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December 2009

Worst books of 2009: A Sampling.

Dinosaur So the other night, the night of the bad mood I posted about earlier, I finished up work, and instead of staring at the TV, I decided to find something to read, damn it, and started Chuck Klosterman's latest essay collection, titled Eating the Dinosaur, which I wasn't really in the mood for. But I was determined to read something. And this is what I found, in the first essay (which is about Klosterman's writing career, much of which has been spent interviewing people):

"If given a choice between interviewing someone or talking to them 'for real,' I prefer the former; I don't like having the social limitations of tact imposed upon my day-to-day interactions and I don't enjoy talking to most people more than once or twice in my lifetime."

Come on. That's awesome. Just like that, my bad mood evaporated. I'm now halfway through the book, reading the essays I enjoy and skipping over the ones that aren't working for me, and it's LOVELY. Thank you, Chuck.

In other news, I posted a starter list of Worst Nonfiction Books over at the Reader's Advisor Online. I know it's a cheap move to send you to another site, but I'm honestly too lazy to reproduce the list here. If I find more ambition in the new year I'll add some titles to it and post it again here.

In the meantime? A Very Merry New Year to you all, each and every one.

Bad mood.

Now, I know this is the season for joy and Christmas cookies, so I have no right to be in a bad mood, but I am. In between trying to meet work deadlines, finishing up baking, running to various family get-togethers, agreeing to other social commitments that I typically avoid but get guilted into during the holidays, and dealing with a temperamental computer, I have not had time for ANY reading for at least the past seven days. It is making me, not to put too fine a point on it:


How do people who regularly have no time to read stand it? I swear, if we ever get around to having kids, I am going to be the worst mother in the world, because if the choice comes down to driving the kids to piano lessons or reading a couple of chapters, I'm going to have to choose the reading just to preserve my mental health and theirs.

So, no reading news today, and no new lists. My heartfelt apologies. I am going to try and work efficiently this week, so I can return to the reading life soonish and get out of this book-deprived funk. In the meantime? A very healthy and happy New Year, filled with lots of good nonfiction books, to all of you.

Most Underrated Books of 2009

So it's that time of year again: Book List time! Every year I resist this phenomenon, but I always give in. I read lists, I argue mentally with said lists, I vow not to produce any kind of list, and...well, pretty soon, here we are.

Last year I was feeling extremely cranky, so I produced a list of the Worst Books of 2008, which I am still relatively proud of. For many and various reasons, I am not as cranky this year, although I do have a sneaking suspicion that the Revolution is coming (sooner rather than later) and that I and the rest of the middle class will be the first up against the wall. But I always feel that way, and have learned to live with it. So this year I'd like to suggest some books that I didn't feel got enough publicity or commentary. It's the Citizen Reader Most Underrated Books of 2009 List!

Believer 1. Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith, edited by Jeff Sharlet and Peter Manseau. Now, if you are not aware, I LOVE Peter Manseau. His memoir Vows remains one of the best memoirs I've ever read. He and Sharlet also edit an online magazine titled Killing the Buddha, and in this collection they present short essays by individuals struggling with faith, learning about other faiths, questioning their own beliefs, and exploring religious beliefs and systems that are somewhat off the beaten track. It's very well done, and the essays are short and compulsively readable. What's great about this book is I think it might be equally enjoyable for true believers, agnostics, atheists, and everyone who's ever wondered "what IS the deal with religion?" It's got a terrible cover, but don't let that stop you. The book is everything that you would expect from a pair of magazine editors who believe that writing about matters of "ultimate concern...should be not solemn but subversive."

2. How Shall I Tell the Dog? And Other Final Musings, by Miles Kingston. This is THE book to read about death and dying. Stricken with pancreatic cancer ("not one of the nice ones," as his own doctor explains) Kingston goes about trying to make some sense of his life during its last months. This book puts Randy Pausch's saccharine and pompous The Last Lecture to shame.

3. The Book Shopper, Murray Browne. A great little memoir/essay collection on the love of reading and books. Like all books from Paul Dry Books, it didn't get nearly enough big media attention, but it's a great read.

4. The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism, by Geoff Nicholson. It's just what it sounds like; Nicholson thinks about the act of walking, and how much he enjoys it.

5. Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, by Stacy Horn. I'll admit that this is not my favorite Stacy Horn book (although it boasts fantastic research and a nice index), but I firmly believe Stacy Horn is one of the most underappreciated authors of the past decade. Do also check out her memoir Waiting for My Cats to Die.

This year was also notable as the year I discovered Helene Hanff, so all in all, 2009 will stand for me as a great year in reading. I hope it did the same for you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it has just come to my attention that Christmas is this Friday (holy crap; that came out of NOWHERE) and I've got about three jobs to finish up and baking to do, so I won't be back until next week. In the meantime? Peaceful holidays to you and yours.

He's trying, but I'm never going to love...

...any of his other books as much as I loved his novel, I'll Take It.

Shudder I'm speaking of writer and humorist Paul Rudnick, who is actually better known as a playwright and the writer of the screenplays for the movies In & Out and Sister Act (although he declines any credit, or censure, for the latter, as that screenplay passed through many hands after his). He recently came out with the collection I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey, which is a collection of essays and a longer short story (broken up into separate chapters) called "I Shudder."

The essays are fun, as Rudnick is indeed a hilarious Jewish boy from Jersey, who dishes at length on his early scary apartments in New York, working with some rather large personalities, surviving the meat grinder that is the Los Angeles film industry, and about his mother and aunts (forceful personalities all). You have to love a man who starts an essay collection with a piece about his family, and a funny piece at that:

"My first apartment in New York was a fifth-floor Walk-up on Charles Street in the West Village. On the first Saturday after I'd moved in, I got a visit from my mother and her sisters, my Aunt Hilda and my Aunt Lil. All of these women were stylishly dressed, incling leather handbags and silk scarves, and they all wore those oversized eyeglass frames which are known as 'Tootsie' glasses, because Dustin Hoffman wore them when he was in drag. Actually, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie could have been a fourth sister, because he wore such nice wool challis skirts and exhibited a proud, feminist outlook." (p. 1.)

If you like David Sedaris and David Rakoff and/or reading about New York and the theatah, this will be the book for you. But if you'd prefer to read something that is a lot like this but is instead a fabulous novel, then I would suggest sticking with I'll Take It, which is one of my favorites of all time, and is clearly autobiographical. That novel features a young Bohemian New York type named Joe, who gets roped into driving his mother and aunts through New England one autumn to watch the leaves change, and how he learns about the VERY unexpected bad habit the entire family shares. It's a good time--consider it for a fun, light read around the holidays.

A book I should have read BEFORE going to Great Britain.

While Mr. CR and I were in Great Britain in October, I was embarrassed because every time something came up about the royal family, I kept forgetting who was who, and who was the parent of who, and who the Queen Mother was, and how they were all related. I rather think Mr. CR expected me to know that kind of stuff, as I spend every possible moment I can reading about Great Britain, watching BBC programming, or looking at British online newspapers.*

What I should have done before we went was read Richard Hough's very interesting, very comprehensive, but not too overly detailed historical biography, Born Royal: The Lives and Loves of the Young Windsors. Now, the "young Windsors" he's referring to there are not William and Harry and Co.; he is in fact talking about the children of King George V and Queen Mary of Teck: David, Bertie, Mary, Harry, John, and George.

And that's where the confusion comes in. Who the hell are these people? Well, now, thanks to this book, I can clear that up for you: David is Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson; Bertie is King George VI, who became the father of the present Queen Elizabeth. Bertie (King George VI) married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, also known as Queen Elizabeth, but when Elizabeth II (the current Queen) took over, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon became the Queen Mother. Whew. Got that? All of this leads me to believe that the English monarchy needs to 1. start picking some different names, and 2. stop calling their children by multiple names, and then having them change their names when they become the monarch. That's not too much to ask, right?

I really enjoyed this one. It's a very readable history, and, at 300 pages (and packed with pictures), it gives you just enough personal and family details to keep you interested. In a weird twist of fate, Mr. CR read this one before I did, and we've had a great time talking it over. We are in agreement that old King George V (father of the "young Windsors") was kind of a, well, it's late and I'm tired, so "prick" is the only word that's coming to mind. The book also includes a truncated family tree, and Mr. CR and I are also in agreement that we're stunned these royal families all turn out as well as they do (hemophilia notwithstanding) when you see how closely related they all are. Did you know that the present Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and third cousins? Well, now you do.

*I can't help it. They're just more interesting than our newspapers. Plus that way I can pretend I live there.

I Capture the Castle fails to capture my heart.

For years people have been telling me I had to read the novel I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, immediately, if not sooner. And it's always been people I really respect, both as friends, and as readers.

So I finally did.

And I liked it. I read the whole thing, and pretty quickly, as I was interested in the story. (And you knew I'd be interested in a book set in Great Britain, ina falling-down castle.) But I've got to be honest: I didn't love it, love it. I didn't love it like I expected to love it.

Dodie The story is about seventeen-year-old Cassandra, and her rather unorthodox family life, living with her author father (who hasn't written a word in years), her beautiful sister Rose, her unconventional and artistic stepmother, her younger brother, and the hired hand (Stephen) who they don't actually pay. The story is good and is narrated by Cassandra in an appealing first-person voice; the family is on the brink of destruction from poverty, Rose is frustrated because she thinks she'll never meet a man to marry in their circumstances, Stephen is fruitlessly in love with Cassandra...and if that all weren't enough, two brothers who had been living in America suddenly show up as the heirs to a property next door. Hilarity doesn't really ensue, but Cassandra's love for and frustration with all of her family members makes for some nice comic touches.

God, that's a bloodless description, and as much as I liked the book, that's kind of how I feel about it. Just kind of average. What it HAS put me in the mood for is to re-read Dodie Smith's classic The 101 Dalmatians, which is largely set during Christmas and would therefore be a fun December read. So that's what I'm going to do.

Easy to talk about books, hard to talk about reading?

So for the past couple of weeks I have been guest-blogging at the Readers' Advisor Online blog*, and I'm happy to report it's going pretty well. By this I mean that I am largely keeping up with (nearly) daily posts and I've avoided blatantly offending anyone. And yes, that is about the best one can expect from my work product: borderline reliable, and not overtly offensive. I like to set the bar high.

The RAO blog is the front page for the Readers' Advisor Online database, which is a paid-subscription database that librarians and patrons can use to find other books to read (think Amazon, without the overt evilness of Amazon, and with book recommendations made by actual people, not a relational database). I love the database, and I enjoy writing for the blog. But sometimes I find it a frustrating blog to write for. We don't seem to get a whole lot of comments, which surprises me. (Based on the few sources I know how to check, it's got a pretty good number of subscribers/readers.) I know it's primarily a blog for librarians, and they probably don't have the time anymore to comment much on blogs during their workday. But I don't know if I believe that, since there seems to be a lot of commenting action on blogs such as The Annoyed Librarian.

So I'm wondering if it's the nature of our subject that keeps commenting low. Although we do offer lists of new books, and "most wanted" books, and "under the radar" books, we tend to talk more about reading and the process of reading than we do about actual books. Is that the problem? Is it just a lot easier to talk about books than it is to talk about reading?

Anyway. I just wondered if anyone had any thoughts on that. Likewise, if there's any reading or book topics you'd like us to cover at the RAO Blog, just let me know!

*I'm only doing the guest blogging because the regular blog editor, Cindy Orr, who is a fantastic librarian and readers' advisor, is recuperating from an operation. I'm mainly hoping not to embarrass us while she's taking some time off.

Not sure about the subtitle, but otherwise, good science-y stuff.

Okay. Flu season may not be the best time to read a book titled The Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes.*

Microbe But I couldn't help it. I got it from the library because every now and then I like a good satisfying science read, and this was definitely that. In various chapters Idan Ben-Barak describes what microbes are ("any creature that is, individually, too small to be seen with the unaided eye"--including bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and viruses), how they've been studied and used in experiments, how they move, how they affect us, and lots of other good creepy topics. It's just rigorous enough to be interesting and kind of challenging, but it's definitely science lite; topics are explained simply** and with a great deal of humor and enjoyable footnotes. Consider this tidbit, from the chapter on surprising discoveries about microbes:

"How do gut bacteria first enter the gut, though? A fetus inside the womb is sterile, and the initial transfer of microorganisms occurs during or shortly after birth. Eventually, in the first year or two of a child's life, they gradually build up stable, thriving gut flora." (p. 176.)

And the footnote for that piece of information is: "Note that I have tastefully refrained from using the words contamination, mother, and feces in this description, so as not to cause too much unease."

So yeah, I liked this one. But perhaps my favorite thing about it is a little present that came with it: for a long time I worked in the public library, and periodically people I knew there must still notice my name on holds, because when I opened this book there was a tiny little post-it with a "hello!" note on it from my friend, which I really enjoyed. But even without the note it would have been a good book.

*I am not a fan of overly long nonfiction subtitles, particularly when they don't add much to my understanding of the book's subject. This subtitle is too long and not particularly helpful. I also hate it when subtitles change from the hardcover to the paperback edition. What is that? Confusing and stupid, tht's what.

**Not as simply as the textbook I had in my high school Physics for Dummies class, which used rhyming to provide pronunciation help ("joule rhymes with pool"), but still, pretty simply.

The great blizzard of aught-nine.

Okay, so I'm a couple of days late with this post, but let's put it this way: I am just now beginning to be able to sit down in and stand up from a chair without making horrible old-lady noises. This past Wednesday we got a lot of snow in Wisconsin (from the big blizzard that cut across the country and caused lotsa problems all over), and thanks to snow shoveling, I am now wracked with pain in muscles I didn't know I had. Weak girls with poor muscle tone should not shovel, evidently. But how am I ever going to get that buff bikini bod I've been dreaming of?*

There is nothing I like better in this sort of weather than to stay home** and read. As per usual, I'll be re-reading Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising (as we get a little closer to late December, which is the time period over which the book is set). And I'm also gearing up for my holiday watching: I am not a huge believer in tradition, and I certainly don't believe in decorating (too much work), but there are certain shows and movies I must see or it simply doesn't feel like Christmas. So here's what I'm lining up for the next few weeks:

A Charlie Brown Christmas; The Simpsons Christmas Special (where they get the dog; it's the first one and the best); The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Lunch Incident epsisode, and A Christmas Story (based on Jean Shepherd's book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash). Mr. CR and I are also next in line to get the second season of The Tudors from the library, which is not holiday-related but about which we are very excited anyway.

So, go ahead and snow,*** but only after I've got all my DVDs collected from the library.

*Yeah, right. I don't swim and I'm not going to learn how to swim expressly because I do not want to have to purchase a swimsuit of any kind.

**I like staying home in all types of weather, actually.

***I was not this sanguine the day before the big Wednesday storm. On Tuesday night I was watching the U.S. weather radar loop online and screaming, "slide south, you bitch!" Which is not nice for the people who live south of me, I understand, but which is my typical weather chant, good for rain- and snowstorms alike.

Lotsa starties...

...not so many finishies.

In between Book Menaging it up last week (are we ready to use that as a verb yet? Sure, why not?) I started a lot of books that I never really ended up finishing. This happens periodically, and always leaves me feeling a bit cranky, especially when they're okay books. These aren't the type of books I hate or anything; they make me cranky because, if I had infinite time, I probably would have finished them. But I am learning that there are just too many books out there, fiction and nonfiction, to put in time with a book that I'm not particualarly loving. So here they are, last week's losers, in no particular order:

Rouse 1. At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life, by Wade Rouse. This is another one of those "I want to live like Thoreau and get back to nature," "city slicker in Rural America" memoirs, and it's not completely unfunny, but I have always found Rouse's writing a little blocky. (Although the part where he and his partner Gary go shopping at Wal-mart, where Rouse admits the locals have probably never before seen a man wearing he-capris "featuring a giant flower on the ass" did get me to giggle at their sheer chutzpah, if nothing else.) I tried to read his earlier memoir, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler, and found that had a similar three-page chapter, somewhat graceless expository style. Consider: "I wanted to live simply, like Thoreau. I wanted peace and serenity. But I think I got rabies instead." Meh.

Cross 2. I Drink for a Reason, by David Cross. This is a collection of humorous pieces that, once again, I'm not really smart enough to find all that funny. I don't even know where to start quoting on this one, so I'm picking at random: in the chapter titled "Involuntary Random Thoughts I've Had Not Always When I was Pooing But Certainly Sometimes When I Was Pooing," you find this bon mot: "Whoever owns clean air is going to be fucking crazy rich soon!" (p. 129.) I guess I'm not really woman enough to start picking on books I don't really even understand, but this one had an initial print run of 100,000? Wow. I'll be interested to hear if 100,000 readers find this funny, or if 99,999 fans of Cross's from his role on the TV show Arrested Development are going to be very disappointed, and one person is going to find this book hilarious.

Zeitoun 3. Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. I'll admit it, I just don't have the heart to read this one all the way through, primarily because I think I really only enjoy Dave Eggers when he's writing about Dave Eggers. Also, this is a heartbreaking work about a man who stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and actually helped many people in the city during its aftermath by paddling around in his own canoe, offering supplies and aid. What did he get for his trouble? Thrown into prison, that's what, as he was arrested by the few authorities doing anything in New Orleans on suspicion of looting, and mired in the post-Katrina prison mess. For some reason I was so completely disturbed by the arc of this story and the complete and utter breakdown in the post-Katrina situation that I literally didn't have the stomach to read it. It's actually probably a very good book for anyone to read to get a real feel for the FUBAR mess that was (still is?) post-Katrina New Orleans.

Stacy Horn: Class Act.

Today I'd like to share with you the answers I received back to a few of our questions from Stacy Horn, the author of The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad (as well as the books Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoirand Unbelievable: Investigations Into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory.) Stacy has multiple websites, including the official site for The Restless Sleep and her personal blog. She also notes that she is still in contact with Detective Wendell Stradford, one of the police officers profiled in her book, and has offered to pass along any further questions about his cases or his work to him. I would like to thank Stacy for her answers, and her (and Det. Stradford's) willingness to continue these conversations.

Stacy was very complete in her answers (thank you, Stacy!) so I'm going to let this post ride for a couple of days; don't feel you have to read it all at once.

Question: About how long did it take you to research and write the book, from your idea to completion? Can you provide any insight on why the people you interviewed (both detectives and victims' family members) consented to speak with you?

SH: It took me three years to research and write The Restless Sleep. A few of the cops liked me immediately, but most of them didn't trust me at first and some actively disliked me. Not because of me, but because I represented pretty much everything they hate and distrust, which boils down to: I was from the "media" and I'm a liberal. It really was hard to approach these guys at times, because some of them were so actively hostile. There are some angry people in the police department. This one guy really high up, who was in a position to make my life miserable at times, would do just that. I finally asked him why he was being such a... well, dick. And he answered proudly, "Because I can." You should have seen his face. He was a hero in his own eyes.

However, with few exceptions, most got to like me as they got to know me. I talked to most of the cold case detectives and Wendell, Steve and Tom were the ones who impressed me. Which is not to say there weren't other great detectives in the squad (and some terrible ones), but these three each had an interesting history, interesting or moving cases, and I felt they could represent the squad as a whole. I also just liked them, and knowing I was going to be spending a couple of years with whoever I ended up working with I wanted it to be with guys I liked. There was one more detective  wanted to include, a guy in the Bronx named Mark Tebbins. But someone else was working on a book that would include him so I thought that would be overkill. But he is also a great detective.

I really adore these guys and we're all still friends today.  In fact, I just came back from breakfast with two of them.  I asked Wendell if he would answer questions if you guys had any and he said yes!

The families agreed to talk to me because they hoped that something I did would lead to solving their loved one's murder. Talking to them was really really hard. I don't know how the detectives do it. But even harder was writing about their murdered loved one. I felt an enormous responsibility there. Think about it. Someone has been murdered. Now you have to tell their story knowing that the people who loved them most and suffer their loss every day are going to read every word you write. 

I specifically inserted something I had learned from the book "How We Die," for Christine Diefenbach's father, knowing he was going to read it. I thought it might provide him with just a tiny measure of comfort, to know that his daughter probably did not suffer how he imagined she did.
I felt this responsibility about everyone, though. The detectives have families and friends too, who will be reading what I write about them. I had to get it right, to tell the truth with as much compassion and insight as I could summon.

To this day, because of my blog, I still regularly hear from family members who ask for help. And from family members of the murderers and the people who helped the murderers. (So not fun.) It's not easy. 

Question: How did you choose the five cases on which you focused?

SH: I chose the cases I did because I thought between them they'd give a good overview of the kind of work they do. Really old cases, not so old cases, sympathetic victims and less sympathetic victims, mob cases. What's impossible to convey is how many cases they're actively working on. I say the numbers, but unless you witness it, it's hard to imagine. It's insane.

For instance, I had a really hard time keeping all the cases I was writing about straight, who was who, what happened when. I finally literally drew charts and diagrams and timelines and kept them up in front of me the whole time while I was writing. Not a day went by where I didn't think about the fact that I was struggling to follow four cases and each of the detectives were at all times following around 20. Blows my mind still. And they can't walk around with charts and graphs.

Question: How did you decide upon the organization of your book, and was there a reason you chose to divide it by case details and investigations, rather than following a more linear timeline?

SH: I guess I have to accept that the organization wasn't a complete success! But it was extremely carefully purposefully done. The first section was about introducing the history of the squad and the cases. The second section was about the investigations, and the last section was about how everything ended up. Or didn't. I wish I had explained that more and did more hand holding about what was going on. Live and learn.

But I took those charts and timelines and worked and re-worked how to tell the story. I ended up taking a lot out just because there were hundreds of people and thousands of man hours and you saw that it was hard enough following what I left in, never mind all the people and time it took to accomplish what they accomplished. It was a hugh challenge, HUGE. And I guess it wasn't a 100% success. You can't get a home run every time you get up to bat.  But I couldn't have worked harder trying to get it right.

So you've got a great detective who is will to talk to you!  If you have any questions for Det. Wendell Stradford, I will pass them on to him!  For instance, I asked him why he talked to me when so many didn't trust me in the beginning.  And he said it was because I was completely honest about who I was.  Every cop would immediately grill me about myself and I always answered honestly.  "Yes, I'm a liberal.  I'm not just a liberal I am rabid liberal.  I'm as left as you can go."  Etc.  He said because I always told the truth he felt he could trust me.  I wasn't sneaky or cagey.

Rick Geary: Class Act.

Last week during our Book Menage I took the liberty of sending a few of our questions to Rick Geary, and what you see below are those questions and Mr. Geary's answers. I would like to thank him for responding to our questions so openly and promptly! I also promised to provide links to his web site and to several of his books, which are listed at the bottom of this post.

Question: Is there an actual "memoir" on which your  book is based? Is it possible for regular readers to access that document in any way?

RG: The "memoir" does not exist, but is merely a fictional framework for presenting the material (as one of your readers suggested*).  I used this method previously in my volume about Jack the Ripper, which is told in the form of a journal by an unnamed English gentleman.  My desire was to make the story more personal and immediate, but my publisher informed me that the approach presented a problem in bookstore placement by falling into a crack between fiction and non- fiction.  The subsequent books in the series have been told from a more objective journalistic point-of-view.

Question: You may not want to give an opinion, but after all your research, do you have a feel for whether or not Lizzie Borden was guilty or not guilty of these crimes?

RG: In treating unsolved cases, or those with a bit of mystery still surrounding them, I'm careful not to offer any personal speculation, but try to give equal weight to all the theories in circulation, no matter how crackpot.  As for Lizzie, all I'll say is that the dynamics within the family certainly point to her having done it, although from a legal standpoint, there is no direct evidence against her.  For me it remains a tantalizing mystery, and I'm happy with that.

So there you have it. Thanks again to Rick Geary! He is the author of numerous graphic novels, including Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor, The Beast of Chicago, The Saga of the Bloody Benders, The Mystery of Mary Rogers, The Murder of Abraham Lincoln, Jack the Ripper, The Lindbergh Child, and Trotsky: A Graphic Biography (along with many others).

*Good call on that one, Jessica! I must confess it never even ocurred to me that there WAS no such memoir. I'll never understand my own personal combination of total cynicism and total gullibility.

Book Menage: Free for all.

Good morning!

Well, might I just say that this has been a wonderful discussion. I want to thank you all for making it possible for me to fulfill my jones to talk books without even having to leave the house. I'm not traditionally a real big fan of leaving the house, so I appreciate it.

No more questions from me today. Rather, I just wanted to invite you to read the comments from the previous days, or to discuss any aspects of Rick Geary's The Borden Tragedy or Stacy Horn's The Restless Sleep that you think we've missed, or that you would simply like to talk about. I like a good free for all.

I also am very excited to promise that next week Monday and Tuesday I will post the answers I received back from both authors in response to some of our questions. You'll read about it more next week, but Stacy Horn also noted that she is still in contact with Detective Wendell Stradford (he of the Leon-Martinez double homicide case), and if readers had any questions for him about the case or his work in general, he would be happy to answer them through her (which I think is an unbelievably generous offer--please post any questions for him in the comments or send them to me at [email protected]). So tune in next week for Book Menage: The Authors Reply!, and have a great weekend, all.

Book Menage Day 4: The Wrap-up.

Welcome to Day 4 of our Book Menage! I just want to take a moment and thank everyone who has popped into the comments so far; I have found this to be a particularly fascinating discussion and I'm rather glad we went with the true crime subject matter, even though they're not typically easy books to read.

I think we've already covered a lot of ground, so a few easy questions today.

1. What were your favorite and least favorite parts of each of these books? Would you suggest either to other readers, and if so, why?

2. Do you think you'll ever read another true crime book, ever again?

Sleep  3. You know that I always have to ask about covers. How did you feel about the covers of these books? (The Horn book has different covers in hardcover and paperback; the paperback cover is the one I've posted before--look below and you'll find it and the Geary cover--and I'll post the hardcover jacket with this post.

I have emailed some of our questions to both of the authors, but it's a hard time to be making a living as a writer (or artist) so I'm not sure either one will have time to answer. Please do check back, though; if they reply I'll post their answers here.

Book Menage Day 3: Exclusively Horn.

And welcome to Day 3 of the Book Menage! Today, if you're up for it, I'd love to talk exclusively about Stacy Horn's true crime book The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad. My questions for you are below; as always, feel free to answer one, some, or all.

1. I'm getting the feeling several readers didn't much care for the structure of Horn's book. How would you have preferred to see it organized or written? Likewise, if you liked the structure of the book, why did you like it?

2. Same question as I had for the Geary: If you could ask Stacy Horn a question/s about this book or the writing of it, what would you ask?

3. I'll admit it: I loved this book, and found it very "re-readable." Do you find that surprising, for a true crime book? What makes a book (particularly nonfiction) "re-readable"?

Okay, have at. And, happy Wednesday. Is it really Wednesday already? Book Menage weeks always fly by so fast.

Update: Please also consider visiting Stacy Horn's web site dedicated to The Restless Sleep; it's interesting and I'm sorry I didn't post it sooner.

Book Menage Day 2: Exclusively Geary.

Welcome to Day 2 of the True Crime Book Menage! Today I'd like to focus specifically on the Rick Geary book The Borden Tragedy.* The questions I have for you today are:

1. How do you feel about reading true crime, or really any nonfiction, in graphic novel format?

2. Did you read the newspaper articles at the end of the book too, or not? If not, why not? If so, did they add to your enjoyment of the book?

3. What questions would you have for Rick Geary after reading this book?

Don't feel like you have to answer each question if you don't want to. These are just my three biggest questions about the Geary book. As previously noted: please feel free to pose and answer your own questions in the comments. I love it when people take the comment discussions in different directions.

*Please note: if you read different titles by Geary, please feel free to answer these questions anyway--I think they're still pretty applicable.