Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From My Shelf

Looking Back: Panic 2012

There are bound to be plenty of in-depth books coming about the latest presidential election; personally, I hope John Heilemann and Mark Halperin will write Game Change II. Meanwhile, political and media junkies can enjoy Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Final Campaign by Michael Hastings (BuzzFeed/Blue Rider Press, January 15, $4.99 e-book, 9781101600894). Hastings is a George Polk Award winner and author of The Operators, a superb book about Gen. Stanley McChrystal and our unsuccessful troop surge in Afghanistan. Panic 2012 is an often outrageous, irreverent riff on politics and media.

Obama's first debate performance was a disaster; first debates for incumbents usually are. But after the elation the campaign felt at Romney's "47%" debacle, "[Obamaland's] utter confidence in one of the best talkers in American political history" had been shaken. Not news now, but what Hastings digs into before, after and during this mini-crisis, is the good stuff. He's hard on the press for amping up the panic to make the news cycle interesting again.

We learn how the campaign turned the electorate on. Jim Messina, the campaign manager, said, "We were never gonna be as sexy as we were the first time." We learn about the glamorous press corps: third-rate motels, worn-out buses, the brutal journalism caste system, the tension of trying to get close to Obama; four years ago, Hastings had decided that a campaign was the most soul-killing beat on the planet, yet he re-upped. We laugh in horror at the Wall Street Journal correspondent and her Obama sock puppet routine, performed in front of Obama. And we hear echoes of Hunter Thompson when Hastings pops an Adderall after years of sobriety, "caught in the full destructive force of a campaign-induced relapse," when he needs a story that "would justify five kicked mini-bars in as many states."

Panic 2012 is a wild ride. --Marilyn Dahl, reviews editor, Shelf Awareness

Grand Central: Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis

Norton: The Italian Wife by Ann Hood

FSG: Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook

Book Candy

Future Book Adaptations; Dating Books; Ginsberg Photos

To get you up to film speed, Shine suggested "26 books to read before they're adapted into 2013 movies."

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Buzzfeed found the "12 most unusual dating books on the market."

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Port magazine's Emma Spedding toasted "six great writers with a twist on their signature drinks by Dach & Sons mixologist Jon Lister." 

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The exhibit "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" is currently on display at NYU's Grey Art Gallery. Flavorwire featured a selection of Ginsberg's "hand-annotated photos."

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Charlie Fletcher, author of Far Rockaway, chose his "top 10 adventure classics" for the Guardian, calling these books "the ones responsible for getting me into trouble with this whole storytelling thing in the first place."

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Desire to Inspire featured a bookcase ladder, from Brooklyn architects and designers Workstead.

Plume: Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog by Delia Ephron

The Writer's Life

Bernard Cornwell: Addicted to History

Bernard Cornwell has written more than 50 novels, mostly historical fiction, including the bestselling Sharpe series. His newest is 1356 (Harper, January 8, 2013). Cornwell's thorough knowledge of history is evident and lays the groundwork for the novel's setting, but it is his masterful storytelling talent that makes 1356 an engrossing, larger-than-life action adventure. Juggling both intricately developed characters and meticulously detailed plot, Cornwell drops the reader in the middle of 14th-century Europe as the French and English clash at the Battle of Poitiers.

Dealing with history can be a volatile task. Sometimes the facts change depending on the perspective of the person relating the story. How do you handle these situations?

You run into that situation all the time! It's inevitable, especially dealing with military history, which I do. If you look at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris you'll see the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro incised as a French victory, a conclusion that the Duke of Wellington would have found astonishing, as he believed he had won that battle! There are hundreds of such examples, and all any storyteller can do is look at the evidence on both sides and make a decision. With Fuentes d'Onoro it's quite easy; the French made an attempt to relieve the siege of Almeida and failed, so we can disregard the claim that it was a "victory" when it palpably was not, but other cases are trickier. I wrote a book about the battle of Penobscot Bay during the American Revolution and it featured Paul Revere very prominently. Revere, of course, is a hero, but all the evidence (apart from his own diary) indicated that he was ineffective, possibly cowardly and unbelievably difficult for his own side to deal with. That's tricky because you're flying in the face of popular myth, but in the end I went with the contemporary evidence and am certain that was the right decision.

You have written books set in different time periods, some in the U.K., some in the U.S. What were some of the challenges you faced with 1356?

Probably the biggest challenge was simply to establish where the battle took place! Historians disagree, and I thought a visit to the battlefield would clear it up. It usually does. I've visited scores of battlefields, and whenever there's some mystery it's usually possible to work out from the lay of the land what happened, but Poitiers was impossible! Many of the most prominent landmarks have vanished over the centuries, and the terrain didn't offer an answer to the biggest question, whether the French approached from the north or the west (or anywhere in between), so in the end I made a decision based on a hunch rather than on the evidence.

Two major plot points in 1356 are the Battle of Poitiers and the search for la Malice, the sword Peter uses in the Garden of Gethsemane. In your historical note, you mention that you were attracted to the Battle of Poitiers because it seems to have been lost in history, despite its amazing outcome. How about la Malice; what made you choose to include this in Thomas Hookton's tale?

It just seemed a good idea! I wanted Thomas to be involved with a relic, and there were many candidates, such as a thorn from the crown of thorns, or a sliver of the true cross, or a nail, or some bodily remnant of a saint, but all those things are familiar. Then one day I remembered Saint Peter's sword, mentioned in the Gospels, and somehow that has never gained the fame of other relics. It also seemed an appropriate object for a soldier to pursue. The Archdiocese of Poznan, in Poland, claims to have the sword (I named it la Malice), and indeed they do have a sword, but whether it's the real thing? Who can tell?

In an interview with George R.R. Martin, you brought up the possibility that your characters are a reflection of yourself. Do you think that's true about Thomas Hookton, and if so what parts of him are reflections of you?

I said that? I don't think any part of Thomas is a reflection of me! I wish! I suppose Sharpe has some of my less attractive traits (those are the ones most easily transferred to characters), but I can't think any of me is in Thomas.

Thomas is an English archer. Have you used a longbow similar to what Thomas would have used?

I have, and it was an extraordinary experience. A modern competition bow has a draw weight of 40 lbs., while an English war bow of the 14th century has a draw weight upwards of 120 lbs. That is massive! I tried, and could scarcely pull the cord back six or seven inches, and found the tension in the cord and stave to be frightening. There are still a few men (and women?) who can pull that weight and, like the longbowmen of old, do it 15 or more times a minute, but it takes extraordinary strength.

You are not the first author I've heard say they started writing in a particular genre because they loved to read it, but then after they began writing in the genre, it became much less enjoyable to read. What do you read these days?

I read history; vast amounts of history, I just avoid most historical novels! It's very hard to spend all day writing and then reading the same "stuff" at night, but it hasn't soured my taste for "real" history. And I read a lot of novels, but they tend to be contemporary. I make a few exceptions; I adore C.J. Sansom's novels about Matthew Shardlake, the Tudor lawyer, and Hilary Mantel is a goddess! I also like police procedurals, because I could never write one! I particularly like John Sandford's and Stuart McBride's novels.

Did your interest in the nonfiction come first, making Horatio Hornblower so fascinating or did your interest in Horatio Hornblower trigger the fascination in nonfiction?

Hornblower led the way! I became an addict when I was a teenager and, when there were no more Hornblower books to read (he wrote only 11), I went on to read the nonfiction history books about the Napoleonic era.

With the enormous selection of historical events to choose from, are there characteristics that typically grab your attention and encourage you to opt for one event over another? And do you choose something at the conclusion of each novel or do you have several novels planned in advance?

I wish I knew! I don't. It's a capricious process. I guess I write about things that attract my interest, but quite what it is, I don't know. I did want to write about the making of England, another story, like the Battle of Poitiers, that is lamentably unknown, so writing the Saxon adventures of Uhtred was a natural thing to do. I do have plans for the next couple of books, but I am superstitious and know that the books will fail if I tell those plans to anyone. So I don't!

You've also taken up acting on stage. Have your experiences as an actor influenced your writing?

I suspect it's the other way round! I think the quality that writing takes to the stage is years of "listening" to dialogue in my head. When writing dialogue, the words have to be shaped to convey mood and meaning to the reader, and I definitely hear the speaker's inflections as I write, and that experience makes it easier to deliver lines on stage.

And finally, what's next?

Right now I'm writing the next installment of Uhtred's story, which I hope to finish in the spring. I'm almost halfway through, he's behaving extremely badly, so all is well with the world. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Harlequin: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Book Review

Fiction

Make It, Take It

by Rus Bradburd

College basketball may well be irretrievably corrupted by money, racial tension and academic fraud, but it's still a pretty, pretty thing to see a talented young player driving in for a lay-up. That contradiction between cynicism and a fan's appreciation provides the theme for Make It, Take It, a debut novel about the complex interactions between coaches and players at a fictional college in the southwest. Ex-coach Rus Bradburd crafts a spare and intriguing story that illuminates the complex machinations required to stay afloat in the unforgiving world of this high-stakes "amateur" sport. Ironic, acerbic and often distressing, Make It, Take It is fiction, but it feels more authentic than any ESPN documentary.

Assistant coach Steve Pytel is awash in desperation but unable to leave the game he loves: His marriage is in trouble, his new head coach is an egotistical ass and wrangling his players requires inordinate amounts of patience and a flexible sense of ethics. Clearly drawing on his own experience, Bradburd is unafraid to describe uncomfortable issues of race and class, as well as controversial subjects like predatory recruitment and coach-player tensions. With an ear for the music of leather on hardwood, Bradburd is a fan, no question--but Make It, Take It is both a crisply sardonic tale of frustration and a blistering indictment of the sickness inherent in the business of college basketball. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: The travails of coaches and players at a fictional southwestern school provide an acerbic look at the world of college basketball.

Cinco Puntos Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781935955436

Harlequin: The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

Y: A Novel

by Marjorie Celona

The opening of Marjorie Celona's debut novel Y contains enough similarities to Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina that it begs the question: homage or imitation? Both novels commence with a hapless daughter describing the circumstances of her entry into the world with adult omniscience. Both daughters are born prematurely and illegitimately to impoverished teenagers; both suffer childhoods damaged by instability and abuse. Fortunately, Celona's novel diverges from Allison's after its parallel parturition--where Bastard Out of Carolina exposes the fallacy of equating maternal love with safety, Y exposes the anomie that occurs when well-intentioned maternal abandonment is followed by inadequate and abusive foster care. The core of Y is not the insecurity of home, but a foundling's quest for home."

Celona's single-letter title refers to the site of baby Shannon's abandonment: the doorstep of a YMCA on Vancouver Island. The author also riffs on Y as a signifier, plotifying its shape ("The wishbone, fork in the road") and spelling out its existential homonym ("Why?). Shannon attempts to reconcile her Y/why dilemma by telling two stories: her mother's and her own. Celona pulls off this sleight-of-narrative in blunt, tamped-down prose that is worthy of comparison to its literary precedent. The scenes are swift and clear, the transitions are well-cued and the reader's sympathies adhere easily to Shannon's lonely, stubborn efforts to squirm into a safe place in the world. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo.com.

Discover: A double-strand novel about a Vancouver Island foundling and the young mother who left her on the steps of the Y.

Free Press, $24.99, hardcover, 9781451674385

Harper: The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Spectacle

by Susan Steinberg

The interconnected short stories of Susan Steinberg's Spectacle push the limits of traditional literary forms while exploring the idea that our major social roles are performances distinct yet not separate from the individuals performing them. Loss and grief are key themes here, as the protagonists of these stories scramble to make sense of events. A daughter is forced to make the call to "pull the plug" on her vegetative father. Pining for a guy, a girl steals his car stereo, realizing only later that the goods are not the boy. The voices of each of Steinberg's protagonists intertwine, creating a collection that manages to become greater than the sum of its parts.

Form and content are interconnected in these stories, as they bend traditional prose and poetic forms while maintaining a piercing clarity of sense. Many of Steinberg's pieces "perform" elements of both poetry and prose without definitively becoming either--much as the protagonists "perform" elements of both guy and girl without ever fully identifying with the performance. Both the characters and the narratives store meaning in the spaces between the conventions, where the silence of a line break or an unspoken thought speaks volumes. At once vibrant and violent, Spectacle takes on unexpected territory and reveals it is all too familiar. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: Form and content reinforce one another in a series of deeply illuminating short stories.

Graywolf Press, $14, paperback, 9781555976316

Shelf Awareness: John Scalzi

The House on Willow Street

by Cathy Kelly

As postmistress of the tiny Irish town of Avalon, Danae Rahill knows a lot of secrets. She has managed to keep the secret of her own past for 18 years, but when her niece Mara comes to stay (and heal from a broken heart), she asks more questions than Danae is prepared to answer.

Tess Power grew up in genteel poverty with her sister, Suki, in a big house overlooking the town, but was forced to sell it after her father's death. Now, as Tess's marriage and her antique shop both face difficulties, the house has come back up for sale. When Suki returns to Avalon, as does Tess's first love, Cashel Reilly, now a wealthy businessman, Tess must revisit painful memories from her past even as she struggles to care for her children and help Suki navigate her own personal crisis.

Kelly creates a charming small-town setting, complete with a cozy café, nosy but well-meaning shopkeepers and neighbors, and not one but two faithful dogs. While the central love story unfolds predictably, other surprises in the narrative (including a cheery motorcycle mechanic and a Christmas dinner party composed of unlikely guests) will hold readers' interest. The slowly unraveling secret of Danae's past lends gravity to an otherwise light plot, providing more reasons to admire her quiet strength.

A tribute to family, friendship and the hope of new beginnings, The House at Willow Street is a heartwarming read perfect for a quiet winter weekend. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams 

Discover: A heartwarming story of four women in a tiny Irish town, navigating personal crossroads and embracing the hope of new beginnings.

Gallery, $16, paperback, 9781451681406

Mystery & Thriller

The Start of Everything

by Emily Winslow

When an unidentified body is found floating in the fens outside of Cambridge, Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, set out to figure out who she was--and how she died--while struggling to come to terms with a near-fatal injury Keene suffered on the job months prior. Meanwhile, Mathilde Oliver, daughter of a Cambridge professor, opens a letter addressed to a woman who may or may not exist and quickly becomes obsessed with finding her. And months ago, two nannies found themselves snowed in with their employers during a particularly bad winter storm--with far-reaching consequences.

These seemingly unrelated stories form the foundation of Emily Winslow's second novel, The Start of Everything, which reintroduces key characters from Winslow's debut, The Whole World (though an understanding of the first is not required to appreciate and enjoy the second). The constantly shifting perspective and perpetually unreliable narrators used to introduce the case can make the novel feel scattered at first, but a little trust goes a long way in allowing Winslow's complex mystery to bring itself together. When it does, the result is a gripping whodunit steeped in lies and deceit and shifting truths that reinforces Winslow's place as a master of psychological mystery. The Start of Everything is a testament to the imagination of its author, dazzling in its ingenuity and gripping in its suspense. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Emily Winslow reintroduces characters from her first novel in a story that further solidifies her place as a master of psychological mystery.

Delacorte, $26, hardcover, 9780385342902

The Midwife's Tale

by Sam Thomas

York, England, in 1644, is a dangerous place. Parliament's armies have laid siege to the city, while the King's adherents are fighting back. In addition to the war, everyday life is difficult enough--as midwife Bridget Hodgson knows all too well. She struggles to deliver babies and save mothers' lives, but she isn't always successful.

Then Esther Cooper is arrested for the murder of her husband. The Lord Mayor asks Bridget to examine Esther's body; he thinks she's guilty and wants to burn her at the stake, but he can't, because she is claiming to be pregnant. Bridget has two days to prove her friend's innocence. She and her servant Martha (who is suspiciously good with knives and lock picks), set out to try and find out who else could have wanted Stephen Cooper dead--a list, they discover, that includes leading citizens across York's political spectrum.

While investigating on Esther's behalf, Bridget and Martha also keep busy delivering babies, examining women who are accused of being pregnant out of wedlock and avoiding a violent man from Martha's past.

Sam Thomas's debut offers an amazing amount of information about 17th-century midwifery and daily life in a Puritanical society. But the details never bog down the absorbing mystery, and Bridget's determined character shines through. The Midwife's Tale is a fascinating book that historians and mystery readers will both love. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: An intrepid midwife is determined to keep her friend from burning at the stake for her husband's murder.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250010766

Current Events & Issues

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster

by Jonathan M. Katz

When a huge earthquake ripped the heart out of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Katz was the only American journalist at the epicenter, watching as the city disintegrated around him. The Big Truck That Went By is a personal account of his own disorientation and panic as he tried first to save himself, then find and help friends and neighbors and, finally, report the stories of its aftermath to the world. Katz knew the people on the street, in the government and running the NGOs well enough to dig into the reality behind the chaotic destruction of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. He tells the unvarnished story of the roughshod tarp cities, the sick and injured and the broken infrastructure of a city on its knees.

More than just the story of the earthquake's impact on Haiti, however, he also tells of the largely ineffectual and disorganized global relief effort. Hillary Clinton's affirmation to the Haitian people that "you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten" disappeared into the black hole of broken commitments. The $16 billion of promised aid ("the big truck") was only partially delivered; much of that went into the pockets of NGO headquarters outside Haiti. Six months after the quake, Katz reports, "just $210 million had been given to the Haitian government, all with restrictive strings attached." Katz's account of the Port-au-Prince tragedy suggests that the world has long way to go before it can effectively translate good intentions into real help for those in need. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The personal story of an American journalist living in Haiti about the devastating 2010 earthquake and the meager reconstruction funding in its aftermath.

Palgrave Macmillan, $26, hardcover, 9780230341876

The Honored Society: The History of Italy's Most Powerful Mafia

by Petra Reski

Petra Reski had covered the Mafia as an investigative journalist in Germany for years, to the minimal interest of her editors and readers, who considered it an Italian problem. Then, in 2007, six Calabrians were executed in the town of Duisburg, and suddenly the German public was interested in the Mafia.

In The Honored Society, Reski composes character studies of various players both within the Mafia and fighting against it, based on her reminiscences of meetings and interviews. In addition to mafiosi and police investigators, her subjects include public prosecutors, defense lawyers, priests, fellow journalists and Mafia wives and daughters. Accompanied by her cabbie, Salvo, and her photographer, Shobha (as well as Shobha's mother, a famous anti-Mafia photographer in her own right), Reski travels the streets of Italy and recalls the personalities she's known. Her sketches of these "bad guys" and their adversaries are intimate and contemplative, rooted in years of experience. Even while excoriating the actions and influence of the Mafia, she seems to feel respect, even affection, toward certain individuals, revealing a conflicted relationship much like the one she describes between the Italian public and its famous criminal organization.

Generally, Shaun Whiteside's translation of Reski's work (from the German original of 2008) reads as straightforward, simple prose; but a quiet poetry lurks in certain turns of phrase and carefully crafted images. The Honored Society is an unusually structured view into the strange and powerful world of the Italian Mafia. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An intriguing and sensational, but not sensationalist, study of the Italian Mafia through character sketches.

Nation Books, $16.99, paperback, 9781568589732

Children's & Young Adult

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

by Jen Bryant , illus. by Melissa Sweet

The team behind the Caldecott Honor book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams once again creates a lyrical ode to an extraordinary man. 

Carefully chosen details repeat in spoken and visual refrains that give shape to the life of Horace Pippin (1888-1946) and his dedication to recording his experiences through his artwork. Horace has "big hands" like his grandmother's, for instance, and he puts them to work doing chores, caring for his siblings and creating his artwork. Yet "the biggest part of you is inside, where no one can see," Grandma Pippin tells Horace.

Another refrain, "Make a picture for us, Horace!," highlights the support Horace received from family, schoolmates and, later, fellow workers and soldiers he fought alongside in World War I. Melissa Sweet's collage artwork depicts the many drawings that fill Horace's living room and his thoughts ("Pictures just come to my mind... and I tell my heart to go ahead," reads one of many quotations threaded into Jen Bryant's narrative). Red barbed wire in his drawings of the war front connects to a nighttime image of Horace getting shot in his drawing arm: "Now, when someone said, 'Make a picture for us, Horace!'... Horace could not." Author and artist demonstrate how deeply the war affected Horace, but also how his passion pushed him to find a way to paint again, to widespread acclaim.

Children will enjoy finding the "splash of red" on every page, and come to appreciate Horace Pippin's lifelong passion for drawing and painting. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A picture book biography of a little-known artist who faced many obstacles yet never gave up his love of making art.

Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-up, 9780375867125

Amy and the Missing Puppy: The Critter Club #1

by Callie Barkley , illus. by Marsha Riti

This kickoff to a charming new early chapter book series describes Amy's puppy rescue efforts leading to the formation of the Critter Club.

Young readers meet Amy and her best friends, Ellie, Liz and Marion at their weekly Friday sleepover. It's their last one before spring break, and it seems that everyone has fun plans except Amy, who's stuck at home. Well, not really stuck. Amy loves helping out at her veterinarian mother's clinic, and she loves to read--Nancy Drew especially. So when mean Ms. Sullivan's new Saint Bernard puppy, Rufus, digs under the fence and escapes, Amy is on the case, following Nancy Drew's example. Amy tracks down paw prints and makes a list of possible destinations for Rufus and, along the way, changes her view of Ms. Sullivan. Amy calls Ellie, and Liz returns early from vacation, so they help, too, following up on clues and making posters.

The format is ideal for children just graduating from beginning readers, with large type, generous white space and short chapters. Plentiful illustrations convey clear clues, emphasize the teamwork among the four friends, and invite readers to solve the mystery along with Amy. A gentle lesson about Ms. Sullivan also cautions against "judging a book by its cover." In their second adventure, All About Ellie (also published this month), Ellie auditions for the school play--but will that take precedence over the Critter Club? Fans will be eager to find out. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An early chapter book series for fans of friendship and animal tales that describes the founding of the Critter Club.

Little Simon, $15.99, hardcover, 128p., ages 5-7, 9781442457706; $4.99 paperback 9781442457690

Reference & Writing

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction

by Tracy Kidder , Richard Todd

Tracy Kidder (The Soul of a New Machine) and his longtime editor, Richard Todd, are rock stars of narrative nonfiction. When they talk about their art and craft, you'd be wise to listen. In Good Prose they share both practical editing advice and general narrative recommendations relating to things like structure, point of view, style and voice. Rather than just collaborating on a single seamless text, however, each intersperses his own thoughts amid the guidelines and examples. The resulting easygoing ramble on good writing is as entertaining as it is useful.

It is hard to avoid aphorisms in this sort of book, and Kidder and Todd are not afraid to include several. For example, in discussing where to start a work, they caution that "the heart of the story is a place to arrive at, not a place to begin." In a discussion of authorial voice, they advise "if you can't imagine saying something aloud, then you probably shouldn't write it." Fortunately, they break the schoolhouse rules with pertinent quotations from many nonfiction writers (from Montaigne to David Foster Wallace) and personal commentaries on Kidder's own books.

When thousands of books, tweets, 'zines and blogs confront readers every day, perhaps the best advice Kidder and Todd have for writers is to first ask themselves: "Who am I to be writing this? Who asked me? Who cares?" Honest answers here might mercifully cut down the clutter. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An entertaining, useful ramble about good writing by a Pulitzer Prize-winning master and his longtime editor.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9781400069750

Poetry

Night Thoughts: 70 Dream Poems & Notes from an Analysis

by Sarah Arvio

Sarah Arvio's third poetry collection, Night Thoughts, is a memoir in three parts, an unusual way for an always original and surprising writer to confront her past. She calls it an "exploration of the dreaming mind," set out in 70 irregular sonnets, "dream poems" that describe "the evolution of a psychoanalysis and the events that gave rise to that treatment."

When Arvio was 12, she had disturbing dreams and visions based on personal experiences. The poems read like a patient talking in a rambling, associative way to her doctor about her dreams:

the taxi leaves me standing in the street
& the streetlamp goes out there is this sort
of dream that leaves me without a heart or
more like a hole in my selfheart
heartself that hellhole of a dream

The poems are mesmerizing, brutal, sexual, allusive, filled with colors and wild images. These are followed by the book's second part, a set of notes to the poems, meant to be read as a narrative; parts of the poems are explicated by Arvio while her story is recreated out of her experiences and dreams--Arvio as analyst tries to come to grips with her "self." Lastly, an extensive index allows us to "relocate" some of the images, colors, and dream-related thoughts that appear throughout the book. Night Thoughts is challenging and utterly fascinating. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher 

Discover: An always original and surprising poet confronts her past via poems, memoir and her own psychoanalysis of troubling dreams.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307959553

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