One-Minute Book Reviews

June 26, 2008

Ten Books That Should Have Been on Entertainment Weekly’s List of the ‘The 100 Best Reads’ of the Past 25 Years But Weren’t

I love Entertainment Weekly‘s annual list of the year’s worst books, which is usually right on the money. But the magazine’s list of “The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads From 1983 to 2008”
www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20207076_20207387_20207349,00.html falls a bit wider of mark.

Here, off the top of my head, are 10 books that didn’t make the EW list. These titles appear in random order (and I hope to say more about some of them later):

1. Liar’s Poker (1989) Michael Lewis
2. The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg
3. Heartburn (1986) by Nora Ephron
4. Barbarians at the Gate (1990) by Brian Burrough
5. Collected Poems: Philip Larkin (1989) by Philip Larkin and Anthony Thwaite
6. A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2003) by Samantha Power
7. Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943–2004 (2004) by Richard Wilbur
8. Late Wife: Poems (2005) by Claudia Emerson
9. Jane Austen’s Letters: New Edition (1997) by Jane Austen. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye.
10. Hotel du Lac (1984) by Anita Brookner

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 25, 2008

‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.’ Or Not.

Filed under: Essays and Reviews,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:28 am
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Not long ago, I picked up the alarmingly titled 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (Rizzoli/Universe, 960 pp., $34.95), intending to review it promptly. But every time I open it, I am reminded: The editor, Peter Boxall, thinks that while I still have a pulse, I need to read ten books by Ian McEwan. Ten! Is this man mad? Yes, that’s ten books in addition to McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, which I read shortly before it made the longlist for the 2007 Bad Sex Awards www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/23/.

Boxall also thinks I need to read only one book by Willa Cather, and it is neither her wonderful Death Comes for the Archbishop or nor her classic tale of prairie life, O Pioneers!, nor her My Antonia, which many critics regard as her greatest work. It is, bizarrely, her The Professor’s House. I would happily listen to arguments about why that book is her best, but 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die doesn’t offer them. So it’s going to take me a while to sort out this doorstopper.

In the meantime the Telegraph has posted a list of 110 books that would make up “the perfect library”
www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/04/06/nosplit/sv_classics06.xml. That list has its own quirks but is much less pretentious than Boxall’s. Among its virtues: It is refreshingly unstuffy and includes books like Gone With the Wind and Murder on the Orient Express along with The Iliad and The Odyssey.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 20, 2008

Great Low- or No-Cost Outdoor Activities You Can Do With a Child

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:31 pm
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365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child. By Steve and Ruth Bennett. Adams Media, 430 pp., $7.95, paperback.

365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child: Plus 50 All-New Bonus Activities. By Steven J. Bennett and Ruth Bennett. Adams Media, 512 pp, $8.95 paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Want to keep a child away from the television set this summer and involved in activities that are stimulating and fun? Steve and Ruth Bennett are your friends. Maybe — depending on how desperate you are — your best friends.

The Bennetts have written two terrific books packed with ideas so simple you may wonder why you didn’t think of them on your own: 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child and 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child www.adamsmediastore.com/product/814/16. The second book is easier to find than the first, but both are widely available in libraries. And each describes hundreds of no- or low-cost, TV-free activities for ages 3 and up in a paperback small enough to fit into a purse or glove compartment.

Part of the appeal of these books is that they describe many activities that would appeal to a variety of ages (including, in some cases, teenagers). Their “Acorn Toss,” for example, is a variation on horseshoes, scaled down so that all ages can enjoy taking part.

Here are three suggestions from 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child that will give you an idea of the kinds of diversions the Bennetts recommend in both books:

Acorn Toss. Can’t take children’s favorite games with you on a trip? Use acorns, walnuts or pine cones for sports games, the Bennetts suggest. One of the easiest games begins with gathering a handful of acorns or nuts: “One person tosses his or her acorn from an official throwing point, marked by a line in the ground or a stick. The other players then toss their acorns, trying to come as close as possible without touching the acorn.”

Invent a Constellation. On a starry night, ask children what they see in the way of people, animals, objects, and more. Make up alternate names for constellations — “Meatball Minor,” “Pancake Major,” “Aunt Jane’s Earlobe” — and tell stories about them. “Sound silly?” the Bennetts ask. “Remember, they actually did name one galaxy the Milky Way.”

Water Writing. Write with “disappearing ink” – water – on a sidewalk, driveway, or patio. Fill a bucket or pan with water, and “write” with a paintbrush, roller or broom. The Bennetts recommend that you tailor your writing to a child’s age For prereaders, paint letters, numbers or shapes of familiar objects. For readers, write words or messages. “On a hot sunny day, the object is for your child to guess the picture or message before the water evaporates.” To conserve save, use “waste water” from a wading pool or rainwater collected in a bucket.

As these activities suggest, the Bennetts’ books could inspire not just parents but for grandparents or aunts and uncles who expect visits from children soon.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 12, 2008

A Delete Key Awards Finalist Wins a Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing … Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Gusher Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:22 pm
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Many well-known authors moonlight as book reviewers. But until now none has won recognition in both the annual Delete Key Awards competition for the year’s worst writing in books and the weekly Gusher Awards contest for hyperbole in book reviewing. Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews, a Delete Key finalist goes home with Gusher for the first time.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

The Best Book to Have on Hand in a Power Blackout

We’re still living in a state of emergency in my part of New Jersey, where some streets look like a scene from the Book of Revelation with pizza deliveries. Tens of thousands of people aren’t expected to get their electricity back until Friday. And it made me wonder: What’s the best book to have on hand during a power blackout? Pragmatists might argue for the American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook or, possibly, the Kama Sutra. But – speaking just for myself – I’d want The Complete Sherlock Holmes in any edition. What book makes for better reading aloud by candlelight to anyone over the age of six? What plot device offers a more reliable diversion from the inconveniences of life without microwave popcorn than the deadly swamp adder in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” or that strange dog on the moors in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”? You can download 48 Sherlock Holmes stories for free at 221bakerstreet.org/, which also has a discussion forum and more.

Here’s news on the blackout that inspired this post: www.nj.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/news-32/1213231759129640.xml&storylist=jersey

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 10, 2008

Dana Jennings Remembers the Golden Age of Twang in ‘Sing Me Back Home,’ His Memoir of Growing Up With Country Music

Filed under: Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:11 pm
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An editor at the New York Times writes of the days when giants with guitars roamed this cheatin’ Earth

By Janice Harayda

One of the Top 10 search terms that have led people to One-Minute Book Reviews this year is “Donald Murray,” the name of my late mentor and writing teacher, whom I have quoted on this site. Many visitors were looking for journalists who had studied with Don, an internationally known pioneer in the methods of teaching writing that he described in A Writer Teaches Writing www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/01/01/.

So I’m happy to report that one of Don’s students, Dana Jennings, is the author of a new memoir, Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music (Faber & Faber, 272 pp., $24) us.macmillan.com/singmebackhome. Dana writes of growing up in New Hampshire in what he calls “the golden age of twang,” the years between about 1950 and 1970, when giants like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette were turning out many of their most famous songs. Those of us who studied with Don can be a pretty tight group — “acolytes” would not be too strong a word of some of us — so I can’t review Dana’s book. But Publishers Weekly said this about it:

“The perfect country song, according to the late songwriter Steve Goodman, always had references to mama, being drunk, cheating, going to prison and hell-bent driving. Taking a page from Goodman’s songbook, Jennings, a New York Times editor, brilliantly captures the essence of country music in this hard-driving tale that is part memoir and part music history.”

To read about some of Dana’s favorite country-music songs, click here: papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/living-with-music-a-playlist-by-dana-jennings/. To read the New York Times Book Review review of Sing Me Back Home, click here: www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/books/review/Kirby-t.html?_r=2&ref=review&oref=slogin&oref=slogin.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 7, 2008

Burned by a Beach Book? Nominate the Author for a Delete Key Award for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:08 pm
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Last summer I considered doing a special beach books edition of the Delete Key Awards, which this site hands out every March to authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough. I decided that I wasn’t masochistic enough. But I may revisit the idea this year, and if you’d like to nominate a candidate, you can do it by leaving a comment on any post or by sending an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page. What beach books have burned you this summer?

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 6, 2008

Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing – Coming Friday, June 13, to One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:24 pm
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One-Minute Book Reviews gives Gusher Awards for over-the-top praise in book reviewing on Fridays … except when no praise was too out-of-control to qualify. Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing will be awarded on Friday, June 13. To read the work of past winners, enter “Gusher Award” in quotes into the search box. This will pull up all the winners (though you’ll first see a post about the new online book club on this site).

To nominate a review for a Gusher, leave a comment on any post related to the awards or send an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 4, 2008

‘Sex and the City,’ the Book That Started It All

Filed under: Movie Link,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:43 pm
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First, it was a collection of columns from a quirky weekly printed on salmon-colored paper

Sex and the City is a book that, like so many of its male characters, has baggage. But the baggage has changed in the 12 years since the publication of this collection of Candace Bushnell’s columns for the New York Observer, a quirky weekly printed on salmon-colored paper.

In the beginning many people treated Sex and the City less as a book than a parlor game: Who were the restless urban bedmates whose identities Bushnell had disguised? By the time the gossip columnists had lost interest in that question — or learned the answers — the book had picked up new baggage: the expectations created by the HBO Series www.hbo.com/city/. How does the original stand up to the adventures of Sarah Jessica Parker and friends?

Both have merits, but the HBO series has the edge, at least in its first seasons, before the show became a near-parody of itself (to say nothing of the movie, which I haven’t seen). In Sex and the City Bushnell wrote with style and authority about single female New Yorkers who had rejected the sexual mores of yore but hadn’t found a satisfying — or, in some cases, even humane — replacement for them. Her women were intelligent but shallow and independent but yearning for, if not love, at least a dependable piece of arm candy, and many of her men were worse. These New Yorkers were clearly not to everyone’s tastes — the overall tone of the book was chilly — but they were far more interesting than the flat characters in Bushnell’s subsequent novels www.candacebushnell.com.

Even so, the book gave some critics pause for another reason, too: You couldn’t tell how much of it was true. Its columns had appeared in a respected weekly, but Bushnell drew on techniques used by novelists. In hindsight, she looks like an ancestor of the new memoirists who believe that only emotional truths matter. But her book was still a revelation to many of us who were living in places like Cleveland when it came out: Who knew what was going on in Manhattan and the Hamptons?

From first episode of the HBO series, Sarah Jessica Parker gave Sex and the City some of the warmth that the book lacked. The writers also kicked up the humor up several notches, making the best episodes were funnier. And the series raised no questions of truth-in-publishing: It was clearly fiction.

This doesn’t mean that book has outlived its appeal. Sex and the City gives a unique account of a certain New York subculture in the 1990s. It may especially appeal to people found the HBO version too upbeat, or unrealistically sanguine about single women’s sexual prospects in their 30s and beyond. Writing in the Washington Post in 1996, Jonathan Yardley noted that every city has singles bars and their lonely patrons: “But Manhattan does tend to bring out the worst in certain people, and Sex and the City leaves no doubt that these days the worst can be very bad indeed.”

Read some of the the original “Sex and the City” columns in the Observer www.observer.com/2007/sex-and-city.

Watch the Sex and the City movie trailer here www.sexandthecitymovie.com.

Visit the site for the publisher of Sex and the City www.hachettebookgroupusa.com/books_9780446673549.htm for information on some of the editions of the book, including an audio edition read by Cynthia Nixon.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

May 28, 2008

The Book Club for People Who Don’t Like Book Clubs – Coming June 1 to One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Blogging,Blogging News,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:58 pm
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Imagine: a book club with no required reading.

It’s coming soon to this site. On the first day of each month, beginning June 1, One-Minute Book Reviews will provide an space where you can recommend any book you like or vent about one you didn’t like. The book doesn’t have to be new or to have been reviewed on this site. You may leave comments about “your” book on the first day of the month or any other in the month.

I’ll get the discussion started by adding a few comments on a book that I’ve reviewed recently on this site that made an especially strong impression for good or ill. Then you can jump in with comments on that book or any other: new or old, children’s or adult, mass-market or scholarly.

Hope to see you there, and thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews. To learn more about the club, please click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/05/23/.

Jan

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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