers about (just like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle). Maxine, the first to spy the cozy cottage, shows it to her brother, Nick, and they seek out Mike the janitor to gain entry. Mike points the way, then says, "Do not tell your parents I told you." The siblings discover a serene oasis in Mrs. Noodlekugel's home and yard. Mr. Fuzzface, the cat, welcomes them, then serves tea and cookies as the children get acquainted with their kind hostess. Adam Stower's ink drawings of the zaftig woman and her welcoming household make the fantastical proceedings feel plausible.
Pinkwater can make urban sprawl feel like a small town. Maxine and Nick's parents employ a bit of reverse-psychology, warning their children away from the kindly woman. But when brother and sister call them on their tactics, their parents promptly fess up, revealing they've lined up Mrs. Noodlekugel as their babysitter. Short chapters, abundant illustrations, and pointed repetition make this an ideal first chapter book. This funny, charming tale proves one needs look no further than his own backyard for adventure. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A charming tale of two siblings who move to an urban high-rise and meet a winsome older lady.
Martin on the Moon
by Martine Audet , trans. by Sarah Quinn , illus. by Luc Melanson
This charming picture book is an homage to imagination masquerading as a first-day-of-school story.
Martin's daydreams help him cope with a new classroom. "My name is Martin," he begins, then adds, taking in the other students, "I wonder what their names are." His teacher's hair is the same color as his cat, Happy, and her pink cheeks remind him of his Mum Mum, "[but] she doesn't have Mum Mum's big smile." The illustration depicts the boy's thought process with a spot image of Happy above the text, and a full-page illustration of Martin's teacher at the head of the classroom, with her hair sculpted to resemble the cat's ears, her eyes the same shape and shade as the feline's. The line about his Mum Mum's smile sends Martin off on a stream-of-consciousness reverie. Her "smile is as wide as the river," he thinks, and is flooded with memories of a summer's drive along the river. He tries to reel himself back: "[T]oday is the first day of school, and I'm here to learn.... No walking on the moon today." This is clearly a familiar strategy.
When his teacher spies him daydreaming, she asks, "Where are you, Martin? On the moon?" But she says it with "a smile as wide as the river." The author creates a curious hero and a classroom environment where he can flourish, and Melanson's visual mix of the literal and the symbolic is spot-on for early elementary students. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A boy who uses his vivid imagination on the first day of school, to feel more at home.