An Unspeakable Moment in Our History

JFK and the Unspeakable - Why He Died and Why it Matters
by James W. Douglass (Touchstone)
Almost immediately after the Warren Commission reported that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy, a mini-industry of assassination research was created, scrutinizing every dot and comma, putting forward widely differing, sometimes contradictory conspiracy theories. The Mafia. The CIA. The Military-Industrial Complex. The Soviets. Castro. All seemed plausible conspiratorial culprits and yet at the same time, too fantastic. This industry came to a climax with Oliver Stone’s fictionalized conspiracy goulash, JFK. Early this century, however, the tide seemed to turn against conspiracy. 


Fighting on Two Fronts: Schaeffer's Patience With God

Patience with God
Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism) by Frank Schaeffer (Da Capo Press)  
Frank Schaeffer is no ordinary opponent of the religious right nor of the new atheist left. He is a deeply religious man who has expressed equal contempt for organized religions and for atheism; he promotes a personal search for God while adhering to the Greek Orthodox faith; he is the son of a legendary evangelist as well as a leading critic of fundamentalist Christianity. He finds Mike Huckabee and Richard Dawkins equally objectionable. In other words, he is a religious riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a conundrum. 


Not Just Dead Trees: Books Are Bound to Last

 Bound to Last by Sean Manning
 (Da Capo Press)
Author Sean Manning believes the way a book looks plays an important role in its initial appeal. Bound to Last comes in a cover that is artificially pre-stressed like a pair of jeans from Abercrombie & Fitch, with faux tears, nicks and trompe l’oeil creases. Bound to Last is a collection of 30 essays by writers about their most cherished books – not their favorite reads, necessarily, but their most treasured book. It is a paean to the printed book at a moment when sales of e-books are climbing and everyone seems to be reading digital editions on their Kindles and Nooks and Ipads, often blasting the content back into the ether.  


A Long and Winding Road - And Still Winding

Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney
by Howard Sounes (Da Capo Press)

British television personality Jonathan Ross once told an awards show audience that Paul McCartney’s estranged wife Heather Mills was such a liar he wouldn’t be surprised to find out she still had both legs. The sheer viciousness of the joke indicates how deeply people despised her for her alleged mistreatment of the beloved ex-Beatle and enduring music icon. Paul McCartney was married to Heather Mills for less than six of his 68 years, yet their volatile relationship, with all its soap opera drama, headline-grabbing revelations and all too public posturing occupies a good ten per cent of this fascinating and minutely detailed biography. There is nothing in this volume likely to change Jonathan Ross’s opinion of Heather Mills, nor anyone else’s. Why the poverty-scarred and emotionally wounded Heather Mills was drawn to Paul McCartney is not too difficult to imagine. Why Paul McCartney was so smitten with her is a thornier question, which Howard Sounes tries hard to answer. The answer lies not in any short-term loneliness after the death of his first wife, Linda, but within the totality of his life story. Fab is not going to re-draw the whole public perception of McCartney the way Albert Goldman once altered the accepted picture of John Lennon, but it is an illuminating portrait of the most successful Beatle, and unlike many other Beatle biographies, Sounes gives as much time to his post-Beatle life as the Beatle era, which was an all too short ten years. Drugs and alcohol plays an alarming role in McCartney’s life story to this day and may have played a surprisingly limiting role on his psyche and ambition. The enduring image is of a brilliant talent who, despite all his artistic and financial success, still managed to avoid  a level of greatness that should have been well within his reach.
Read an excerpt from Fab here 
Read an interview with Howard Sounes here.


Up Late, Late at Night with Rick Springfield

By Marcy Fearon                       
 He was naked on Californication, but in his new autobiography, Late, Late at Night, Rick Springfield bears a lot more than that. A Grammy award winner and seemingly ageless rock star who has sold over 17 million records, a soap opera heart throb and now first-time author, Rick Springfield has taken his fans on a very sexy ride which has lasted over 30 years.
 Born in Australia and now an American citizen, Springfield bravely shares in this shockingly candid autobiography the intimate details of a life haunted by depression. His  26 year marriage has withstood the assault of infidelity more than once, the details of which he reveals with unlimited candor. 
 Songwriter of the hit, Jessie’s Girl, Springfield has proven over the years what a talented storyteller he is in the lyrics of his songs. The stories he shares in this book and his way of telling them are just as incisive. It’s as if every page holds you in his arms as he whispers the most intimate details of his life in your ear.


What's It Really All About? A Dark Knight with Michael Caine

The Elephant to Hollywood  
by Michael Caine (Henry Holt &Co.)
Oscar winner Sir Michael Caine has resuscitated one of the dying literary genres in The Elephant to Hollywood, the second installment of his anecdotal autobiography. The first, What's it All About? published in 1992, was written when Caine believed his movie career was over. That was before Cider House Rules, Children of Men, Inception, The Quiet American, Batman and a barrow load of other movies. A natural raconteur, Caine rivals David Niven's The Moon's a Balloon for his uproarious self-deprecating tales about a Who's Who of Hollywood marquee names. Read Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times here and an illuminating interview in Britain's Daily Telegraph here. 


Growing Up Gaga

  Poker Face: The Rise & Rise Lady Gaga
  by Maureen Callahan (Harper Collins) 
With Lady Gaga, you never have to ask, 'Where's the Beef?' As she  showed  at the VMAs, she may well be wearing it. And you don't have to ask 'Where's the Beef?' with this first in-depth unauthorized biography of Lady Gaga. There's a tasty morsel on every page. Gaga literally exploded on to the music scene - just as pundits claimed it was a dying business - with five Number 1 hits, 8 million albums sold, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Vogue covers and a virtual sweep of the VMAs, all in one year. New York Post  writer Maureen Callahan reveals the Madonna of a new generation is a welter of contradictions. 


Scott Turow Talks About the Sequel to Presumed Innocent

by Scott Turow (Grand Central)
It's usually dangerous to revisit the scenes of former victories but Scott Turow rises to the challenge with Innocent. It's a sequel to his landmark Presumed Innocent which was a bestseller 30 years ago. Former prosecutor Rusty Sabich is now a judge - and his old rival, Tommy Molto, has a chance to taste a cold plate of revenge. Scott Turow talks to NPR's The Takeaway about the novel here. and you can read an excerpt here
an excerpt here  


Delilah Deals with the Naked Truth

The Truth About Delilah Blue
by Tish Cohen (Harper)
The latest novel from Tish Cohen opens with its eponymous heroine about to pose nude for the first time for a roomful of art students. Her nakedness is a metaphor for her vulnerability, created by her dysfunctional family, for the secrets she is about to uncover and for the rebirth she is to experience in the subsequent 400 pages. Delilah is an aspiring artist - determined to emulate her free-spirited mother who hasn't been part of her life since she was eight years old. Delilah's father is in the early stages of Alzheimer's - regressing into a form of childhood. When Delilah's mom turns up - along with a precocious half-sister - profound and shocking secrets from the family's past begin to emerge. This is a fast-paced, cinematic and, despite dealing with some serious issues, a remarkably humorous book that grabs the readers attention early and remains compelling throughout. It should be high on anyone's summer reading list. Read the Globe & Mail review here and an excerpt from Delilah Blue here.


Who Wouldn't Want to be 29 Again....Until...

29 by Adena Halpern (Touchstone)
Ellie Jerome  is 75 years old and ashamed to admit that she's jealous of her own granddaughter. Like almost everyone who is closer to the end than the beginning - in this case a lot closer - she sometimes wishes she was young again. Not too young. Say, 29. Still with blush of youth, but on the cusp of maturity. Blowing out the candles on her 75th birthday cake, she makes her wish... This is the premise of 29, by Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life. Ellie Jerome's wish is, of course, granted and for a time she is delighted


Running Aground on the Shoals of the Web

The Shallows - What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
by Nicholas Carr (W.W.Norton)
Throughout history, technological innovation has brought extensive social and cultural transformation. In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr argues that the Internet, or rather the hopscotch way most users behave on the Internet, is actually changing the way our minds and brains work. This is not a television- is-destroying-the-art-of-conversation polemic, but a thoroughly researched and closely argued examination of the latest research on how our most complex and plastic organ is responding to the pace and demands of a technologically advanced society. Interestingly, Carr suggests that the profound relationship western culture has developed with the printed word over the last several hundred years may be a fleeting diversion from the norm and that the impatient state of permanent distraction and constant diversion associated with web browsing may be the way the brain is intended to operate. Given the attention span and focus that must have been necessary to, say, create the friezes on the Parthenon or build the Citadel of Machu Picchu, that's hard to believe. An interview with Nicholas Carr and an excerpt from the book may be found here. A review of The Shallows in may be found here.


To Catch a Thief

The Gardner Heist -  
The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft
by Ulrich Boser  (Harper)
The recent theft from the Paris Museum of Modern Art of important works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Leger  is a reminder that the art heist is the most fascinating, mysterious, and in the popular imagination at least, the most romantic of crimes. The 'art heist' conjures images of a 'Mr Big' a brilliant but wayward art expert, his client, a ruthlessly immoral art collector with deep pockets and a motley bunch of skilled criminals from the milieu. Alas, as The Gardner Heist reveals, there is mystery and intrigue but little romance in multi-million dollar art thefts. Ulrich Boser spent three years investigating leads in the notorious 1990 heist from Boston's Gardner Museum - having inherited the confidential files on the case of a famed art detective. He believes he has identified the mastermind behind the heist but the location of the $600 million worth of stolen art, including works by Rembrandt, Degas and Vermeer, is more elusive. His reconstruction of the crime and the 20 year hunt for the missing masterpieces is a compelling, fast-paced, page-turning thriller made even more timely by the widely publicized heist in Paris.  You can read a review in the Christian Science Monitor here and this review in The Guardian here. Boser talks about the latest heist in Paris on NPR here


Sheep are Easy - Beer is Hard

Clone Brews - 200 Recipes for Commercial Beers
by Tess and Mark Szamatulski (Storey Publishing)
Home brewing is one of the hottest food trends of the moment, with starter kits and other home brewing equipment flying of store shelves.   Clone Brews is a step by step guide to creating home brews which match the color and taste of well-known mass-produced beer. There is something counter-intuitive to that. One of the attractions of home brewing is creating your own brew, not recreating commercial beers, many of which make the Real Beer crowd turn up their noses. That being said, this is a thoroughly engrossing book, with recipes from the beer brewing capitals of the world and some hidden corners. Clone Brews manages to describe beers in the detailed and serious manner of the cognoscenti without being condescending. Even the most favorable drinking vessel is recommended - as well as the foods which best match each beer's unique attributes. Who knew that Theakston Old Peculier goes best with Stilton, walnuts and pears, while Montana's Moose Drool - yes, Moose Drool - is best with a hearty beef and vegetable soup. While waiting for your wort to cool, check out the saga of one if the world's most unlikely microbreweries in The Atlantic .


In the Name of the Father...

A Life's Work - Fathers and Sons
by Ben and Quinn Bradley (Simon & Schuster)
Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of the Washington Post, is the best known journalist of his generation, the man who gave Woodward and Bernstein the opportunity to investigate Watergate and who created the newspaper's legend. This is the moving and unusual story of how this notoriously tough over-achiever forged a close, even magical, bond with his son Quinn, who has endured many medical problems as well as having a very serious learning disability. They did it by sharing what they could share, a love of the outdoors. It is also a story with an intriguing parallel. Ben Bradlee's own father forged a bond with him by nursing him through childhood polio. A short but profoundy inspiring book. Bradlee's wife, Sally Quinn, writes about their story here. You can read an excerpt here.


In the Bleak Inhuman Loneliness, The Beat Goes On

Paradise Road by Jay Atkinson (Wiley)
In 1947 an unknown writer destined to become one of the most important literary figures of his generation, traveled by subway and trolley car to Yonkers and began hitch-hiking. A decade later, his portraits of the America he discovered on his travels with his brilliant, flawed and forlorn friends was published as On the Road, sealing the literary reputation of Jack Kerouac. In Paradise Road, Jay Atkinson, whose life seems to parallel Kerouac's,  retraces his travels to New York, New Orleans, Mexico, California and Colorado with his own 'road' characters. Not surprisingly, he finds many of the places described so colorfully by Kerouac have disappeared or changed beyond recognition - and not uniformly for the better. Surprisingly, he finds some of the essential American character still as Kerouac found it. This is a brilliant and engaging concept, perceptively executed, and a must-read for anyone who has pored over On the Road, finding new delights on each re-reading. Jay Atkinson's website can be found here.  His Amazon author page is here.