All the Sundays Yet to Come: A Skater's Journey
"For every Tiger Woods," Kathryn Bertine reminds us in her touching memoir, All the Sundays Yet to Come, "there is a cub of a golfer swinging away, for every Lance Armstrong, a kid whose pink Huffy just had the training wheels taken off." Because, Bertine says, the numbers are against you, especially in her sport: figure skating. "Of the roughly 250,000 members of the United States Figure Skating Association, fourteen skaters make the twice-a-decade [Olympic] games. I was one of the other 249,986." Her Olympic dreams finally dashed, Bertine turns pro, touring South America with Hollywood on Ice, with a cast of characters straight out of Vaudeville. Her misadventures with the ice show lead her to eventually understand that life as a professional figure skater is different than life as a professional athlete: and it's a different she can't live with. All the Sundays Yet to Come is a delightful, touching, heartwarming look into a world few have been allowed to glimpse.
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
Few high-seas adventures seem more resolutely anchored in the historical record than that of the British cutter Bounty, which sailed for Tahiti in 1787 on a mission to collect breadfruit trees. As we all know, this assignment was never completed. Instead, the vessel was sacrificed in the psychodramatic wake of a 1789 mutiny, during which "tyrannical" commander Lieutenant William Bligh was cast off in a small launch with 18 loyalists, while Bligh's "romantic" protégé, master's mate Fletcher Christian, led his fellow rebels back to sensual Tahiti and thence into exile on Pitcairn Island. Yet that rendering of the tale may be more sensational than factual. It certainly lacks the political intrigue and nuanced interpersonal tensions to be found in Caroline Alexander's freshly researched history, The Bounty. Here we discover a "passionate" but not overly autocratic Bligh, whose leadership techniques and "almost fetishistic concern for hygiene" were learned in service to the great British explorer Captain James Cook. It's testament to Bligh's abilities that several Bounty sailors who were not ordered off the ship by the mutineers chose to go with him nonetheless, and that Bligh was then able to navigate their overloaded open boat all the way to the Indonesian island of Timor -- a 3,600-mile journey. If Alexander's portrayal of Christian is fuzzier, it may be because the mate's motivation for rebellion -- he evidently cracked after a disagreement with Bligh over some filched coconuts -- "would have been laughable, had so much death and suffering not resulted." Fletcher Christian's brother Edward also did much in this sea scandal's aftermath to distort his sibling as a wronged man, instead of a criminal, and in the process helped to twist Bligh's historical legacy from that of hero to villain. Although The Bounty gets off to a slow start, focusing on the lengthy South Seas search for mutineers, Alexander (whose previous book was The Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton's harrowing 1914 Antarctic expedition) eventually shows her skill for bleeding drama from the seemingly parched carcass of the past. After combing through wills, correspondence and voluminous court documents, she presents a compelling yarn that touches on man's hunger for Eden and other Bounty-legend themes, but is even more about very human misjudgments and their lifelong consequences. -- J. Kingston Pierce
Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook was the 18th century equivalent of a movie star. In Europe, people thrilled to hear of his adventures. His three voyages to the new world changed how western civilization perceived the globe. He sailed into what maps were then showing as blank space and brought home news of previously unimagined lands and cultures in Antarctica, the Arctic, Eastern Australia and New Zealand as well as many islands in the Pacific. Though he was a hero and a celebrity back at home, people in the new worlds didn't view him as such: as his ships brought venereal disease and the self-righteous Christian desire to improve upon what was discovered unique to Europeans. In his exhaustively-researched biography of Cook, Nicholas Thomas -- a professor of anthropology at the University of London originally from Sydney, Australia -- for the first time brings us all views of the man who changed the shape of the known world. Cook is a lucid, enjoyable read. Thomas captures all of the excitement and controversy that Cook's voyages brought and shares it with us in a memorable, satisfying way.
The David Suzuki Reader: A Lifetime of Ideas from a Leading Activist and Thinker
An internationally known scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, David Suzuki brings some of his finest thoughts of the last quarter century together in what he calls "a kind of 'Best of' book." Many of the essays collected in The David Suzuki Reader were originally published in various books, though several are original to this work. "Looking back at these essays," writes Suzuki, "written over a period of twenty-five years, I am surprised that many remain relevant today. So in the best environmentalist tradition, I am recycling the best of these along with new essays never published in a book before in the hope of finding a new audience for the ideas." Those familiar with Suzuki's work are also familiar with those ideas: thoughts on political shortsightedness, the interconnectedness of all things, the potential destructiveness of globalization and the bright future that can be, if only we can all get it right. As always, reading Suzuki is a joy. While he understands all of the bleak corners that none of us want to look into all too deeply (and he's wonderful at helping us to understand them, too) he is, at heart, an optimist. His writing reflects both of those things, and we're the richer for it.
Death and Justice: An Exposé of Oklahoma's Death Row Machine
Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty
Given that the United States is one of the few democracies left that regularly kills its own citizens -- and, in fact, has an execution rate ranking right up there with China's and Iran's -- it's heartening to see two of America's best-selling writers releasing non-fiction books about capital punishment, just in time for this gift-giving season. That both of these works approach the topic from very different angles is not surprising, perhaps, considering that one was penned by a former lawyer, the other by a former cop; but the books' conclusions may surprise many of their authors' fans. Scott Turow, of course, is a very successful attorney-turned-crime novelist who still practices law, and has worked both sides of actual death penalty cases. Ultimate Punishment, his examination of Illinois' troubled capital punishment system, is just about what you'd expect. At times reminiscent of a legal brief, it is an eloquent but occasionally dry marshaling of facts, a volume filled with legal precedents and big words, all leading to a dramatic closing statement. What is a little unexpected is how -- at least initially -- Turow sits on the fence. "Every time that I thought I was prepared to stake out a position, something would drive me back in the other direction," this one-time "death penalty agnostic" ruefully admits, before finally declaring himself now firmly opposed to capital punishment. Many may dismiss Turow as a cry-baby liberal lawyer, yet his conclusions are remarkably similar to those of Fuhrman, who isn't anybody's idea of a bleeding-heart. A sense of anger and injustice truly links these two oddly complementary books. One offers an eloquent, compassionate intelligence, and the other a rough-edged intelligent compassion. -- Kevin Burton Smith
January Magazine crime fiction editor J. Kingston Pierce takes us on an effervescent journey through Seattle's... er... eccentric history in his latest history related book, Eccentric Seattle. In his introduction, Pierce describes how Seattle came to be. "Thus the city was born," writes Pierce. "It would prove to be a fast-growing but troubled child, which didn't always play well with others." This troubled child aspect is where Pierce leads us. We learn about mail order brides, a nutty Pulitzer Prize-winning Seattle poet; anti-Communist witch-hunts in MacArthy-era Seattle; the first woman mayor of a large American city; rumrunning during Prohibition and so much more. Pierce, the author of America's Historic Trails with Tom Bodett and San Francisco: You're History, has written extensively on history in general and the history of Seattle in particular so, in Eccentric Seattle, we believe him when he tells us that he learned "long ago that history isn't merely about dates, places, and statistics; what gives it life are the people who charted its course, whether they were empire builders or avaricious businessmen, eristic newspaper editors or erratic preachers, artists or murderers." In Eccentric Seattle, Pierce introduces us to all of them.
Frontier Spirit: the Brave Women of the Klondike
Unlike other books on this topic that seem written from a distance -- even if the distance is only spiritual, not physical -- Jennifer Duncan writes, as much as possible, from the inside. In the introduction to Frontier Sprit Duncan tells of her own experiences in the Klondike. The writer and writing instructor went to Dawson City with preconceptions of what Northern life would be like and came away with a respect and, on some levels, understanding for the women who made their homes there." It was the women of today," writes Duncan, "who inspired me to go back to the Gold Rush days to find women who were just as admirable." With the surety of an accomplished writer of fiction and the poet's delicate touch, Duncan engagingly weaves the story of these historic women. There's Kate Carmack, born Shaaw Tláa, the Tlingit woman credited with starting the rush for gold and whose life progressed badly. In some ways, by starting her book with this story, Duncan seems to have chosen to use Carmack as a metaphor for the First Nations people of the Klondike and the heavy-handed way they were treated by the white man. Other stories are just as interesting: the journalist Faith Fenton; Nellie Cashman, the "miner's angel;" and many others. Duncan's work is fact, not fiction. Enthralled readers might have trouble telling the difference.
Guinness World Records 2004
Most of us don't remember a time when Guinness World Records wasn't the standard for what was new and odd in the world. Since 1955 the people at Guinness have been bringing us the most, the longest, the tallest and the weirdest of everything in the world. The 2004 edition may be bigger and shinier than ever before but, at it's heart, it's the same book we grew up with: still ready to astound, amaze and gross out. And, as always, it makes a great gift.
Hockey's Young Superstars: The 25 Hottest Players on Ice
Nik Antropov, Dan Blackburn, Dany Heatley: will these hot young hockey players be among the legends of tomorrow? Author Jeff Rud doesn't voice an opinion, except by including them in his book. What he does do is gives us detailed background -- a chapter per player -- on 25 of the top young guns in the NHL. While stats on each player have, of course, been included, author Rud is a talented sportswriter and has been for the last couple of decades. In Hockey's Young Superstars he struts his stuff, giving us 25 in-depth and intimate profiles of the hockey hotties, including where they came from, where they are and where they might be going.
Kama Sutra: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Sex
A lot of versions of the 4th century Indian guide, The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, have been published over the years. The first English language Kama Sutra was published in England in 1883. Since that time, many interpretations have reached print. Most recently a whole raft of them seemingly aimed at the gift book market: as much a gentle aid to lust as a manual of instruction. Nitya Lacroix's well produced Kama Sutra: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Sex takes everything a few steps further. Lacroix, the author of over 20 books, mostly on the twinned topics of sex and sexuality, here uses the Kama Sutra as a jumping off point for contemporary sexuality. The book that has resulted is like a very good modern and practical how-to book on making the sex in your life better.
KISS: Behind the Mask
Almost anyone who remembers them from the mid-1970s will recall the same first impression when seeing them: Well this can't last. How could it? Four grown men in ridiculous make-up shouting at teenagers from the stage. And yet: over 80 million albums and three decades later, their still pristine make-up fortunately shielding us from the aging visages of other musicians, the KISS mystique continues to sell albums and now likely books, as well. If you are a KISS fan, or know someone who is, the is the book. Beautifully -- even lovingly -- written, researched over more time than should ever be given a rock biography, KISS: Behind the Mask will answer every question anyone ever had about this exceedingly odd, exceptionally enduring rock band.
Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster
Nationally televised disaster coverage is so common nowadays, it's easy to forget the very first such focus: the 1958 collapse of North America's deepest coal mine, in Springhill, Nova Scotia. As Melissa Fay Greene recalls in her powerfully detailed Last Man Out, media attention made that ordeal alternately heart-rending and heart-warming. Of the 174 men who were working the three-level excavation when shifting rock suddenly destroyed it, 99 escaped alive. But 19 of those surviving miners were trapped underground for more than a week, in a lightless purgatory without food or water or any way to let the outside world know they still awaited salvation. Drawing on extensive interviews with many of this tragedy's principals, Greene (probably best known for her 1991 book, Praying for Sheetrock) winds together parallel story threads. She follows the heroic miners -- trapped in two separate parties, divided by 400 feet of solid rock -- as they minutely divide candy bars and strive to quench their thirsts from communal urine supplies, trying to maintain both health and hope. She also keeps track of their families, who watch aluminum caskets emerge from the mine entrance with demoralizing regularity. "It seemed like a malevolent factory operating in reverse: hoisting the dead in their coffins out of their burial, one by one," Greene writes. There are sections of Last Man Out that creak with the copiousness of Greene's research. However, her story benefits from its eccentric cast of characters -- especially Maurice Ruddick, a comradely black family man whom the media will dub "the Singing Miner," and Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin, the rabble-rousing racist who (along with TV host Ed Sullivan) will turn the rescued miners into minor celebs. As harrowing as their underground entrapment was, those men found themselves equally "lost" in their release. Renown is fleeting, Greene makes clear, but being forgotten sticks with you forever. -- J. Kingston Pierce
It's the stuff dreams are made of: a log cabin in the woods/by a lake/at the seaside. A little home made of rough hewn logs, perhaps even by your own hands. As Robbin Obomsawin writes in the introduction to her quite excellent little Log Cabin Classics, "A log cabin is the essence of a much slower-paced and more simple way of life. The whole lifestyle of log cabin living embodies an air of romance." Obomsawin is the construction manager and general contractor of Beaver Creek Log Homes as well as the author of three other log cabin-related books: Small Log Homes, Best Log Home Plans and The Not So Log Cabin. Clearly, Obomsawin knows about building with logs. In Log Cabin Classics she's generous with her expertise. Lovely color photos of cabins she's worked on whet the appetite, set up the dream. But Obomsawin also covers all the angles on making that dream a reality: she builds a case for a smaller cabin (an interesting thought from a contractor!), goes over considerations for the second home, considerations for planning, risks and problems that may be encountered, budgeting and contract considerations, as well as other practical concerns that the would-be builder can expect to tackle. However, far from deflating the dream, Obomsawin's careful and thorough coverage of her subject seem only to make it all the more possible.
Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History
"The Beatles began underground, in dirt and darkness. They sprouted in squalor. Their cellar walls ran with postindustrial sweat; their dressing rooms crept with fungus." From the very first lines of Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History, you know you're in for a very different sort of ride. And it has to be, at this point: 30 years after their breakup, you have to delve very deeply to find anything new to say about the Fab Four. Anything, that is, worth sharing. Devin McKinney's Magic Circles is as much pop culture comment as it is biography. In either role it's a fascinating study of a time -- and a band -- worth remembering.
Murdering Holiness: The Trials of Franz Creffield and George Mitchell
In the annals of Seattle, Washington's crime history, few tales rival the bizarre murder of "self-styled messiah" Franz Edmund Creffield and the courtroom drama it precipitated. The slaying took place downtown, early on May 7, 1906, while the reportedly lecherous prophet -- head of a flock of Holy Rollers that had scandalized the community of Corvallis, Oregon, and who'd been tarred-and-feathered and imprisoned for his trouble -- was walking with his wife. Suddenly, George Mitchell, whose two sisters had fallen under Creffield's peculiar spell, raised a pistol and put a bullet in the back of Creffield's neck, killing him instantly. It seemed a clear case of premeditated homicide; Mitchell is supposed to have told police that "I came here to kill that man." Yet according to Holiness, "Newspapers approved, or at least sympathized with, Mitchell ...; money was raised for his defense; and there was even talk in Corvallis of striking a medal for him." He was eventually acquitted -- only to fall in a subsequent revenge shooting by his own sister, Esther, that left Seattle "shamefully disgraced." The now-forgotten story of Creffield, a German-born former Salvation Army officer who, beginning in 1903, led a Pacific Northwest religious cult called the Church of the Bride of Christ, was front-page fodder for Seattle newspapers at the turn of the last century. Not surprisingly, since it featured reports of cultists rolling about on floors and screaming in spiritual agitation; rumors of animal sacrifice; claims of widespread sexual relations between Creffield and his female acolytes (one of whom would supposedly be chosen to bear Christ's child); and the eventual asylum incarceration of his followers. Yet this history has not previously been so thoroughly researched and presented as it is here -- which is both a good and bad thing. Co-authors Phillips and Gartner, both of whom teach criminology at Canada's University of Toronto, have certainly plumbed a wealth of dusty records in order to assemble their study not just of Creffield, but also of the societal expectations placed on his female adherents and the "unwritten law" that murder might be justified in order to preserve family honor. However, in their adamancy not to sensationalize what can only be considered the most sensational sort of historical episode, the authors sometimes bury the appealing outlandishness of their subject beneath a landslide of academic contextualism. -- J. Kingston Pierce
Why does a groom carry his bride over the threshold? How did Clark Kent get his name? How much weight does the average person gain over Christmas? Why are Levi denims called "jeans"? In his book, Now You Know, based on the syndicated radio show of the same name, broadcaster, actor and writer Doug Lennox answers those questions and many, many more. "The DNA of a culture is found within its language and rituals," writes Lennox in his introduction. "These are our living links to the past." They also make pretty interesting reading. And now we know.
101 Uses for an Old Harley
Clearly, 101 Uses for an Old Harley isn't for just anyone on your list. It's a book for the Harley Davidson motorcycle fanatic. You know the one: the guy (and it probably is a guy) who lives and breathes Harleys. And though the title suggests a book of motorcycles turned into planters and wheelbarrows and pet beds, this is not at all the case. 101 Uses for an Old Harley is more a celebration of all things Harley Davidson and includes many historic photos with captions that support the premise of the book. For instance, use 49 is "Faithful Steed," illustrated by a photo of Roy Rogers on his motorcycle with the caption: "Roy Rogers found a Harley-Davidson to be the next best thing to Trigger." Use 26 is "Picnic Basket," illustrated by a 1950s photo of a handsome young couple picnicking next a lake, their Harley-Davidson gleaming patiently in the foreground. Use 71 is "Women's Liberator," and shows silent film star Easter Walters on her Harley-Davidson horizontal twin. Chorus Line, Stunt Double, Farm Truck, Hair Dryer: it's a fun little book sure to please the aficionado.
Orwell: The Life
D.J. Taylor's brilliant biography of George Orwell -- who, we discover, was born Eric Blair -- underscores something we've known all along: The writer, who died in his 40s in 1950, didn't live nearly long enough. Taylor, a fan of Orwell's work since childhood, at times waxes almost poetic. ("For Orwell is, above all, a moral force, a light glinting in the darkness, a way through the murk.") Mostly, though, he tells Orwell's overwhelmingly sad story with the sensitivity and careful eye for research that has contributed to making him well respected as a literary critic and reviewer. Though Taylor has written several books, he is perhaps best known for the biography Thackeray.
Out On A Leash
What happens when show business' bestselling cosmic kook goes to the dogs? Sound like the plot for a really bad new sitcom? Or did you guess? After trekking the Camino to get completely in touch with her spiritual selves and communing with her earlier selves, Warren Beatty's sister is now trekking the Sierra Madres with her dog, Terry the terrier, who, as it turns out, was the Egyptian god Anubis in her earlier life. In truth, the book isn't as mad as it sounds: though it does sound quite mad. Especially when you start reading and realize that roughly half the text was actually written by Terry. The dog. The other half was written by Terry's MM: Mistress Mother, a.k.a. Shirley MacLaine. Reading Out On A Leash, however, you remember why most of MacLaine's previous nine books have done so well: she writes compellingly -- even when talking in a dog's voice -- and, we discover, in arriving at what she calls "the age of reason," MacLaine has learned a thing or two. Oh, sure: some of it is veiled in the aforementioned kookiness, but there's some pretty good stuff here, as well. As she tells us in her introduction, since acquiring Terry, she been "having a new experience with love." And who couldn't use more of that?
A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict
Early on in A Pound of Paper, novelist, broadcaster, film critic, film biographer and book collector John Baxter tells us about the moment when he found his passion. At the Swiss Cottage flea market in north London in 1978, a canny bookseller put some books by Graham Greene in front of him. "I looked down at the three books," writes Baxter. "It took little imagination to visualize them next to my copies of Greene's more recent novels. In an instant, an accumulation became a collection, and my life would never be quite the same." How much not the same is what a great deal of the remaining pages of A Pound of Paper shows us. Along the way he meets literary greats -- Kingsley Amis, Ray Bradbury and the aforementioned Greene among them -- and visits cities all over the western world on his quest for additions to his collection. A Pound of Paper is a delight: part romp, part Antiques Roadshow, part travelogue memoir and all parts good fun.
A Royal Duty
Though most of the furor that accompanied the publication of Paul Burrell's book on Princess Diana has died down, A Royal Duty is sure to be found under many trees this holiday: it's just that sort of book. Was Burrell that faithful servant he portrays himself as, devoted to the princess' memory? Or has he become a muckracking scoundrel, dishing dirt on dear departed Diana? Whatever the case, A Royal Duty makes for fascinating reading: even if it's difficult knowing how it all turns out. Burrell emerges just as he presents himself: once the Queen's footman, Diana's butler until her death and still her biggest fan, faithful even beyond the end. If some of the royals found Burrell's portrait of them unflattering, it feels as though it might be their own fault. If you live better than God can afford, you'd best develop a thick skin. Fans of Princess Diana will adore this book: it's the most intimate portrait imaginable.
Taylor's Encyclopedia of Garden Plants
The first book in the Taylor's gardening series was Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening, originally published in 1936. It was by Norman Taylor, a learned, eccentric, well-traveled man, and one of the leading botanists of the first half of the 20th century. Of the many books Taylor put his name to, Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening was the one that would earn its author the widest following and the highest accolades: at the time of the publication of its fourth edition in 1956, the book had grown to over 1300 pages and was considered the bible of the landscape gardener. Norman Taylor -- passed on to the great garden many years ago -- has had no hand in Taylor's Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Except, perhaps, spiritually. Taylor's original book was published by Houghton Mifflin, as is this latest installment. Also, the woman who breathed new life into the Taylor's line of gardening books, editor Frances Tannenbaum, was responsible for this book as well. The book calls itself "The most authoritative guide to the best flowers, trees, and shrubs for North American gardens." It just may well be. Beautifully illustrated, clearly written and of massive dimensions, you get the feeling that, if it isn't in here, it probably doesn't need to be.
The Wright Way: 7 Problem-Solving Principles From the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar
December 17, 2003 is the 100th anniversary of the first manned flight. In celebration of this centennial, expect to see more books on the Wright brothers this holiday season than usual. While many books have given us glimpses of the brothers and their road to aviation's first big success, none have brought us the view quite from Mark Eppler's stance. As Eppler tells us in his preface, "Although much has been written about the Wright brothers' invention," and the author leads us to several good biographies, "nothing has been written that addresses the problem-solving principles they followed in creating it. Principles that, if applied to today's business challenges, could yield the same successful results." The subtext: why should your business walk when it could fly?