Book Reviews

Fuel Lines

There's a lot of stuff we consume while barely pausing to consider where it comes from; it is easy, these days, to be insulated from production. Inquisitive writers profitably explore the knowledge gap: recent work about the life stories of handguns, French fries and Panama hats comes to mind. Tracy Kidder chronicled the creation of a computer in "The Soul of a New Machine," and last year Michael Pollan traced the sources of our dinners in "The Omnivore's Dilemma." This year comes something new about those obscure practicalities of how does it get here: "Oil on the Brain," by Lisa Margonelli. Article continued here.


Hell Is Other People on Amazon

Kelly writes "This article is an enjoyable little rant about observing the "mental worlds", which is Hell, of other people via Amazon book reviews. The author believes this effort will be good for us, and we better do it soon, because, as he says,`Amazon's remarkable venture in practical free speech is ending. In the nineties, before America's dullard consensus had really gotten the hang of this internet thing, there really was a time when you could post honest reviews on Amazon. That's over. First they did away with swearing and libel — the very mainstays of critical prose. Then they started insisting that reviewers use their real names, taking all the fun out of impersonating your enemies and plugging your own books.' Learn how to go to Hell here: ople_on_amazon.html"


Southern Discomfiters

Lee Hadden wrote "Southern Discomfiters," By STUART FERGUSON. Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2007; Page P13

This is a book review of a biography of "showing the unlikely firebrand Juliette Hampton Morgan as the very stereotype of a lady librarian. (Her warm smile and sparkling eyes more than make up for her rather severe hair and dull dress.)"

A devout Episcopalian, Morgan insisted that the New Testament required the equal treatment of everyone, no matter their skin color. She urged her library, unsuccessfully, to allow black patrons to use its collections. Her Dec. 12, 1955, letter to the Montgomery Advertiser in support of the just-begun bus boycott is especially moving...

'Terror' rides the Arctic seas

Like many modern readers, I impatiently demand that an author hook my attention from the very first paragraph. Yet one of my absolute tiptop favorite novels, Lonesome Dove, begins slowly.

Dan Simmons' brilliant fictional saga, The Terror, requires some patience as well. The problem isn't the crackling opening. It's because many Americans are unfamiliar with the ill-fated 1845 British expedition to the Arctic Circle led by Sir John Franklin. The fate of the 129 men became an obsession in Britain because most of their bodies were never found. For Americans, it may take a few pages to grasp the setup and connections. Rest of book review at USA Today is here. Recently there was an episode of NOVA that dealt with the expedition. The web page for the episode is here.
The expedition took 2400 books with them. You can see a list of their provisions here.
The title of the book comes from the name of one of the ships on the expedition, the HMS Terror.


The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom

From Booklist: "Librarians have found themselves a new hero in Israel Armstrong."

From Kirkus Reviews: "A buoyant series kickoff....Sansom writes with refreshing deftness and sharp wit."

And from The Clarion-Ledger a review of what seems to be delightful read, particularly for librarians...

The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library Mysteries)
by Ian Sansom

Publisher HarperCollins describes this first of a series thusly: "Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming ; but where are the books? The rolling library's 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it's up to Israel to discover who would steal them...and why. And perhaps, after that, he will tackle other bizarre and perplexing local mysteries like, where does one go to find a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper?"

A nebbish-y librarian, who woulda thunk it??

National Book Awards-Tonight!

National Book Awards. There are four panels of five judges each for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature, each including a Chairperson,
chosen by the National Book Foundation. eBooks are not considered as a separate category; they are considered within the four existing Award categories. Judging will be based on literary merit only.

2006 Finalists are below


Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions (Pantheon)
Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ecco/HarperCollins)
Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jess Walter, The Zero (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins)


Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (Simon & Schuster)
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (Alfred A. Knopf)
Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Houghton Mifflin)
Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present (HarperCollins)
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Alfred A. Knopf)


"Pearls Picks" -- Coming to a Library System Near You

Everyone's favorite librarian and book-luster, Nancy Pearl, will be starting a new on-line feature, "Pearls Picks" on the first of next month. Pearl's Picks will be available through nine library systems around the country via the King County (Seattle) Library System website; here's the press release.


New Cookbook, for Teens, by a Teen

New from Candlewick Press , "Cooking Up a Storm" sounds like the kind of cookbook kids will love, because the recipes and instructions are written by one of their own, British teen Sam Stern. Review from the AP also includes recipes for Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk and a few other tasty-sounding dishes.


Recovering Literature's 'Lost Books'

NPR Has an Excerpt from The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly. Some of the world's greatest prose and poetry may lie in the ash heap of history, according to Stuart Kelly. In The Book of Lost Books, he describes works by Jane Austen, Aristophanes, Sylvia Plath and others whose bibliographies may be incomplete.

Best List? No Way.

When Sam Tanenhaus came on board as editor the New York Times Book Review, word was that nonfiction would take the lion's share of the coverage. Two years later, if anyone doubts that Tanenhaus is giving short shrift to fiction, the recently published list of the best works of American fiction in the last 25 years should change their mind. Scott Esposito Says This is a list that--with the resources and influence of The New York Times--could have been awesome. Instead what we have is a list that shows signs of poor planning, and that ultimately is uninteresting.



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