Book of the Day club: February 2008 Archives

A medical mystery for 'CSI' fans

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Murder, medicine and forensic investigation collide in Lawrence Goldstone's fiction debut, The Anatomy of Deception (Delacorte, 340 pages, $24), which takes place in Philadelphia in the late 1800s, around the time autopsies were just becoming a legal practice.

The Anatomy of Deception

The first paragraph sets the scene:

March 14, 1889

For days, clouds had hung over the frigid city, promising snow, an ephemeral late winter veneer of white, but the temperature had suddenly risen and a cold, stringing drizzle had arrived instead. Jostled along in the derelict hansom, clad in her maid's blue worsted dress and plain wool cloak, her fingers and feet felt bloodless. The gloom that hung over the river penetrated the thin walls of the coach until it seemed as though she were breathing it.

Publisher's Weekly says: "With this top-notch historical page-turner and his proven versatility in nonfiction, Goldstone can expect to win over many new fans."

Here is a review from the Associated Press...

Following Oprah's lead

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After the phenomenal success of one of Oprah's recent giveaways — free downloads of Suze Orman's book, Women & Money — Random House has decided to do the same thing with Charles Bock's debut novel, Beautiful Children.

Beautiful Children

Orman's book was available for download for 33 hours earlier this month— enough time for 1 million copies to fly through cyberspace and for the paperback version of the 2007 title to hit's top 10.

Beautiful Children takes place in Las Vegas, where a 12-year-old boy goes out with a friend one day and doesn't come home, sending his parents into a tailspin and connecting a motley group of strangers.

Fellow author Jonathan Safran Foer had this to say about Bock's debut: "Beautiful Children careens from the seedy to the beautiful, the domestic to the epic, all with a huge and exacting heart."

Beautiful Children is available through Friday at, with a free electronic edition also available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Black history put in modern perspective

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Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford takes on a hot-button topic during Black History Month. The press release in his new book, The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 388 pages, $26), poses the question: "What do Katrina victims waiting for federal disaster relief, millionaire rappers buying vintage champagne, Ivy League professors waiting for taxis, and ghetto hustlers trying to find steady work have in common? All have claimed to victims of racism."

The Race Card

Here's a review from the Associated Press:

Supersick, superfunny

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Newmarket Press annouced that it has submitted the word "phallographics" for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. Editors at Newmarket coined the term to describe the art featured throughout the newly published Superbad: The Drawings (96 pages, $15), a tie-in to last year's hit teen sex comedy "Superbad."

Superbad 2

For those who may not have seen the movie, the character of Seth, as a grade-schooler, had a compulsive habit of drawing penises in various and outrageous situations, in a notebook. You get to seem them all in the end credits. As much as it pains me to admit it, they're sickeningly funny.

The book also includes a foreword by "Superbad" screenwriters Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, who explain how they recruited Evan's brother David Goldberg (a lawyer in Vancouver, Canada) to create the illustrations for the film.

And in case you're wondering, the definition of the new word is as follows:

phal*lo*graph*ics (fa'lo graf'iks), n. The pictorial representation of a phallus, or a depiction relating to or resembling a phallus.

President's Day hair check

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Which president in history had the best hair? Certainly John F. Kennedy had good hair. Ronald Reagan and BIll Clinton, too. There are others throughout history, but who am I to judge what was in style from before I was born?

The aforementioned former presidents were all handsome as well, which does not always go hand-in-hand with good hair.

Why does any of this matter, you ask? It shouldn't matter, but appearance can make or break a candidate, and Ben Shapiro examines this subject in his book, Project President: Bad Hair & Botox on the Road to the White House (Thomas Nelson, 304 pages, $22.99).

Project President

Here's what Shapiro concludes about the father of our country: "Today's media would have savaged Washington. [He] would have faced scrutiny over his lavish spending habits, questionable military tactics, gold-digging and his cold austerity, though he would have gained points for keeping his hair."

Shapiro even got Tim Gunn, the fashion guru of Bravo's "Project Runway," to blurb the book: "I'm constantly citing the power of dress. It's semiology: our clothes send a message about how we want to be perceived, and where is this more powerful and evident than in elected offices. In Project President, Ben Shapiro captures presidential semiotics with a potent narrative and deft analysis. It's simultaneously fascinating and hilarious!"

Though Shapiro's book is already a little out of date — he scrutinizes some candidates that are no longer running for the presidential nomination — it's still fun reading.

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

Hearts and flowers through the ages

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Ah, Valentine's Day. The primping, the pressure, the proposals! Today we take a look back through history at some lovers' correspondence, specifically that which dealt in marriage proposals.

Will You Marry Me? Seven Centuries of Love (Touchstone Books, 112 pages, $14.95) was originally published in 1940. Perhaps this newly bound reissue will inspire Internet-age folks to take paper to pen and snail-mail a little romance to their loved ones.

Will You Marry Me?

Here's a smattering of smitten folks' marriage-minded missives...

Motorcycle-riding nun in the rain forest

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Note to authors: If you write a book about a nun, chances are you'll get featured on this blog. So, today I bring another one to the attention of our readers: The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang (Doubleday, 256 pages, $21.95), by Binka Le Breton.

The Greatest Gift

Sister Dorothy went to Brazil as a missionary in the mid-'60s and never left. She worked tirelessly to help poor farmers in the rain forest to sustain and protect their land. In the end, she was killed; hopefully not for nothing.

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

New James Baldwin bio

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The late James Baldwin (1924-1987), author of Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain, among others, was a product of Harlem. It was in his bones and informed much of his writing, even though he left the New York neighborhood in his late teens.

Journalist and longtime Harlem dweller Herb Boyd has written Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin (Atria Books, 272 pages, $24).

Baldwin's Harlem

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

Bhutto book out next week

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Slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto finished writing Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West (Harper, $27.95) several days before her Dec. 27 death, and the book will be on store shelves Feb. 12, according to Bloomberg News.


Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and the couple's three children, have written a new afterword, and Bhutto's collaborator, Mark Siegel will step in for the book tour.

According to the publisher, "In Reconciliation, Bhutto recounts in gripping detail her final months in Pakistan and offers a bold new agenda for how to stem the tide of Islamic radicalism and to rediscover the values of tolerance and justice that lie at the heart of her religion."

Harper also has doubled the first printing, from 50,000 to 100,000, in anticipation of added interest due to Bhutto's death. Also, in April, Harper will re-release Bhutto's 1989 autobiography Daughter of Destiny, with a new epilogue written by Siegel.

A church of a different sort

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"In the Church of 80% Sincerity, we understand that the basic motivating factor for all human beings is not self-preservation or sex or love. It is the desire to not be embarrassed."

I'm not sure I've ever read a more true statement. It comes around the middle of David Roche's The Church of 80% Sincerity (Perigree, 160 pages, $19.95).

The Church of 80% Sincerity

Roche's "church" is a "church of choice for recovering perfectionists," he states in the introduction to the book. "We think 80 percent sincerity is as good as it gets. You can be 80 percent sincere 100 percent of the time or 100 percent sincere 80 percent of the time. It's in that 20 percent area where you get some slack and you can be yourself."

Write your memoir in six words

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That's what the editors of Smith magazine asked folks to do for their curious little paperback, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-word Memoirs by Famous & Obscure Writers (Harper Perennial, 219 pages, $12).

Not Quite What Was Planned

The idea seems a little silly, I know, but its origins are indeed literary — it's based on Ernest Hemingway's legendary six-word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." You have to admit, that's pretty powerful — and it forces the reader to speculate as to what the bigger picture is.

Love is in the air

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It's February, which means Black History Month, Lincoln's birthday, Washington's birthday and, of course, Valentine's Day. We'll cover all of these on the blog throughout the month. First up is a collection of stories compiled by Jeffrey Eugenides — a former Oprah Book Club author for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Middlesex.

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead (HarperCollins, 587 pages, $24.95) features love stories from writers past and present, including Vladimir Nabokov, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, William Faulkner, Lorrie Moore, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, Denis Johnson, Stuart Dybek and many more.

My Mistress's Sparrow

The coolest thing about this book is that, according to, all proceeds from this book will go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago, which is part of the network of writing centers across the United States dedicated to supporting students with their writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

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

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Book of the Day club category from February 2008.

Book of the Day club: January 2008 is the previous archive.

Book of the Day club: March 2008 is the next archive.

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