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Showing posts from February, 2008

Report: NBCC Event

Click on over to Critical Mass , the blog of the National Book Critics Circle, for my write up of Wednesday's event. The direct link is here . Special thanks to Daisy Fried , Kermit Roosevelt , Frank Wilson and Ben Yagoda for being part of the panel; and to Joseph Fox Bookshop and Friends Select for sponsoring the event.

Book 34 of 52: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

If you're American and heard of Alan Bennett, you'll know that he is author of The History Boys a smashing Broadway success and then movie. If you're British and heard of Alan Bennett, you'll more likely know of him as an extraordinary playwright, novelist and all around comedic guy. I studied Bennett's plays while abroad at Oxford . He was a key author in my course about modern British playrights, along with Joe Orton and Tom Stoppard . Where Orton's humor is preverse with his humor, and Stoppard is clever when slotted into his dramas (Stoppard also wrote Shakespeare in Love ), I found Bennett's comedy the most clever. Which is why I was delighted when I picked up a copy of The Uncommon Reader at last year's Book Expo America , and I'm berating myself for waiting to read this fun, slim novel when I've had it since June. The uncommon reader is the Queen of England who, one day finds a mobile library outside her door (a mobile library is a

Book 33 of 52: Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke

Quick reminder before I get into the review: on Wednesday, I'm moderating a National Book Critics Circle panel on books and all the wonderful things involved with the publishing world. It's at 7pm at Friends Select in Philadelphia. And it's FREE. How could you pass that up? Now onto the review of book 33 of 52: Wow. Just wow. That was my initial reaction to finally finishing Carolyn Burke's Lee Miller: A Life this evening. The book is an epic, and an exceptionally well researched and written one at that (it was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for 2005). It recounts the life Lee Miller, who has the kind of life that would seem completely unfathomable if presented as fiction. I'd read about Lee Miller briefly in Francine Prose's The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired . Miller, having been a muse for Man Ray, was one of the nine women featured (and pictured on the cover). I thought she was interesting, yes, but the profile wa

Weekend Wandering: Hedge Funds for Dummies

How do you make a video clip for Hedge Funds For Dummies by Annie C. Logue? Like this: I'm glad he got his piggy. Read more at . To learn more about the filmmaker, Steve Delahoyde, click here .

Article: Marry Him!

I didn't write this piece from The Atlantic , but I caught a link of it on Trish Ryan's blog . In the article, Lori Gottlieb writes about settling. Why am I posting it here? Because she dedicates a chunk of this rather long essay to dating books for women. A sample: "The approaches in these books may differ, but the message is the same: more important than love is marriage. To achieve that goal, women across the country are poring over guidebooks that all boil down to determining, 'Does he like me?,' while completely overlooking the equally essential question, 'Do I like him?' I'm not giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to her opinion (though I do agree with her stance on dating books written for women). Just thought it was interesting. Plus, I'm still deep in the trenches of that wonderful-yet-dense-book. So read on!

Recommendation: Mike McGrath's Book of Compost

I'm working my way through a very wonderful yet incredibly dense book, so I'm not sure when I'll get another review up here. In the meantime, I'd like to recommend Mike McGrath's Book of Compost , which I read before I started this project. I, like a lot of freelancers, are under an avalanche of assignments about green living. I'm not complaining -- I won't claim to be the most green person, but I bought my house where I did with the idea that I wouldn't have to drive everywhere (to check out how walking-friendly your town is, check out ). I also wrote an article for the fall issue of Edible Jersey about composting, and in the last two weeks, I've had three people ask me about that article. At a party I had two weeks ago , I even gave people a tour of how I compost (not a grand tour, but they seemed to like it). This book really helped. McGrath, who is the former editor of Organic Gardening and current voice behind You Bet Your

Weekend Wandering: Career and Corporate Cool

I sometimes (okay, almost always) do a bit of work on the weekends, and I'm betting a bunch of you do, too, or at least spend some of your Saturday or Sunday wandering around the web. So, every weekend, I'm going to post a video related to books, and given that a lot of books now have trailers, I think I'll have plenty to pick from. I'm running the same kind of feature (albeit about the South Jersey Shore) on my other blog , though with a slightly different name. Anyway, our first Weekend Wandering is the trailer of Rachel C. Weingarten's Career and Corporate Cool (TM) . I read the book before I started this Book a Week project, so I couldn't review it here, but I will say that it's a very cool book of career advice without that "white guy in a suit" mentality. Doesn't it just make you want to watch a Doris Day movie? You can read more at .

Free Reading!

Galleycat pointed out a few free reading downloads today. One is "The Lovers of Vertigo" by Timothy Schaffert , which you can download for free here . It's even formatted so you can print it and make it into a little booklet. I've got mine printed and ready to go so I have something to read on my train ride into Philly tonight. No sense carrying a big purse to fit a big book when I can slip this little story in a slim bag that matches my planned outfit for the evening. Here's what the booklet looks like: It does come in color, but I'm out of color toner, so black and white will have to do. The Harlequin estore is also giving away free downloads of Sherryl Woods's The Valentine Wedding Dress . I downloaded it, but couldn't print it. Boo. For more info about these deals and everything wonderful (and not so wonderful) in the book world, check out Galleycat here .

Book 32 of 52: Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me

I wanted to include Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me edited by Ben Karlin in my Philadelphia Inquirer article about dating books for guys , but it didn't quite fit. It's not offering advice per say. It's more comradery at being kicked by cupid. It's an anthology, so 46 different voices come to the table to give their take this thing we call love. Most of these are essays about relationships that went wrong (though must guys writing that they did eventually get married). A few comics are sprinkled in -- not as on comedians (though there are a few of those -- Stephen Colbert and Will Forte contributed essays) but as in drawn pictures of heartbreak. Marcellus Hall 's "Lessons from a Cyclical Heart" is brilliant if not a reminder that no matter how well things are going, they could always come to an end. It's a fun book to read, but not all the essays are winners. I wasn't too enthralled with Colbert's entry (though, he

Book 31 of 52: "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say by Amy Hill Hearth

As I mentioned in my review of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years , which was book 30 of 52 , my next book is "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say . Now you can guess why I'd be reading two books by the same author back to back: I'm writing a profile of Amy Hill Hearth. And today I got to meet Hill Hearth and talk to her -- for four hours. I knew within five minutes that this would be a good interview. She greeted me while holding a seven pound dwarf Boston Terrier named Dot. We jumped right into a conversation about adopting dogs, and we were off. "Strong Medicine" Speaks is her third oral history book. This one hits close to home for me since the tribe she writes about, the Lenni Lenape, is just about in my backyard, and I grew up hearing about them. In "Strong Medicine" Speaks , Hill Hearth gives the chief's mother, Marion "Strong Medicine" Gould a book to tell her story, from growing

So Long, marsRED

Sense a pattern here? I do, too, and I'm not happy about it. Excuse me for straying from books again, but I have to write something about this, especially when you consider that I listen to music while writing: My favorite indie music store, marsRED in Haddonfield, NJ is closing. It's the kind of music store you don't find much of anymore, which is probably one of the reasons Scott Wellborn decided to close its doors. It's a tough business to be in, and even though it seemed Scott had a lot of local support, music downloads has changed the way music works. Scott's a casualty. I started shopping at marsRED when I lived in Haddonfield soon after college graduation (I went to high school there, too). I'd just left my full time job as editor of SJ Magazine to try my hand at this freelance thing. It's a lonely job, and in the times before Emily and distance running, I needed an excuse to get out of my apartment. I'd walk to Haddonfield's downtown, v

Article: Dating Books for Guys

Finally here, folks: my article about dating books for guys , which includes short reviews of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Getting Girls , Rules of the Game and This Book Will Get You Laid , books 23 , 24 and 25 from this 'book a week' series. If you're wondering about the "Love - the getting" title, you might want to take a peek at the article that ran alongside it called "Love - the giving" . My article is on the left hand side of an image of a tree, and Lisa Scottoline's was on the right. And even though my mom's miffed they didn't run my picture, I don't mind. Maybe the guy I wrote about won't realize it was him (because, really, how often do you look at bylines? I read this article all the way through without knowing Kristin Graham wrote it -- and I'm a writer. You would expect I'd pay attention!) Today also marks Frank Wilson's last review as book editor. I expected a farewell column, but, in true Frank sty

Book 30 of 52: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

I don't know what I could say about Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years that hasn't already been said. This oral history of Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, which was published in 1993, has been a sensation. Not only was it a New York Times bestseller (where it stayed for 28 weeks), but it was turned into a TV movie and play. I can see why. The book is wonderful, and the oral history format is perfect for it. Amy Hill Hearth, who wrote the narrative, captured the wit and humor of the 100 year+ old Delany sisters, and their story says a lot about racism in America. Their father was born a slave, and their mother was the daughter of a white man and black woman who couldn't marry because it was illegal in Virginia (though they considered themselves married). Together, they had 10 children, and all of them went to college. A. Elizabeth "Bessie" was the second black female dentist to be licensed in New York, and Sarah "Sadie"

Redux: Donkeys

Andy Merrifield's The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World is one of those books I cannot stop talking about. I've recommended it to several people, and even posted on , which is a fab site for freelance writers, about how much I loved loved loved this book. Sharon Anne Waldrop, a freelance writer who hails from Crawford, Georgia (population 850), replied that she has a donkey named Donkey Kong. So I asked her to write a little bit about him: 'I'm usually the one in the family who comes home with a new pet or animal, but this time it was my husband! He took the kids to visit a neighbor with a two month old miniature donkey. The neighbor owned the parents and the baby was not yet weaned. My husband gave a deposit to reserve the baby donkey until he was weaned from him mother. He told me that he was too cute and he couldn't resist! The owner said that it's best to keep the baby with his mother for three to four mon

Event Update: National Book Critics Circle Does Good Reads

As I've posted before , I'm moderating a National Book Critics Circle panel in Philadelphia on February 27. I'm happy to announce that we've just added Ben Yagoda as our fifth panelist. The book dork in me is jumping for joy. I reviewed Yagoda's When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better And/Or Worse for the newsletter of the American Society of Journalists , and I love his work, which you can read about here . He's a great addition to our panel, which also includes poet and PEW fellow Daisy Fried; retired-as-of-5pm-today Philadelphia Inquirer book review editor Frank Wilson; author of In the Shadow of the Law: A Novel Kermit Roosevelt; and me. Just another reason to come out to this free -- yes, free -- event. Mark it: February 27 at 7pm, Friends Select (17th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway) in Philadelphia.

Book 29 of 52: The Wisdom of Donkeys by Andy Merrifield

A friend of mine is going through a rough time right now, and I'd like to bring him a donkey. Go ahead, laugh. I would have laughed, too. But then I read Andy Merrifield's The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World . So if I could, I would bring him a donkey. Donkeys, believe it or not, are very docile creatures. Yes, they have that loudbray (because they vocalize when they breathe in AND out), and they can deliver one powerful kick. But they are revered in many cultures (Jesus came rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday, remember), and kept as pets in many parts of the world. Merrifield borrows Gribouille, a friend's donkey, for a long walking journey through the Haute-Auvergne region of southern France. The donkey carries the packs, and serves as Merrifield's friend and confidante. Portions of The Wisdom of Donkeys are addressed directly to Gribouille -- I can imagine Merrifield stopping to write those passages in his notebook with Gribou

So Long, Frank

It'll be hard to top what John Freeman, president of the National Book Critic Circle, said about Frank Wilson in a beautifully written “enjoy retirement” piece he posted on the NBCC blog (which you can read here ). But I might as well take a shot because I'd like to think, at least, that I'm one of those "young reviewers" John references -- I was only 25 when I started reviewing books for the Philadelphia Inquirer . In high school, I told everyone I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to study fish or coral or something like that -- who knows where my microscope would have landed if I hadn't joined the college student newspaper. But I also thought that if science didn't work out, I could always review books for The New York Times Book Review (HA!) So when I graduated college and decided to give this writer thing a whirl, I pitched book reviews to the Philadelphia Inquirer . I'd been reading the book review section since seventh grade and thought my