One-Minute Book Reviews

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

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) 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: To read the New York Times Book Review review of Sing Me Back Home, click here:

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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 5, 2008

Ha Jin, James Jones, Jane Hamilton … Now Being Discussed on the Ruthless Book Club

Filed under: Ruthless Book Club — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:37 pm
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It’s not to late to join the conversation at a new guilt-free online book club

A new online book club – one with no required reading – began on June 1 on One-Minute Book Reviews. It’s a place where you can tell others about books you like or don’t like, whether or not they’ve been reviewed on this site or any other.

You can take part by leaving a comment on the June 1 post, which you can do by clicking on this link Some of the authors who’ve been mentioned so far are Ha Jin, James Jones and Jane Hamilton.

My sense is that a lot of serious readers have strong views on books that they don’t share with others because the books don’t relate to blog posts they’ve read. So I’ve created a space where you can do that.

You can leave a comment on any day during the month and, even if no other visitor has read the book, you’ll probably get a response at least from me. A new discussion will begin on July 1.

Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews, home of the Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books and the Gusher Awards for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing.


(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 1, 2008

The Ruthless Book Club – June 2008 Meeting

Filed under: Ruthless Book Club — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:03 am
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Okay, everybody. Time to start the first meeting of the Ruthless Book Club, the reading group for people who don’t like reading groups. Did you bring the cake and coffee?

The Ruthless Book Club is a guilt-free online book club with no required reading. All you have to do to take part is to leave a brief comment about a book that’s on your mind or that another visitor has mentioned. (The book can’t be one you got for free from the publisher or anyone else with ties to the book – that’s one reason this is called the Ruthless Book Club.) You can bring up another book at the July 1 meeting.

I promised to get the discussion started, so here’s my comment:

Not long ago, I reviewed John Buchan’s classic spy novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, which Alfred Hitchcock made into one of his best movies. I hadn’t read the book sooner partly because I thought I “knew” it from the film. But Hitchcock made so many changes in the plot and other aspects of the story that I didn’t know it at all. That experience reminded me of how often movies affect our perceptions of novels. Some films keep us away from books because they’re so good, we imagine that they are definitive. Other films keep us away because they’re so bad they mislead us about whether we might enjoy the books that inspired them.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 26, 2008

The Last Memorial Day – Quote of the Day (Randy Pausch / ‘The Last Lecture’)

Filed under: Nonfiction,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:21 am
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In his bestselling The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch deals briefly with the question: What do you say to someone who is dying and knows it? Pausch says that he heard from thousands of people after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and gave a lecture about it:

“I heard from a man in his early 40s with serious heart problems. He wrote to tell me about Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader in India who died in 1986. Krishnamurti was once asked what is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. He answered: ‘Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he does, you also go. He will not be alone.’ In his email to me, this man was reassuring: ‘I know you are not alone.’”

From The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 224 pp., $21.95), an essay collection by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. Pausch is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and his book grew out of a lecture he gave there that became popular on You Tube

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 26, 2008

Great Nonfiction for Teenagers — True Stories With High Drama

Filed under: Young Adult — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:44 am
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True tales of disaster on land, on sea and in the thin air of Mt. Everest

By Janice Harayda

I noticed while doing research for a future post on John Hersey’s Hiroshima (Vintage, 152 pp., $6.95, paperback) that this modern classic had won an award for “Books for the Teen Age” from the New York Public Library The contents first appeared in The New Yorker — not a magazine for teenagers — so the honor might seem surprising.

But there’s no doubt that many teenagers would be deeply affected by this true story of six people who escaped death when the atomic bomb fell on their city. Hersey tells what all were doing at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945 – one woman had just given each of her children a handful of peanuts – and follows them for a year. The result is a triumph of focus: Hersey homes in on his subjects’ struggle to stay alive, physically and emotionally, so his book has more in common with great disaster narratives than with what many people think of as “a New Yorker article” (long, digressive, full of semicolons). The Vintage paperback edition has a chapter on the survivors lives’ 40 years later. And because its structure resembles some of the most gripping accounts of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this short book may especially appeal to teenagers who have a strong interest in that tragedy.

Hiroshima appears on many school reading lists, and you’re looking for nonfiction for a teenager who has already read it, you might consider two books dramatic enough to have inspired movies — John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a tale of disaster on Mt. Everest (Anchor, 383 pp., $14.95, paper) or Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm (HarperPerennial, 272 pp., $13.95, paperback), an account of terror at sea. Or try John Demos’s The Unredeemed Captive (Vintage, 336 pp., $14.94, paperback). This National Book Award–winner tells the story of a Puritan minister and his wife and children who were captured by Mohawks and marched to Canada, where a daughter stayed and married an Indian after her family members had died or been released. The Unredeemed Captive is more challenging than the others but well within reach of high school students who are strong readers.

A new review of a book or books for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. Coming soon: Why do some parents see red about Pinkalicious and its sequel, Purplicious?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 13, 2008

The Year’s Worst Writing in Books — Delete Key Awards Winners — Tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:35 pm
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The 2007 Delete Key Award winners were Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children. Which books will win tomorrow?

The winners of the second annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books will be announced on this site tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The complete list will appear by noon.

Questions and answers about the Delete Key Awards appeared on Feb. 24 The list of the 10 finalists and samples of their writing were posted on Feb. 29

Today is your last chance to try to save an author from doom by leaving a comment. Are you listening, Steve Martin fans? You need to write fast if you think he should be spared despite that alphabet book … Next week, or maybe sooner, I’ll be reviewing some of the wonderful books I’ve been reading to cheer myself up while judging the contest.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 9, 2008

The Delete Key Award Winners — Friday On One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:33 pm
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Vote now on the question: Which authors aren’t using their delete keys enough?

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Friday, March 14, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. This is a date change. The winners are traditionally named on the Ides of March, the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination, because the winners assassinate the English language with their bad prose. But March 15 falls on a Saturday this year, and you might be out at Circuit City buying a new wireless router then.

The finalists were named on Feb. 29 If you click on the link to that date, you’ll see a post that lists the titles of all the books on the shortlist. Below it, you’ll find 10 separate posts with samples from their writing.

Jan Harayda is the sole judge of the Delete Key Awards. But she realizes that many visitors to her blog are smarter than she is, which has become clear repeatedly in their brilliant comments on aspects of books she hadn’t noticed.

So in making her decision she will consider incisive and well-reasoned arguments on such questions as: Which is more deserving of an award — Rhonda Byrne’s advice in The Secret that if you want to lose weight, you should avoid looking at fat people, or Eckhart Tolle’s comment in A New Earth that consciousness may be “awakening from the dream of form” in “many parts of our galaxy and beyond”?

You can vote by leaving a comment on any post about the Delete Key Awards, including this one. The deadline for comments is 9 p.m. Eastern Time on March 12.

Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these posts. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 7, 2008

Junot Díaz Wins NBCC Fiction Award – Danticat Gets Autobiography Prize – Other Winners Are Ross, Bang, Jeal and Washington

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 am
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Junot Díaz has won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead). Other books that won prizes in the March 6 ceremony in Manhattan are: General nonfiction, Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present (Doubleday); Biography, Tim Jeal’s Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (Yale University Press); Autobiography, Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf); Poetry, Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy (Graywolf); and Criticism, Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).The NBCC awards are one of the top three literary honors in the U.S. along with the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes. They are given annually by the 800-member association of American book critics.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 4, 2008

Why Critics, Journalists and You, the Reader, Need to Read Defensively

Filed under: Current Events,Life,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:47 pm
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Fabricated tale of gang life reaffirms the need to question “memoirs” that don’t make sense

For more than a year, this site has been raising questions about Ishmael Beah’s purported memoir of two years as a child solider, A Long Way Gone, that have received unsatisfactory responses from the author and his publisher. Why do critics, journalists and you, the reader, need to keep challenging aspects of personal accounts that don’t make sense?

One answer is implicit in a story in today’s New York Times about a young writer’s confession that she made up Love and Consequences, a widely praised book billed as a “memoir” of her life as a drug-runner for the Bloods: Publishers are doing too little to verify the authenticity of their books Book publishers have never done – nor can they be expected to do – the exhaustive fact-checking that occurs at The New Yorker. But the Times‘s story shows that they sometimes don’t take the much more basic steps that would be reasonable.

Love and Consequences was reportedly exposed as a fraud by a call to the publisher, Riverhead Books, from a sister of the author, Margaret Seltzer, who used the pen name of Margaret B. Jones. Riverhead is a unit of the Penguin Group USA, one of the world’s largest publishers. It seems that all an editor would have to do to uncover problems with this book would have been to require the writer to provide the telephone numbers of a few immediate-family members, then call those people.

[The Penguin Group has recalled all copies of Love and Consequences, and One-Minute Book Reviews will comment on the recall in a post later today.]

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
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