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March 2016

Eye candy for Anglophiles: "British Stuff: Life in Britain through 101 Everyday Objects."

So I've pretty much given myself over to just pretending I'm British. Yesterday I was writing something about colors and I almost wrote colours. Today I told a friend I had to go to the piddly diddly department.*

British stuffSo of course when I see books in the library like British Stuff: Life in Britain through 101 Everyday Objects, I have to immediately take them home and read them. I LOVED this one--beautiful photos and just enough text to impart good information while still making it a quick (and fun) read. And yes, I'm totally pathetic and prided myself on how many of these objects I already knew about. Sad that my self-confidence is tied up not with keeping a tidy home or making awesome craft projects with the CRjrs, but rather with how many British things I can identify on sight.

Here's a particularly fun entry, for the simple "Garden shed":

"A shed is usually a simple, single-storey structure in a back garden or on an allotment which is generally used for storage, for hobbies or as a workshop. Of course sheds exist all over the world, but in Britain the shed has particular cultural significance. It is where British people, especially men, retreat to, in order to 'potter,' to escape, to 'do stuff.'

It is their refuge from the rest of the world, a place where they can dismantle a motorbike without having to suffer the abuse they might otherwise earn if they carried out the same task on the kitchen table. In exceptional circumstances the shed may also be used to sleep in if their owners have locked themselves out after a night at the pub. And whilst it may still be men who most often seek refuge in their shed, increasingly women are also enjoying their own space there."

I'm totally going to build a backyard shed to be my refuge. I will go there and pretend I'm British, and I will tell Mr. CR, "I am going to my shed. Kindly do not bother me whilst I am there. I will be back in when I need to go to the piddly diddly department."

It's a great book. Do humour me and go and read it.

*Meaning the bathroom, of course--you would totally know that if you had read Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson books like I told you to.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 28 March 2016

A weekly 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.

Ashe, Josh – Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It [100,000 printing.]
Behar, Howard – The Magic Cup: A Business Parable About a Leader, a Team, and the Power of Putting People and Values First
Blanning, Tim – Frederick the Great: King of Prussia [I've not heard of him before, but if you look him up on Amazon, he's written quite a few histories. I'd like to check this one out, actually, but wow, 688 pages.]
Bryson, Francine – Country Cooking from a Redneck [I'd never heard of Bryson either--here's her ad copy: "Few people know that national pie champion Francine Bryson got her start on the cooking contest circuit at age sixteen with a savory stuffed pork loin—that won first place."]
Budig, Kathryn – Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance!
Burroughs, Augusten – Lust & Wonder [You know, just the other day I wondered what Augusten Burroughs was up to. I read a novel by an author named Rainbow Rowell, and the credit on her author photo is Augusten Burroughs. Is he taking photos and writing new books? This one by the popular memoirist is about "the development and demise of the different relationships he's had while living in New York."]
Conrad, Lauren – Lauren Conrad Celebrate [Wow, 200,000 first printing.]
Donofrio, Jeanine – The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking
Hochschild, Adam – Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 [This one's been getting a lot of attention.]
Hollwich, Matthias and Bruce Mau Design – New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever
Kearney, Kirsten – Block Wonders: How to Build Super Structures in Minecraft
Kienzle, Rich – The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones
Mitchell, Andie – A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook
Orenstein, Peggy – Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape [This one's getting a lot of press too. I liked her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter; I'd like to get this one too.]
Smith, Keri – The Wander Society [Evidently this one is about Walt Whitman--and his Wander Society?--or something. I am too tired tonight to try and figure it out, and even this author's blurb confuses me: "Keri Smith is a bestselling author, illustrator, and thinker. Her books include Wreck This Journal, This is Not a Book, How to Be an Explorer of the World, Mess, Finish This Book, The Pocket Scavenger, Wreck This Journal Everywhere, Everything Is Connected, The Imaginary World of... as well as Wreck This App, This is Not an App, and the Pocket Scavenger app." Somebody must know her stuff, though--this one got a 200,000 first printing. That's huge.]
Trentmann, Frank – Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First [This one sounds interesting. Anyone heard of this Frank Trentmann?]
Williams, Steve – Out of the Rough: Inside the Ropes with the World’s Greatest Golfers
Wittman, Robert K. & David Kinney – The Devil’s Diary : Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

Anglophile Trailer Bonanza!

Looking to kill some time at work today? Are you an Anglophile?

If your answer to both of those questions was yes, consider checking out trailers for a couple of forthcoming movies:

The new Bridget Jones film: Bridget Jones's Baby*


Whit Stillman's adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan: Love & Friendship**


*I loved the first Bridget Jones movie and regularly re-watch it every Christmas season. So I'm excited about this one, even though I will miss Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver.

**Oh, how I used to love Whit Stillman, director of Metropolitan and Barcelona. Not sure I would love those movies anymore. May have to re-watch them to find out.

I won't be reading "Furiously Happy" just now.

Furiously happyAlthough, actually, I was happily surprised by Jenny Lawson's first bestselling memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and I actually like her voice.*

This one is less a memoir than a collection of essays and other writings about living with depression. This is how she herself describes the book:

"So I took to my blog and wrote a post that would change the way that I would look at life from then on:

October 2010

All things considered, the last six months have been a goddamn Victorian tragedy. Today my husband, Victor, handed me a letter informing me that another friend had unexpectedly died. You might think that this would push me over the edge into an irreversible downward spiral of Xanax and Regina Spektor songs, but no. It's not. I'm fucking done with sadness, and I don't know what's up the ass of the universe lately but I've HAD IT. I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY, OUT OF SHEER SPITE." (p. xvi.)

So this is a book about Lawson's "saying yes to anything ridiculous," all in the name of being furiously happy (and perhaps helping keep her depression and anxiety at bay**). And you know what? I salute her. I really do. I can think of worse ways to face your depression than to decide to be furiously happy. But for some reason this week I just didn't have the energy to read this book, or to feel that saying "yes" to everything is any sort of answer. Most days I just try to reach something like a low-level contentment.

Although I almost did reconsider after reading the bit below. It made me laugh out loud:

"You still have to call the vet though when your cat has eaten a toy consisting of a tinkle bell and a feather and a poof ball all tied together with twine. That actually happened once and it was really the worst because the vet told me that I'd have to ply the cat with laxatives to make the toy pass easily through and that I'd need to inspect the poop to make sure the toy passed because otherwise they'd have to do open-cat surgery. And then it finally did start to pass, but just the first part with the tinkle bell, and the cat was freaked out because he was running away from the tinkle bell hanging out of his butthole and when I called the vet he said to definitely NOT pull on the twine because it would pull out his intestines, which would be the grossest pinata ever ever, and so I just ran after the cat with some scissors to cut off the tinkle bell (which, impressively, was still tinkling after seeing things no tinkle bell should ever see). Probably the cat was running away because of the tinkle bell and because I was chasing it with scissors screaming, "LET ME HELP YOU."" (p. 9.)

*She's about a gazillion times funnier than Jen Lancaster, and I can appreciate that.

**It didn't always work, she notes, and I can appreciate the honesty of that too.

The National Book Critics' Circle Award winners have been named.

Here are the books and authors that were named winners of the National Book Critics' Circle awards for 2015:

Ross Gay, “Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude” (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Maggie Nelson, “The Argonauts” (Graywolf)
Margo Jefferson “Negroland” (Pantheon)
Charlotte Gordon, “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley” (Random House)
Sam Quinones, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic” (Bloomsbury)
Paul Beatty, “The Sellout” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The John Leonard Prize
Kirstin Valdez Quade, “Night at the Fiestas” (W.W. Norton)
The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
Carlos Lozada
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Wendell Berry

Once again I haven't read any of them, although of course I have read (and love) Wendell Berry. I also had "Negroland" home from the library twice and didn't get it read before it had to go back--does that count? I must say the Mary Wollstonecraft biography looks excellent, and I'd like a crack at the "Dreamland" title as well.

How about you? Read any of these?


New Nonfiction (with commentary): 21 March 2016

A weekly 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.

Beller, Rachel – Power Souping: 3-Day Detox, 3-Week Weight-Loss Plan
Bouchard, Loren – The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book [Ever seen "Bob's Burgers"? It's weirdly hilarious. This is a book of burger recipes, based on one of the show's running gags: the creatively named daily burger specials.]
Griffin, Brooke – Skinny Suppers [Does this recipe book have casseroles in it? Because the CRjrs are giving me serious pushback on casseroles. Which is unfortunate, because all I want to cook is casseroles. 75,000 first printing. Oh--just looked it up. Evidently the author runs a blog called Skinny Mom. And is skinny. Yeah, I hate her.]
King, Mervyn – The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy [Good old Merv, also known as The Baron King of Lothbury, was governor of the Bank of England for a decade.]
Lynch Michael P. – The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data [I have been reading so many depressing books about technology and the Internet that Mr. CR has begged me to stop bringing them home. I'm going to have to get this one though, too. Although Lynch is an author and a professor of philosophy, and I never do very well with philosophy books.]
MacLeod, D. Peter – Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution [A history of a battle in the "Seven Years’ War (1754–1763) to win control of the trans-Appalachian region of North America"--which I had literally never heard of. You?]
Monro, Alexander – The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention [Microhistory of paper.]
Morris, George H. – Unrelenting: The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights and My Pursuit of Excellence [Autobiography of George Morris, "an American trainer and judge of horses and riders in the hunter and jumper disciplines."]
Purvis, Bill – Make a Break for It: Unleashing the Power of Personal and Spiritual Growth [Author copy: "Bill Purvis became pastor at Cascade Hills Church with no salary and only 32 people in the pews on Easter Sunday. He now ministers to over 8,000 people locally and has an international television audience through Trinity Broadcasting Network."]
Reid, David – The Brazen Age: New York City and the American Empire: Politics, Art, and Bohemia [A look at NYC between the years of 1945 and 1950.]
Robison, John Elder & Alvaro Pascual-Leon – Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening [Robison is Augusten Burroughs's brother, and wrote a memoir about his life with Asperger's, titled Look Me in the Eye. This evidently is a memoir about a treatment he received afterwards, called "transcranial magnetic stimulation." Could be interesting. 50,000 first printing.]
Singular, Stephen – Shadow on the Mountain: Nancy Pfister, Dr. William Styler, and the Murder of Aspen’s Golden Girl [True crime.]
Smith, Lee – Dimestore: A Writer’s Life [I've never read any of Smith's novels, but I do love a good literary autobiography.]
Walton, Bill – Back from the Dead [Sports memoir from NBA player Walton, perfectly timed for March Madness.]

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

A tale of two nonfiction books: We Took to the Woods, and She Took to the Woods.

When my sister read Louise Dickinson Rich's classic We Took to the Woods, she really, really liked it. So I kept thinking, I have to read that book.*

And so I did. And it was okay. Rich is a lively writer, no doubt about it. It's a memoir about how she lived with her husband (and eventually her son, and then her daughter) in a completely isolated spot in Maine. Each chapter takes as its heading one of the many questions she'd been asked over the years: "But how do you make a living?" "Don't you ever get bored?" You get the idea. So here's how she starts out:

"During most of my adolescence--specifically, between the time when I gave up wanting to be a brakeman on a freight train and the time when I definitely decided to become an English teacher--I said, when asked what I was going to do with my life, that I was going to live alone in a cabin in the Maine woods and write. It seemed to me that this was a romantic notion, and I was insufferably smug over my own originality. Of course, I found out later that everybody is at one time or another going to do something of the sort. It's part of being young. The only difference in my case is that, grown to womanhood, I seem to be living in a cabin in the Maine woods, and I seem to be writing." p. 13.

See? Lively. And here's how she describes where she and her husband, Ralph, live:

"Middle Dam is quite a community. There is the dam itself, a part of the system for water control on the Androscoggin, with the dam-keeper and his family. Renny and Alice Miller and their three children, in year-round residence. Then in summer the hotel is open. We only call it a hotel; it's really a fishing camp. In winter it is closed, but there is a caretaker, Larry Parsons, who stays in with his wife, Al, and a hired man or two. So the permanent population of Middle Dam hovers at around nine, and that is comparative congestion. We get our mail and supplies through Middle, and it is the point of departure for The Outside, so its importance is all out of proportion to its population." (p. 16.)

I read the whole thing, but I was feeling a bit uncomfortable because I was thinking I didn't enjoy it as much as my sister did. For one thing, anyone who enjoys sidewalks and walking a few blocks down the road to the coffee shop to get a treat (and I do enjoy both those things, very much) can't really get too excited about a book where part of the chief attraction is the loneliness and wildness of the landscape. For another, I read it in January, when we were all ill with The Never-Ending Cold**, and I just don't think I could give it the attention that I should have.

But then I heard from my sister that there was also a biography about Rich available, called She Took to the Woods, and I thought, okay, let's do it. And THAT I loved. Here's how that book's author describes Rich's fateful meeting with her husband-to-be, for whom she would literally leave civilization:

"Meanwhile, on the Carry Road, Louise was finding it hard to put one foot in front of the other. With every step, she became increasingly convinced that she had just met her destiny [Ralph Rich] and was walking away from it. She felt bereft, almost frantic. Her intuition said, 'Drop the canoe and run back.' Her intellect said, 'Don't be impulsive; you know it gets you in trouble.' What to do? What to do! Just ahead, Alice's enthusiastic impressions about the encounter, the locale, and the host began to peter out. She cocked her head at Louise: 'Gosh, you're awfully quiet all of a sudden.'" (p. 29.)

What I really loved about reading these two books was how they were both good examples of their nonfiction genres (memoir/humor and biography) and how they gave completely different pictures of the same story. I don't think Rich made things up in her memoir; I think she presented them in a very specific way. For instance: at their isolated home in Maine, the Riches had a hired man/jack of all trades named Gareth. Now, the way Louise talked about him, I assumed he was some old bachelor dude that just lived with them. And then you read the biography and find out that Gareth had a family of his own, who lived elsewhere, including a grown daughter who often helped Louise look after her children.

So between the two books I had a great reading experience, not only enjoying the books themselves, but enjoying the truth that for every nonfiction story, there are at least as many truths as there are people telling the story. Awesome.

*I almost always read the books my sister talks about. Even when we disagree in our tastes it makes for great discussions. She is one of the very few people in my life with whom I always want to talk more, not less.

**Even capping it doesn't do it justice. Holy cow, was January a miserable month this year. Ye gods, THE NEVER-ENDING HORRIFYING COLD. People who don't think reading is a physical activity should try reading (and enjoying reading) while sick. It's not easy. But I try anyway.

The end of an era: Bookslut will cease publication.

Sad news on the Interwebs last week: Jessa Crispin's long-running literary blog and online magazine Bookslut will cease publication.

A million years ago I had the good fortune to write some reviews for Bookslut, and I'm still grateful that they let me. And I'm grateful for their many years of publishing well-informed articles, interviews, and reviews of both fiction AND nonfiction books.*

You'll be missed, my dearest book harlot.

*Now: can you recommend some good book blogs for me, where they either focus on or at least include nonfiction?

This just in: a new(ish) reprinted interview with Jessa Crispin, at The Rumpus.

British Television: What to watch now that Downton Abbey is over.*

So it's the end of a British TV era: after six seasons, the uber-popular drama Downton Abbey has ended.

Wanna hear a little secret? I was never a really big fan, and didn't really watch the show past the first few episodes.** This is very odd for me, as I am a confirmed Anglophile and a terrible British TV addict. So I'm going to try and make up for my snobbishness by listing a few similar programs any fans of Downton Abbey might enjoy.

Well, first, of course, there's the classic London Weekend Television/BBC series Upstairs, Downstairs. I've never actually seen it--sacrilegious, I know, but it's on my to-do list for the year (sure I'll have to cross off some other things, like "spring clean this filthy house," but hey, we all make sacrifices)--but I do know it's about a large London house and focuses on the lives of the servants downstairs and their employers upstairs. It covers almost the same time period as Downton--1903 to 1930--and there's a lot of it: it ran in 68 episodes (split into five series) from 1971 to 1975.

Now I'm the first to admit that sometimes early BBC and Brit TV productions look a bit "homespun" to our demanding modern and Hollywood-conditioned eyes. If that series is just too early (or too long) for you, they also did a remake of the program that ran from 2010 to 2012. That was actually a continuation of the first series, picking up the story of the families from 1936 onward, but you didn't really need to see the original to understand the continuation.

Here's a fun fact: Downton's creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, has also done some acting***, as when he was a recurring character on the BBC series Monarch of the Glen. You can't go far wrong with watching Monarch of the Glen; in addition to seeing Fellowes overact as Lord Kilwillie, a neighbor to the primary family, there's plenty of drama in this show's five seasons too. When prodigal son Archie MacDonald returns to the Scottish Highlands because his father is dying, he finds out that Glenbogle, his family's estate, is debt-ridden and in trouble. To complicate matters further: his father isn't really dying, but both his parents want him to stay and face his duties as the eventual laird of Glenbogle. There's a bit of upstairs/downstairs intrigue here, too; Archie continually has to deal with the highly individual members of his family's staff (who have been there long enough to really count as just family) and the feisty local schoolteacher to whom he is immediately attracted. Love! Class issues! The Highlands! Archie is played by the super-cute Alistair Mackenzie!

Class issues are also a main thread in the fabulous BBC miniseries North and South, based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. If you haven't yet seen this one you don't deserve to call yourself an Anglophile--it is, bar none, one of the best movies ever adapted by the Beebs (in my opinion). Set in the Victorian era, as the film opens, we see gentlewoman Margaret Hale being moved away from all she knows in the rural, conservative, and stately South of England, to face a much harsher life in the industrial North of England, in the mill town of Milltown (that was based on Manchester). Once there she is simultaneously appalled by and attracted to one of the mill owners, John Thornton, who, for his part, seems like a decent guy working in a tough system. (He does try to improve conditions for his workers of his own volition, for which other mill owners mock him). This one launched the career of actor Richard Armitage, and with good reason. It's four episodes and roughly four hours long; don't start it shortly before bedtime, like I did, and then not be able to stop watching until the wee hours of the morning.

Downton Abbey was often referred to as a soap opera, and I say, if you're going to watch a British soap opera, just WATCH a British soap opera. Might I suggest Coronation Street? It's only been running since 1960 (and one of the original characters is still on it). As a soap opera, of course, it focuses on multiple storylines of the characters who live along the title street and run into one another at work, in the shops, and in the street's pub. Some sadist who never wants me to get any work done regularly posts recent episodes at YouTube, and if you want to lose years of your life, search "Coronation Street 1960" and you can see the very first episode and many more.

If you're looking for a new series to fall in love with, you also don't even have to change your channel or viewing time. Starting on Easter night (March 27), PBS will air season two of Grantchester. This is a great series, featuring a young vicar with a disapproving (but hilarious) housekeeper, an unrequited love interest, and an uncanny ability to talk with people and help his police inspector friend solve crimes. The first series was so good--and not all that long--so you could totally binge-watch it between now and then and be ready for the second season.

And don't forget PBS's documentary The 1900 House--in which people willingly signed up to live in a house together as though it were 1900. That might have been okay for the "family," but for the servants? Those used to living in 1999 did not adjust easily to 1900.

*Yes, of course, the New York Times has already made their suggestions. But I didn't look at their article before I wrote mine! There's another list, a good one, over at Vulture--I totally agree with their pick of The Forsyte Saga. I forgot that one!

**Every now and then I would just tune in briefly, because, you know, British television. I can't turn it off. But it always seemed someone was getting blackmailed or raped or other general unpleasantness was going on at the exact moment I tuned in, and I just didn't have the energy for that.

***Fellowes keeps busy. He's also known as the "The Right Honourable Lord Fellowes of West Stafford," and is a Conservative member of the House of Lords.

Link: All the Single Ladies, by Rebecca Traister.

Has anyone read Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation yet? It's all over the review media and in blogs:

at EarlyWord;

the New York Times;


I'm trying to decide if I want to read it. I'm running out of time; I also want to read Peggy Orenstein's Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape and American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 14 March 2016

A weekly 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.

Abrams, Jonathan – Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution [Oh, good lord, March. Not a great month for people who are bored by both basketball and brackets.]
Biancaniello, Matthew – Eat Your Drink: Culinary Cocktails
Blizzard Entertainment – World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
Brinkley, Douglas – Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America [I'm no huge fan of historian Douglas Brinkley--although he is a popular history author--but I do find FDR interesting. A jerk for cheating on Eleanor, but still interesting. 200,000 first printing.]
Broder, Melissa – So Sad Today: Personal Essaysi [Don't know if I'm up for this--"Melissa Broder always struggled with anxiety. In the fall of 2012, she went through a harrowing cycle of panic attacks and dread that wouldn't abate for months. So she began @sosadtoday, an anonymous Twitter feed that allowed her to express her darkest feelings..." But I do love essays.]
Brogan, Kelly – A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives [100,000 first printing.]
Coleman, David & others – The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy Volumes IV–VI: The Winds of Change: October 29, 1962
Dillard, Annie – The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New [I've never been real enthusiastic about Annie Dillard, but she's a well-known essayist and novelist. I should check this out.]
Garrels, Anne – Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia [Gotta get this one, although I rather fear it might be scary.]
Hagerty, Barbara Bradley – Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife [Opportunity, my ass. So far midlife seems to be a horrifying spiral into niggling little health annoyances.]
Heisz, Deborah K. -Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy [Oh, my God, another "be joyful" book. Nothing makes me feel more cantankerous.]
Kennedy, Caroline – She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems
Kerpen, Dave – The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want [I don't buy that people skills will get me everything I want, but I might have to check this out anyway.]
Paris, Wendy – Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well
Roy, Rachel – Design Your Life: Creating Success Through Fashion and Style [Wow, 200,000 first printing.]

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

Still a sucker for work memoirs: Steve Osborne's The Job.

Some books I'm just predisposed to like. So, even when I come across a not spectacular example of the genre, I still can't help liking it.

A case in point is Steve Osborne's The Job. I was very intrigued to see this title over at Unruly Reader's blog,* so got it right away. And it didn't really disappoint; I really like the look into others' daily routines. Sometimes, though, this author exuded a "streetwise" masculinity that wasn't really to my taste:

"I grew up in a no-nonsense blue-collar neighborhood where toughness was valued as much as, or more than, anything else. And in that neighborhood, the old man reigned as king. You either loved him or feared him, and he really didn't care which it was. He was also the neighborhood problem solver. Once some pervert had flashed one of the neighborhood teenage girls and it was brought to his attention. This was the old days, so not everything was adjudicated with an arrest. When I asked him how he handled it, the only thing he said was 'He'll never do that again.' I'm not quite sure what that meant, but the guy was never seen or heard from in my neighborhood again." (p. 3.)

Now, all of that said, if you're looking for a solid cop memoir with some unbelievable stories (keeping two suspects from stabbing each other right in front of him; buying someone he'd just arrested a hot dog; following someone into a subway tunnel without paying much attention to when the next train was coming) you will not be disappointed here.

Have a great weekend, all. And try not to do anything that will get you arrested--not every cop out there will buy you a hot dog.

*Please go read her review; it's better than this one.

Note to literary fiction authors.

Anatomy of Dreams
by Chloe Benjamin and Chloe Krug BenjaminTrade Paperback

And here it is: I don't really need all of my novels to turn into a thriller about halfway through.

Now sure, I know that thrillers are hot and are what is selling these days. But lately it seems like whatever novel I start always has some big sinister twist in the middle, and I really don't need that. Because here's the thing: I'm older now, and I realize I don't really need all that much excitement. To me life itself is the big thriller. And the sinister twist in the middle? Yeah, it's called middle age, and I'm going to be busy for a while seeing if that ends well*, so in the meantime I'd just like to read a good book about some human relationships that I don't have to be in.

The book that made me think that just lately was Chloe Benjamin's The Anatomy of Dreams. Here's some of the copy from the back: "It's 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Gabe is a protege of their charismatic headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, a scientist who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming...Years later, Sylvie decides to follow Gabe--now a fierce devotee of Keller and his cause--and they assume a peculiar, nocturnal existence, traveling from the redwood forests of Eureka to the New England coast."

Now, that wouldn't make you think that the book was particularly thriller-ish, would you? Maybe a bit coming of age, maybe a bit love triangle-y or weirdly co-dependent, but not necessarily a thriller. It wasn't badly done, it just wasn't quite what I was expecting. I suppose I should have known it probably wouldn't be my cuppa when I saw the blurb from Lorrie Moore on it. I am no fan of Lorrie Moore.

But what about you? Finding that every novel you pick up these days is trying to be noir-ish? Or is that just me?

*And by ends well I mean I hope my middle age is followed by an old age that is just long enough and no longer. You know what I'm saying? That's not too much to ask, is it?

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 7 March 2016

A weekly 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.

Andersen, SarahAdulthood Is a Myth: A “Sarah Scribbles” Collection
Anderson, William - The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder [I love letters like I love diaries, so I'll have to get this one. 50,000 first printing.]

Anner, Zach – If at Birth You Don’t Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny
Bell, Rob - How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living [Self-help from a pastor and the author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God, 50,000 first printing.]
Blackmon, Jimmy - Pale Horse: Hunting Terrorists and Commanding Heroes with the 101st Airborne Division
Duhigg, Charles - Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business [Duhigg had a big hit a few years back with the title The Power of Habit, which I thought was super-boring.]
Himmler, Katrin - The Private Heinrich Himmler: Letters of a Mass Murderer [On the other hand, here is a collection of letters that I might not have the stomach for.]
Lakshmi, Padma - Love, Loss, and What We Ate [You know, I always wondered, why am I seeing this name Padma Lakshmi everywhere? And yet still I had no idea who she is. Evidently she is a model, actress, and cookbook author. No wonder her name is everywhere! She was also married to Salman Rushdie (they divorced in 2007); and she has a child by Adam Dell, brother to computer magnate Michael Dell. This memoir is being called "a tantalizing blend of Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn." 150,000 first printing.]
Menounos, Maria - The EveryGirl’s Guide to Cooking [Menounos is an "American actress, journalist, television host, and occasional professional wrestler."]
Pasricha, Neil - The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything [All these positive-thinking self-help books just sound exhausting to me. Can't I just want a few things, do some stuff, and have most everything? Oh wait, that's what I already do. Good.]
Sadik-Khan, Janette & Seth Solomonow - Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution [Sadik-Khan is New York City's transportation commissioner, and this is a book about making cities more livable. I love reading about cities* and will totally be looking into this one. 100,000 first printing.]
Senghor, Shaka - Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison ["In 1991, Shaka Senghor was sent to prison for second-degree murder. Today, he is a lecturer at universities, a leading voice on criminal justice reform, and an inspiration to thousands. 65,000 first printing.]
Showalter, Elaine - The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography [The first full biography of Julia Ward Howe, by Elaine Showalter, one of the "founders of feminist literary criticism," according to Wikipedia.]
Thomas, Gillian - Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work
Vaynerchuk, Gary - #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness [Vaynerchuk's an inspirational/entrepreneurship author, and a very popular one at that. 150,000 first printing.]

*I like living in the city too. Whenever CRjr and LilCR and I get back from visiting family on the farm, whenever we turn back on our home road I yell, "Boys, we're back in town!"

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

Paul Theroux's Deep South.

There are about a million places I want to travel to someday.

I'm rather ashamed to admit that none of those places are located in the American South.*

So when I saw that infamous travel writer Paul Theroux had written a travelogue titled Deep South, I thought, well, in lieu of traveling anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, I'll just read that.

At no point was I swept away, really, in Theroux's narrative. I actually thought he was a bit wordy/long-winded through most of it, and the entire book could have done with a much tighter editing. (Theroux is, of course, a bestselling travel writer and novelist, best known for his books The Old Patagonian Express and (the novel) The Mosquito Coast. And I have read and enjoyed at least one of his earlier works. But I wonder if he is so hallowed these days that he is not much edited.)

Over the course of the four different seasons, Theroux drove away from his home in the north and meandered through such deep Southern states as Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. And many of the stories he tells seem to center on the deep poverty of many people living in the South, combined with wonder at their kindnesses and hospitality to him. One of his very first stories is of getting lost in Alabama, when a kind woman asks if she can help him find where he's going.

"In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on a hot Sunday morning in early October, I sat in my car in the parking lot of a motel studying a map, trying to located a certain church...

I slapped the map with the back of my hand. I must have looked befuddled.

'You lost, baby?'

I had driven from my home in New England, a three-day road trip to another world, the warm green stages of the Deep South I had longed to visit, where 'the past is never dead,' so the man famously said. 'It's not even past.' Later that month, a black barber snipping my hair in Greensboro, speaking of its racial turmoil today, laughed and said to me, in a sort of paraphrase of that writer whom he'd not heard of and never read, 'History is alive and well here.'" (p. 4.)

The woman who asked him if he was lost ended up leading him (she drove her car and he followed) to the church he wanted.

I did get a kick out of Theroux being curmudgeonly enough to ask many residents of Arkansas if they didn't think Bill Clinton's philanthropic work wouldn't be appreciated in many of the poorer areas of his own home state (as opposed to focusing on Africa). Most people didn't respond to that in any big way, but one person did reply that Clinton had his own weaknesses and proclivities, as all humans do (or something like that). And Theroux was gracious enough to agree with that and move on.

It was an interesting (if very sad, at times) read, and there's a lot of great pictures in it. Worth a look, but don't feel bad if you have to skip over some of the text because it is just taking too long.

*As a dedicated Anglophile, for one thing, I'd like to visit a lot more of England and Scotland (and Ireland, for good measure) than I've so far had the good luck to see.

Oh, Louise Rennison, my heart is broken.

Author Louise Rennison has died, at the age of 64.

I LOVED Louise Rennison. Any good Anglophile worth the title should be familiar with her master works, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, all the way through the tenth book in the Georgia Nicolson series, titled Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

If you can't tell by the titles, these are YA novels (ten in the series, total) featuring Georgia Nicolson, a boy-mad but totally hilarious young girl with a vocabulary all her own. And you know what? They were sweet. Georgia is crazy, but over the course of ten books she never got dull, and actually very little in the way of full-frontal snogging went on, which was kind of a nice change in modern literature. If you know anyone just a bit young for the Bridget Jones books, get them this series instead. They will love you forever.

Why do I keep checking out books by Heidi Julavits?

I have never been a Heidi Julavits fan, starting with her infamous essay when she started The Believer literary magazine, about how they wouldn't be engaging in snark. That essay made me want to be snarkier than ever. And it's so long. It's just so very long.

The Folded Clock: A Diary
by Heidi JulavitsHardcover

But, as previously noted, I am a sucker for diaries. So when I saw she had published a new book called The Folded Clock: A Diary, I thought, oh well, I'll check it out. And here's what I got:

"Today my friend is arriving from London to help me pack. I am in Italy, I have been in Italy for a month, working at an art colony, and together she and I are going to a different part of Italy (also work). I am often anxious about traveling alone, so she has been requested to keep me company and prevent me, in theory, from being anxious. What I forget is that she often makes me anxious when I am with her. She has a hunger for adventure so extreme that my usual hunger for adventure becomes, due to reactionary prudence, squelched." (p. 73.)

Getting to work in Italy? Having friends who can come "help you travel"? Hunger for adventure? Clearly this woman and I have nothing in common.* I will not be finishing this book.

*Mr. CR's opinion? "That diary book you've got in the bathroom is brutal."