Click on a book
to read its review.
Click here to return to Book Review home page.
of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Keith's book of the month is The Art of Racing
in the Rain by Garth Stein. Enzo is a warm and gentle philosopher
of the human (and canine) condition. It's a book with a canine
sense of humor, and the story is told from the perspective
of the dog Enzo. Enzo learned from a TV program that Mongolians
believe when worthy dogs die, their souls return in human
incarnations. Enzo believes this will happen to him, so he
studies his human family intensely in order to be ready. This
is one of those rare tales that one can't stop reading but
will miss when it comes to an end.
of War by Bao Ninh
Keith's book of the month is The Sorrow of
War, a short novel by Bao Ninh published in the early '90s
that remains one of the most outstanding pieces of writing
from a north Vietnamese perspective on the war in Vietnam.
A classic in its writing style, the essence of the novel is
about the act of writing as much as it's about the war. Ninh
has created a masterpiece that should be considered amongst
the greatest war novels. Epic in every way, the novel tells
the story of a teenager who enters the Vietnam War, which
claimed 58,000 U.S. combats' lives and 6 million Vietnamese.
It is this devastation that Ninh writes about so fluidly.
The Sorrow of War is without a doubt a timeless story.
God Forgot to Invent by Jim Harrison
Alex's book of the month is The Beast God
Forgot to Invent by Jim Harrison. Harrison is an amazing wordsmith,
and his stories are very engaging, in a hedonistic, manly
kind of way. The Beast God Forgot to Invent is a compilation
of three novellas, each about different men at interesting
points in their lives. In the title story the narrator, a
fifty-something antique book collector and real estate agent,
feels chagrined living in the north Michigan wilderness where
he lives a paradoxical life of ruggedness tempered by his
dependence on consumerism, creature comforts, and gadgetry.
Who is charged with the task of describing the last days of
his brain-damaged, womanizing friend, Joe, to the coroner.
The novella's comedy and deep, soulful pain comes from the
sexually-frustrated, over intellectual narrator idealizing
Joe into something akin to a hyper sexualized Pan. It's an
enjoyable read, interspersed with profound truth.
Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Keith & Sue's book of the month is A Cook's
Tour by Anthony Bourdain, a thrillingly alive, somewhat out
of control, mad, swirling bacchanalia of a book. Bourdain's
around-the-world party (with stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia,
and Japan, among other places) of eating, drinking and surely
participating in lots of activities that didn't make it into
the book, is rapturously gluttonous, unrepentantly hedonistic.
No one writes about food like this: food as love, as passion,
of Essays by George Orwell
First published in 1936, this book comprises
8 of the highest voltage pages of English prose you'll ever
read. In Shooting an Elephant, Orwell illumines the shoddy
recesses of his own character, illustrates the morally corrupting
nature of imperialism, and indicts you, the reader, in the
creature's death, a process so vividly reported it's likely
to show up in your nightmares ever after. In The Art of Donald
McGill with vaguely obscene illustrated postcards beloved
of the working classes, uses the lens of the popular culture
to examine the battle lines and the rules of engagement in
the war of the sexes, circa 1941. In Politics and the English
Language, prose working-out of Orwell's perceptions about
the slippery relationship of word and thought that becomes
a key premise of 1984. In Looking Back on the Spanish War
is as clear-eyed a veteran's memoir of the nature of war as
you're likely to find. In this best-selling compilation of
essays, written in the clear-eyed, uncompromising language
for which he is famous.
Book list referred to us by NPR's librarian Nancy Pearl
We decided to do a list of summer books, so
we called our friends at NPR and they referred us to Librarian
Nancy Pearl Picks Summer's Best Books: The Disreputable History
of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart; The Photographer:
Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by
Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre; The Color of Lightning
by Paulette Jiles; The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway; Narrow
Dog to Indian River by Terry Darlington; What Happened to
Anna K. by Irina Reyn; A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel
Spark; and The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.
Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
Michele's book of the month is A Homemade
Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg.
Wizenberg's style of writing is so comforting and welcoming,
like sitting at a kitchen table with an old friend you haven't
talked to in years, and catching up with each other's lives.
Wizenberg's favorite recipes are interspersed with personal
reflection. Memories of her father begin with his cherished
formula for potato salad and an attempt to recreate his French
toast, but also include a variation on scrambled eggs that
spurred a comforting moment as he was dying of cancer. Instead
of going back to graduate school after his death, she went
to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip
with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets
of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat.
She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation,
but more often, she found herself peering through the windows
of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new patisserie,
or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when
she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until
it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not
in her studies but in the kitchen. It's a memoir with a practical
purpose and a cookbook with a life beyond the kitchen.
Lecture by Randy Pausch
Keith's book of the month is The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch. I will quote Randy: "We cannot change the
cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." This is an
amazing book by one of the most positive people I have ever
encountered. At Carnegie-Mellon some professors are asked
to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most
to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull
the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world
if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow,
what would we want as our legacy? When Pausch, a computer
science professor at Carnegie-Mellon, was asked to give such
a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since
he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the
lecture he gave-"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"-wasn't
about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles,
of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment
(because "time is all you have...and you may find one day
that you have less than you think"). In this book, Pausch
has combined the humor, inspiration, and intelligence that
made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible
of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Sue's book of the month is The Story of Edgar
Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This novel is like a 20th century
American Midwestern Hamlet with dogs. That kind of lead might
leave you cold. But be assured: you don't have to love dogs
or dote on Shakespeare to adore this fine novel. Born mute,
speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life
on his family's farm in remote northern Wisconsin where they
raise and train an extraordinary breed of dog. But when tragedy
strikes, Edgar is forced to flee into the vast neighboring
wilderness, accompanied by only three yearling pups. Struggling
for survival, Edgar comes of age in the wild, and must face
the choice of leaving forever or revealing the terrible truth
behind what has happened. A riveting family saga as well as
a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, The Story
of Edgar Sawtelle is destined to become a modern classic,
and you will certainly have a rewarding reading experience.
Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Sue's book of the month is The Brief Wondrous
Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Things have never been easy
for Oscar, who is maybe the last true romantic left on the
planet. A sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican
ghetto nerd, a fierce lover of women, though his major problem
lies in them loving him back, and he is a writer of Science
Fiction who dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien.
Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history
of the family at large and the curse that has haunted Oscar's
family for generations. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
is a wonderful and moving book about not fitting in, and finally
having something to live for.
Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David S. Reynolds
Bill's book of the month is Waking Giant:
America in the Age of Jackson by David S. Reynolds. Reynolds
provides a broad survey of the United States of America between
1815 and 1848, commonly referred to as the Age of Jackson.
After reaffirming its independence from England in the War
of 1812, the United States emerged as a world power brimming
with a cast of first-generation American politicians, soldiers,
scientists, writers, and artists. Jackson helped found the
modern Democratic Party while the Whigs grew weaker due to
divisions over the slavery issue. The Republicans emerged
in the 1850s as a party of abolition and free soil. This book
offers a fine addition to the literature on pre-Civil War
with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Michele's pick of the month is The Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Once you start this book,
there's no turning back. A spellbinding amalgam of murder
mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue,
with strong, memorable characters, dark humor, and inventive
plot twists. It's about the disappearance 40 years ago of
Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families
in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian industrialist uncle,
Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his
beloved great-niece before he dies. It's about Mikael Blomkvist,
a once-respected financial journalist, who watches his professional
life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until
an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name
is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. It's
about the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral
but vulnerable genius superhacker. The odd couple dynamic
duo gradually uncovers a festering morass of familial corruption
and one other item. You really don't want to mess with the
girl with the dragon tattoo.
Please support your local and independent bookstore.