Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Memoirs 2007



1560–70; mémoire; memoria; see memory

The Christian Science Monitor's list of the memoirs receiving the highest marks from their reviewers:
ABOUT ALICE, by Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin's moving tribute to his wife of almost 40 years is a slender, graceful volume that most readers will find hard to read without tears.

This is the touching, funny account of a young Vietnamese immigrant's obsession with American snack foods – symbols to her of assimilation into US life.

ONCE UPON A COUNTRY, by Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David
Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh lays out his legacy and his ideals as a Middle Easterner who dares to continue to hope for peace in his region.

PEELING THE ONION, by Günter Grass, translated by Michael Henry Heim
Nobel Prize-winner Günter Grass's memoir includes his account of his days in the Nazi Waffen-SS.

LITTLE HEATHENS, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
This generous-hearted account of the author's life on an Iowa farm with her Puritanical grandparents during the Depression is full of unexpected joy.

Kate Braestrup tells how, after her husband's tragic death, she stepped up to fulfill his dreams and became a chaplain serving search-and-rescue workers in Maine.

DOWN THE NILE, by Rosemary Mahoney Little
Rosemary Mahoney serves up an intelligent, touching, and evocative travelogue of her solo, 120-mile journey down the Nile in a rowboat.

BROTHER, I'M DYING, by Edwidge Danticat
Haitian immigrant Edwidge Danticat has written a moving tribute to her father and uncle, the two men who raised her and loved each other and yet spent most of their adult lives on separate shores.

After losing his job, home, wife, and health, Michael Gates Gill, a son of privilege, turned to Starbucks for a job and discovered how to put his life back together even as he steamed milk and poured lattes.

Patrica Hampl's tender, thoughtful account of her parents' lives (and her own life by their sides in St. Paul, Minn.) is a journey through two questions: "Who are these people" and "How is it that I never got away?"

Elizabeth Samet has penned an intelligent, sensitive meditation on her work: teaching literature to West Point cadets.
Source: here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cats and Books

One of the season's bestselling books is Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. Many are expecting this book to reach the popularity of Marley & Me. Themes in the book include more than the life and times of Dewey -- it is the story of a small town in Iowa during some tough times.
Dewey was discovered in the Spencer library’s overnight drop box in January 1988, a time when Iowa was in the midst of an economic chill that had gripped the nation. Spencer is a town that hasn’t changed much since the 1930s, with a downtown of family-owned stores in connecting two- and three-story brick buildings, a second-run movie theater and The Hen House, which sells decorating items to farmwives.

Seems Dewey is credited with increasing patronage of the library from 60,000 visitors a year to 100,000, including a film crew from Japan. Looks like I'm not the only one who will go out of my way to visit a library, bookstore or any other environment where there's a friendly, well-loved cat in charge of things. I had the pleasure of a very friendly encounter with a beautiful gray with green-eyes cat at Camino nursery just yesterday. It just added to the already great experience of being at wonderful, locally-owned nursery on a gorgeous October day.

This book is definitely on my TBR list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Groups Top Ten from Powell's

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
  4. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  5. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
  6. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  7. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
  8. The Gathering by Anne Enright
  9. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  10. Run by Ann Patchett

Source: here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In the Blink of an Eye - November's Book

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

An excerpt from Thomas Mallon's review for the New York Times:
''It is a simple enough system,'' he explains. ''You read off the alphabet . . . until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word.'' Fairly soon! Less soon when the amanuensis anticipates and makes mistakes: ''One day when, attempting to ask for my glasses (lunettes), I was asked what I wanted to do with the moon (lune).''

Bauby allows that his ''communication system disqualifies repartee,'' but it does beautiful service to all sorts of physical and emotional description. ''There comes a time,'' he explains, ''when the heaping up of calamities brings on uncontrollable nervous laughter,'' but in this strong, slim volume the author displays a writerly control equal to his honesty: ''One day . . . I can find it amusing, in my 45th year, to be cleaned up and turned over, to have my bottom wiped and swaddled like a newborn's. I even derive a guilty pleasure from this total lapse into infancy. But the next day, the same procedure seems to me unbearably sad, and a tear rolls down through the lather a nurse's aide spreads over my cheeks.'' There are scenes in Bauby's narrative -- his discovery, in a windowpane, that he is not just ''reduced to the existence of a jellyfish'' but ''also horrible to behold'' -- that one might be inclined to describe as unbearably sad, if ''unbearable,'' thanks to this book, were not a word one will never again use quite so loosely.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Paperback Dreams

Sadly, Cody's in Berkeley didn't survive since the making of this documentary.
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

FREE Author Event - Firoozeh Dumas

"A hilarious collection of essays … [that] easily translates to the experiences of immigrants from any part of the world … . The book brings us closer to discovering what it means to be an American."
—San Jose Mercury News

"Charming … funny … This is a gentle life story by an author who clearly loves her fellow man, and who is dedicated to pointing out the deliciously absurd aspects of both American and Iranina culture; as such, it is a joyful success." —Newsday

Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:45 pm
Location: Sacramento State University Union Ballroom
Cost: Free and open to the public
Parking: Free parking in Parking Structure III, 6th floor only; campus map (PDF)

More info here.

I like soup, do you like soup?

Here's an excerpt from an interview with the author of "The Lace Reader," Brunonia Barry:
"And as I listened to this group of women who have been meeting for almost ten years now to discuss their favorite books, I was reminded of May's Circle of women, the ones who make lace together on a fictional island not far from the mouth of this harbor, and I felt the privilege of being invited into this special group who have become friends over the years, not before the book club began as you might expect, but because of its existence. As one of the members explained, "Our lives are completely different, our interests seldom overlap. But when we get lost in a story, we almost become the characters, and for those few shared hours of discussion, we are the same."
Read more here.

Fall Bestsellers by Astrological Sign

Aries likes to be where the action is, and if there aren't any thrills and chills on a particular day, the easily bored Aries can find satisfaction in a book. Smoke Screen is a must-read combining all those ingredients that symbolize the red planet: fire, heroic action, and men in uniform. There's plenty of suspense in Sandra Brown's latest novel set in the romantic Southern town of Charleston, South Carolina.

Taurus, with a faithful and strong love nature entwined with a desire for the good life, will relish The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. It's about love lost, love found, and decisions we hope we never have to make. The protagonist, Travis Parker, has everything a red-blooded Taurus could want: money, loyal friends, and a great job. As sometimes happens, it all gets turned upside-down with love in the picture, and he is forced to face a difficult choice.

For you twins who can't decide whether to walk, run, or write the great American novel, here is a book about both: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. This masterful yet guardedly private writer appeals to the Gemini need for duality. Murakami, who sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing and began running to keep fit, presents a compelling statement on the connection between writing and running.

Because Cancer's soul is so attached to the past, the haunting tale The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson will bring the reader face-to-face with one of life's deepest mysteries: past lives. In this haunting novel, a burn victim is visited by a dark-haired beauty; this intriguing visitor believes that she and the narrator were lovers in Germany around 1300 A.D. and spins tales of their passionate affair. The book will hold Cancer enthralled while planting seeds of an even deeper past to explore.

What Leo can resist the glitz of the old-fashioned circus? Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen brings to life the world of ringmasters, elephants, and sideshows. This gem of a novel also addresses the often unscrupulous practices under all the glamour of the big top. The mayhem that is part of the everyday life of the greatest show on Earth is revealed. It's a must-read for Leo, who is, after all, still a child at heart.

The loyalty-first Virgo will be singing the accolades of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This book is about an Afghan-American who returns to Kabul to learn how a childhood friend has fared during the turmoil of his native land. This tale of redemption will pluck at the heartstrings of any Virgo - or for that matter, anyone - who harbors a secret regret or feels he or she has at one time or another let down a close friend as in this case. This novel probes the question of how far we are willing to go for redemption.

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin will appeal to Libra, the ultimate romantic of the Zodiac. Libra natives love the comfort and security of relationships but have those sometime moments when they are not quite sure whether they have made the right choice. This tale of a gal and her two loves will be compelling. The heroine has made a decision and has to come to terms with whether it was indeed the right one, and she might just help answer a few questions that all Librans hold deep in their heart of hearts.

Scorpio's well-known secretive nature, natural detecting skills, and innate talent for seeing deception when it appears have all the makings of a detective or a spy. Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva is the story of Gabriel Allon, who isn't a full-time spy, just an occasional one. He's an art restorer working intermittently for the Israeli secret service. Gabriel uncovers an arms sales plot by the Russians. Scorpio will love playing Sherlock while reading this novel.

Sagittarius is on the eternal quest for meaning in life, so Sag natives will relish The Shack by William P. Young. It tells the tragic story of a man whose daughter was abducted. He later receives a strange, handwritten invitation, apparently from God, to an isolated shack. Arriving at the shack, he wrestles with a timeless question: where is God in a world so filled with unbearable pain?

Capricorn has a rich inner life with some deep dreams, including fame. Although there are many famous Capricorn personalities, especially film stars, most of the natives of this sign are in tune with their own need for upward mobility. Tribute by Nora Roberts is the story of how difficult it is to keep a low profile. The story of a former child star who chooses obscurity but then finds herself right back in the public eye is about destiny and a great read for Capricorn.

Aquarius is the forward-thinking sign, and a post-apocalyptic world is more than just a farfetched idea to these natives. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the story of a father and son who travel together through post-apocalyptic America, a visually stunning picture of how it looks at the end to two pilgrims on the road to nowhere. Uppermost in the mind of the father is to find a remnant of humanity in some of the survivors of this unspeakable horror for the son he will leave behind.

Pisces loves nothing better than to get lost in a novel, not necessarily a reality-based story. Living daily life is enough reality for these escape artists to handle. This is why Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, a book that probes the secrets of a family of women who foresee the future, will be so compelling to the sensitive and psychic Pisces. It could be that reading this novel will encourage these water babies to use their own personal inner radar and tackle a few secrets that have haunted their own families.

Source: MSN Astrology

I must be a Virgo/Aquarius when it comes to reading. The Scorpio pick doesn't fit me at all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lit Flick - The Secret Life of Bees

Coming soon...

Friday's Random Questions

What was the last book you bought?

Name a book you have read MORE than once.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

[What say you? Give your answers in comments.]

Monday, October 6, 2008


Hey Everyone - I finally got the book & will be reading it this weekend up w/all the extended Jumper family on the annual Deer Hunt weekend. Look forward to seeing you all next week on Friday! :)