Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Books

It sounds like Maurice but for the 1950s.

Walter Samson is a successful book editor in post-World War II New York. He has money, an interesting wife, two smart children, and reason to believe he's leading the good American life—until a chance meeting with Barry Rogers. Barry is blue-collar, handsome, single, and poor. Walter is instantly drawn to Barry and, despite the considerable risks, installs him in the Samson's three-story house on the Upper East Side, where the two men try to keep their amorous relationship secret. Against a backdrop of McCarthy-era fear and pervasive homophobia, Walter manages to alter the direction and course of his life, losing much but gaining more.

Skulls is a beautiful spellbinding exploration of more than 300 different animal skulls ­— amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles — written by New York Times bestselling author, Simon Winchester and produced in collaboration with Theodore Gray and Touch Press, the geniuses behind The Elements and Solar System.

In Skulls, best-selling author Simon Winchester (author of The Professor and the Madman; Atlantic: A Biography of the Ocean; Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded; and others) tells the rich and fascinating story of skulls, both human and animal, from every perspective imaginable: historical, biographical, cultural, and iconographic. Presenting details about the parts of the skull (including the cranium, the mandible, the shape and positioning of the eye sockets, and species-specific features like horns, teeth, beaks and bills), information about the science and pseudoscience of skulls, and a look at skulls in religion, art and popular culture, his stories and information are riveting and enlightening.

At the center of Skulls is a stunning, never-before-seen-in-any-capacity, visual array of the skulls of more than 300 animals that walk, swim, and fly. The skulls are from the collection of Alan Dudley, a British collector and owner of what is probably the largest and most complete private collection of skulls in the world. Every skull is beautifully photographed to show several angles and to give the reader the most intimate view possible. Each includes a short explanatory paragraph and a data box with information on the animal's taxonomy, behavior, and diet.

Take me out / tonight / where I want to see people / and I want to see light...

The definitive book about The Smiths, one of the most beloved, respected, and storied indie rock bands in music history.

They were, their fans believe, the best band in the world. Hailing from Manchester, England, The Smiths — Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce — were critical and popular favorites throughout their mid-1980s heyday and beyond. To this day, due to their unforgettable songs and lyrics, they are considered one of the greatest British rock groups of all time—up there with the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and the Clash.

Tony Fletcher paints a vivid portrait of the fascinating personalities within the group: Morrissey, the witty, literate lead singer whose loner personality and complex lyrics made him an icon for teenagers who felt forlorn and forgotten; his songwriting partner Marr, the gregarious guitarist who became a rock god for a generation of indie kids; and the talented, good-looking rhythm section duo of bassist Rourke and drummer Joyce. Despite the band's tragic breakup at the height of their success, A Light That Never Goes Out is a celebration: the saga of four working-class kids from a northern English city who come together despite contrasting personalities, find a musical bond, inspire a fanatical following, and leave a legacy that changed the music world — and the lives of their fans.

When Sophia Al-Maria's mother sends her away from rainy Washington State to stay with her husband's desert-dwelling Bedouin family in Qatar, she intends it to be a sort of teenage cultural boot camp. What her mother doesn't know is that there are some things about growing up that are universal. In Qatar, Sophia is faced with a new world she'd only imagined as a child. She sets out to find her freedom, even in the most unlikely of places.

Both family saga and coming-of-age story, The Girl Who Fell to Earth takes readers from the green valleys of the Pacific Northwest to the dunes of the Arabian Gulf and on to the sprawling chaos of Cairo. Struggling to adapt to her nomadic lifestyle, Sophia is haunted by the feeling that she is perpetually in exile: hovering somewhere between two families, two cultures, and two worlds. She must make a place for herself — a complex journey that includes finding young love in the Arabian Gulf, rebellion in Cairo, and, finally, self-discovery in the mountains of Sinai.

The Girl Who Fell to Earth heralds the arrival of an electric new talent and takes us on the most personal of quests: the voyage home.

Passwords Primeval sets aside the artificial boundaries of poetry "schools" and "movements" to cut to the art of the matter. Tony Leuzzi's astounding knowledge of poetry draws new insights from such luminaries as Billy Collins, Gerald Stern, Jane Hirshfield, Patricia Smith, and Martín Espada. These new interviews provide insights into the poets and their poems without compromising any of their mystery. Whether you're looking for deeper understanding of your favorite poets or are simply interested in the lives of contemporary artists, Passwords Primeval reveals the interconnectedness of these masters whose voices echo each other from opposite ends of the same canyon.

Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay like that!

Feed a cold, starve a fever!

Don’t touch your Halloween candy until we get it checked out!

Never run with scissors

Don’t look in the microwave while it’s running!

This will go down on your permanent record

Is any of it true? If so, how true? Ken Jennings wants to find out if mother and father always know best. Yes, all those years you were told not to sit too close to the television (you’ll hurt your eyes!) or swallow your gum (it stays in your stomach for seven years!) or crack your knuckles (arthritis!) are called into question by our country’s leading trivia guru. Jennings separates myth from fact to debunk a wide variety of parental edicts: no swimming after meals, sit up straight, don’t talk to strangers, and so on.

Armed with medical case histories, scientific findings, and even the occasional experiment on himself (or his kids), Jennings exposes countless examples of parental wisdom run amok. Whether you’re a parent who wants to know what you can stop worrying about or a kid (of any age) looking to say, “I told you so,” this is the anti–helicopter parenting book you’ve been waiting for.

When Charles Dickens died in 1870 he was the best-known man in the English-speaking world — the pre-eminent Victorian celebrity, universally mourned as both a noble spirit and the greatest of novelists. Yet when the first person named in his will turned out to be an unknown woman named Ellen Ternan, only a handful of people had any idea who she was, and her conspicuous presence in his will was a mystery. Of his romance with Ellen, Dickens had written, “it belongs to my life and probably will only die out of the same with the proprietor,” and so it was — until his death she remained the most important person in his life.

She was not the first woman who had fired his imagination. As a young man he had fallen deeply in love with a woman who “pervaded every chink and crevice” of his mind for three years, Maria Beadnell, and when she eventually jilted him he vowed that “I never can love any human creature breathing but yourself.” A few years later he was stunned by the sudden death of his young sister-in-law, Mary Scott Hogarth, and worshiped her memory for the rest of his life. “I solemnly believe that so perfect a creature never breathed,” he declared, and when he died over thirty years later he was still wearing her ring.

Charles Dickens has no rival as the most fertile creative imagination since William Shakespeare, and no one influenced his imagination more powerfully than these three women, his muses and teachers in the school of love. Using hundreds of primary sources, Charles Dickens in Love narrates the story of the most intense romances of Dickens’s life, and shows how his novels both testify to his own strongest affections and serve as memorials to the young women he loved all too well, if not always wisely.

The lil cat lady in me immediately latched onto this.

Chinese Whiskers by Pallavi Aiyar is a charming fable set against the landscape of contemporary Beijing, seen through the eyes of two cats.

Soyabean is a middle class cat looked after by a grandmother who embodies traditional Chinese morality. Tofu is born to a stray cat mother in a backyard dustbin. They are brought together when they are adopted by foreigners, who live in a traditional style courtyard house in Beijing’s traditional hutong neighborhoods. Then Soyabean is offered a job as a model for a new brand of cat food while at the same time a mysterious virus is sickening people across the city. Cats are blamed for it and are being rounded up, and Soyabean and Tofu's idyllic lives as pampered pets come to an abrupt end.

Interweaving real episodes in recent Chinese history such as the Olympic Games, the SARS virus, and tainted pet-food scandals with a richly imagined world, this heartwarming story of cats and humans does what W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose did for canines. It will make you laugh and tear up, while showing the battles fought between the corruption of modern living and the ideals of traditional life.

Not that this is the time of year for me to plant anything...

It's a tired turn of phrase, but the grass is always greener on the other side. And for gardeners, it's not just the grass — it's the flowers, the shrubs, and the trees.

No longer! Pining to grow lilac but lack the full sun? Try the fragrant pink and white flowers of Korean spice viburnum. Love the drama of canna but need something hardier? Try the bold foliage of variegated fleece flower. Why Grow That When You Can Grow This? offers hundreds of all-star alternatives that replace — and often outshine — popular problem plants.

Garden designer Andrew Keys makes it easier than ever to skip over the fussy plant prima donnas and move toward the equally gorgeous understudies. Each profile shows the problem plant and offers three alternatives that include three or more of the original plant's characteristics — hardiness, shape, color, texture, light, and size.

With this fun and accessible guide, you can discover the secret to choosing the plants destined to be the new stars of your garden.

One of the twentieth century’s most colorful characters brought back to life in this biography by the author of All About All About Eve

With Inventing Elsa Maxwell, Sam Staggs has crafted a landmark biography. Elsa Maxwell (1881-1963) invented herself–not once, but repeatedly. Built like a bulldog, she ascended from the San Francisco middle class to the heights of society in New York, London, Paris, Venice, and Monte Carlo. Shunning boredom and predictability, Elsa established herself as party-giver extraordinaire in Europe with come-as-you-are parties, treasure hunts (e.g., retrieve a slipper from the foot of a singer at the Casino de Paris), and murder parties that drew the ire of the British parliament. She set New York a-twitter with her soirees at the Waldorf, her costume parties, and her headline-grabbing guest lists of the rich and royal, movie stars, society high and low, and those on the make all mixed together in let-'er-rip gaiety. All the while, Elsa dashed off newspaper columns, made films in Hollywood, wrote bestselling books, and turned up on TV talk shows. She hobnobbed with friends like Noel Coward and Cole Porter. Late in life, she fell in love with Maria Callas, who spurned her and broke Elsa's heart. Her feud with the Duchess of Windsor made headlines for three years in the 1950s.

Inventing Elsa Maxwell, the first biography of this extraordinary woman, tells the witty story of a life lived out loud.

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