Month: January 2008

Book 28 of 52: A Short History of the American Stomach by Frederick Kaufman

I wanted to like Frederick Kaufman’s A Short History of the American Stomach. I really did. How could I not? I write about health and fitness, and I think a lot about our country’s love/hate relationship with food. It’s hard to ignore it when you consider that 66 percent of American adults are obese or overweight, yet every woman staring at you from a magazine cover is impossibly, photo shopped thin.

But I thought there might be a problem with the book when I opened it because of one factor and one factor only: the font size.

This is a generously spaced book. The font size is on par with those of young adult novels (it reminded me of Spanking Shakespeare, which was book 3 of 52). A lot of the quotes aren’t included in paragraphs but broken apart from the narrative. For example, say this block you’re reading right now was a portion of the book.

The quote would be hung out to dry like this.

And the narrative would continue on. It’s not uncommon to see blocks […]

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Commentary: Oprah’s Latest Book Club Pick

Newsflash: Oprah’s picked her next book club book. It’s not a novel or memoir but — get this — a self help book: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.

Steve Salerno must be tearing his hair out (Salerno, who I interviewed for my Philadelphia Inquirer article about self help books, is not a fan). I’m keeping a close eye on his SHAM blog to see his reaction. I’m sure he’ll be much more passionate that I could ever be about the topic (he did, after all, write Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless), but I’ll go out on a limb to say our views are along the same line: a big thumbs down.

I remember when Oprah first started the book club. It brought literary fiction and powerful memoirs to the masses. I thought it was a great idea, even if I didn’t always like the choices. It got people reading and discussing serious literature again.

But this? A book that amazon describes with the following? “Experience a more fulfilling life with Oprah’s latest pick, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Building on his bestselling Power of […]

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PSA: Jack Russell Terriers are Not Purse Dogs

I’m going to stray from books for a moment to post about something that’s been bothering me.

If you frequent gossip blogs or read tabloid magazines, you’ve probably seen pictures of Mariah Carey walking around with her Jack Russell Terrier (also known as know at Parson Russell Terriers), Jack. Jack is adorable. He wears cute outfits. He’s been seen about town in the same way that a lot of celebs use little dogs: as accessories.

I’m not making any kind of assumptions about how Carey treats her dog. But I want to say that if you’re thinking of getting a JRT based on the cute factor, that you consider one thing:

Jack Russell Terriers are crazy.

Now, hold on just a second before calling PETA. As I’ve written about before, I have a Jack Russell Terrier, a six year old gal named Emily. I love her dearly. She is — obviously — the prettiest girl in the whole wide world. Even so, she can be a difficult dog.

Jack Russell Terriers are very hyper. They like to bark. They like to chase. They like to jump. They don’t always get along with other dogs (which is why Emily was in the […]

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Book 27 of 52: Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction by James B. Stewart

“By all rights, completing a manuscript should be a joyous moment in any writer’s career. Yet most writers I know suffer to varying extents from some form of postpartum depression. They may be suddenly racked by doubts that the story is any good. They worry about whether their editor will like it…Writers worry about where their next story or book will come from.”

I highlighted a lot of passages in James B. Stewart’s Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction, but this one stuck out the most, not only because it’s toward the end of the book, but also because I know what he’s talking about. I lived it for the last four months. And let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.

I turned in the manuscript for my book on September 4, 2007. Late that afternoon, I e-mailed the files of the manuscript to my editor and dropped a hard copy in the mail. Then I went for a run, ordered some horribly unhealthy take out, had a beer, and went to bed. I planned on waking up the next morning, walking the dog, eating a bowl of Cheerios with bananas, and start freelancing full time […]

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Comic: Pearls Before Swine on Dating Books

Sometimes it’s not a picture but a comic that says 1000 words. I almost spit my milk out my nose when I read this one.

Check out more Pearls Before Swine here.

Sorry that the image is so small — I can’t figure out how to make it larger. But you can click the comic to enlarge it.

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Interview: Daphne Oz, author of The Dorm Room Diet

Click here to check out an interview with Daphne Oz, author of The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works. Once a week, I inteview someone with South Jersey Shore connections for the “Down the Shore with…” series on my Down the Shore with Jen blog. Why the South Jersey shore? Because that’s what my bookis about.

I’d read Oz’s book before, and it makes sense whether you’re in a dorm or not. Oz also vacationed in Stone Harbor and IDs Green Cuisine in Stone Harbor as one of her favorite places to eat (and I agree with her).

You can read the entire “Down the Shore with…” series here.

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Reviews: Crime, Career and Craft

I reviewed three books for the newsletter of the American Society of Journalists and Authors: How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lightswhich was book 8 of 52; Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers; and Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success

You can read those reviews here.

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Book 26 of 52: Design Flaws of the Human Condition by Paul Schmidtberger

I planned on Design Flaws of the Human Conditionby Paul Schmidtberger being an earlier entry on this blog, but a few things block that path:
1. I left my copy of the book at my mom’s house
2. I had to read all those dating books for guys.

But I finished the book this morning, and as much as I hate to admit it, I was more than ready to move onto whatever book 27 of 52 will be.

For a first novel, it’s not bad. The premise is interesting — people who don’t really need anger management classes meet in an anger management class, become friends, and work together through their relationship woes. It has funny parts, especially in the beginning where Schmidtberger describes WHY the characters ended up in the class.

But if I were the editor, I would have toned down the Hit-You-Over-the-Head metaphors that cluttered up the final chapters. I’m all for a subtle suggestion of comparing, say, a design flaw on an alarm clock with design flaws in a relationship, but to put it out there in glaring black and white was a turn off for me. I was ready for the book to […]

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Redux II: Dating Books

The ‘dating books for guys’ article is done and on my editor’s desk(top). Thanks God. I think I can only handle so much of one genre at one time. As interesting as it was jumping into the other end of the dating book pool, I need something a little different. I’ll post a link to the article once it’s published, so stay tuned!

This picture is of the patch of my office floor where I put “current” projects, and by “put” I obviously mean “toss on the floor with arm’s reach.” I’ve also been going through book catalogues to see what’s coming out this spring, hence why those are mixed in with the dating books. And uncluttered mind requires a cluttered desk, right?

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Blog Report: 52 Songs in 52 Weeks by Ari Hest

If you know me (which you probably don’t, but that’s okay), you know that I’m a big Ari Hest fan. I got hooked in by a song sampler that was in an otherwise terrible give away bag. I’ve seen him in concert twice and interviewed him once. He’s a singer/songwriter all the way, and a personable one at that.

From a conversation I heard between Ari and someone on his management team (which I participated in by by trying to look cool and nod without letting anyone know how nervous I was to actually be a foot away from Ari), I knew that he wasn’t happy with his corporate record deal. I don’t think his second album, The Break-In, is nearly as good as the The Green Room Sessions, which is an EP he put out on his own (but The Break-In is still better than most of the stuff on the radio today).

In celebration of getting out of that contract, Ari has pledged to write a song a week for a year. You can follow along on his blog here. You can also buy individual songs via the site or […]

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