Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 9, 2014

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Fundamentals of the Game

A few years ago, I reviewed a book called Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game. I love baseball, and I love that book because haiku succinctly catch baseball's essence. Now comes The Heart of the Order: Baseball Poems, edited by Gabriel Fried with a foreword by Daniel Okrent (Persea Books). The verses are not haiku, but I set aside my esthetic preference and found some fine poetry.

Robert Francis extols precision in "The Pitcher": "His art is eccentricity, his aim/ How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,/ His passion how to avoid the obvious,/ His technique how to vary the avoidance." Neighborhood baseball as played by "married teenagers working knockout shifts" is evoked by Yusef Komunyakaa in "Glory": "The old deacons & raconteurs/ Who umpired made an Out or Safe/ Into a song & dance routine." Gail Mazur describes, in "Listening to Baseball in the Car," the announcer: "(no, he's a sort of sage, disconsolate/ philosopher of batting slumps/ and injuries)." Lou Lipsitz, in explaining "Why Baseball Doesn't Matter," evokes basketball with more action ("dragonflies in a mating dance"), football ("that heavy military vibe"), steroids, player salaries, greedy owners, but in the end still feels the pull of the game, the season, the mystery--"It's that tonight, in midsummer/ under an inquisitive fraction of a moon,/ the wind pulls a thin blanket of dust/ off the distant fields and carries it for miles."

I have a friend who is passionate about football; she tries to "get" baseball, but simply can't. Perhaps one has to grow up with it--games on the radio, summer nights at the park; baseball is fraught with a nostalgia that other sports don't summon. Or maybe the difference is simply an essence that only poetry can capture. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Book Candy

Fictitious Dishes and the Best Food and Drink Books Ever

Come and get it! Brainpickings served up a generous helping of "fictitious dishes: elegant and imaginative photographs of meals from famous literature." And the Telegraph showcased its the "10 best food and drink books of all time."


Stephen May, author of Wake Up Happy Every Day, "the top 10 impostors in fiction" for the Guardian.


"Did you grow up with Amelia?" Flavorwire highlighted "10 Amelia Bedelia-isms."


The Huffington Post featured "50 of the best kids' books published in the last 25 years."


Heading to the U.K. soon? Buzzfeed suggested "12 literary spots in London that every book lover needs to visit."


by Stacey D'Erasmo

Wonderland, Stacey D'Erasmo's fourth novel, embeds the reader in singer and guitarist Anna Brundage's quest to reignite her indie-rock career with a new CD and a European tour at the age of 44. It's a percussive, lyrical and multisensory proxy walk on the wild side that also digs deep into Anna's past and artistic process.

Anna's childhood was bohemian in the extreme. Her father, an avant-garde sculptor who "preferred to cut things up that were already half ruined, left for dead," and her mother, a painter of "strangely ominous, strangely exposed, strangely linked groups of women on glass," prioritized travel and exposure to interesting people over schooling. Anna's younger sister opts out at the age of 13 for boarding school and traditional higher education, whereas Anna, who fell in love with a guitar at the age of six, remains diploma-free and "loyal to the family business of being outsiders, drifters." Her medium is musical, not visual, but she has internalized her father's artistic ethos: "I have had the conviction for quite some time that if I could do in music what my father did in space by sawing the train in half, then I could solve the mystery of my life."

In her 20s, Anna starts and loses a band and works as a singer-for-hire. In her 30s, when all she has to her name is "a vague ambition," about $1,000 and a sound-wizard friend with studio access, Anna gambles on a self-produced album. On the sixth night of a cocaine-fueled week searching for the right sound, Anna passes "through the eye of the needle to wonderland—to the broken, the illogical, the roads that double back on themselves" and she finds the small sonic shift that changes everything, the "awkward half-note" that will be Whale's signature and its appeal. The album that emerges "sounded simultaneously like a dress slipping off a bare shoulder and a girl falling down a well," and it launches Anna as a major indie rocker in 2002. Her initial tour for Whale is successful enough to get her signed by an "adventurous sub-label of a major label" and boost her first European tour. In Europe Anna performs a duet with a mega rock legend on stage at Glastonbury and makes the connection that will nab her entrée into a surreal chateau-based musical incubator for her second album, Bang Bang.

Anna's international rock-and-roll ride lasts until she is 37, when her third album fizzles and a high-intensity love affair ends. Beset by artistic doubt, Anna retreats to her tiny East Village apartment and drops out of the music scene for seven years. She marries Jim, a virtuoso fiddler, but the relationship does not survive her fallow period. What does survive is the job Jim helps Anna find: as a teacher of carpentry (a skill she learned from her father) to rich little girls at a private school on the Upper East Side.

When Anna decides to take a leave from her job and pursue a comeback, she has but one way to finance the new CD and a portion of the European tour: by selling her 21st birthday gifts from her father, a rare piece of rubble and a sketch from a famous work. To record Wonderland, she recruits her ex to help with the arrangements and to play some of the instruments. When the novel opens, Anna is already in quirky Christiania, Denmark, with a new young manager and a hired band. Anna/Alice's adventures in Wonderland are about to begin.

D'Erasmo's elegant, lush and precise language, funneled into a highly immediate, first-person stream-of-consciousness point of view, makes Anna's Wonderland tour entirely accessible, from the European locations to the intra-band dynamics to the encounters with other musicians to the sudden intimacies. Some sentences mimic thought, with phrases that lap and pile onto each other; others describe surroundings with singular details that make each setting memorable.

Remarkably, Wonderland offers an articulation of musical performance that is simultaneously abstract and concrete. Here's Anna at her first comeback performance in Christiania: "I blow the song through the back of the rickety concert hall and out into the night, folded, gleaming, fast, faster, unbroken, alive, whirling inside the secret chamber, rose and gold, unstoppable, irresistible, straight into the veins, hair-raising." When a performance goes wrong in a Hamburg dinner club, Anna susses out the drummer's dereliction on Wonderland's peculiar beat: "The unexpected shifts have grown all too expected; in fact, he's dropping into them a little too soon.... he wants to skip to the end, he wants his own dinner."

The through line of Wonderland is the tour, but the novel gains additional range and depth when Anna riffs on the past in chapters set off by past-tense narration. Anna's mental spelunking probes her musical breakthroughs and failures, vivid moments from her vagabond childhood and previous tours, vignettes from her life in New York and scenes from a love affair that may or may not be over. The question of whether she will return to her teaching job is charmingly embodied in the recurring image of "a hundred little girls in safety goggles, holding hammers," a mutely responsive chorus that pops up in Anna's mind at crucial tour junctures.

Literary without being difficult, and bracingly thought-provoking in its existential passages, Wonderland is replete with lyrical detail. There are trasmogrifying waves and tilts and recurring tactile talismans, such as the father-sculptor's red corduroy pants, the Brundage sisters' homemade hussar's coats in tulip red and sky blue felt, Anna's long red hair (sometimes loose, sometimes braided, sometimes pomaded), the sand of dunes and the sand of cocaine, a half-twisted slug of metal that Anna takes from her father's pocket--this is a novel rife with things in evocative halves: trains, musical notes, maps, gloves, truths.

Wonderland provides a thrilling and satisfying immersion in what it would be like to be Anna Brundage rocking her away across Europe, hanging out with iconic musicians, falling in and out and back into love and finding out where her second chance might take her. --Holloway McCandless

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22, hardcover, 9780544074811

Stacey D'Erasmo: Life's Improvisational Music

Stacey D'Erasmo is a recipient of Guggenheim and Stegner Fellowships, the author of three previous novels (Tea, A Seahorse Year, The Sky Below) and a book of nonfiction, The Art of Intimacy. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Bookforum and Ploughshares, among others. She teaches in Columbia University's MFA program.

You've written about various types of artists in your previous novels, but Wonderland's Anna Brundage is your first musician-protagonist. Who or what inspired you to create Anna's life and career?

I had noticed for a number of years that there were these female musicians--Patti Smith, Linda Thompson, Vashti Bunyan--who left the scene, sometimes for long periods of time, and then came back, basically successfully. I was fascinated by that, and fascinated, too, by the particular freedom and challenges of that kind of performer's life. The way that musicians perform, in the moment, with both body and mind onstage--I was really interested in getting inside that experience.

Did you consciously decide to make Anna a songwriter as well as a singer?

Oh, certainly. I always wanted her to be the maker of all the parts of her art. And songwriting, of course, isn't just the words--it's the notes and chords and breaths.

Are you also a musician in addition to being a writer, or did you acquire Anna's musical vocabulary through research?

I'm not a musician, not even a little bit. If you ever heard me sing, you would feel a mixture of pity and terror. I don't play any instruments. In figuring out how to create Anna, I read a number of musicians' biographies and autobiographies--Dean Wareham's Black Postcards, Juliana Hatfield's When I Grow Up, Keith Richards's Life and so on--and I talked to some musicians about their lives and experiences. I started from the idea that she was more or less a self-taught musician, so her way of describing her own work wouldn't necessarily be all that technical. She's often talking about trying to get to a certain kind of unique sound that she hears in her head, a sound that wouldn't already have a name. So I tried to approach her musical ideas that way, as freeform poetry, maybe.

You went on tour with Scissor Sisters to get some background information. Which countries did you tour, and what were some of the most valuable--or surprising--things you learned in terms of writing about Anna's tour?

I was on tour with Scissor Sisters for a little more than two weeks (which was as long as I could afford to do it), and we went to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Norway and Germany. It was totally invaluable for small details, like the way people put their shoes in the hallway of the tour bus at night outside their bunks or what a soundcheck is like. But in a larger sense, it surprised me how much stillness and drifting downtime there is on a tour--many hours of driving, or flying, or waiting backstage. It feels, often, very suspended in time, as if one is in a universe where time itself works differently.

How did you settle on Wonderland as the title for both Anna's comeback album and your novel?

That was always the title. I've loved Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ever since I read it as a child, and that idea of voyaging into a different world felt really right to me when writing about this kind of musician on the road. It is a wonderland, which doesn't mean it's always pretty. It can be strange and scary as well, as it is for Alice.

Unlike your first two novels, your more recent work, including Wonderland, uses first-person narration. Why?

Because I must be some sort of masochist--first-person is really hard to work with, and it threatens to go wrong, to get claustrophobic or stagey or just boring, at every turn. In both The Sky Below and Wonderland, I was interested in characters telling a story about themselves that they're trying to understand even as they're telling it. They're trying to understand why they did what they did, why they made the choices they made. Telling that in the first person increases the sense of doubt and mystery. There is no overarching narrator who knows more about them than they do.

Wonderland inserts fragments of Anna's recent and distant past into her comeback tour. The influence of her bohemian childhood, particularly the work of her father, who "reinvented" sculpture, emerges through these fragments. Did you write the novel in the same order that the reader experiences it?

I did, actually. Every juxtaposition and break made a kind of sense, or music, to me, and the order wasn't interchangeable. In revising, I moved things around a bit here and there to increase tension or simple narrative sense, but overall those associative leaps and shifts were always in that pattern. The past, the present, the future and the future that never happened (that scene where she walks through the Roman Forum with Simon and Maya) are in some sense happening simultaneously.

How do you think Anna ranks the importance of intimacy vs. music in her life?

I'm not quite sure what that question means, and I have to ask, Would that be asked of a male character in a similar situation? Did anyone ask Bucky Wunderlick, of DeLillo's novel Great Jones Street, how he ranked intimacy vs. music? Also, it isn't a "vs." for Anna at all. In life and in art, she's trying to figure it out, to get to the next part, to find a chord, emotionally and musically, that feels true. They aren't separate journeys, and both literally and figuratively, they aren't ranked. In the most basic way, she's doing both at the same time, body and soul.

What is the significance of the epigraph to Wonderland: "The obvious analogy is with music." --Lyn Hejinian, My Life

Hejinian is talking about her life--it's a great, unclassifiable book, that one, I highly recommend it--and I think she means that a life makes its own sort of improvisational music. But it's only ever and can only be an analogy, an approximation. Anna's life is music, and her music has a life, but the meaning of either is never reducible. It's always an approximation, a rough translation.

Has your work as a critic affected your work as a novelist?

Not in a direct way in terms of style or form. What it's affected, and generally much to the good, is my perception of how vast, wide and deep literature is. If you spend even a small amount of time reading other writers working now, you see right away how many fantastic choices can be made and how many ways there are to write. My work as a critic has given me an extraordinary amount of permission to write as I wish.

Please name a few of your favorite writers, perhaps the ones most relevant to Wonderland.

Well, Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays, certainly. Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights, all of Jane Bowles, Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red and--this may sound odd--all of Graham Greene. I'm fascinated by the way his characters have to make moral and esthetic choices.

If you could inhabit the life of any currently performing musician for a fixed period of time, whose life would you choose, and for how long?

Beyoncé, without a doubt. I want a month, on tour, as Beyoncé in all her different costumes and personae. I would give anything to be that many extraordinary beings in that short a period of time, and to take audiences to that place. I'd love to know what that feels like. --Holloway McCandless

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review



by Elizabeth McCracken

In Thunderstruck, a bracing collection from Elizabeth McCracken (Niagara Falls All Over Again; The Giant's House), the links among the short stories are thematic. Refreshingly, the characters do not stroll from one story to the next and the settings are as dissimilar as Paris, France, and Des Moines, Iowa. The connecting notion--that love's great capacity for tenderness must bear the risk of pain--is depicted with both joy and ruthlessness across a variety of human situations. McCracken does not pull her punches when tussling with any emotion. Her happiest renderings encompass the deliciousness of life (a grandmother revels in "the childish flub of her granddaughter, the dense bakery heat of her limbs") and though the events that befall her characters are sometimes ruthless, she tempers the cruelty with humorous observations from a tasteful remove (" 'Je t'aime, Olivier,' said Clothilde, and Tony thought: Nothing sounds more insincere than a parrot speaking French").

The prose in Thunderstruck delivers both clarity and highly original turns of phrase. All nine of the stories are wise. Some are sustained conjurings of emotion; others, more plot-driven, twist near the end without feeling disingenuous. McCracken's characters range from librarians and professors to singers; of special note are the many credible and non-cutesy children. Their calamities and heartbreaks earn the reader more insight than gloom.

One character asserts: "Love is food.... Sometimes very good. Sometimes terrible." McCracken's stories show us how starved we would be without it. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: A bracing collection of short stories about love and empathy.

The Dial Press, $26, hardcover, 9780385335775

The Temporary Gentleman

by Sebastian Barry

Jack McNulty saw his share of danger in World War II, but he is no hero. He drinks too much and gambles away money he doesn't have. An accomplished builder of bridges and roads, Jack may have ventured from his native Ireland to the far reaches of the globe, but he displays far less skill for spanning the gulfs in his own home. McNulty's wife, the brilliant and beautiful Mai Kirwan, is the woman of his dreams. But she is as unpredictable as she is wise, and as the years take their toll, McNulty's unwavering love for Mai might not be enough to save the marriage.

The Temporary Gentleman is the sixth in a series of novels in which Sebastian Barry fictionalizes the lives of his ancestors. It takes the form of McNulty's account of his own life, set down on paper as he lingers in Accra, Ghana, before returning home to Ireland. Beyond Jack's wild adventures, which include a narrow escape from a torpedo attack and a spectacular automobile accident in the Hindu Kush, what emerges is a moving portrait of the strange, enduring bond between two difficult people. With a perfect grasp of the wild and messy realities of actual lives, Barry subtly evokes the deep collision of regret and gratitude in McNulty's long look back, while remaining true to the story's simplicity: Jack McNulty is an ordinary man with ordinary triumphs and tragedies, and we relate to him all the more for it. --Casey O'Neil, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A powerful exploration of one man's reconciliation with a painful past and a woman he loves more than ever.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670025879

Mystery & Thriller


by Mo Hayder

Wolf, Mo Hayder's (Birdman) seventh novel starring Detective Inspector Jack Caffery, may be her most terrifying yet. In the secluded hills of Somerset, England, Oliver Anchor-Ferrers recuperates from surgery with his wife, daughter and dog gathered around him. Their remote country home is mostly peaceful, but lies near the scene of a murder that rocked the family 14 years earlier and continues quietly to haunt them. Then a home invader imprisons the Anchor-Ferrers. The isolation of their estate works against them, and their family pet is their only hope of contact with the outside world.

Meanwhile, the gruff but likable detective continues to fight his own demons, chiefly the still-unsolved case of his brother, who disappeared when Jack was young. The trail has gone the worst kind of cold, with most of the principal players now dead. To find closure, he'll have to work with the reticent and uncanny drifter known as the Walking Man, who seeks help of his own--he wants to find the owner of a lost dog that crossed his path. Accompanied by the runaway pup, hot on the trail of his own mystery, Jack closes in on the Anchor-Ferrers estate hidden in the woods.

A complexly plotted thriller, Wolf ranges widely over the arms industry, pedophilia rings, space technologies and more. Hayder repeatedly teases her readers with apparent answers to the puzzles she presents, but keeps them guessing. Intricate, intelligently constructed and featuring fully developed characters, Wolf is an absolutely chilling and disturbing read. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A truly petrifying home-invasion thriller filled with blood and unexpected twists.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, hardcover, 9780802122506

The Book of You

by Claire Kendal

The darkest side of fairy tales comes true for one innocent woman in Claire Kendal's terrifying debut novel of obsession and violence.

Clarissa has just come through a wrenching breakup, and her ex's colleague Rafe swooped in to woo her as soon as the field was clear. When Clarissa repeatedly rejects him, Rafe shows up wherever she goes, sending unwelcome gifts and worming his way into her friends' affections. When chosen to serve on a jury, Clarissa is thrilled at the opportunity to escape Rafe and even feels an attraction to another juror. However, keeping herself from her pursuer only sends his ugly devotion into overdrive, and Clarissa finds herself fending off an increasingly violent madman with few resources at her disposal.

Told mostly by way of journal entries Clarissa writes addressing her captor--a record she intends to use as evidence--Kendal's brutal thriller will leave readers breathless with horror and suspense. Her characters' discussion of fairy tales--Rafe is a folklore scholar--underscores the idea that we are raised with a dangerous concept of eternal love, that the handsome prince obsessed with rescuing his beloved against all obstacles has more in common with the deadly Bluebeard than we realize. Although readers sensitive to violent and disturbing content may want to give this no-holds-barred account a wide berth, others will be rewarded by Kendal's spot-on character psychology, taut pacing and quietly elegant prose. This harrowing nightmare will appall and engross simultaneously; Kendal's talent will win many fans. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The harrowing nightmare of a woman stalked by an obsessed madman.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062297600

Food & Wine

The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art

by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

Jan Ondaatje Rolls's Bloomsbury Cookbook is a revelatory collection of art, history, photography and literary memoir of the Bloomsbury Group, as seen through recipes culled from the culinary archives and personal cookbooks of its members. Rolls has assembled more than 170 recipes spread across seven decades, starting with Bloombury's beginnings in the 1890s through the group's most artistically ripe period in the 1920s and 1930s, and ending with the 1940s.

Rolls invokes Charleston, the cottage where Vanessa and Clive Bell and Duncan Grant resided and the source of many of the ideas that came to define the Bloomsbury circle, to provide insight and context for her meticulous selection of recipes. Among the must-try recipes are a simple beignet by Lady Gage, a hearty Hunter Chicken by Frances Partridge and a delicious and healthy Andalusian vegetable paella. Reproductions of Vanessa Bell's and Duncan Grant's still lifes add vibrancy to the narrative, while the words and thoughts of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Frances Partridge, Lytton Strachey and many others provide perspective about critical literary and historical events in the early part of the 20th century.

Rolls's scholarly collection of ephemera carries general appeal to all who share an interest in the details behind England's celebrated collective of writers, artists and intellectuals, and who like a cooking challenge, since many of the recipes rely on intuition rather than exact measurement. But they are worth the work; as Virginia Woolf noted, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A fresh and intimate look at the vivid personalities and remarkable achievements of the Bloomsbury Group as told through Jans Ondaatje Rolls's unusual culinary lens.

Thames & Hudson, $39.95, hardcover, 9780500517307

Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude

by Libbie Summers

Known for her blog, Salted and Styled, and her first cookbook, The Whole Hog Cookbook, Libbie Summers turns to desserts in this sassy and delicious compilation of sweet treats. From Good and Plenty Cupcakes (yes, those pink and white candies are part of the mix) to Jacked-Up Ginger Cookies with ground and fresh ginger in the dough, to Jalapeño "Sort of Shortbread" Cookies, which are as spicy and addicting as they sound, Summers takes typical desserts and twists them in such a way that old favorites become new delights.

Covering cakes, pastries, pies and cookies--as well as some treats for any dogs in the house--Summers combines cayenne, cinnamon, vanilla paste and a variety of flavored extracts with unusual ingredients such as golden beets to create desserts that spark the taste buds and add a bit of zip to the last course on the menu. A section on savory breads balances out the abundance of sweets and includes Meatball Muffins, a spicy meatball tucked into a marinara sauce-filled batter; Forgiveness Naan, a garlic-butter flatbread; and "Boat Bagels," crusty bagels topped with garlic and bacon. Rich in butter, sugar and spice, these recipes are not for the dieter or the faint of heart. With 100 recipes to choose from, it'll be hard for readers to decide where to start, but try the "Wahini Pie," a macadamia nut version of the traditional pecan pie, and there'll be no going back to your old recipes. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Interesting new flavors blended together turn conventional desserts upside down.

Rizzoli, $37.50, hardcover, 9780847841042


The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade

by Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins (Laying Down the Sword) has made a name for himself as a writer and academic who studies the interactions between history and religion. The Great and Holy War continues that tradition, offering an alternate account of the Great War through the lens of the religious history that surrounded it--and how the war ultimately reshaped the religious landscape of today. Jenkins goes beyond the many well-known stories of World War I--leadership's lack of experience with modern weaponry, the Christmas Truce of 1914, etc.--to investigate how religion played into the war.

Jenkins starts with a history of the massacres and battles of World War I, moving then to the role Christian nations had in shaping the landscape of the war, each leveraging divine language and mythology to call civilians and armies alike to their cause. He pulls in a variety of primary sources to explore the instances of martyrdom, visions and superstitions on the battlefield. From the horrors of battle that invoked images of the apocalypse to the ways in which the war opened windows of opportunity for new "prophets," Jenkins leaves no stone unturned in his effort to document this historical turning point from a different perspective. We've had more than 100 years to study the causes and consequences of World War I, but by synthesizing the social, political, military, cultural and religious history of the early 20th century, Jenkins manages to present an entirely new way of thinking about the war once thought to be "the war to end all wars." --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: An analysis of the religious motivations for the Great War and its long-lasting impact on the modern religious landscape.

HarperOne, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062105097

Health & Medicine

Total Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Chronic Pain and Depression

by Donna Beech, Gary Kaplan

Osteopathic physician Gary Kaplan opens his exploration of chronic pain and depression by stating that while medical professionals are told to think about horses when they hear hoofbeats, his job "is to think about zebras." For Kaplan's patients, assuming the most common or simplest diagnosis is futile; they have confounded the nation's best clinics with an amalgamation of seemingly unrelated symptoms. In his extensive interviews, rather than focusing on their specific "ailments"--like fibromyalgia, depression, back pain or migraines--Kaplan investigates emotional and psychological traumas, as well as physical injuries from the past: "When patients in chronic pain had a history of emotional, physical, and infectious assaults, all of those assaults must somehow be working together within the ecosystem of the body... disease is not an event, but a process."

Through the course of his research, practice and experience, Kaplan finds the commonality that links a 14-year-old snowboarder with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a 50-year-old consultant with sudden blackouts and tremors and a 30-year-old athlete with crippling back pain and depression: chronically up-regulated microglia (cells that occur in the central nervous system as a primary form of immune defense). Kaplan is then able to focus on healing bodies (rather than repairing parts) by alleviating inflammation in order to restore the quality of life of patients suffering from neurodegenerative conditions. Even readers without chronic pain or depression will find Total Recovery fascinating and will likely think of many loved ones who would benefit from Kaplan's findings. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: An osteopath's narration of how his patients' disparate lives and symptoms had one common root.

Rodale, $26.99, hardcover, 9781623362751


I Don't Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever

by Ben Blatt, Eric Brewster

Two best friends embark on a summer road trip. That's an old story, particularly if the friends are college guys with nothing better to do. But when baseball fanatic and math nerd Ben Blatt plans a road trip, he does it by writing an algorithm for the ultimate 30-day baseball odyssey--even though his companion, Eric Brewster, doesn't like the game.

Blatt and Brewster, who met as staff writers for the Harvard Lampoon, begin their trip on June 1, 2013. Their goal is to hit all 30 Major League baseball parks in 30 days, witnessing every pitch of every game. The next month--chronicled in wry, witty first-person-plural style--takes them through huge swaths of highway and countryside, with frequent visits to gas stations, truck stops and stadium parking lots. Idyllic it isn't, especially after summer storms and human error force the duo to retrace their steps to make up for rainouts and missed first pitches. But it is fun, especially if you are a fan of the national pastime (or are, like Brewster, the sort of person who'd attempt something insane in the name of friendship).

Starting and ending in New York (with the Yankees and the Mets, respectively), Ben and Eric dodge traffic jams, collect a few speeding tickets and amass an impressive collection of foam fingers. Although the trip's pattern (and thus its chronicle) grows repetitive after a while, this homage to friendship and baseball provides lots of laughs and a few home runs. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: What happens when a baseball fanatic drags his game-loathing friend along on an epic tour of North America's 30 Major League ball fields.

Grove Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802122742

Performing Arts

Sundays at Eight: 25 Years of Stories from C-Span's Q&A and Booknotes

by Brian Lamb, Susan Swain, C-SPAN

It's been 25 years since C-SPAN began televising Brian Lamb's interviews with intriguing people on Sunday nights, first Booknotes in 1989 and then Q&A in 2005. Lamb and the C-SPAN staff culled 41 interviews (from more than 1,300) and reprint them here in essay format.

Sundays at Eight brings together both well-known and less-well-known people who have important, fascinating stories to tell. The pieces are divided into five sections: Stories, American History, Media and Society, Money and Politics, and Post 9/11 America. Here you'll find Ishmael Beah talking about being a boy soldier in Sierra Leone and how he escaped: "I have a lot of nightmares, even to this day." Blaine Harden tells an incredible story about a North Korean's escape from a prison camp--the only one ever.

A group of interviews about the 2008 financial crisis and how it all went terribly wrong will drive you crazy. As financial journalist Michael Lewis put it in 2010: "It is not over. We are at the beginning rather than the end." Peter J. Wallison, discussing the federal takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, said in 2008 that we "really do need a political revolution." Esteemed historian David McCullough's lovely discussion about his favorite of his own books--The Greater Journey, about Americans in 19th-century France--will inspire you to read it immediately. And Christopher Hitchens's interview was his last for television.

Lamb and his C-SPAN staff are to be applauded for this essential collection. Not only is it highly educational for us as readers, but royalties help fund C-SPAN's nonprofit Education Foundation. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Engrossing, highly informative interviews with fascinating people gathered from TV host Brian Lamb's weekly programs.

PublicAffairs, $29.99, hardcover, 9781610393485

Children's & Young Adult

The Meaning of Maggie

by Megan Jean Sovern

First-time author Megan Jean Sovern creates an unforgettable character in Maggie Mayfield, a snack-obsessed, school-loving girl determined to become president.

It's the 1980s, but Maggie is a child for all time. An unreliable narrator, Maggie reflects back on her "eleventh year on this earth" with light and macabre humor, and a healthy dose of genuine emotion. Her parents love their children, and reminisce about their hippie past. But life isn't always fun. Maggie's father suffers from multiple sclerosis. He's confined to a wheelchair, and undergoes a series of medical trials, which take their toll on the entire family. Dad's health dominates the plot, but Maggie faces challenges and moments of growth in other areas of her life, too. She develops her first crush on a Neil Young–loving boy named Clyde and suffers when he sends a Flower-Gram to Mary Winter, whom Maggie describes as "the class airhead." Later, Maggie must revise her assessment (when Mary helps Maggie survive a mile-long run), as well as that of her older sisters.

One of Maggie's most interesting characteristics is her size, and her lack of awareness or interest in it. She is addicted to sweets and never acknowledges how much they affect her weight and how others perceive her. Not until a judgmental grandmother greets her with "Oh Maggie, what happened to you?" can readers be sure that Maggie is, indeed, heavy. What is clear, however, is that Maggie is a firecracker character, one who sparkles with wit, cynicism, love and potential. Her voice will charm and captivate readers. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education

Discover: A debut author introduces Maggie, a snack-obsessed, school-loving girl who sparkles with wit, cynicism, love and potential while facing enormous challenges.

Chronicle, $16.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 8-12, 9781452110219

A Girl Called Fearless

by Catherine Linka

What if women in the United States were suddenly denied the right to handle their own finances, drive without a male escort or go to college, all in the name of keeping them safe? With a deft hand, Catherine Linka explores this disturbingly plausible scenario in her debut novel, set in an alternative, dystopian present-day America.

A synthetic hormone given to cattle a decade ago has caused the deaths of virtually all women of childbearing age, resulting in a society where men unapologetically wield all power. Now, instead of finishing their education and getting jobs, girls are forced into prearranged marriage contracts. Sixteen-year-old Avie Reveare learns she has been Signed to Jessop Hawkins, a businessman more than twice her age and a major donor to the Paternalist Movement, the group responsible for keeping females "home safe and sound in the kitchen." After paying $50 million for her, Hawkins plans to launch his campaign for governor with Avie by his side.

Avie's preparations begin with dress fittings and the verification of her virgin status, but she is warned that her marriage requirements will also include satisfying her husband's needs at any time and having as many babies as he wants. Aided by longtime best friend and cute guy Yates, she plans her escape to Canada. But it's not long before Avie realizes her responsibilities may lie in bringing down the entire system. Escalating suspense, added onto the already intense premise, make this novel unforgettable. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: In an alternative dystopian U.S., a young woman forced into marriage with a powerful man plans her escape.

St. Martin's Griffin, $18.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 13-18, 9781250039293

Deep Blue: Waterfire Saga, Book One

by Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly's (A Northern Light) Waterfire Saga begins with a bang in the 41st century, as Serafina's royal household prepares for a rite of initiation: Serafina must prove she is a descendent of Merrow, and next in line for the throne.

The author creates an underwater wonderland filled with jewels and beautiful gowns as everyone prepares to attend this once-in-a-generation ceremony. "A mermaid's magic is in her voice," and Serafina will sing to prove her rightful place in the line stretching back to Merrow, the first to rule the Miromara. But hints of impending trouble cast a pall over the celebration. First, Serafina dreams of the mythic Iele, the river witches, and their attempt to contain a monster that's about to break out of its prison. Serafina's mother, current ruler of Miromara, speaks of warring threats to their kingdom. And Serafina's betrothed, Mahdi, whom she thought truly loved her, has been spotted carousing with other mermaids. Scarcely has 16-year-old Serafina proven herself as the true heir, when assassins break into the palace. Serafina and her best friend, Neela, a princess from a neighboring kingdom, escape, only to end up prisoners. Serafina discovers that Neela has had the same dream, and realizes that there may be more truth than legend to the Iele.

Donnelly charts the two friends' determination to fulfill the dream's quest. She unveils deep tensions between the mermaid realm and the terragoggs (humans), weaving in ecological themes and setting the stage for the next installment in a planned four-book series. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The vibrant, turbulent life of the merpeople of the deep blue sea, as imagined by the author of A Northern Light.

Hyperion/Disney, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9781423133162

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