Apr 27, 2009

Book Ideas for May

In the never ending battle between the two forces of the title - Man and Books, I have presented a wide range of potential readings for our May gathering. Given the short month, all the books below are less than 300 pages. We can discuss tomrrow night.

For the more highbrow (book) minded (We're looking at you, Andrew):
Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - http://www.amazon.com/Netherland-Novel-Joseph-ONeill/dp/0307377040/ref=rsl_mainw_dpl?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Hans van den Broek, the Dutch-born narrator of O'Neill's dense, intelligent novel, observes of his friend, Chuck Ramkissoon, a self-mythologizing entrepreneur-gangster, that he never quite believed that people would sooner not have their understanding of the world blown up, even by Chuck Ramkissoon. The image of one's understanding of the world being blown up is poignant—this is Hans's fate after 9/11. He and wife Rachel abandon their downtown loft, and, soon, Rachel leaves him behind at their temporary residence, the Chelsea Hotel, taking their son, Jake, back to London. Hans, an equities analyst, is at loose ends without Rachel, and in the two years he remains Rachel-less in New York City, he gets swept up by Chuck, a Trinidadian expatriate Hans meets at a cricket match. Chuck's dream is to build a cricket stadium in Brooklyn; in the meantime, he operates as a factotum for a Russian gangster. The unlikely (and doomed from the novel's outset) friendship rises and falls in tandem with Hans's marriage, which falls and then, gradually, rises again. O'Neill (This Is the Life) offers an outsider's view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity and a sobering jolt of realism.


The 25th Hour - David Benioff - http://www.amazon.com/25th-Hour-David-Benioff/dp/0452282950/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240862983&sr=1-2

In 24 hours, handsome 27-year-old drug dealer Monty Brogan will enter Otisville Federal Prison to do seven years hard time. His father wants him to run. His drug-lord boss, Uncle Blue, wants to know if he squealed. His girlfriend isn't sure what she wants, and his two best friends know one thing for sure: after he goes in, he will never be the same. In this character-driven crime novel, first-time novelist Benioff dazzles with a spellbinding portrait of three high school buddies confronting the consequences of their carefree youth on the streets of New York. Monty really wanted to be a fireman, but fell in love with "sway," the deference afforded a young man with important connections. For the past five years, he's been selling drugs for Uncle Blue in Manhattan, to moneyed and celebrity clients. His pal, maverick bond trader Frank Slattery, thirsts for serenity, but dreams of avenging old wrongs while fighting his covert lust for Monty's Puerto Rican girlfriend. Despite Monty's dismal future, shy Jakob Elinsky, an ethical, awkward high school English teacher, envies his friend's self-assurance with women as he struggles to control his own secret hunger for a talented writing student, 17-year-old Mary D'Annunzio. The three friends spend one last night together dancing and drinking at Uncle Blue's nightclub. Amid the false merriment, Monty is summoned upstairs to a heart-stopping confrontation with his former boss. Brilliantly conceived, this gripping crime drama boasts dead-on dialogue, chiaroscuro portraits of New York's social strata and an inescapable crescendo of tension. Monty's solution to his agonizing dilemmas will shock even hardened suspense lovers. Film rights to New Line Cinema for a movie to star Toby McGuire. (Jan.) Forecast: With the hip talk and high tension of Richard Price's Clockers, and the assured prose and grasp of character of a seasoned novelist, Benioff's debut may hit the cash registers right out of the gate. It's no wonder that Benioff has been nominated for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, or that the book carries happy blurbs from George P. Pelacanos, Vincent Patric and Ann Patchett.


Lighter faire for the lazier amongst us (My personal bias):

Coach - Michael Lewis - http://www.amazon.com/Coach-Lessons-Game-Michael-Lewis/dp/039333113X/ref=rsl_mainw_dpl?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Lewis (Liar's Poker; Moneyball) remembers his high school baseball coach, Coach Fitz, a man so intense a room felt "more pressurized simply because he was in it." At the New Orleans private school Lewis attended in the late 1970s, Coach Fitz taught kids to fight "the natural instinct to run away from adversity" and to battle their way through all the easy excuses life offers for giving up. He was strict, but he made such an impression on his students that now, 25 years later, alumni want to name a new gym after him. But the parents of today's students aren't as wowed by Coach Fitz's tough love. They call the headmaster with complaints, saying Coach Fitz is too mean to their children and insisting on sitting on his shoulder as he attempts to coach. A desire to set these new parents straight may be the underlying reason for Lewis's slight book, though he'd probably rather have readers believe he's just written it as a paean to a man who taught him some important life lessons. The book's corny subtitle, lack of heft and hackneyed images of kites flying and fireworks exploding may turn off some readers, but those who persevere will come away with a reminder that fear and failure are the "two greatest enemies of a well lived life."


This one was too good to resist -

B is for Beer - Tom Robbins - http://www.amazon.com/B-Beer-Tom-Robbins/dp/0061687278/ref=rsl_mainw_dpl?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

In his children's book for grown-ups/grown-up book for children, Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) takes readers on a whimsical tour of all things beer, written in the language of a bedtime story. Factoids about everything from how beer is made to the number of gallons of beer sold globally each year (36 billion) are woven into this story about six-year-old Gracie Perkel, who craves time with her beer-guzzling Uncle Moe. When Moe disappoints Gracie, she reaches for a drink and is visited by the Beer Fairy, who flies her through the Seam and offers an education about life and, of course, beer. The drive to inform the reader about malt and hops is sometimes relentless, and the language can be frustratingly dumbed-down (If you're unfamiliar with the word podiatrist, you're not alone. Fortunately for Gracie [and now for you], Uncle Moe was quick to define podiatrist as a doctor who investigates and treats disorders of the feet. A foot specialist). Still, the premise and execution of this unique book lends itself to moments of real humor.

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