One-Minute Book Reviews

December 14, 2007

Funny Gifts for Readers — Jane Austen Action Figures, Librarian Tattoos, Shakespearean Insults and More

Shakespeare is among the writers who inspire gifts that librarians and others think you’ll want to give, at least if you’re a “boiling hutch of beastliness”

By Janice Harayda

All week I’ve been posting serious gift ideas for readers along with the usual reviews. Today I’m here to entertain you. These gifts didn’t make the cut:

Jane Austen Action Figure I couldn’t find a reliable site that stocks the Jane Austen bobblehead dolls that librarians and others have seen. But the Library of Congress shop www.loc.gov/shop/ sells this plastic Jane Austen Action Figure (which comes with a quill pen and writing desk) for $8.50. Austen can’t do battle against Emily Dickinson and the Knights of the Nineteenth Century only because the Belle of Amherst doesn’t have her own action figure (though there’s a plush toy you can find on the Web if you’re determined). Be sure to read all the reader reviews on Amazon www.amazon.com, which also has the doll shown here, if this one tempts you. One critic faults the Jane Austen Action Figure for flimsy construction, including an insecure base and an arm that breaks off easily. Well, what did you expect? Austen died at the age of 41, and this one may have a correspondingly short life span.

Librarian Tattoos In January a Los Angeles librarian won the Newbery Award for a young-adult novel that has the word “scrotum” on the first page. Now the city has given us another pacesetter in a product described as wash-off “librarian tattoos.” “Librarian stereotypes are as old and outdated as microfiche,” says the online catalog for the Library Store at Los Angeles Public Library says. “Nowadays you’re just as likely to see your local librarian driving a Harley as a Honda Accord.” That must explain why the library is selling a 3-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ hardcover book of nontoxic wash-off tattoos for $8, several of which you can see at right. “Put one in a prominent place to prove once and for all that ‘smart’ and ‘cool’ are not mutually exclusive!” the library says in its catalog www.lfla.org/cgi-bin/store/.

Shakespeare’s Insults Magnet Set Are you the kind of person who loves to insult friends with barbs like “thou smell of mountain goat”? Or possibly you “bolting-hutch of beastliness”? If so, these multicolored magnets are for you. A set of 33 insults costs $15.95 at Shakespeare’s Den www.shakespearesden.com, a literary gift site that has items related — and I use the term loosely — to many authors. Among them: George Orwell magnetic finger puppets that you can put on your refrigerator or use for purposes such as — well, let’s stop here.

Source: http://www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

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

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 – The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

10 Best Books of 2007
The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry
Source: oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Yes, this was the year of The Secret and The Manny in the U.S., and the year On Chesil Beach was longlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award in Britain. So which books won’t leave you feeling like a patient in a literary burn unit? Here are the 10 best books reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews:

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival (Putnam, $24.95), by Stanley Alpert. A former federal prosecutor who was kidnapped on a Manhattan street, then held at gunpoint for 25 hours, writes about his abduction in one of the best true crime books of the decade. us.penguingroup.com

*The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage, $13.95, paperback), by Joan Didion. One of the country’s finest prose stylists recalls the sudden death of her husband and its aftermath in a memoir that won a National Book Award. www.randomhouse.com

*Every Eye (David R. Godine/Black Sparrow, $23, by Isobel English. The first American publication of a novel that is an elegant minor classic, which involves a piano teacher born with “lazy eye” that affects her view of the world long after surgery has corrected the problem. www.blacksparrowbooks.com

Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback), selected and edited by Joseph Epstein. Wood engravings by Barry Moser. Scholars and critics of high distinction write about vanished titans in stylish literary essays. www.pauldrybooks.com

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (Holt/Metropolitan, $24.95), by Atul Gawande. A surgeon and medical writer for The New Yorker reflects on his art in a book that has a particularly enlightening section on childbirth. www.gawande.com

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown, $24.99), by Peter Godwin. A former correspondent for the BBC refracts the terrors of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe through the prism of tragedies that struck his family and friends. www.hachettebookgroupusa.com

Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball (Norton, $19.95), edited and with translations by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. More than 200 poems that transcend baseball, many by some of the finest living haiku artists. www.wwnorton.com

Four Days to Glory Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland (HarperCollins, $24.95), by Mark Kreidler. Two high school wrestlers prepare to compete in the Iowa state championship in a book of masterly reporting that offers a fascinating portrait of a little-known social and athletic subculture. www.markkreidler.com and www.harpercollins.com

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House, $22.95), by Katha Pollitt. Personal essays by the poet and columnist for the Nation, who writes with bite, depth and often wit about topics that include her discovery that her former boyfriend had been cheating on her almost the whole time they lived together. www.kathapollitt.blogspot.com and www.randomhouse.com

*Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth/Zoland, $15, paperback), by Anne Porter. Foreword by David Shapiro. All of the poems from Porter’s An Altogether Different Language, a National Book Award finalist, and 39 new ones, which together attest to what Shapiro calls “her Franciscan joy in created things.” www.steerforth.com

* Books with an asterisk came out in 2006. One-Minute Book Reviews was launched late last year and could not review some 2006 books until 2007. The “10 Best List” includes the 2006 books when they were better than 2007 books in their category. You can find reviews of all books except The Year of Magical Thinking by entering the title in the search box. You can find reading guides to The Birthday Party, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Learning to Drive in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category at right.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It is also for people who dislike long-winded weasel reviews that are full of facts and plot summary but don’t tell you what the critic thought of the book. Posts on the site generally appear daily. When no review appears, the site often has a quote of the day from a book, which may include commentary. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sixth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs:

www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/.

Jan Harayda is editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. She does not accept free books, galleys, catalogs, print or electronic press releases or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, agents or authors. For this reason, she does not see all the worthy books in a year. This list has the best new books she read in 2007. It does not include books written by her friends, published by her current publisher or represented by her literary agent.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for its annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Feb. 29 and the winners on March 15, 2008. Thank you for visiting this site.

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

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