Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, December 20, 2013

HMH Culinary & Lifestyle: A Gift For Every Cook & Cocktail Lover

From My Shelf

Shadow Mountain: Six Ingredients with Six Sisters' Stuff: 100+ Fast and Easy Family Meals by Six Sisters' Stuff

Clarkson Potter Publishers: Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Sweet Treats to the Next Level: A Baking Book by Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Last-Minute Gifts

The countdown to December 25 is underway; for the procrastinator, there's still time to find perfect gift books.

For some reason, many people seem to think that last-minute gifts should be small; in order to curb that notion, we'll start with a big book: The Vatican: All the Paintings by Anja Grebe (Black Dog & Leventhal, $75). This is a splendid volume containing old masters (and new, like Gauguin's Crucifixion), maps, tapestries and more in a slipcase with a DVD-ROM.

To go with the reissue of A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition (It Books, $19.99), put on your Vince Guaraldi CD and sing along to the lovely "Christmas Time Is Here."

Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too by Michael Showalter (Abrams Image, $16.95 paperback) is made for the man whose girlfriend/boyfriend loves cats but he, not so much. From sports franchises named after cats to pimping out a cat crib, it's all here. For dog lovers, try Shake by Carli Davidson (Harper Design, $17.99), photographs of dogs' faces mid-shake. Or Bless the Dogs by the Monks of New Skete (Center Street, $20), meditations on the relationship between humans and dogs, with some of the sweetest photos we've seen.

For photos of your own, or to accompany the gift of a camera, try this concise (and almost pocket-sized) guide: Lonely Planet's Best Ever Photography Tips by Richard l'Anson ($9.99). Ten golden rules, like "shoot raw files," and 45 best tips, like "shoot early or late" for the best landscapes, make this practical and handy. For a more in-depth but still unintimidating guide, Workman offers The Unforgettable Photograph by George Lange ($16.95 paperback). Ideas, secrets and even a few playlists to set a mood add up to 228 suggestions, including some terrific ways to display photos. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Ingram: Books Make Great Gifts - Take a Look!

Book Candy

Christmas Reading; Authors' Book Picks

The Huffington Post discovered the "12 weirdest stories of Christmas," while Flavorwire recommended "10 of the best holiday books you probably haven't read" and the Guardian highlighted the "top 10 books given in books," noting that "literature provides some great examples of the delicate art of parcelling prose."


Pork, beef, goose, lark, pheasant, venison, oysters, swan, woodcock and "a kid with a pudding in his belly" were just a few of the "39 dishes from the first Christmas menu, published in 1660," Mental Floss reported.


"Day In, Day Out: Three Not-at-All-Boring Books on Tedium" were recommended by Said Sayrafiezadeh, author of Brief Encounters with the Enemy, for NPR. "None of the authors below set out to write a book about tedium, but hovering always just behind the scenes is that debilitating affliction, sluggish and repetitious, playing a central role in their lives," he noted.


Never talk to strangers, unless books are the conversation starter. Buzzfeed found "14 places to talk to a stranger about books."


"Why Tolstoy is 11.6% better than Shakespeare." Brain Pickings featured the "greatest books of all time, as voted by 125 famous authors."


And just in time for holiday get-togethers, the Huffington Post suggested the "12 most twisted families in books."

University of Nevada Press: The Color of Rock by Sandra Cavallo Miller

Great Reads

Now in Paper: December

Altered by Jennifer Rush (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $10, ages 12-up)
A debut thriller about four genetically altered boys who can't trust themselves after their minds are wiped.

Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven (Tor, $8.99)
Two masters of hard science fiction team up for a story of exploration and alien encounter across the vastness of space.

The Doctor of Thessaly by Anne Zouroudi (Back Bay, $15)
A satisfying mystery set in a fictional Greek village, as Anne Zouroudi continues the arc of her Seven Deadly Sins series.

Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight (McSweeney's, $15)
The effects of loss on a family with deep and tangled roots in a California desert town.

The Light of Amsterdam by David Park (Bloomsbury, $16)
A weekend in Amsterdam, rendered sensitively and with great insight, brings new understanding and perspective to three families.

Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman (Soho Press, $15)
A literary murder mystery blended with a nuanced story of small-town Midwest family legacies and secrets.

Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches (Back Bay Books, $17)
By turns profane, obscene, perhaps even blasphemous, Tosches offers a fictional account of "the most diabolically f*¢&ed-up year of my life."

The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas (Minotaur)
In 1644 England an intrepid midwife is determined to keep her friend from burning at the stake for her husband's murder.

A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks (Picador, $16)
Faulks (Birdsong) writes of five people and five different historical times in five disparate stories, subtly related thematically by the concept of "connection."

The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (Tor, $14.99)
Two of contemporary science fiction's leading stars team up to tell the hilarious misadventures of a technophobe in a post-Singularity future.

Spilt Milk by by Chico Buarque, trans. by Alison Entrekin (Grove, $15)
A brilliant comic monologue in which a hospitalized centenarian curmudgeon on morphine becomes entangled in his own deception-filled life story.

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf (Simon & Schuster, $15)
A reference guide to threats both obvious (volcanoes) and obscure (purses) that will enlighten the paranoid and confident alike.

Tra Publishing: Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains by Various

Book Review


Raw: A Love Story

by Mark Haskell Smith

Readers familiar with Mark Haskell Smith's novels know all about the sharp, oddball sense of humor that permeates Raw. For those who don't, think along the lines of Carl Hiaasen--social commentary combined with outrageous laughs.

Reality TV star Sepp Gregory didn't actually write his debut novel, Totally Reality--he hasn't even read it--but "he looked amazing on the cover and his name was the same size as the book's name, so like, how cool is that?" Despite the fun of meeting his legions of adoring (primarily female) fans, Sepp has found readjusting to the real world more difficult than he anticipated.

Book blogger Harriet Post laments the raves lavished on Sepp's book; worse, after reading it, she has to admit it really is a masterpiece. Meeting Sepp on tour, she realizes he doesn't have the talent--or even the vocabulary--to write great prose, so she embarks on a crusade to find the ghostwriter, write a scathing exposé on the publishing industry and single-handedly halt the decline of civilization as we know it, although her friends think maybe she should try to get a social life instead. When Harriet meets a cute hipster novelist, it seems having a life might win out, but when she finds out he's Sepp's ghostwriter, a shocking accident throws a wrench in her plans and unites her with Sepp in ways she never imagined possible.

Reader are sure to cackle like crazy at this brash and brainy slice of satire that skewers our base and high-minded interests in one fell swoop. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A hot but clueless reality TV star, a sellout ghostwriter and a book blogger on a mission collide in a hilarious sendup of American celebrity and literary culture.

Black Cat/Grove, $15, paperback, 9780802122018

Page Street Publishing: Silence Is a Scary Sound: And Other Stories on Living Through the Terrible Twos and Threes by Clint Edwards


by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz knows exactly what story you'll be thinking about after the opening chapters of Innocence. His narrator-protagonist Addison Goodheart, a shunned outcast who lives alone deep below the city streets, comes up to the surface late one night and, making his way through the public library, catches sight of a haunting young woman fleeing an angry pursuer. Once the threat has passed, Addison figures out where she must be hiding and reaches out to her; she agrees to meet and talk with him. "I have no illusions about romance," he tells her during that first conversation. "Beauty and the Beast is a nice fairy tale, but fairy tales are for books."

Addison soon becomes Gwyneth's companion, but their relationship is heavily circumscribed. She forbids him even the most fleeting of physical contact, while he buries his face in a hooded sweatshirt and a scarf lest she catch a glimpse of his face. As we learn from the periodic flashbacks, there's something in Addison's appearance that so disgusts others that anyone who sees him is overcome by a murderous impulse.

Addison and Gwyneth's city, blanketed in snow, has an ethereal quality to it. The novel's highly detailed scenes feel tenuously connected to each other the way disparate elements coalesce in dreams. By the time we learn the truth about Addison's condition, so many of our initial assumptions have been upended it may feel as if we've been given a completely different book--what started out as a fairy tale has become something much more allegorical. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: An allegory by a master of horror, who spins an ethereal and suspenseful tale with unexpected byways and surprises.

Bantam, $28, hardcover, 9780553808032

Simon & Schuster: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Biography & Memoir

My Mistake

by Daniel Menaker

A bout with cancer--now in remission--led Daniel Menaker (Good Talk) to reflect on his past and his career in publishing in My Mistake, which is marked by a breezy wit and fascinating insider portraits of people with whom he has worked over the years.

Menaker's "demanding, deep, wide in scope" classes at Swarthmore prepared him intellectually and emotionally for the work he would do later and the losses (parents, brother) he would suffer. He reads a piece by Tom Wolfe about the New Yorker, then edited by William Shawn, and its "hermetic, self-involved, highly ritualized life." He applies for and lands a job at this "brilliant crazy house."

He starts as one of the legendary fact checkers. After publishing his first story in the magazine, he moves up to copy editor, and eventually, he becomes the magazine's fiction editor. After Tina Brown takes over, the amount of fiction is cut in half, "shunted from the front of the magazine to the back." So, after 26 years, when an opportunity to join Random House comes along, Menaker takes it. His first acquisition: George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.

He quickly learns the business. "150 more or less worthwhile books are published every week in this country," he reports--all part of a "grand cultural roulette" in which your chances of winning are very small. He becomes Random's editor-in-chief, and works with some very fine writers: David Foster Wallace, Salman Rushdie, Michael Cunningham, Elmore Leonard, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Strout and Colum McCann, to name a few. "I have never seen better days. No mistake." --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A charming and revealing insider's look at the world of the New Yorker and big-time book publishing.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780547794235

Nimbus Publishing: Always with You by Eric Walters, illustrated by Carloe Liu

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams

by Ben Bradlee, Jr.

Hall of Famer Ted Williams is considered the best hitter in the history of major league baseball. While other books have chronicled Williams's ascent and his 22 colorful years with the Boston Red Sox, Ben Bradlee, Jr.--a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe--goes a step beyond that familiar story in The Kid. Via extensive research, access to private papers and interviews with more than 600 of Williams's former teammates, associates, friends and family, Bradlee delves into Williams's troubled, impoverished childhood in San Diego, the fraught relationships he endured with his parents and his years as a "top gun" Marine pilot in World War II and Korea, as well as the life he lived away from the baseball diamond and his retirement.

Bradlee's respect and admiration for the "self-made and intellectually curious" Williams is evident on every page. This hefty, meticulously researched biography--replete with photographs--unveils new aspects of Williams's eccentric persona: his hiding his Mexican-American roots; his impulsiveness and intense temper, which often made his life dysfunctional on the field and off; his overlooked charitable work and innate kindness; his passion for fishing. Also included are in-depth details of Williams's relationships with his girlfriends, wives and children. Bradlee bookends Williams's story with a chilling, fascinating examination of the slugger's death and the dispute among his heirs to have Williams's corpse cryonically preserved. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: The definitive biography of a complicated, controversial and often elusive baseball legend.

Little, Brown, $35, hardcover, 9780316614351

Political Science

The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

by Yuval Levin

To understand the complex U.S. political landscape, it helps to look to those who planted its ideological origins. Yuval Levin, the founder and editor of National Affairs, explores the country's first public discourse in The Great Debate. In this rigorous yet accessible work, Levin contextualizes the positions of British philosopher Edmund Burke, who has been viewed as both the founder of modern conservatism and an example of classical liberalism, and Thomas Paine, the author of several classic political texts, including Common Sense and The Rights of Man. Both supported the cause of the American revolutionaries, but Burke opposed the French Revolution--a cause Paine defended on ethical grounds.

Their clashing ideas spawned the two main factions that persist in politics today--although both of them inspired rhetoric that alters or elaborates on their original views. Revolutionaries have infused Paine's memory with socialist sensibilities that, Levin says, "would have been largely foreign to Paine himself," while contemporary conservatives have lacked Burke's emphasis on community, opting instead for hyper-individualism. "Each group," he suggests, "might find some of its worst excesses alleviated a bit by carefully considering the Burke-Paine debate." By understanding what these two political philosophers believed, we can better see how today's debates have selected and rearranged the foundations of American thought. --Annie Atherton

Discover: An acclaimed conservative scholar explores how the late 18th-century debates between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke shaped American politics.

Basic Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9780465050970

Essays & Criticism

Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books

by Nick Hornby

Since 2003, Nick Hornby (High Fidelity; About a Boy) has written a column for the Believer, a magazine with a baked-in whimsy that suits his contributions. The column is supposed to be devoted to a general consideration of books and the reading life, but from the get-go, he's strayed topically from books into other concerns. In Ten Years in the Tub, a collection of those columns, Hornby provides wry insights into subjects such as parenting, religion and "the literary equivalent of grilled kangaroo," but always makes his way back to the books.

Ten years is a good run, and Hornby has made outstanding use of it. As a guidebook to finding new avenues of reading to explore, his column is excellent; there likely aren't more than a handful of readers who could walk away with less than a dozen new authors to investigate. Hornby reads broadly, across genres, and isn't afraid to poke fun at the books he's reading, but he does so thoughtfully, as likely to pin the blame on himself as a reader when a book doesn't settle with him the right way. Is it over-the-top to say that Hornby's column is essential reading, that his approaches to reading can inspire us to engage fully with the written word? If so, then let's leave it at a request: keep grilled kangaroo on the menu for another 10 years. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Discover: Ten years of Nick Hornby's columns from the Believer offer plenty of reading recommendations--but, more importantly, a distillation of Hornby himself.

Believer Books/McSweeney's, $26, hardcover, 9781938073731


Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism

by Jeana DelRosso, Leigh Eicke and Ana Kothe, editors

The trio of editors who have collected the 55 creative essays, short stories, dramatic works and poems found in Unruly Catholic Women directly confront the Church's doctrine, addressing issues of gender and religion, social justice and equality that remain central to the lives of many Catholic women today.

The anthology is structured in three sections subtitled to match the traditional mysteries of the Holy Rosary--the contemplative prayer associated with Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, for whom many Catholics hold a special affinity and devotion. Section one, "The Joyful Mysteries," highlights themes pertaining to contemporary responses toward motherhood, childbearing and childrearing, as in Renee Bondy's essay about how the nuns of her childhood inspired her to become a "feisty feminist." Pain and death, and the emotions of women who feel alienated from the church due to divorce or sexuality, are the focus of "The Sorrowful Mysteries." Dolores DeLuise offers a meditation on sexuality for Catholic clergy. Mary Rice's short, moving poem, "Resurrection," delving into the role of women and the miracle of the empty tomb, is one of several pieces in "The Glorious Mysteries" which examine the ways in which sacraments and rituals empower female Catholics despite the limitations on the role of women in the Church.

Conveying a range of feelings from anger to appreciation, the confessional expressions and recollections gathered together in Unruly Catholic Women offer a versatile, entirely feminist view of the Roman Catholic experience. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A diverse collection of creative work conveying revelatory perspectives on how women view the Roman Catholic faith.

Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press, $19.95, paperback, 9781438448305


Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game

by Allen St. John and Ainissa G. Ramirez

Did you know Vince Lombardi was a high school chemistry and physics teacher before he coached football? His revolutionary "power sweep" offense was based in scientific observation and a mathematical formula on the chalkboard, which led to human bodies overpowering other bodies on the gridiron.

In Newton's Football, Allen St. John (The Billion Dollar Game) and Ainessa Ramirez (Save Our Science) use chaos theory and other heady principles to demonstrate with great verve how modern science can lead to a more thorough understanding of the country's most popular game. They pack their concise, well-written chapters with football lore and unobtrusive yet illuminating scientific insights on subjects such as the relative feasability of the Wonderlic cognitive ability test to rate football intelligence, the truth about the efficacy of performance-enhancing drugs and how improving helmet design has unintentionally made the game more dangerous.

Football is easily mythologized and the cult of machismo often rules, but St. John and Ramirez's approach is more in line with the way most good football teams are run these days. The pair are endlessly creative in the subjects they choose to elucidate their theories, making Newton's Football an addictive and effortless read for any fan of the game or armchair scientist. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: A sports journalist and an engineer team up to deliver a winning combination of football and science.

Ballantine Books, $26, hardcover, 9780345545145



by Martin Cruz Smith, read by Henry Strozier

Henry Strozier gives voice to Russian investigator Arkady Renko, who returns in Tatiana, the eighth novel featuring Martin Cruz Smith's somber protagonist (introduced in Gorky Park). Strozier's slow, weary cadence brings out Renko's melancholy as well as the destitution of his environment.

Renko is unconvinced that fearless reporter Tatiana Petrovna chose to  jump to her death. He wants to investigate, but once it's deemed a suicide he has no cause. The pieces don't add up, though, and when Grisha Grigorenko, a powerful mob boss and a target of Tatiana's reporting, is shot to death the same week, Renko's discomfort intensifies. He gets his opportunity to investigate when Tatiana's body winds up missing from the morgue. As he follows the clues to Kaliningrad, the tone grows only grimmer.

Strozier's approach maintains the dark tone while differentiating each character (without resorting to a Russian accent in the dialogue). His pitch doesn't change much throughout the narration, but he manages to bring out the playfulness of scenes involving a pug dog and the naiveté of Renko's teenage charge, Zhenya, who thinks he will find glory in joining the army. He is also acutely aware of Smith's subtle humor, adding just the right vocal adjustments to drive home the amusement and elicit a laugh from the audience.

The overall production of Tatiana is crisp and free of superfluous noises, allowing listeners to focus on the story and fully experience Renko's world. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A slow, weary narration is the perfect fit for an investigator who has experienced the darkest of what life has to offer.

Simon & Schuster Audio, $29.99, unabridged audio, 7 CDs, 8 hours, 9781442364363

Children's & Young Adult

To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt

by Doreen Rappaport, illus. by C.F. Payne

As she did with her succinct, lyrical picture-book biographies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Eleanor Roosevelt (Martin's Big Words; Eleanor, Quiet No More), Doreen Rappaport here pays tribute to the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th president of the United States.

Children will be inspired by the story of how "Teedie" grew from an asthmatic child prone to fevers into a strong leader. Rappaport selects just the right quote (taken from Roosevelt's autobiography, speeches and letters) at each crossroads of the man's life to convey his love of books, writing, family and country. She draws a direct line from the sickly child who read profusely (about subjects ranging from hippopotamuses to Valley Forge soldiers) to the man who spearheaded a conservation movement and led the Rough Riders into the Spanish Civil War.

Artist C.F. Payne conveys Roosevelt's seriousness of purpose, as well as his sense of humor. The artist creates an especially poignant image of Roosevelt as grief-stricken widower, finding solace in the Dakota Territory. As president, Roosevelt established anti-trust laws, won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for settling the war between Russia and Japan, and took the lead in the building of the Panama Canal. An excellent timeline, thorough bibliography and suggestions for further reading allow young people to discover more about this extraordinary man, a model for our times: "I would rather go out of politics feeling that I had done right than stay, knowing I have acted as I ought not to," he said. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A succinct, inspiring picture-book biography of a sickly child who grew into a president strong enough to fight for his big ideas.

Disney Editions, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 6-8, 9781423124887


by Kevin Waltman

The on-court action is fast and furious in Kevin Waltman's (Nowhere Fast) launch to a planned four-book series, which will especially appeal to basketball fans.

The author portrays adeptly a small town in Indiana obsessed with hoops, where coaches can influence generations of families and patterns can be hard to break. African American narrator Derrick Bowen ("D-Bow") may be only 6'3" (that's right, only) and a freshman at Marion East, but he knows the moves. Starter Nick Starks sees 15-year-old D-Bow as a threat and would rather have the team lose than pass to the newcomer and risk his first-string status. The main tension of the novel grows out of an opportunity D-Bow gets to move from his public school high school, where he's gradually building the trust of his coaches, to upscale Hamilton Academy, in another county and ranked #1. If he goes, his unemployed father has been promised a job. A protracted subplot about D-Bow's Uncle Kid and his suspicious interest in his nephew moving to Hamilton unfolds somewhat awkwardly, but the relationships between D-Bow and his brother and parents, as well as with his best friend, Wes--together with the on-court scenes--more than carry the novel.

Credible characterizations, catchy dialogue ("At the end of the day, the ring is the thing," D-Bow thinks, at the prospect of winning a championship) and growing suspense as to which school D-Bow will choose will hold readers' attention. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A fast-paced novel in which the moves on the basketball court shape a freshman's view of his choices in the larger world.

Cinco Puntos, $16.95, hardcover, 292p., ages 12-up, 9781935955641; $11.95 paper, 9781935955658

Sophie Scott Goes South

by Alison Lester

From the opening endpapers of Sophie's journey on a Robinson Projection ("Scale 1: 134 million") to the closing endpapers that map the Antarctic, this picture book brims with fascinating facts in a conversational style that will captivate readers.

In 2005, author and artist Alison Lester traveled for six weeks as an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow. She translates her trip through the eyes of nine-year-old narrator Sophie Scott, whose father is captain of the Aurora Australis (the ship Lester sailed on her own trip). Sophie gets in all the details children crave: "My bunk is called a berth, the window is a porthole, the kitchen is the galley and the dining room is the mess." A mechanical drawing of the ship shows more official labels ("tweendeck hold"; "fuel overflow"), while handlettering points out the spots important to Sophie. Her descriptions give children a flavor of her experiences in terms they'll understand, as when they hit a rough patch and the dining-room portholes get submerged: "It's like we're eating inside a washing machine." She also mentions the diverse missions of the ship, from carrying supplies to Antarctica to retrieving an underwater microphone for scientists who'd deposited it a year earlier to record whale communications.

The book's design gracefully accommodates dramatic photographs of the Antarctic, illustrations by children in collage, marker and watercolor (created in response to Lester's e-mail updates to schools and families), and Lester's own artwork. Sophie's handwritten text distinguishes her amusing asides from the typeset narrative. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A charming nine-year-old narrator describes a trip to the Antarctic undertaken by the author-artist.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 6-9, 9780544088955


Author Buzz

Dear Reader,

Before Hitler, there were the Pashas! As the granddaughter of genocide survivors, the author uses their memories to paint a timeless love story. Slide back to 1913 and late summer in the Ottoman Empire. The sun rises, full and golden, atop a lush, centuries-old village. The sound of voices carries past the grapevine while the village leader's youngest daughter slips out unseen, breaking ancient courtship rules, never suspecting the upheaval that will soon envelop their land and their hearts.

Maral Boyadjian

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