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August 2015

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 31 August 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Bacon, John U. – Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football [Oh snore, more football, I'm not from Michigan, etc. But still: 100,000 first printing.]
Brown, Nancy Marie – Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them ["In the early 1800's, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world." I think I'll be checking this one out.]
Cheney, Dick & Liz – Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America [Good lord, is Dick Cheney still alive? Modern medicine has a lot to answer for.]
Edin, Kathryn J. & H. Lu – $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America [For some reason these types of books are candy to me. I'll have to look at it.]
Editors of the Old Farmers Almanac – The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2016
Guinness World Records 2016
Hirshman, Linda – Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World [Hirshman's a prolific investigative writer; best known perhaps for her book exhorting women to embrace outside childcare and go back to work, titled Get to Work.]
Kushner, Harold – Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life [Self-help/inspirational from the rabbi author of When Bad Things Happen to GoodPeople.]
Le Guin, Ursula – Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story [Nonfiction on writing from the prolific and outspoken fantasy/SF novelist Le Guin.]
Meyer, Joyce – The Mind Connection; How the Thoughts You Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, and Decisions [Meyer's author info proclaims her to be "one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers."]
Moore, Susanna – Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii [A new history of Hawaii from novelist and memoirist Moore.]
Naylor, Sean – Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command – [125,000 first printing.]
Smith, Jeff – Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: : What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis [I read a lot of True Crime, but I cannot read prison narratives. I just can't. It's a deal-breaker subject for me.]
Tett, Gillian – The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers [Are we still talking about silos? The author says that "this organizational structure results in both limited information and restricted thinking."]
Wilson, Andrew – Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin ["The first definitive biography of the iconic, notoriously private British fashion designer Alexander McQueen."]

So. What do you think? Anything look good there?

Cheryl Strayed's Wild: One of the more interesting books I've hated.

So I finally got around to reading Cheryl Strayed's hugely popular memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage).

I hated it.

Every night I was reading it I would say something about what I disliked about it to Mr. CR, and every night he would say, "Then why are you still reading it? Please stop.*"

But there's the rub. I did read the whole thing. I did have a strong reaction to it throughout; mostly, dislike, but sometimes interest or understanding or even liking. If nothing else, and for lack of a better word, I had a relationship with this book.

In the book, Strayed looks back on her decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the mid-1990s, when she was in her mid-twenties. The decision was motivated by her desire to change her life; in the aftermath of her mother's much too-early death from cancer, she made some poor personal choices. So off she went to be alone in the wilderness. Without, mind you, doing much in the way of preparation.

So there was my first quibble with the narrative. I actually like being outdoors, but I am not really outdoorsy and I find very little that is "redemptive" or "restorative" about natural landscapes.** I have a farm kid's understanding of (and respect for) Mother Nature: she can fuck you. You can do everything right while growing a crop, but if there's no rain or you get hail or you get flooded (or any one of a million other possibilities), you're screwed. So I've never really understood these people who find comfort in nature. Especially the way Strayed did nature: she didn't even try on her loaded backpack before she went on the trail. And I'm not the only person who was annoyed by that. I was talking with the librarian about this book, and her co-worker overheard us and interjected how much she hated this book. She hated it BECAUSE she was an outdoorsy person; she thought Strayed was unforgivably unprepared to go on a serious mountain hike, and that she had inspired other people to go when they were similarly unprepared.

But that wasn't all. I can certainly understand how losing your mother (and your best friend, which is what Strayed's mother seems to have been to her) would make you go off the deep end. But while I was reading this I also had the involuntary thought that, huh, I'd sure like to read a memoir about emotional distress where the woman doesn't turn to heroin or sex with a lot of different partners. I suppose memoirs about emotional distress where the woman turns to ice cream and wanting just to smack any potential sex partners for being different varieties of moron just don't pack the same punch.

But then? Very brief parts of the book would get past my dislike. And I'd think about them for the rest of the day. In one part of the story, Strayed hitches a ride with a woman (whose name is Lou) and two men, and learns that the woman lost her eight-year-old son in an accident a few years previously. Here's the conversation:

"She took a drag and blew the smoke out in a hard line. 'Anyway, after all that stuff about my son getting killed? After that happened, I died too. Inside." She patted her chest with the hand that held the cigarette. "I look the same, but I'm not the same in here. I mean, life goes on and all that crap, but Luke dying it took it out of me. I try not to act like it, but it did. It took the Lou out of Lou, and I ain't getting it back. You know what I mean?'

'I do,' I said, looking into her hazel eyes." (p. 186.)

I call that the paragraph that made me feel okay about reading a 315-page book I didn't particularly enjoy. And you know what? To remember that story, and to tell it in this way? I had to give Strayed some credit for that.

That is all. Have a good weekend, everyone.

*I think he meant stop reading the book, but you never know with Mr. CR. There's at least a fifty-fifty chance that what he meant was "please stop talking to me about this book."

**Unlike when I first stood on the outside observation deck of the Empire State Building and looked out at New York City. I just couldn't believe it. I looked for hours. Literally. My traveling companion was very tired of the Empire State Building by the time he finally pulled me off that observation deck.

Every single thing about video games bores the shit out of me.

I'm sitting here wondering how to start this post because even just thinking about video games, or playing them, makes my mind wander.

So I'll keep it short. I keep checking out books about video games and gaming, because it seems like the subject comes up a lot (especially when you are the mother of young boys). But I never actually finish reading these books. To me it's literally like reading the instruction booklet for doing your taxes. The latest book I've tried and can't read is Greg Toppo's The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.

Here's some of the jacket copy, because even though I dipped into this one in a number of places, and read about 50 pages of it, I can't remember a thing about it, except that it was VERY DRY:

"What if schools, from the wealthiest suburban nursery school to the grittiest urban high school, thrummed with the sounds of deep immersion? More and more people believe that can happen--with the aid of video games and simulations. Experts argue that games truly do 'believe in you.' Games give people a chance to learn at their own pace, take risks, cultivate deeper understanding, fail and still want to try again--right away--and ultimately succeed in ways that too often elude them in school."

Sigh. I won't be reading this one. I didn't make it through Tom Bissell's book on the subject either, and that hurt, because I LOVE Tom Bissell. Anyone out there ever read an interesting book on video games? Does such a thing exist?

Paul Madonna: Everything Is its Own Reward

Have you ever seen Paul Madonna's art?

If you haven't, you're missing out. I read and loved his first collection, All Over Coffee, a few years back, but I didn't know he'd published a new book (Everything Is Its Own Reward)** until I saw while browsing at the library.*

Finding graphic novels and art collections I enjoy is always a bit of a challenge for me. I am not a very visual person (I cannot follow instruction or direction lists that only include pictures), and I never took any art theory or history courses (which I regret), so most of the time I am very content just to stick with words. But when I find an artist I like? I really, really love them.

Madonna is a case in point. He does very simple (well, they look simple, but I am sure they are very hard to do well) line drawings of buildings, homes, and city streets in his city of San Francisco. Sometimes the pictures contain text, and sometimes they don't. But I love them all and could study them for hours.

*I still love browsing the library and bookstores. Searching or poking around online will just never be as fulfilling.

**Well, newish. It was published in 2011.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 24 August 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Brown, Brené – Rising Strong - [Self-help: "Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are." 200,000 first printing.]
Daugherty, Tracy – Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion - [Oh,my God, Joan Didion. I MUST HAVE IT. 50,000 first printing.]
Gaul, Gilbert M. – Billion-Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football [I just don't have the heart for this one. Been doing too much reading like this.]
Grandin, Greg – Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman[I should read this one, I don't know anything about Kissinger, but I probably wont. 60,000 first printing.]
Johnson, Beverly – The Face That Changed It All: A Memoir[Memoir from the "the first black supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue." 75,000 first printing.]
Klobuchar, Amy – The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland[Political memoir from a Minnesota senator. 60,000 first printing.]
Markoff, John – Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots[Actually, I heard this guy on the radio and he was kind of interesting. Might be worth checking out. 50,000 first printing.]
Shaheen, Stefany – Elle & Coach: Diabetes, the Fight for My Daughter’s Life, and the Dog Who Changed Everything [As a non-dog person, this title will not be for me.]
Silberman, Steve – Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity [Books on any and every aspect of neurology continue to be hot.]
Vine, David - Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (American Empire Project)[The American Empire Project is, in my non-political-party-affiliation, non-voting opinion, the best current affairs series running. Go look at some of the titles in this series. I will get this one eventually. 35,000 first printing.]

So. What do you think? Anything look good there?

Jonathan Kozol's The Theft of Memory: Read it.

I am a big Jonathan Kozol fan.

So when I saw he had a new memoir out, titled The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time, even if I wasn't particularly up to the subject matters of Alzheimer's, aging, and death, I thought I would read it.

And I was not disappointed. What makes this memoir of a dying parent particularly interesting is that Kozol's father was himself a well-known doctor, known for his "special gift for diagnosing interwoven elements of neurological and psychiatric illnesses in highly complicated and creative people." So, in a unique way, Harry Kozol (Jonathan's father) was able to make notes about and track his own decline. This gives the book an additional heartbreaking dimension.

Kozol also examines the many aspects of caring for aging parents, discussing his parents' changing relationships with him, with each other, their nursing home care, dealing with conflicting doctors' reports and inconsistencies, and his methods for finding in-home workers to help his parents stay in their own home until their deaths.

What I like best about Kozol's writing is that he seems to bring a crispness and attention to detail to memoir and "soft" science subjects like education and sociology that reads more like good scientific writing. (Joan Didion does this well too, I always think.) So yes. I think this was a valuable book to read. I will say that sometimes Kozol goes a bit too far off subject, discussing his father Harry's treatment of his famous patients, who included Eugene O'Neill. But those parts of the book are relatively brief (and actually, I skipped a few pages of the section on O'Neill's struggles), and the rest of the story makes it a worthwhile read. Cheerful, it's not. But a loving and detailed look at the challenges of caring for one's parents, combined with an appreciation for those parents' roles in shaping Kozol's own life? That it is.

Mark Schatzker's The Dorito Effect: A food book worth reading.

There are a lot of books being written these days about our food.

I've read a lot of them myself, but somewhere along the way I burned out on them. Partially this was because I worry about my family's diet, but not enough to do the massive amounts of work that are necessary to grow your own food, or even preserve or freeze it.* Partially this was also because I have the world's least sophisticated palate**, so telling me about how healthy food can also taste great is largely a waste of time.

But I must say that I found Mark Schatzker's investigative book The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor to be a new take on a very overdone subject. Schatzker examines food from the viewpoint of flavor--most importantly, how the majority of our food doesn't have any, because it has mainly been produced by a huge agricultural system that must sacrifice complex flavor in order to maximize hardiness and yield.

One thing I really appreciated here was Schatzker's lean journalistic writing and emphasis on scientific studies done on the relationships between flavors in foods and their nutritious compounds. Here's your sample of the book, in which the author describes one of the reasons modern chickens taste so bland:

"In the late 1940s, a new and important feed was unleashed upon poultrydom: the 'high-energy diet.' For chickens to grow twice as fast as their recent ancestors, they needed to mainline carbs.

There was. however, a tradeoff that no one thought much about in the 1940s, or today. What the high-energy diet gains in calories, it loses in flavor. The feed is typically a blend of seeds--corn, wheat, millet, soybeans, etc.--and while some seeds (nutmeg, for example) are flavorful, the seeds we feed chicken are not. And, unlike tomatoes, a chicken doesn't make its own flavor. The taste of animal flesh is strongly influenced by what an animal eats." (p. 35.)

It's an interesting read, and even includes an appendix with a few basic suggestions for starting to improve one's diet. Sigh. I should really follow some of those.

*If I seriously gardened or preserved food I'd have even less time to read! Not. Gonna. Happen.

**For nearly ten years after I graduated from college, I ate a S'mores Pop-Tart and coffee for every breakfast, home-made meatloaf for most at-home meals (hamburger is my true medium), and candy and ice cream in massive, massive quantities. Don't tell my mom, okay? The poor woman raised me on milk my father's dairy herd produced, beef and pork my family raised itself and an awe-inspiring amount of homegrown fruits and vegetables. She was kinder to me for my first eighteen years than I have been to myself since.

Jared Stone's Year of the Cow: Skip it.

I'm not sure why I originally requested Jared Stone's memoir Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family from the library. I just liked the title, I suppose.

I've been chipping away at this book for what feels like months, but I've only gotten to about page 52. The book is exactly what its title advertises: Stone buys his family a butchered beef steer, and then writes about their year eating it. My only thought after getting through those 50 pages was "Wow, we're really just writing memoirs about ANYTHING now." Along the way he throws in some history of meat animals and cooking; some family vignettes from his busy Los Angeles existence; and some recipes, but at the end of the day? It's a whole memoir about buying a lot of beef and eating it.

I've seen this done in similar ways, but better, and mostly by Steven Rinella (author of The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-Create a Feast from the Classic Recipes of French Master Chef Au and Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter).

Here's your sample, so you can decide for yourself. This is the beginning of chapter 1:

"One cow is approximately one Prius-full of meat.

This is the latest fact I've learned in the past twenty-four hours. It's also the most pressing, as the aforementioned cow has been frozen, packed into eight neat boxes, and stacked into the back of my jet-black Prius. I'm behind the wheel, hell-bent for leather, racing against the cold pouring off the boxes in palpable waves. Due south. Los Angeles by sundown." (p. 7.)

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 17 August 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Bauer, Juli – Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook: Over 100 Gluten-Free Recipes to Help You Shine from Within
Beck, Glenn – It IS About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate [You'll forgive me if I can't take a book about Islam by right-wing commentator Beck seriously, won't you?]
Kaplan, Janice – The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life [I weary of these Gretchen Rubin-esque "get a happier attitude" books. I figure, I'll get a better attitude when other people start falling in line. Way easier than changing my own behavior.]
Kelly, Matthew – Rediscover Jesus [Religious nonfiction from a Catholic author.]
Lieven, Dominic – The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution [Love Russian history, but certainly not because it is upbeat. Russia has had a tough few centuries.]
Maxwell, John C. – JumpStart Your Growth [Am I going to need special jumper cables for that?]
Orr, David – The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong [A "cultural biography" of Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken," which of course includes the famous lines "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by."]


So. What do you think? Anything look good there?

Cole Cohen's Head Case: Oh my God, read it.

Next up in our week of teeny-tiny reviews: Cole Cohen's memoir Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders.

Oh my God, you just have to read this book. Do I really have to say anything else in this review other than it's a memoir about a woman who, when she was in her twenties, was diagnosed with a HOLE THE SIZE OF A LEMON in her brain?

Just in case I do: This book is a valuable look at a person who struggled with any number of "learning disorder" diagnoses, so if you know anyone going through that sort of thing, it can be a poignant read. It's an interesting look at our health care system, and not only how we as patients hope to be treated, but also our expectations and hopes once given a diagnosis, and what it means when the comfort of having a diagnosis pales before the realization that there is not much to do with the diagnosis. It's a great coming-of-age story of a person coming to terms with her education, her parents, her relationships, and many other issues, all complicated by physical challenges.

It's not a perfect book; I can see where the organization might confuse some readers (it jumps around in time a bit), unless you are reading carefully, but it's only 221 pages long. Read it.

Here's a sample, if you still need convincing:

"I grew up during the height of the learning disability fad, the early 1990s, when ADD was on the cover of Time magazine and lunch hour at middle school brought a buyer's market for prescription Ritalin, often crushed and sniffed with a juice straw cut down to size in the girls' bathroom. Everyone was learning disabled; it's a wonder that administrators didn't just throw up their hands and shut down the public schools to let the kids roam the country with their freshly minted drivers' permits, hopped up on prescription speed and dangerously deficient of any knowledge of basic algebra." (p. 28.)

Read it. Read read read it.

Wednesday Martin's Primates of Park Avenue: Skip it.

I wasn't all that bothered by all of the media pieces accusing Wednesday Martin of playing fast and loose with her facts in her bestselling memoir Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir. I was more bothered by the fact that it just wasn't that interesting.

Perhaps it's just a subject-matter problem. How interesting can you make stories of parenting and living among extreme wealth on Manhattan's Upper East Side? Doesn't anyone with a TV or any basic cultural knowledge about New York City (or even just extremely wealthy people) know that Alpha Moms and Dads with a lot of money compete viciously among themselves for places for their children in the right preschools and schools, not to mention living in the "right" door-manned buildings and carrying the right Birkin bags? Martin tries to give an anthropological spin to this memoir--throwing in Anthropology Lite tidbits here and there to explain dominance behavior like other women aggressively "charging" her on the sidewalk, or the dangers of "going native"--but nothing is noted, footnoted, or really explored in any real in-depth way to make that tactic any more than a gimmick to sell this book.

The book did periodically give me a chuckle (but not really for the right reasons); I enjoyed this quote, when Martin is talking about trying to sell their townhouse downtown: "I was forever making it look pristine and then rushing out the door so a broker and client could "view" it." (p. 25.)

Now I don't know if we should blame Martin or her editor for that one, but all I could think was, come on, Wednesday. We sell houses in the Midwest too; you don't really have to put "view" in quotes for us.

In one of the final chapters, Martin actually does do some poignant writing about losing a baby while in her second (nearing her third) trimester, and nobody who has ever had a baby or lost a baby will be unaffected by it. But even then she reminds you that the problems of the rich are entirely different from those of the not rich:

"She [the expected third child that they lost] was a burden, in a way, this baby, taxing our space and stealing the older one's crib and requiring private school and college tuition and a renovation and four or five more years of a full-time nanny." (p. 207.)

I'm sorry for her loss, but those aren't really worries [oh, those full-time nannies, they really do cost!] to which I can relate. Skip this one.

Meghan Daum's Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed: Read it.

If you can believe it, I've actually got a little backlog here of books read and reviews unwritten. So this week I'll try to post some teeny-tiny reviews. Many people tell me smaller doses of me are better for everyone involved anyway, so this should be a great week!

I really enjoyed the essay collection Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, edited by Meghan Daum. This comes as no surprise, as I am a huge Meghan Daum fan.

I have kids, and they're keepers, but I can certainly understand why a person would choose not to reproduce. So I enjoyed reading these different viewpoints and reasons for not having kids, but what I liked best about this book was the diversity of writing styles present. They were all essays, sure, but each writer here seemed (to me) to showcase a very different writing style and voice. And periodically the book just really made me chuckle, in the best possible way. Consider this paragraph, from Sigrid Nunez's essay "The Most Important Thing":

"I remember a woman, a mentor, who once asked me if I thought I'd make a good mother. When I told her honestly that I didn't know, she was mightily displeased. It was as if I'd confessed to being a bad person. But I am astonished by those who are unfazed by the prospect of child raising. A male friend of mine, childless but confident, once assured me, "You just give them lots and lots of love." Perhaps only a man could believe it is as simple as that." p. 104.

That made me snort again just reading it.

Other authors included in this collection are Lionel Shriver, Geoff Dyer, Courtney Hodell, Laura Kipnis, Kate Christensen, Paul Lisicky, Anna Holmes, Michelle Huneven, Pam Houston, Jeanne Safer, M.G. Lord, Rosemary Mahoney (particularly good), Elliott Holt, Tim Kreider.

It's a great collection. Read it.

Housekeeping: Amazon, a new blog feature, and James McAvoy

Just a bit of blog housekeeping today.

First off, I am no longer an Amazon affiliate. I have removed the banner ad at right that linked to Amazon, and also the links to Amazon from my "About" page. A few words about this change: THANK YOU so much to people who made their purchases at Amazon after following my links. For several years now, I have gotten a small percentage of any purchases made at Amazon from many of you, and I have been very grateful for that. I'm making this change now because Amazon has changed some of their rules, and demanded that all links to their site be changed, and honestly, I just don't want to figure it out. Secondly, I'm not all that fond of Amazon as a company (although I do periodically shop there, either because they have something I can't find elsewhere, or because I am reluctant to feed my credit card number to any more online sites than I have to), and I wasn't really comfortable asking you to shop there for me.*

I am still an affiliate for Powell's Books (my link to them is still at the right; anything you buy at Powell's after getting there through my link would provide a small kickback for me as well), because I believe in Powell's as an independent bookstore, and because I believe their site is relatively secure. If you ever shop for books online, I will still continue to humbly request that you go to their site through my link. Thank you so much!

SECONDLY: I am thinking of starting a new feature at this blog where I ask strictly nonfiction authors about their reading tastes, writing influences, and projects they are working on currently. You see a lot of this sort of thing for novelists--who do they read; what bookstores do they like, etc., but I think it's time to start showing nonfiction authors the same love. What do you think? Any nonfiction authors you'd like to see me contact with these questions?

LAST: For no reason whatsoever, an appreciate of Scottish actor James McAvoy. I've always been a big, big fan, but the other day I watched this video clip about how he is NOT on social media, and it made me love him all the more. It's an interview about one of his latest movies, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," but the part of this clip I loved starts at about the 1:20 mark. Because I firmly believe we should start every Tuesday listening to someone speak with a beautiful Scottish accent, particularly when they are saying they don't know what texting abbreviations mean.

*Also, there are many great blogs and authors out there who remain Amazon affiliates; if you like the feeling of having some of your purchases help out another blog writer, please consider shopping through author Stacy Horn's website or Savvy Working Gal's website.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 10 August 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Bevere, John – Good or God? Why Good without God Isn't Good Enough [I don't know. I'll take Good without God. Better than Asshole with the Lord.]
Day, Felicia – You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir [Brother. Yet another YouTuber book. I tire of these and I haven't even read one yet. later note: Stacy Horn informs me that Day is also an actress and was on the much-beloved Buffy and the Vampire Slayer show, so maybe this will have to be my first You-Tuber memoir. 50,000+ printing.]
Lahey, Jessica – The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed  [Ooh, parenting book. You know I'll have to have it.75,000 first printing]
McCaskill, Claire – Plenty Ladylike: A Memoir  [McCaskill's a senator from Missouri; political memoir. 100,000 printing.]
McCready, Amy – The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World [Wow, double dipping this week, parenting book catnip part two!]
Mutter, John C. – The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer – [It may be sick, but I love disaster books. I must have this one. 30,000 first printing.]
Rivlin, Gary – Katrina: After the Flood [Yeah, I kind of want to read this one too. 75,000 first printing.]
Roker, Al – The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster [About the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900. I am not going to have enough time to get all these disaster books read. 125,000 first printing.]
Taraborrelli, J. Randy – Sinatra: Behind the Legend [revised and updated for his upcoming 100th birth anniversary. I've read it--I love Sinatra, and I enjoy Taraborrelli's celebrity bios.]
Vargas Llosa, Mario – Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society [Wow, what a great week, concluding with an essay collection. Vargas Llosa is better known as a novelist, but I've never read his fiction. Essays, though? I'll always try essays.]

So. What do you think? Anything look good there?

Book Menage Day Four: Wrap-up

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this Menage, or who read the books and visited. As per usual, I had a great time. I am not really a social reader--wanting always to read what everyone else is--but I learn so much in these discussions that I must try and remember to do more talking WITH people about books, rather than just holding forth on books here (or in person--I tend to do that, and it's a very bad habit). So thank you!

Well, how should we wrap up? Anyone have any questions you wanted to ask or discuss after reading Thomas Keenan's Technocreep or John Scalzi's Old Man's War? I've got one more:

1. Would you suggest either of these books to other readers? Why or why not?

Oh, and also, I wanted to share this. I read Technocreep first, and found it super interesting, and then the idea of having the Menage came up, so I went and read Old Man's War too. While I was reading OMW, I thought, I should really read both books before suggesting the Menage; I don't know that these two books "go together." But then I found this line, on page 145 of my copy of Old Man's War:

"In week eight, I stopped talking to my BrainPal. Asshole had studied me long enough to understand my brain patterns and began seemingly anticipating my quickly the creepy becomes commonplace."

I was very pleased by that (it seemed like a great connection), and thought, huh, I think all books just "go together."

Have a great weekend, all.

Book Menage Day Three: John Scalzi's Old Man's War.

All right. What did you think of John Scalzi's science fiction novel Old Man's War?

Here are my questions for you.

1. What did you think of the premise of this book (old people reconfigured to fight wars away from planet Earth)? Possible? Too far out?

2. How would you feel about someone using your DNA to create clones/future soldiers?

3. I don't read a lot of SF. Would you consider this a well-done example of the genre? Did you like it?

Okay, I sneaked a fourth question in there. So sue me.

Now go forth and discuss!

Book Menage Day Two: Thomas Keenan's Technocreep

You totally knew I was going to pick the nonfiction book to read first, right?

So here are my questions for you about Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy. Please have at in the comments.

1. If you wanted to tell someone what this book is about, how would you describe it?

2. Any particular examples of "technocreep" that you read about here that freaked you out? Or which seemed like a good idea to you?

3. Did this book make you think any differently about technology, surveillance, the future, privacy?

Thanks again for joining us for this menage!

And p.s., Got any questions of your own you'd like to ask about these books? Put those questions in the comments too!

Book Menage Day One: Thomas Keenan's Technocreep and John Scalzi's Old Man's War

Welcome to Book Menage 2015!

This week we'll be discussing Thomas Keenan's Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy and John Scalzi's novel Old Man's War. Today we'll discuss the books generally, then we'll have a few questions about each book individually, and we'll have a short wrap-up. Ready to discuss?*

1. Were either of these books that you would have chosen to read on your own? Why or why not?

2. How did you feel about "the future," after reading one or both of these books?

*I used to answer first, to get things going, but sometimes I worry that I skew the discussion that way. So today I'm hanging back a bit.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 3 August 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Ananthaswamy, Anil - The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self [From the ad copy: "In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, a tour of the latest neuroscience of schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, ecstatic epilepsy, Cotard’s syndrome, out-of-body experiences, and other disorders"]
Badkhen, Anna - Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah [More ad copy: "An intrepid journalist joins the planet’s largest group of nomads on an annual migration that, like them, has endured for centuries."]
Burke, Monte - Saban: The Making of a Coach - [A biography of Nick Saban, University of Alabama football coach. I am beyond NOT INTERESTED. 100,000 first printing.]
Canfield, Jack - The 30-Day Sobriety Solution - [I really hope never to need this one, unless they're talking sobriety from sugar or YouTube binge-watching. 150,000 first printing.]
Casey, Susan - Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins [Wow, go look at the cover of this one. Beautiful. 125,000 first printing.]
Diamant, Jeff – Heist: The Oddball Crew Behind the $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft [This is actually a reprint of a 2002 book; not sure why they're reprinting it. I've read it and enjoyed it quite a bit. "Heist" books like this one can be a good way to read True Crime without things getting too gruesome.]
Downs, Paul - Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business [Written by a furniture business owner who writes a column on business ownership for the New York Times. 50,000 first printing.]
Elliott, Martha - Man In The Monster: An Intimate Portrait of a Serial Killer [About Michael Ross, a rapist and murderer whose death sentence was overturned, but who then requested that he be executed anyway. I might have to look at this one. For better or worse, I am in a True Crime mood lately.]
Gifford, Justin - Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim [About "Iceberg Slim, né Robert Beck, author of the multimillion-copy memoir Pimp and such equally popular novels as Trick Baby and Mama Black Widow"]
Jackson, Shirley - Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings [OH MY GOD I MUST HAVE IT. NOW. I love Shirley Jackson.]
Jakes, T. D. - Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose [Jakes is a bestselling inspirational author.]
Levin, Mark – Plunder and Deceit [Levin is a conservative writer; this one's about big government.]
Prizant, Bary M. - Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism - [75,000 first printing.]
Rubin, Robert Alden - Going to Hell in a Hen Basket - ["An illustrated dictionary of modern malapropisms." I should be interested but I'm not.]
Ruiz, Dulce Candy - The Sweet Life: Find Passion, Embrace Fear, and Create Success on Your Own Terms [Ruiz is "one of the top beauty stars on YouTube." As is usually the case with self-help, just reading the subtitle exhausts me. I'm holding out for the self-help book that is simply subtitled: Getting to Bed on Time Every Night.]
Santamaria, Abigail - Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis [About Joy Davidman, who married C.S. Lewis and was a writer in her own right. I really like C.S. Lewis and have always found their story an interesting one; I might look into this.]
Steinmetz, Greg - The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger [Fugger was a Renaissance banker.]
Yoder, David -Pope Francis and the New Vatican [I'm even more in love with Frankie Argentina now that his approval rating in America is plunging--due at least in part to his stance on climate change and consumerism.]

So. What do you think? Anything look good there? (Incidentally: we'll start the Book Menage tomorrow. See you then!)