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What are you reading now?

On the advice of an avid Between the Covers reader, I'm asking. Now it's up to you folks to natter on about what's floating your boat literature-wise these days. So bring it.

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Jill Cassidy

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West, by Hampton Sides. It got a lot of praise for being a bio of Kit Carson, but it's actually a great retelling of all the people and events coming to a head in the Southwest in the 1800s. Kids would learn a lot more history if they read this instead of whatever lame textbooks are being taught.

Connie

I always wonder why the history books written when I was in school were so dull. Clearly there are plenty of excellent historians writing now.

I've heard good things about Hampton Sides, too.

Brett Bayne

Just finished: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, Audiobook read the author, Alan Alda. Extremely entertaining.

Now reading: Duma Key, by Stephen King, Audiobook version read by actor John Slattery (Ed, Desperate Housewives). I'm definitely enjoying it.

Next on the list: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, Alan Alda's follow-up to "Stuffed."

amy

Hey, Brett! How funny. I just finished "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed" on audiotape, too. I liked it. Please advise if I should listen to "Things I Overheard..." I am now listening to "Freakonomics" on audio during my commute time. (Connie, eat your heart out.) It's great!
As for REAL reading, I started reading something atrocious for my book group, "The Sex Wars" by Marge Piercy, and I hate it. I think I am going to jump to Jhumpa Lahiri's new short stories, book group be damned. We have been picking horrid books lately, except for Sena Jeter Naslund's "Antoinette," which was fab, and I might add, I picked.

Daisey

I am taking your advice and snuggling up with the new Peter Robinson book after a hard day of reading news.

It helps maintain sanity in an otherwise insane world.

Keep up the good posts.

Connie

Well, maybe you can summarize Freakanomics for me. I can't get any audiobooks out of the Broward County library system. I've clearly been banned.

You guys are really making me regret NOT taking an interview with Alan Alda a few years ago when Things I Overheard came out. It was right around the time he was nominated for an Oscar (The Aviator), an Emmy (West Wing!) and a Tony (I forget what for...maybe Glengarry Glen Ross?)
I grew up on MASH, for God's sake. Why did I say no!!!!! I think it was right around book fair time and I had lost my mind and/or was on vacation.

Is The Sex Wars fiction?

Brett Bayne

Will do, Amy!

amy

I don't know how you could pass up an interview with Alan Alda! He's fab. Love him. A good writer, too. Did you know he almost didn't do MASH because it would take him away from his family for too long, because he thought the series might even last for, gee, two years. He signed on as Hawkeye 6 hours before the pilot was to be filmed. And who doesn't love a celebrity who has been married to the same woman he wed when they were in their early 20s, when he was driving cabs and acting as a clown at birthday parties???
"Sex Wars" is fiction, about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull and those chicks, as well as a guy, forgot his name, who is completely an arch-conservative, chastity-is-next-to-godliness type of of guy. You think it would be fascinating, but Piercy is not a great writer. She's a boring writer. In my humble opinion.

Connie

Never read her. I can't say that is the first thing I would reach for...but then I shy from historical fiction (though I know, I know, Marie Antoinette is good...and I like Sena Jeter Naslund...LOVED Ahab's Wife.)

I was dumb about Alda, I admit. I think the problem was I would've had to write the story when I was off and I couldn't bring myself to do that. Stupid!

amy

which author was your favorite interview?

bibliophile

Just read Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" and loved it. Made me cry almost as much as "Peace Like a River." I think it's the kind of book you'd either love or hate, though. I could see some people thinking it was slow.

My strategy for keeping the bookshelves under control is to get books from the library first, as a rule, and then if I love them, I buy them. So I went to Half-Price Books (a wonderful used/new chain that isn't in SoFla), and there was a hardcover of Gilead for $6.98, plus a softcover for the same price! I bought both -- one to keep and one to lend out.

It apparently was Marilynne Robinson day at Half Price Books, b/c I also saw a collection of her "essays on modern thought" -- has "Adam" in the title, in a rush or I'd go look it up -- also in hardcover, and a book on selected writings of John Calvin, with an intro by Robinson. Bought all of them.

I'm listening to "Snow," the Pulitzer Prize-winner by the Turkish author whose name I am also too rushed/lazy to go look up right now. It's an amazing book for our time. Parts of it are Kafka-esque; everyone should read/listen to it. (It's about the clash between secularists and Islamists in Turkey.)

Also just bought "The Reason for God" by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Newsweek gave him and the book a full-page writeup a few weeks ago. I, like the Newsweek reviewer, think it's like a modern version of C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity," but Keller didn't like that description -- out of humility more than anything else, it seems.

After Half Price Books I went around the corner to Borders and got some books as a gift for a colleague who just adopted a baby. Bought the Hobans' "Bread and Jam for Frances" (why did the publisher feel a need to colorize the original drawings, which were lovely in their subtlety?); a board book called "Good Night Gorilla," in which a gorilla escapes from the zoo with all his pals; and a DK board book about animals and their sounds -- always a hit with the preliterate set, trust me.

College daughter called while I was wrapping "Bread and Jam" and we reminisced fondly about the Frances books. "Bread and Jam" was our favorite, especially the part where Albert eats his lunch "so that all the food comes out even." (May be paraphrasing here.)

bibliophile

Off the topic here, but I just finished typing in the secret code so that my comment would show up and that "automated robots" aren't able to post comments. Who are these automated robots, and what books do they read? And what do they have to say about them?

Connie

So I take it you're telling me I need to move Gilead and Snow to the top of the Take Me On Vacation Pile. Lord. Actually last fall, when I interviewed John Kretschmer he was telling me how much he liked Snow. I've read some of Pamuk's nonfiction in the New Yorker, but not his fiction.

Gilead has been lurking since, well, forever. You're right about it being divisive. At that panel earlier this month Diana Abe-Jaber (I think) mentioned it, and another panelist on the other side of me whispered, I hated that book.

I think I'm gonna pass on Bread and Jam for Frances though. I like the books with sounds better.

Alex S.

I just finished two George Pelecanos books -- The Night Gardener and Right As Rain.

bibliophile

Connie, I am going to have to buy you Bread and Jam for Frances for your b'day! I can't believe you haven't read it! If I have time I am going to find our copy and post excerpts here.

Connie

I loved The Night Gardener! I have yet to go back and read Right as Rain (and the 3, I think, others, in that series? Are there three?) That might be a good plane book, as opposed to Gilead. I really don't want to weep on the flight west I'm taking in a few weeks.

I CAN fight this feeling

Reading Girls Like Us, a bio on singer-songwriters Carly Simon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. Why? Cuz they rule.

Trace Adkins' Where I Stand. 'Cuz I'm about to become a conservative Republican (and you know why) and I need a primer.

The Bernstein book on Hillary Clinton is next in line.

The new Obama: Promise to Power, 'cuz comedic fiction perks me up after a long work day.

Renee M.

The best thing about Trace Adkins' book is his picture on the front cover :-) (Not saying that there is anything wrong with the book.... Connie, I'm sure you understand.)

I'm about to dip my toes into The Jane Austen Book Club. Pitiful, I know. I'm busy writing down all your suggestions.

Connie

Renee, keep your expectations a bit low for Jane Austen...it's not a great book. I liked it, but I think I liked the idea more than anything else...which may explain why I preferred the movie.

I hear that Bernstein book on Hillary Clinton is good, but I have no idea when I'd have time to read it. Biography is one thing I read very little of.

Connie

Renee: Forgot to add - I tend to be more of a Tim McGraw fan myself, but I get your drift!

nan

I just read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan, which I liked -- and which makes me feel better about not having gotten around to "The Omnivore's Dilemma" yet. I've been on a nonfiction jag for awhile now, but I've been assigned to read a couple writers we're considering for the Key West Literary Seminar next year (historical fiction, woo hoo!) -- Samantha Hunt and John Wray. They both look interesting ...

Connie

In Defense of Food is here on my When I Get to Read for Fun pile. I'm just worried that I'll have to give up sushi. My grandmas would not have known what the hell sushi is, and you're not supposed to eat things your grandma wouldn't recognize. I am NOT giving up sushi.

nan

I think sushi will be OK because it counts as recognizable food (fish, rice) and not some strange processed product like Twinkies or Go-gurt.

Connie

Does anybody really eat Twinkies anymore? I mean aren't there better sugar options in this day and age?

bibliophile

I now have time to type in excerpts from "Bread and Jam for Frances." Frances is a badger, and if you google the title on Amazon you can see some of the lovely illustrations:

It was breakfast time, and everyone was at the table.
Father was eating his egg.
Mother was eating her egg.
Gloria was sitting in a high chair and eating her egg too.
Frances was eating bread and jam.
"What a lovely egg!" said Father.
"If there is one thing I am fond of for breakfast,it is a soft-boiled egg."
"Yes," said mother, spooning up egg for the baby, "it is just the thing to start the day off right."
"Ah!" said Gloria, and ate up her egg.
Frances did not eat her egg.
She sang a little song to it.
She sang the song very softly.
"I do not like the way you slide,
I do not like your soft inside,
I do not like you lots of ways,
And I could do for many days
Without eggs."

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