One-Minute Book Reviews

April 22, 2008

“I’ve never seen one that … old” – A Second Look at ‘Primary Colors’

Filed under: Novels,Paperbacks,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In a famous scene in Primary Colors, a middle-aged political strategist whips out his penis at the headquarters of a presidential campaign in an attempt to lure young press aide to his hotel room. She looks at it and says, “I’ve never seen one that … old.” The strategist turns red and runs out of the room. Campaign aides – who have been eavesdropping – cheer. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will reconsider Primary Colors, the 1996 bestseller by Joe Klein, a Washington journalist who initially used the byline “Anonymous. The novel satirizes the first presidential campaign of a Democratic governor named Jack Stanton, stand-in for Bill Clinton. (c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 17, 2008

‘Dave Barry Turns 50′ — A Great 50th Birthday Gift (and There’s a ‘Dave Barry Turns 40,’ Too)

Filed under: Humor,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:31 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Over at Amazon.com, the reviewers are duking it out over whether Dave Barry Turns 50 is or isn’t the funniest book by the retired Pulitzer Prize–winning humor columnist. My friends, it doesn’t matter. Barry may have written funnier books, including Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. But Dave Barry Turns 50 is still a great 50th birthday gift for a reader (and one I’ve given more than once), possibly in its large-print edition. This collection of witty observations on reaching the mid-century mark is – of course — the sequel to Dave Barry Turns 40. You can find Dave Barry Turns 50 in the humor section at some bookstores but may have to order it from an online bookseller.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 4, 2008

Understanding the Tyranny in Zimbabwe That Has Led to the Arrest of a New York Times Correspondent — ‘When a Crocodile Eats the Sun’

Filed under: Memoirs,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:08 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Zimbabwean police have arrested New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, who was covering last week’s still-unresolved national election. And you could hardly find better to guide to understanding how it could have happened Peter Godwin’s memoir the terrors of Robert Mugabe’s 28-year reign in Zimbabwe, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (Back Bay, 386 pp., $14.99) www.hachettebookgroupusa.com, just out in paperback. Godwin refracts the brutality of the Mugabe years through the lens of tragedies that struck his family and friends and, in doing so, sheds light on many facts that have appeared in the news this week, including that Zimbabwe has a 100,000 percent annual inflation rate. That’s right, 100,000 percent.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 3, 2008

‘No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club’ – New in Paperback

Filed under: Novels,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club (Plume, 240 pp., $14, paperback) isn’t as funny or polished as Bridget Jones’s Diary or the masterpiece from which it descends, Diary of a Provincial Lady. But Virginia Ironside bravely assaults fashionable clichés of old age in this comic novel, subtitled Diary of a 60th Year, which has just come out in paperback. Among the ideas scorned by her diarist, Marie Sharp, are that people help their heirs by planning their own funerals and that a funeral shouldn’t be funeral but rather “a celebration” of a life. Marie is also bold enough to question the motives of book club members: “I think they feel that by reading and analyzing books, they’re keeping their brains lively. But either you’ve got a lively brain or you haven’t.” A review of and reading group guide to No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Clubwww.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/05/29/ appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews on May 29, 2007

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 8, 2008

One of the Year’s Best Books About High School Sports, Mark Kreidler’s ‘Four Days to Glory,’ Returns in a Paperback Edition

Filed under: Paperbacks,Sports,Young Adult — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:53 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Masterly reporting sheds light on an athletic subculture little-known outside the Midwest

You can’t envy parents, teachers and librarians who are looking for sports books for high school students. So many books in the category are cheesy celebrity biographies that foster the worship of false demigods instead of a love of reading or a real understanding of competition. Not Mark Kreidler’s Four Days to Glory: Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland (Harper, 285 pp., $13.95, paperback, ages 13 and up), which recently came out in paperback www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/. Two high school wrestlers prepare to compete in the Iowa state championship in this book of masterly reporting that offers a fascinating portrait of a little-known athletic subculture www.markkreidler.com and www.harpercollins.com. Mary Ann Harlan rightly said in School Library Journal: “Teen wrestlers will appreciate a book that speaks to them and respectfully about them, and sports fans may find a new area to appreciate.”

Reviews of books for children or teenagers appear every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews, a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. You can find other reviews in the “Children’s Books,” “Young Adult,” “Caldecott Medals” and “Newbery Medals” categories at right.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 25, 2008

A Report From the Frontlines of the Cosmetic Surgery Boom Returns in Paperback

Filed under: Nonfiction,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Heard about the Detroit radio station had a contest called “New Year, New Rear” and gave the winner $15,000 worth of liposuction? You would have if you’d read Beauty Junkies: In Search of the Thinnest Thighs, Perkiest Breasts, Smoothest Faces, Whitest Teeth, and Skinniest, Most Perfect Toes in America, (Broadway, 304 pp., $14.94, paperback), just out in paperback with a new subtitle (replacing Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery). How did we get to the point that some people don’t blink when they hear about a “New Year, New Rear” promotion? What are the social, emotional and medical costs of the cosmetic surgery boom? New York Times reporter Alex Kuczynski www.alexkuczynski.com gives fearless answers in a skillful blend of reporting, social commentary and advice to people who may submit to the knife or needle.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

January 10, 2008

Alex Boese Lifts the Curtain on Popular Ruses in ‘The Museum of Hoaxes’

A writer who calls himself a “hoaxpert” says that flamboyant pranks and deceptions allow people to “carve out a small niche of personal control” in an age of oppressive bureaucracy

By Janice Harayda

Why do people try to hoodwink others with tales of Bigfoot, crop circles or bloggers who don’t exist?

Hoaxes allow their perpetrators “to carve out a small niche of personal control in a world otherwise regulated by massive, impersonal bureaucracies,” Alex Boese says in The Museum of Hoaxes: A History of Outrageous Pranks and Deceptions (Plume, 266 pp., $12, paperback). So the rise of the Internet has led not just to a new wave of deceptions intended to embarrass corporate giants like Microsoft and eBay but to a second life for some old standbys of chicanery.

As an antidote, Boese offers a collection of hundreds of literary sound bites, each of which explores an aspect of the origins of a well-known hoax and tries to set the record straight. In his section on the Loch Ness Monster, he focuses on a famous photo that appears to show the slender neck of a beast rising from a lake but in fact depicts a toy submarine outfitted with a sea serpent’s head. He doesn’t mention that a paleontologist might have guessed as much, because no fossil evidence exists to support the presence of Nessie, either.

Boese keeps tabs on new ruses or rumors of them on his site www.museumofhoaxes.com, which he says gets a million page views per month. And since the first publication of The Museum of Hoaxes in 2002, he’s written Hippo Eats Dwarf (Harvest, 278 pp., $14, paperback), which looks at other kinds of chicanery, including Nigerian bank scams and posts by fictitious bloggers.

One-Minute Book Reviews is a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. 

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

December 6, 2007

Gift Books for Leaders, Managers, Executives and Others Who Want to Succeed in Business

The books in the “Harvard Business Review On …” series include authoritative articles on topics from “Managing Yourself” and “Motivating People” to “Green Business Strategy”

Harvard Business Review on Change: Ideas With Impact Series. By John P. Kotter, James C. Collins and Jerry Porras, Jeanie Daniel Duck, Tracy Goss, Richard Pascale, and Anthony Athos, Roger Martin, Paul Strebel, Norman R. Augustine, and Robert H. Schaffer and Harvey A. Thomson. Harvard Business School Press, 228 pp., $19.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Is the phrase “business books” an oxymoron? So many titles in the category read like Power Point presentations in hardcover or exercises in spin control by ousted chief executives who are trying to recast their legacies.

Not the more than 50 paperbacks in the “Harvard Business Review On …” series, each of which includes reprints from the magazine on a theme such as “Leadership,” “Managing Yourself,” or “Motivating People.” I picked up the Harvard Business Review on Change at an airport Borders, looking for an alternative to The Almost Moon, which I’d packed in my carry-on bag in the irrational belief that a novel about a woman who kills her mother and stuffs her in a freezer might improve with altitude. It was perfect.

This installment in the series collects eight articles published between 1992 and 1997 on why change succeeds or fails in organizations, and most of the essays have as much to say today as they did ten years ago. Robert Schaffer and Harvey Thomson argue in “Successful Change Programs Begin With Results” that sirens like total quality management lure corporations onto the rocks because they are “activitiy-centered” rather than “results-driven.” Other articles explore the failures of rightsizing, reeingineering and cultural change. The best is John Kotter’s “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” which argues persuasively that organizational change fails for eight reasons from not creating a great enough sense of urgency at the outset to declaring victory too soon.

“The most general lesson to be learned from the more successful cases is that the change process goes through a series of phases that, in total, usually require a considerable length of time,” writes Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School. “Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result. A second very general lesson is that critical mistakes in any of the phases can have a devastating impact, slowing momentum and negating hard-won gains.”

The authors of these essays draw most of their examples from major corporations. But their advice would also apply to or could be adapted for many smaller entrepreneurial ventures or departments or even for individuals wondering why they never keep their New Year’s resolutions. And because the series covers such a wide range of topics, you could probably find one for anyone on your gift list who is facing a challenge in business. How many of us wouldn’t benefit from being reminded at times of a remark by the novelist Rita Mae Brown, quoted in one essay, that “insanity is doing the same thing again and again but expecting different results”?

Best line: Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine in “Reshaping an Industry: Lockheed Martin’s Survival Story”: “Financial wizard Warren Buffet once cautioned, ‘Beware of past performance ‘proofs’ in finance. If history books were they key to riches, the Forbes 400 would consist of librarians.’”

Worst line: A chart on page 194 listing the differences between “results-driven” and “activity-centered programs” appears to have the qualities of each program reversed.

Published: 1998

Furthermore: The titles in the “Harvard Business Review on …” series include books the follwing topics: Leadership, Marketing, Managing Projects, Managing Yourself, Motivating People, Effective Communication, Teams That Succeed, Women in Business, and the new Green Business Strategy. A complete list of titles appears on the Harvard Business School Press site www.hbsp.harvard.edu. Harvard Business School Publishing also has an IdeaCast series, a free podcast from “leading thinkers in management” at www.hbrideacast.org.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

November 9, 2007

Elizabeth Buchan’s ‘Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman,’ a Novel That Helped to Launch a Trend

A spurned wife survives without throwing Key Lime pies

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. By Elizabeth Buchan. Penguin, 341 pp., $14, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Women of a certain age have come of age in print. Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck put them on the bestseller list. And other recent books about women well past 40 have had literary or commercial success or both, including Virginia Ironside’s novel No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club and Katha Pollitt’s Learning to Drive.

But the trend may have started a few years ago with the bestsellerdom of the British novelist Elizabeth Buchan’s Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. The title might lead you to expect a Heartburn with bifocals, a merciless satire intended to settle a few scores inspired by real life. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman is instead a light, amusing novel about a 47-year-old newspaper editor in London, Rose Lloyd, whose husband leaves her for her younger deputy, Minty.

No hurler of Key Lime pies, Buchan’s heroine takes only the gentlest revenge on her betrayers, free of the over-the-top scheming found in novels such as The Red Hat Club and The First Wives Club. Before her marriage, Rose had an affair with a brilliant travel writer. And her story hinges on whether you can rekindle a bonfire that blazed years earlier (and holds more surprises than you might expect from that familiar set-up).

In Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, Buchan falls somewhere between Ireland’s Maeve Binchy and England’s Joanna Trollope in the ratio of salt to sugar in her fiction. She takes more risks than Binchy but fewer than Trollope. And if her novel has fairy-tale elements, it also has shrewd and mature observations on marriage. Rose explains her husband’s departure by saying: “We had been at that stage of taking each other for granted yet we had not yet reached the stage when we were strong enough that it was no longer dangerous.”

Recommendation? A more intelligent novel — and, for that reason, a much better choice for book clubs looking for light, entertaining reading — than, say, Holly Peterson’s The Manny or Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’s Dedication.

Published: December 2003

Reading group guide: At www.elizabethbuchan.com

Furthermore: This review appeared in different form in the St. Petersburg Times. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was made into a 2004 movie starring Christine Lahti as Rose. Search the Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com for the title for more information about it.

One-Minute Book Reviews ranks seventh in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/ .

(c) 2007 All rights reserved. Janice Harayda.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 4, 2007

Pascal Khoo Thwe’s Award-Winning Memoir of Terror in Myanmar, ‘From the Land of Green Ghosts’

A remarkable memoir in the spirit of Infidel and A Long Way Gone

From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey. By Pascal Khoo Thwe. Foreword by John Casey. HarperPerennial, 304 pp., $13.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Pascal Khoo Thwe once hoped to become “the first Burmese saint.” Instead he took up arms against a military regime that murdered his girlfriend, then tried to kill him. With government agents on his trail, he fled into the jungle and escaped with the help of John Casey, a professor at Cambridge University whom he had met by chance at a restaurant in Mandalay where he worked as a waiter. It is hard to say which is the greater miracle — that he survived such terrors or that he has written such an eloquent memoir about them. Atheists may find their lack of belief tested by this award-winning book, an astounding story of courage and faith in a divine providence that ultimately seemed fully justified.

From the Land of Green Ghosts in some ways resembles Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel. But it is a better book than either, because it raises fewer questions about its author’s memory or credibility. First published in 2002, Khoo Thwe’s story has gained fresh interest since mass demonstrations against the military dictatorship in Myanmar began in August and thrust the country’s human-rights abuses back into the news. HarperCollins has posted a reading group guide to the book, an outstanding choice for reading groups, at www.harpercollins.com.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 373 other followers

%d bloggers like this: