Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fictionalized Biographies

This is the time of year when many of us are searching for good stories to read by the fire or take along on trips. Below is a list of fictionalized biographies that offers insights into the lives famous historical figures.

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio-- A provocative tale based on JFK’s White House years that portrays the President as a politically savvy champion of human rights whose compulsive sexual appetites cause him to pursue an endless stream of conquests with devastating results.

Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott-- An intimate retelling of Eve’s journey into womanhood that boldly reimagines her life while sharing the details of her biblical odyssey.

Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell -- A vividly rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of Monet, the artist at the center of the movement. A love story. (Also available on CD.)

Homer and Langley by E. L. Langley -- An imaginative rendering of the lives of New York’s fabled Collyer brothers depicts Homer and Langley as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, facing perils as they struggle to survive the wars, political movements, and technological advances of the 20th century. (Also available in large print and on CD.)

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer --This real-life mountaineering mystery recounts the story of Britain’s George Mollery and his attempt to scale Mt. Everest. (Also available in large print and on CD.)

Pearl of China by Anchee Min -- In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the 19th century, young Willow and young Pearl Buck bump heads and embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.

Woodsburner by John Pipkin -- On April 30, 1844, a year before he built his cabin on Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau accidentally started a forest fire that destroyed three hundred acres of the Concord woods – an event that altered the landscape of American thought in a single day. Against this backdrop, the author penetrates the mind of the young philosopher while capturing the mood of the fledgling nation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Still Dream About You

Looking for a good book? You might enjoy Fannie Flagg's newly released I Still Dream About You which is funny and full of heart. The story, part southern novel – part murder mystery, follows the continually interrupted suicide attempts of a former Birmingham, AL, beauty queen Maggie Fortenberry, now 60 and a realtor. To others, Maggie's life seems practically perfect but she harbors heartbreaking secrets in her past. And, Maggie feels like a failure: her real estate agency is in decline after the death of her best friend and employer Hazel Whizenknott, and she can’t help but count a lifetime's worth of missed chances. But through a strange turn of events, she discovers that everybody has at least one secret and that even when you're past middle age there is hope to be found.

Popular southern author, Fannie Flagg, began her writing career as a staff writer for Allen Funt’s Candid Camera television show. Her most famous novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe , was written in 1987 and later became a movie. Other popular titles include Redbird Christmas  and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven . Also look for her books in large print and on CD.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Piano Teacher

Book Discussion –November 18, 12:30 pm

Join Judy Levin for a discussion of The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee on Thursday, 11/18/10 in the downstairs meeting room.

This debut novel received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly and has gone on to become a popular selection for reading groups.

Set in war-torn Hong Kong in the mid-20th century Lee’s story deals with love, survival and the consequences of choices made in difficult times. In 1942 Englishman Will Truesdale falls headlong into a relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their affair is threatened as World War II breaks out in Asia. The snobbish insulation of British high society implodes with the invasion of the Japanese. Thrust from privilege into imprisonment virtually overnight, the characters are caught up in intrigue and collusion, a common occurence of wartime survival. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong to work as a piano teacher and also begins a fateful affair. As the threads intertwine, impossible choices emerge setting the present against the past.

Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to boarding school in the United States before attending Harvard College. She is a former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines in New York.

Take a look at Penguin’s website for an interview with Janice Y.K. Lee and a list of discussion questions.    http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/piano_teacher_janiceyklee.html

We look forward to seeing you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

About Time

The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average amount of time Americans spend working, on activities in the home, and on sports and leisure.  The 2009 survey released this past summer shows that Americans with no children under 18 spend on average .42 hours each weekday reading and the same amount of time playing games or using the computer for leisure.  They also spend 2.91 hours watching TV per weekday.

If the recent change to Central Standard Time has time on your mind more than usual,  here are some timely bits and books on the subject from different disciplines:

The best day to visit a Social Security office is the day after Thanksgiving according to Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There by Mark Di Vincenzo.

You can take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory to discover which of these time perspectives is yours:  Past-negative, past-positive, present-fatalistic, present-hedonistic, future, or transcendental-future.  Find the inventory and read about the benefits and pitfalls of each perspective and how to optimize your time in The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time that will Change Your Life by Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D. and John Boyd, Ph.D.

According to Adrian C. Ott's The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy, the "prairie dog effect" happens when customers "pop up" to look around at competing services or products after a bad experience.  Her book tells how companies can capture customers' attention during these and other moments of their hurried days.

In the fall of 2003 science writer Chet Raymo hiked the prime meridian in Eastern England from Brighton through Greenwich to the North Sea.  In his book  Walking Zero: Discovering Cosmic Space and Time Along the Prime Meridian, he writes of his journey, of the measurement of space and time through history, and of scientific history represented by landmarks near the meridian, including Isaac Newton's birthplace, his chambers at Cambridge, and Darwin's house in Kent.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Audio Book Review

By Jeff Shaara; read by Robertson Dean

Shaara, who has written extensively about the Civil War, explores eight spots he feels are essential destinations for Americans.  Chronologically from Shiloh to Appomattox, he explains what happened at each battlefield, why it was important, and then takes you on a tour of the area.  This last is the weak part of an otherwise excellent audio as the listener does not necessarily have a map for referral.  Dean does his best to make you see the many momentous events – Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, Union miners blowing up earth works at Petersburg, for example. He has a Cronkite-like sincerity which gives way to emotion when he describes the scene at Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or the carnage at Antietam.  This valuable listening experience should spark interest in visiting these sites and learning more about the pivotal events in our history.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Discussion-Thursday, 11/4 at 7:15 pm

Elise Barack will lead a discussion of The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman on Thursday evening, November 4th at 7:15 pm in the downstairs meeting room.

Rachman’s novel follows the private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as the era of print news gives way to the Internet age.  The paper's rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder's intentions, as this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future.  Publisher’s Weekly says, “(the) chapters read like exquisite short stories, turning out the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce the paper-and one woman who reads it religiously, if belatedly.” Set in Rome, this debut can be enjoyed in one sitting or read piecemeal as a satisfying series of vignettes.

Tom Rachman, a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism, was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. From 2006 to 2008 he was an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. The author currently lives in Rome.

Plan to join us -- you won’t want to miss the discussion of this polished, well-written story.  Also available in audio and large print formats.