Displaying articles for: December 2012

Heads in Beds

The literature of hotels has its famous correspondents, from Eloise to Jim Thompson (a bellhop early in his career). Now you can add Jacob Tomsky to this illustrious roster. After ten years of dedicated hospitality service, he spills the secrets -- both naughty and nice – about an industry that caters to jaded, naive, demanding, and sometimes clueless transient customers.

 

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Hello Goodbye Hello

Author Craig Brown traces a loop of chance encounters among celebrities, politicians, artists, and authors. Whether marveling at Mark Twain’s gracious reception of a 23-year-old Rudyard Kipling or casting an incredulous eye on the praise H. G. Wells heaps on Stalin, you'll be astonished by the extent to which everyone is connected. One of our picks for Best Nonfiction of 2012.

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By Blood

A disgraced professor finds himself able to overhear the therapy sessions in the office next door, and a young woman’s occluded journey into her family history becomes his obsession -- and ours. Ellen Ullman’s novel is a haunted and haunting vision of madness, shot through with grace. One of our picks for Best Fiction of 2012.

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Dear Life

Set in the world that master storyteller Alice Munro has made her own, the countryside and towns around Lake Huron, this collection of short fiction sheds light on the small moments that define us: strange dreams, unforeseen accidents, homecomings that take unexpected turns. These are timeless gems from an inimitable voice.

 

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Help, Thanks, Wow

Confronting questions of faith, suffering, family, and creativity, Anne Lamott delivers insight laced with sly humor. Her new book, Help, Thanks, Wow, distills  a lifetime of trial and error into a consideration of three essential prayers: for assistance, in appreciation, and of awe.

 

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Reporting the Revolutionary War

History comes alive in this fascinating collection of Todd Andrlik's prized eighteenth-century newspaper clippings. Likening the experience of reading these facsimile primary documents to that of a treasure hunt, the author conjures up the thrills experienced firsthand by a revolutionary generation.

 

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Canada

Forced to flee to across the border following his parents' arrest for a startling crime, Dell Parsons grows up under the care of a violent man. Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Ford blazes a dramatic new tale in a moving adventure worthy of Dickens or Robert Louis Stevenson. One of our picks for Best Fiction of 2012.

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Hallucinations

The brain is a machine evolved to construct a picture of reality out of sensory inputs. But it's also quite good at creating realities of its own. There's no better guide to this particular trip than Oliver Sacks, a writer who has taken us on so many neuro-scientific journeys. One of our picks for Best Nonfiction of 2012.

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Leonardo and the Last Supper

The author of the celebrated Brunelleschi's Dome turns his attentions to Leonardo da Vinci, who  seems in historical hindsight an unstoppable genius predestined for fame. But Ross King reveals that the multitalented artist and inventor was as plagued by doubts, misfortunes, and setbacks as any modern striver. Centering around The Last Supper as Leonardo's make-or-break moment, Ross's narrative reframes the godlike artist as a fully and truly human.

 

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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

This Swedish debut might recall the work of Tom Robbins and J. P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man -- if Donleavy's hero had been a reprobate centenarian. Bolting from his nursing home, Allan Karlsson  encounters rollicking adventures in both the present and in  flashbacks into his eventful life. Already being filmed, Jonas Jonasson's novel has won acclaim across Europe.

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Zoo Time

Trust the witty Howard Jacobson to transcend any melancholy or self-pity about the condition of his stymied novelist hero, whose talents these days are more directed at conducting  shocking relationships than at putting words to paper. But this rambunctious comedy asserts that while our basest desires are eternal, maybe our noblest ones are, too.

 

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The Right Way to Do Wrong

Did you ever know that famed stage magician Harry Houdini once collaborated on a story with H. P. Lovecraft? It's true! The wiry, wily entertainer also possessed a talent for words, never more visible than in his book-length study of rogues, eccentrics, and fellow prestidigitators reprinted here. "The truth seems to be that when a lovely woman stoops to crime, she usually goes to the greatest lengths of iniquity...." If you can resist sentences and themes of this nature, then even an introduction by silent stage wizard Teller might not be enough to lure you in.

 

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The First Four Notes

A work as ubiquitous as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony casts a nimbus that can prevent unclouded appreciation, but Matthew Guerrieri aims to strip away the clouds to reveal the beauty and significance of the work afresh.  In a book nearly as compelling as its musical subject, he delves into the symphony's legacy, its champions and detractors, and its significance to listeners of all walks of life.

 

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A Free Man

Aman Seth's intimate, empathetic reportage illuminates the otherwise hidden life of one neighborhood in Old Delhi, captured through the daily doings of a single man facing seemingly overwhelming challenges.  The world of Mohammed Ashraf is rendered with a novelist's care for detail.  A stunning work in the tradition of Beyond the Beautiful Forevers.  

 

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Birds of a Lesser Paradise

This story collection from Megan Mayhew Bergman charts the intersection of the human heart with the wild and domestic animals that share the planet with us. Human vicissitudes and victories find their perfect expression in a dog's fondness for eating socks or a parrot's ability to mimic the voice of a departed loved one.  A Discover Great New Writers selection.

 

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A Little History of Science

 In this entertaining survey of millennia of scientific progress, William Bynum humanizes the men and women involved in the glorious pursuit of knowledge. From the unheralded inventor of writing straight down to Einstein, a roll call of curious and probing minds to inspire any reader.

 

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Real Man Adventures

Examining the fraught territory of masculinity and gender identity from the rare perspective of a transgender man, novelist T Cooper charts both his own journey and that of his fellow identity pioneers, through frank and intimate confidences from his own life, as well as conversations with such experts as Kate Bornstein and the parents of transgender children. Placing his personal choices in a larger societal context, Cooper argues powerfully and convincingly for fluidity and acceptance.

 

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Return of the Thin Man

Certain canonical authors and their creations are so beloved that any new bit of Holy Text relating to them arrives with the force of welcome revelation. Such is the case with Dashiell Hammett's two story treatments, written prior to the films that eventually bore the titles After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man. These novellas deliver with parsimonious stylishness all the detective thrills that a diehard fan of Nick and Nora Charles could want.

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My Ideal Bookshelf

 Thessaly La Force interviewed dozens of famous readers -- everyone from Jennifer Egan to Judd Apatow -- to learn what books they prize most dearly. Then Jane Mount turned their responses into whimsical yet forceful drawings. Comparing your favorites to those of these idols has never been more delightful.

 

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The Marseille Caper

Famed for the Provençal memoirs that inspired a million daydreams, Peter Mayle has set crime novels of a Donald Westlake bent in that same picturesque region. In his latest, the seaside streets of Marseille -- "not a city that makes an effort to put itself out for strangers," plas host to L.A. sleuth Sam Levine as he faces down unscrupulous thugs -- and the occasional bowl of bouillabaisse. Magnifique!

 

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The Testament of Mary

In this enchanting novella, Colm Tóibín insists on the essential humanity of the Mother of Christ, portraying her love for her exceptional Son as neither smaller nor greater than any other maternal devotion, and just as full of peaks and valleys. These are movingly mortal struggles --  tinged with celestial grace.

 

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The Entertainer

Fans of B-movies always jump with delight whenever Lyle Talbot appears onscreen. No Bogart or Gable, Talbot nonetheless had a certain low-key charisma and talent that made watching him easy and employing him a sure bet. Now his daughter, Margaret Talbot, reveals that the offscreen man was just as likable as the fellow seen in over 300 filmed appearances. Moreover, Talbot's long life paralleled the entire history of twentieth-century entertainment, and this biography illuminates a whole industry and culture.

 

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July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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