Friday, May 27, 2011


Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler. "Laughter is the gasoline in my tank. The only thing I like better than a good autobiography, or self help book, is a laugh out loud book. Chelsea Handler's books are outrageous. I love her television show and her books. She admittedly works with a cast of misfits. Her books are a hilarious take on her ridiculous life as a comedian. If you are looking for a funny escape with no aftertaste, you can't go wrong with Chelsea in television or book form. She has a new book, Lies Chelsea Told Me that is No. 1 on the NY Best Seller's list. I can't wait to read that, too."

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon; with Julia Child, Avis DeVoto. "Some people loved the Julie/Julia book. Me? Not so much. This book is lovely and intimate and something that will make you want to cancel your email account and start writing letters again."

The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel. "This was published about ten years ago, but I just received it recently. One of the best parenting advice books I've read in a while from a unique perspective. Everyone can take a great deal away from this book!"

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. “Hamilton is a chef who, before she started cheffing, got her MFA in writing from the University of Michigan. This experience propels her memoir over that of other chefs and chef-wannabes. It's a really great story, and her economy of language makes this a book worth savoring. I didn't want this book to end.”

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. “From Amazon: Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. “fabulous read! Just out in paperback.”

Bossypantsby Tina Fey. You all are giving me mixed reviews. Some say hilarious. Others not so impressed. One of you said it “feels disjointed.”

Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Childrenby Henry Cloud and John Townsend. “By far THE best parenting book I've read in a while. I thought it to be very thought-provoking, inspirational and had good, practical advice.”

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbagby Michael Tonello. A former hair and makeup artist tells the tale of his frenetic effort to buy Birkin bags – the “holy grail” of fashion – in order to resell on ebay. There are waiting lists for the bags, and people pay thousands of dollars over the asking price in order to get their hands on them. [Note to DC area readers – I don’t think I know any such people, but suspect they are the same ones who shop along that stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights - you know where I mean.]

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safeby Gayle (Tzemach) Lemmon. “I went to a book signing about 6 weeks ago and bought the book which I have not yet read, but might be an interesting read to some. I know I am looking forward to reading it. It is about a young woman in Afghanistan who ended up running her own successful dressmaking business with the support of her brother and father - true story. Here's the link to her website:”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Powerby Brene Brown. “What can I say? I love a good ‘self help’ book. A dear friend emailed me notes from a seminar on shame by Brene she attended. My first reaction was, ‘what a boring subject.’ However, I was blown away by my friend's seminar notes. So much so, in fact, that I bought both books by Brene. I loved both books so much that I am now enrolled in her on line course on Shame. I am ass deep in what triggers shame and how to become resilient to both the triggers and the shame they produce. This book is invaluable to every woman and particularly those who are parents. After reading Brene's highly interesting and relatable books, I am learning to speak Shame. As unsexy as it sounds, both books are so good I could not put them down. The lessons I have learned and will impart on my family and friends are invaluable. Trust me.” …. (the next comments refer to Gifts of Imperfection): “Brown has made her life's work about studying shame. Shame! What a topic. And in this book, she brings shame into the light, helps the reader understand shame, and overcome the limiting power of feeling imperfect. Brown also writes about her research in a way that makes statistics come alive, and very accessible.”

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik. “A sad, sad non-fiction story of a woman's life in 20th century Iran. Would have loved to see more exploration of the emotional conflict of the decision to leave her daughter and the lack of relationship thereafter, but a really interesting read as a woman, mother, and world citizen where cultures come together and are in conflict all the time.”

The Grace of Silence: A Memoir by Michele Norris. “Michele Norris is the host of All Things Considered at NPR. This book is her memoir about her family and growing up as an African American. While it is thought provoking, it is a quick and easy read. She tells a great story, and it may leave the reader wishing to explore their own family histories.”

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Funby Gretchen Rubin. “I think many of us feel like the author. Our lives our great, but it would be nice if we could sometimes have a little more control and appreciate what we have we might be even happier.”

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Lossby Edmund de Waal. “When Edmund de Waal inherits a collection of Japanese netsuke (small hand carved figurines), he decides to trace its past back to when it first entered his family's possession. We should be glad that he did. The history of the netsuke collection introduces us to several fascinating characters anda glimpse into the lives of a prominent Jewish family from the late 1800's through to present day.”

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo. “The title says it all -- a three year old having an emergency operation apparently leaves his body and goes to Heaven. He is instructed by Jesus to go back to Earth, as an answer to the child's father's prayer. Over the course of the years that follow this experience, his story is revealed to his family.”

House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Streetby William D. Cohan. “Recommended by Malcolm Gladwell when I heard him speak as the best explanation of the financial meltdown.”

How Reading Changed My Lifeby Anna Quindlen “This has been around awhile, but it is quick and true to her pithy writing style. I think I picked it up on a trip to Barnes & Noble with the kids as a 'HA! See?' out of frustration that my children weren't taking enough time to read for pleasure (although seem to have time for emailing, American Idol and other sundry activities). Anyway, it did not disappoint. I enjoyed the book lists in the back, as it inspired me to create my own... and perhaps to inspire my children to do the same :)”

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlinby Erik Larsen. “Erik Larson writes non-fiction like fiction. In Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck he weaves the stories of real people and murders into major events in history (1893 Chicago World's Fair and invention of the Marconi Wireless respectively). In the Garden of the Beasts, he tracks the lives of U.S. Ambassador William Dodd and his socialite daughter Martha during Ambassador Dodd's time in Berlin during the 1930s. Since the story has Hitler, there is no shortage of murders but this was still at the time when people weren't sure how crazy Hitler was or even if his power would last. Martha Dodd was pretty crazy too, just not the murdering type.”

Just Kidsby Patti Smith “A memoir of rocker Patti Smith's love affair with photographer Robert Mappelthorpe. Won the National Book Award. Written like a prose poem, I was staggered by the love, the creativity, the connection between these two geniuses. Loved.”

Letters to a Young Poetby Rainer Maria Rilke “Written in the earliest part of the last century, these letters from Rilke to a young, struggling poet outline how one can live a life that matters. Rilke's insights and gorgeous writing stand the test of time - his point of view is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it all down.”

Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eatby Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. “This is Chef Grant Achatz's memoir, written with his business partner and best friend, Nick Kokonas. Grant's restaurant, Alinea, is currently the top-ranked restaurant in America (#7 in the world). The book chronicles Grant's drive for success, his battle against Stage 4 tongue cancer, and how he and Nick built one of the world's best restaurants.”

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoirby Kate Braestrop. “( pronounced bra-strap) hilarious memoir!!! a must read!!!!!”

Martha Gellhorn : A Lifeby Caroline Moorehead. “Buckle up! Martha covered every conflict over a span of sixty years, was very close to Elenor Roosevelt and stopped by the White House on a whim, hung out with - and barely tolerated - all of the biggest stars in Hollywood and, as an aside, according to one of Hemingway's sons was the first beautiful woman he'd met who said [the f word]. And that she did. She was never dull and makes me wish I hadn't gone into banking after college! The biographer, Moorehead, was the daughter of one of Martha's dear friends and had access to her abundance of letters and knew her well into her old age. Now, this new twist has me ready to read one of Gellhorn's books Travels With Myself and Another: A Memoire.”

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Homeby Rhoda Janzen. “This is a wicked-funny memoir about the year the author turns forty, her husband leaves her for a dude he met on, and a car accident leaves her seriously injured. She packs her bags and returns to her quirky Mennonite family. They welcome her with open arms but also do things like suggest she date her cousin to get over her heartbreak. I read the entire book on a fight to L.A. and couldn't stop laughing.”

Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life by Quinn Cummings “Remember 1970s and '80s child actor, Quinn Cummings? [ed: She was in Goodbye Girl and was on Family for three years – 'google image' her – you will recognize her]. This is her memoir, which reads like a series of short stories. Stories that will make you guffaw and want to hug the stuffing out of her. Easy to get through... or, you could read a chapter a week over the summer and not feel like you're losing any of the story.”

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffinby Kathy Griffin. “A laugh out loud book by the Queen of my Comedy Tribe. A hilarious dish by the fearless and hysterical Griffin.”

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore. From Amazon: "Moore, an investment banker, Rhodes scholar, and former aide to Condoleezza Rice, was intrigued when he learned that another Wes Moore, his age and from the same area of Greater Baltimore, was wanted for killing a cop. Meeting his double and delving into his life reveals deeper likenesses: raised in fatherless families and poor black neighborhoods, both felt the lure of the money and status to be gained from dealing drugs. That the author resisted the criminal underworld while the other Wes drifted into it is chalked up less to character than to the influence of relatives, mentors, and expectations that pushed against his own delinquent impulses, to the point of exiling him to military school." .... “True story, quick read, thought provoking.”

I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflectionsby Nora Ephron. “I’m a huge fan of Nora Ephron, and I listened to this collection of essays as an audiobook, read by Nora Ephron. The essays are wonderful and as always, she’s very entertaining.”

Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History
by Ben Mezrich (Another soon-to-be-published suggestion from my mole in the publishing biz – in stores on 7/12/2011) “About the Book: Thad Roberts, a fellow in a prestigious NASA program had an idea—a romantic, albeit crazy, idea. He wanted to give his girlfriend the moon. Literally. Thad convinced his girlfriend and another female accomplice, both NASA interns, to break into an impregnable laboratory at NASA—past security checkpoints, an electronically locked door with cipher security codes, and camera-lined hallways—and help him steal the most precious objects in the world: the moon rocks.”

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiographyby Rob Lowe. "His book is a terrific fun read. It is juicy without being trashy and his insights about himself, others and Hollywood prove that he is intelligent and thoughtful as well as adorable."

Strength in What Remainsby Tracy Kidder. "Amazing true story of how a young man escapes the genocide in Burundi/Rwanda and builds a life for himself in the U.S. starting with absolutely nothing. Truly inspirational."

Townie: A Memoirby Andre Dubus. "Andre had a gritty, violent childhood and he talks honestly about the desire and the thrills of his own violence. He also explores his complex and intense relationship with his father, writer Andre Dubus II. I was glad that Andre did not focus on his own eventual success, never mentioning Oprah etc. This is not a rags to riches tale - its the story of a boy who becomes a man. A man who can write in a way that compels you to keep reading. Before I knew it, my weekend was over and I had barely moved from my seat or taken my eyes off the pages of this book."

The True History of Chocolate (Second Edition)by Sophie Coe. “Chocolate + culture + history = interesting read. Caveat Emptor: I am the one who brought home "The Story of Salt" to read to my then young children. But if you're into this kind of thing, it is rather fascinating to see how a food we take for granted has influenced economies and culture for thousands of years.”

When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch with Lifeby Saul Frampton. From Amazon: "After enduring in short succession the deaths of his daughter; father; best friend; and brother, 'killed absurdly, tragically, by the blow from a tennis ball,' Montaigne retreated to his tower library, intending to write and prepare himself for his own death. Out of this dismal exercise came Les Essais, his eccentric and invaluable essays on his milieu, philosophy, and preoccupations. Frampton tucks a good deal of biography into his tour of the evolution of the essays and the events that inspired them—but his extraordinary achievement is in conveying—and inviting the reader to commune with—Montaigne's unique sensibility and his take on death, sex, travel, friendship, kidney stones, the human thumb, and above all, "the power of the ordinary and the unremarkable, the value of the here-and-now." This scholarly romp through the Renaissance is a jewel."

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Manby Jerry Weintraub. “A brilliant memoir by a brilliant hustler. My interest was peaked when I saw him interviewed. His charisma is such that he is married (40 plus years )and lives with his (younger ) girlfriend. As if this is not outlandish enough, his wife and girlfriend are best friends. After watching his HBO documentary, 'His Way,' I totally got how Jerry managed to get away with both a wife and a girlfriend. His riveting life story takes him as a scrappy kid in the Bronx through an unsurpassed career as a Music promoter to a movie producer. It is a peak behind the curtain of the high and lows of his career as a promoter for Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, and a movie producer of several famous movies including, but not limited to, the Oceans series. I could not put this book down. I wish he was my next door neighbor. I love the guy.”

A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story by Isabel Gillies (from my mole inside the publishing world– on shelves 8/2/2011) “About the Book: At the heart of this sweetly humorous and incisive follow-up memoir to her bestselling Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story is a Julia Child story Isabel's mother used to tell. While displaying a delicately rendered nest-like sugar basket for the camera, Julia fumbles her creation and sends it crashing to the floor. Briefly looking at the mess, Julia announces that the only thing to do is to start again, and she resolutely turns back to the stove to measure out more sugar. Thirty five, single mother of two, unemployed, broke, and on the heels of a shattering divorce, Isabel leaves the life she created in Ohio to move back into her parents' New York City apartment. Thus, in the spirit of Julia Child's message, Isabel dusts herself off and starts over, and in turn, learns to embrace love and life again.”

NOTE: For the 2011 "Older Fiction/Favorites From Previous Years," click on "older posts" below this posting.

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