I remember enjoying the performances of Lauren Graham before she landed on Gilmore Girls. I loved that her characters always seemed to have an inner warmth, even when she was playing someone with a darker side. This collection of essays gives us a greater insight into who she is with remembrances about her early days of tryouts and figuring out the best path for her to pursue an acting career, struggling with keeping up appearances while trying to finding the perfect spa that had a television available (an almost impossible task), and getting a chance to direct after years of seeing how it was done. The essay on directing includes a lengthy list of best practices that can apply to anyone who wants good tips on being a leader (“It’s a universal truth that people at work really, really love good snacks.”). This is a collection that will give you plenty of smiles.
Steve Martin tells the story of his film career from his beginning in The Jerk to his semi-retirement and return on the small screen in Only Murders in the Building (he only touches on the latter briefly). The remembrances are amusing and the interactions in the illustrations harken back to Martin and Bliss’ earlier collaboration: A Wealth of Pigeons. Being a dog lover, I especially enjoyed the interactions with the illustrator’s dog, Penny, and how those interactions brought back memories of Martin’s dog, Roger. Eventually, the passage of time and loss of leading roles (the turn from being referred to as “Number One” to “Number Three’ on sets was quite a jolt) led to the decision to put this portion of his life to rest and move on to other interests. The last half of the book is filled with more of Bliss’ amusing illustrations.
Carl has been embarrassed by his father and his money-saving, green-living antics for years. Dumpster-diving for food, wearing the wrong-sized underwear, and making repeated trips to garage sales and the dump to find items that might work if they just got the right amount of tinkering starts to wear on the psyche of a 12 year-old boy that is trying to look hip and cool. One day, Carl comes across a book that might help him to save his summer and help him show his father the error of his ways. By using the lessons contained in a dog training manual, Carl attempts to correct his dad’s behaviors and set him on the right path.
Why is it that in an age which prides itself on efficiency, many are working in jobs or on tasks that are mind-numbingly value-less? David Graeber built on his ground-breaking essay from 2013 about the proliferation of “Bullshit Jobs” - work that holds no real value, by sharing examples sent to him in the years since the essay. Many examples are spread throughout the book, including a person hired to guard an empty room in a museum when a simple lock on the door could perform the same task. Graeber looks at how we reached this point in labor and economic history and the toll this kind of work takes on the psyche of the people tasked with these jobs. Though the book was written before “The Great Resignation,” this certainly sheds some light on how this phenomenon came to be.
I have been a long time player of games. Far from an expert level at any of them but I have always been fascinated by how game play has influenced the way we interact as individuals and as a society. This book takes a look at how the drive to master some of the most popular games in the world is just out of everyone’s reach but there is still a hope that it can be attained. Roeder looks at the development of Artificial Intelligence to learn and master games like Checkers, Chess, Go, Backgammon, and Bridge. He also took part in the World Series of Poker and the North American Scrabble Championship just to see how he would stack up (not so well but better than most considering his lack of expertise).
Maeve Higgins’ second book takes on a variety of tones. Her personal stories, ranging from family vacations to an accidental consumption of edibles, are laugh out loud funny. The observations on her visit to the 2020 Border security Expo in Texas (on the verge of the COVID outbreak) gives an outsider’s perspective to how our country is handling the immigration issue. Other essays involve the political manipulation of language (“Climate Change” to replace “Global Warming”), what it takes to truly become a citizen of America, and the use and symbolism of statues to convey control. Finally, the title of the book becomes clear as she finishes with a discussion of what we owe each other as strangers sharing space in a subway, or a city, or a nation.
As someone who frequently needs a little help to understand complex concepts, it seems that I have a set of Michaels in my world to help set me straight. Michael Lewis’ books make sense of economics and the importance of identifying market inefficiencies. My newest helper is Michael Shur, writer and creator of many popular television series and author of How to Be Perfect.
In this book, he shares the research and learning that went into creating The Good Place. Using provocative chapter headings (“Should I punch My Friend in the Face For No Reason?”, “This Sandwich is Morally Problematic. But It’s Also Delicious. Can I Still Eat It?”) Shur guides us through the entire history of Philosophical thought to find the best answers. This is like an Intro to Philosophy course taught by someone who has truly thought these ideas through and can also make you laugh.
I Hate Running and You Can Too: How to Get Started, Keep Going, and Make Sense of an Irrational Passion (Paperback)
This is not a book that will show you the best training methods and it is not going to recommend the proper training outfits or even what kind of stretches you should do before your workouts. This book is simply a way to motivate you to get started and keep going. If getting started on that resolution has been tough, this is the book for you!
Using relatable text, eye-catching charts, and a healthy dose of humor, Leonard’s book tells you why you should start running, why you should keep moving, and why walking is a legitimate form of running. Read it to get started and keep going back to it to keep yourself motivated.
For a Cleveland baseball fan like myself, 1948 holds a special place. This look at the 1948 Championship Season and four of the key individuals on the team that held the greatest impact on the future of the sport is a fast-moving and entertaining read.
Owner Bill Veeck’s keen eye for showmanship and promotion dovetailed nicely with Bob Feller’s need to make up for lost time and money during World War II, while Larry Doby and Satchel Paige represented the glorious past and uncertain future of the Negro Leagues and how the breaking of the color barrier was soon to change the game forever. I also received confirmation of a story that my mother told me about Cleveland Stadium that nobody else could ever confirm for her.
The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde
In 1965, an event occurred which resulted in a great number of rabbits (as well as a handful of other animals) to become human-sized and able to freely communicate with man. Since that time, the United Kingdom has been dealing with the fallout, politically, socially, and economically. The government has decided to build a MegaWarren,a structure promoted as a safe haven for all rabbits but in reality is a means to hide and keep a check over the rabbit population.
Part political allegory and part social satire, the story unfolds from the perspective of a mid-level bureaucrat, who finds himself drawn into the plight of the rabbit population after a rabbit family moves in next door. Themes of personal ethics and the importance of actions over good intentions resonate throughout this amusing and frightening read.
When I began working at Literati after more than ten years away from the book business, I was concerned about my knowledge of recent titles, especially in the world of Children's Books. Soon after starting the job, I happened upon this book when it was ordered by one of our customers. I was struck by the cover artwork and decided to tgive the book a quick read.
This is a magical and uplifting story that looks at the power of memory, the even stronger power of friendship, and the importance of keeping your friends close to your heart even when there is great distance. Given the way our lives have shifted over the couple of years, I found this to be such a meaningful book. The illustrations are beautiful and the message will stay with you long after the story ends.
In the fall of 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a journey across the United States with his French Poodle, Charely. His intetn was to find a narrative that would help to identify the Nation and its mindset at the beginning of the 1960's.
Meant intially as a travelogue, I feel that this has become more of a time capsule. Steinbeck was able to travel coast to coast while largely eschewing the interstate highway system that has since dominated the landscape, meeting folks from all walks of life and interacting with nature in ways that were most surprising to him. Along the way, he encountered migrant workers from Canada, bureaucratic border guards at Niagra Falls, roadside diners (who do breakfast well but not so much the other meals), a National Park ranger who understood the nature of dogs, and a pair coyotes who taught him about survival. He also witnessed the raial strife in the effort to desegregate the New Orleans Schools. Far different in tone from Steinbeck's novels, this book reflect our country at a particular time and is well worth the read.
Sarah Vowell, known to many as the voice of Violet in The Incredibles, never lost her fascination with the many odd twists and turns our country's history has expereinced. Vowell travels far and wide across the country to tell the story of presidential assassins and their targets. We get to re-trace the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, learn about a 19th century sex cult, visit Fort Jefferson, where Booth's co-conspirators were held until their pardon, and discover the weird coincidences of a growing country (Robert Todd Lincoln was perhaps the unluckiest man in history). References and comparisons to modern culture (MTV's Cribs, The OC) are peppered throughout.
The book is amusing and interesting, but it is not frivolous. We learn how the Republican Party of Lincoln began to turn into the Republican Party of today. There are many comparisons between the conflicts of the 19th century and the modern political era. Vowell's throwaway lines about popular vs. electoral majority and cult of personality will lead you to belive this book was written much later than 2006.
Memory is a funny thing and this account of the first ten years of Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink's relationship is proof of that. Each wrote separate essays about their first ten years together, each essay covering one year. The differences and similarities in their recollections are Rashomon-like. One person's minor phrase could be a major topic for the other's essay. Some stories are only heard from one perspective whole others have completely different accounts. (Who actually paid for the Plan B pill?)
The essays touch on love, loss, how we make the big decisions in life, and how those decisions are sometimes made for us. Their feelings of love, respect, and togetherness are felt throughout the book. I hope to hear from Meg and Joseph again in another ten years.
Roger Bennett, cohost of the television program Men in Blazers, is a great authority on international football, but his true love and affection has long been centered on all things United States. Spending his formative years in post-industrial Liverpool, Bennett developed a love of the music, films, television programs, sports and fashion of America in the mid-80's.
This is a story of hope, and the writing is a joy to behold. The enthusiasm leaps off the page. It gave me a new perspective on the impact of American culture and just how much we take for granted. The book is funny, touching, and very personal.
Our favorite Fool, Pocket of Dog Snogging, returns for another visit into the world of William Shakespeare. This time, he finds himself in the city of Athens, Greece and its adjoining forest. Pocket has three days to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Puck, Jester to the Shadow King.
Fans and experts in the writings of Shakespeare will enjoy the many references to the Bard's works while Wiki-experts (like me) will enjoy looking for the source material.
Shakespeare for Squirrels continues Christopher Moore's mission to bring Shakespeare's works to a new audience. Funny, Bawdy, and fast-paced, This is well worth the read!
The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves (Paperback)
Not a strictly a book about baseball as much as it is a look at how mistakes are made due to the poor assumptions, biases, and fallacies that we all make in our everyday lives. Each chapter looks at one or more poor decisions in the history of the game and the thinking behind those decisions. How does anchor bias influence umpire calls? What does suvivorship bias have to do with Nolan Ryan's high pitch counts? How does the sunk cost fallacy figure into player salaries? A great book for fans of the game who want to learn more about the psychology and economic thought that has shaped the game.