November 2007 Archives

A mountain of laughs

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Before I was even halfway into the book, I knew I wanted to see Chris Elliott's Into Hot Air: Mounting Mount Everest (Weinstein Books, 342 pages, $23.95) made into a movie.

Funnyman Elliott made a name for himself hiding under the stairs on David Letterman's "Late Show," and then as a 30-year-old paperboy who still lives with his parents in the vastly underrated and underseen sitcom "Get a Life."

Into Hot Air

Now he's gone and written another "novel." His first, The Shroud of the Thwacker (2005), was a parody of historical crime fiction. Into Hot Air sends up survival stories (like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air), disaster movies, celebrity activism and reality TV...

A hero ain't just a sandwich

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What constitutes a good hero? Someone brave and loyal, sure, but how about folks who throw good parties? Author-historian Paul Johnson casts a wide net and includes both in his new book, Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and De Gaulle (HarperCollins, 284 pages, $25.95).


There are a couple chapters dedicated to female heroes in particular ("Feminist Fire and Slaughter," Tortured Heroism in a Man's World"), but I like the fact that Johnson includes women all over this book, not favoring either gender in other chapters, such as, "Exemplary Heroes."

Behind every good man ...

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The name Raymond Chandler conjures the stories of 1930s and '40s Los Angeles for which the crime novelist was famous — The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Long Goodbye — but little is known about what fueled his talent.

Author Judith Freeman researched Chandler's life before writing in hopes of putting together a more detailed story of his personal life. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (Pantheon, 333 pages, $25.95), Freeman does a great job of documenting Chandler's love affair with Cissy Pascal, his wife of 30 years ...

The Long Embrace

Elvis has left the Book Room

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Have you ever been mistaken for a celebrity all your life and then had the chance to meet that celebrity face to face?

No? OK, i'ts never happened to me, either, but it happens to Ray Johnston in Steve Carlson's intriguing novel, Almost Graceland (St. Martin's, 263 pages, $23.95)...

Almost Graceland

Woman power

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Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) follows up her bestselling book American Heroines with Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers (Harper, 365 pages, $25.95), another excellent collection of biographical portraits of women who've paved the way for the rest of us, in all walks of life...

Leading Ladies

Heeeeeere's Jack!

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Is there a bigger celebrity than Jack Nicholson? And when I say celebrity, I mean old-school celebrity — not the sad & skanky Paris-Lindsey-Britneys or even the seemingly clean-cut High School Musical geeks. I mean the able-to-get-away-with-wearing-your-shades-at-the-Oscars-year-after-year celebrity.

Dennis McDougal, an entertainment reporter for the New York Times, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, brings us Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times (Wiley, 410 pages, $25.95)...

Five Easy Decades

What's your story?

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Everybody has a story to tell and if Dave Isay has his way, everybody will get a chance to tell their story. Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, the largest oral history project in the nation, and editor of Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life From the Storycorps Project (Penguin, 284 pages, $24.95)...

Listening Is An Act of Love

Life-changing books

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Life-changing moments come in many forms. Sometimes a work of art in a museum has a transformative effect. A sunset can bring about epiphany. A great song says everything you've ever wanted to say to a loved one.

Books can have those kinds of influences on us as well, and bookseller Roxanne J. Coady and editor Joy Johannessen have queried a bunch of writers for their compilation (now out in paperback), The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (Gotham Books, 197 pages, $11).

The Book That Changed My Life

2007 National Book Awards

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The 2007 National Book Award winners were announced last night in New York. They are:


Tree of Smoke

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Read a review of this book.


Legacy of Ashes

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. Read a review.


The Absolutely True Diary

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Review here.


Time and Materials

Time and Materials by Robert Hass. Read review.

Spice up your life

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Top chef turned food historian Michael Krondl traveled the world while sharing meals and swapping stories with farmers, sailors and foodies like himself all in the name of research for his latest book, The Taste of Conquest — The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice (Ballantine Books. 305 pages, $25.95)...

The Taste of Conquest

Hail to the Chiefs

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Think you know everything there is to know about the U.S. presidents? Think again. Author and History Channel documentarian Rick Beyer brings us The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told: 100 Tales From History to Astonish, Bewilder and Stupefy (Collins, 212 pages, $18.95)...

The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told

Pumped up

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Author Shaun Assael, an award-winning writer for ESPN The Magazine, thinks steroids are America's real drug addiction. He takes on this controversial subject in his new book, Steroid Nation (ESPN Books, 302 pages, $24.95)....

Steroid Nation


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Who are you going to vote for in the next presidential election? I don't know either. I haven't seen a single debate yet. But seeing as there's plenty of time before we have to decide, I'm not too worried. And I just came upon The Undecided Voter's Guide the the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Shere They Come From, and How You Can Choose (Harper Perennial, 377 pages, $14.95) by Time magazine reporter and ABC News political analyst Mark Halperin....

The Undecided Voter's Guide

Born to be bad

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"Ever since the early fascination with my sister's many devious successes, it is the scum who have long held my interest," writes Barbara Oakley in the introduction to Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend (Prometheus Books, 353 pages, $28.95)....

Evil Genes

Is reading overrated?

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How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read (Bloomsbury, 185 pages, $19.95) is a curious little book.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

The back cover asks a multiple choice question: Which of these great books have you:

A) talked about convincingly without ever cracking the spine?
B) read so long ago that you can't remember anything but the title?
C) skimmed just enough to have an opinion?
D) heard about so often that you don't have to bother reading it?
E) actually read?

I'm going to add a sixth choice:

F) never read?

More sassy than sweet

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I will disclose right off the bat that I chose today's book because it came with a package of candy conversation hearts. I don't even like candy conversation hearts but the gimmick caught my attention, so there you go.

Luckily, Sweetheart Deal (William Morrow, 353 pages, $23.95) by Claire Matturro, is a good read. Apparently it's the fourth in a series featuring the plucky Lilly Cleary, an attorney who always finds herself with an odd case...

Sweetheart Deal

Rules to write by

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As an editor, I have my personal pet peeves when reading others' work; as a writer I'm well aware that my editors may roll their eyes from time to time at some of my quirks and/or bad habits. It's all in a day's work in the business of publishing.

If I were Santa Claus' special agent in charge of picking out gifts for those who work with words, I'd stuff Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing (William Morrow, 91 pages, $14.95) in the stockings of needy writers everywhere...

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Like a Rolling Stone

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I doubt Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood got the $7 million that bandmate Keith Richards is reportedly getting for his upcoming autobiography, but at least fans don't have to wait till 2010 to get Wood's story, Ronnie (St. Martin’s Press, 358 pages, $25.95), in bookstores now.


Here's a review from the Associated Press...

The good books

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What constitutes a Catholic book? This is the question I asked myself when choosing today's entry, One Hundred Great Catholic Books: From the Early Centuries to the Present (BlueBridge, 240 pages, $16).

One Hundred Great Catholic Books

Don Brophy, who is former managing editor for the Catholic book publisher Paulist Press, has put together this collection, which begins with the Desert Fathers' Sayings and Stories and ends with Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own...

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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