Dec 28, 2011

Jack's Picks for January

 Below are Jack's proposed selections for January, with reviews courtesy of Amazon.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano (288 pp):
" exquisite rendering of what one might call feels at the subatomic level." -The New York Time
A prime number is a lonely thing. It can only be divided by itself or by one, and it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia are both "primes"-misfits haunted by early tragedies. When the two meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit. Years later, a chance encounter reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface. But can two prime numbers ever find a way to be together? A brilliantly conceived and elegantly written debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a stunning meditation on loneliness, love, and what it means to be human.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave (271 pp):
The publishers of Chris Cleave's new novel "don't want to spoil" the story by revealing too much about it, and there's good reason not to tell too much about the plot's pivot point. All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. But she shows us the infinite rifts in a globalized world, where any distance can be crossed in a day--with the right papers--and "no one likes each other, but everyone likes U2." Where you have to give up the safety you'd assumed as your birthright if you decide to save the girl gazing at you through razor wire, left to the wolves of a failing state.

A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter (200 pp):
"As nearly perfect as any American fiction I know," is how Reynolds Price (The New York Times) described this classic that has been a favorite of readers, both here and in Europe, for almost forty years. Set in provincial France in the 1960s, it is the intensely carnal story--part shocking reality, part feverish dream --of a love affair between a footloose Yale dropout and a young French girl. There is the seen and the unseen--and pages that burn with a rare intensity.

Dec 23, 2011

Just Men and Dogs at George's

Our dinner on Dec. 13 presented our host with a thematic challenge:  how to evoke the art scene of Patti Smith's 1970's New York without ignoring Mapplethorpe's enormous presence in her memoir.  With a little help from Armando, George succeeded quite nicely.  He presented us with a Coney Island menu (chili dogs and homemade Moon Pies) and a background soundtrack that was vintage Patti Smith.

As we reached for second helpings of Moon Pie, Armando set up an impromptu studio in the living room.  Backed by hot lights and a Hasselblad with a Polaroid back, Armando shot instant B&W head-and-shoulders portraits of all of us.  The more adventurous (or exhibitionist, in the case of Stan and John) pulled off their shirts.  The results: amusing, artistic, but hardly Mapplethorpe.  For that, Armando will need more capable subjects.  (Garth, where are you?)

The Book
Patti Smith's highly-acclaimed memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and her own coming of age as an artist in New York City in the 1960's and 70's was an unusual choice for us.  Written by a woman and mostly about a woman, it very nearly violated our cardinal rule (its focus on Mapplethorpe saved it from disqualification).  And while she won the National Book Award for Just Kids in 2010, Patti Smith was known to us as a rocker, not a writer.

Perhaps with these reservations in mind, I came to this book with a bias that I couldn't shake.  My distaste only grew as I recoiled from Smith's incessant name-dropping, her simplistic writing style (like Paul, I hated its staccato rhythm), and her tedious invocations of Rimbaud and Baudelaire as inspirations for her own nascent artistic sensibility.  So imagine my surprise when I showed up at George's and learned that everyone else found plenty to like in Just Kids.  

George and Dean were enthralled by the 1970's New York art scene described by Smith.  For his part, Doug felt that her name-dropping was simply part of the bohemian currency of the era.  Like Dan and Stan, he was drawn to her memoir partly out of a fondness for her music as a teenager in the 1970's--a style of music he contrasts with the "vapid, corporatized" rock music of today. 

Even those of us less attuned to her music found something to like in Smith's narrative.  Terry was impressed by her and Mapplethorpe's single-minded devotion to their work, Armando admired her strength and resilience as an artist (and was reminded of working in a music store and constantly re-stocking her debut album, Horses), and Paul (who joined us from Kansas City!) found the modest lives of 1970's rock stars, sans entourages, appealing.  For John and Larry, the strength of the book was its devotion to Smith's and Mapplethorpe's relationship as young artists.

For her story (but not for her writing), we awarded Patti Smith a 6.1, which puts her only a little below average in our ratings.  While I'm tempted to accuse others of praising Smith's memoir out of nostalgia or sympathy, my own rating (a 1) was a little unfair.  To make up, here is a stock photo of Smith:
Patti Smith, then

Next Up
We leave for our ski sojourn in the Sierras in January and return to a new selection of titles in February.   Until then, good reading!  [Ed. Note:  With no snow in the mountains, we've reversed course:  Jack has kindly agreed to host in January and we'll see if February delivers enough snow to make a weekend out of it.]

Nov 1, 2011

George's Picks for December

At Stan's direction, I am providing three very different choices, two of which I have read. These two are the first of a series where one does not need to read on, but if you get the bug and have the time you can follow the characters further.

Rabbit Run by John Updike.

John Updike has won two Pulitzer Prize awards, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Award, etc... Beginning in 1960 he released a series of four books centering on the very misoginistic Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom titled "Rabbit Run". The book runs 260 pages. The Amazon write up reads:

Harry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run--from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back....

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The second book was published in the 1912 by a then unknown writer who went on to produce 91 books. His main character is Captain Jack Carter of Virginia, a survivor of the Civil War. The book, a manuscript handed off to the author upon Captain Carter's death, talks of adventures which took place after the war. This is the first book of an eleven part series titled "A Princess of Mars" is by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The movie "John Carter of Mars" opens in 2012. The book is an easy 160 pages. The Amazon review is as follows:

Although Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) is justifiably famous as the creator of Tarzan of the Apes, that uprooted Englishman was not his only popular hero. Burroughs's first sale (in 1912) was A Princess of Mars, opening the floodgates to one of the must successful--and prolific--literary careers in history. This is a wonderful scientific romance that perhaps can be best described as early science fiction melded with an epic dose of romantic adventure. A Princess of Mars is the first adventure of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who unexpectedly find himself transplanted to the planet Mars. Yet this red planet is far more than a dusty, barren place; it's a fantasy world populated with giant green barbarians, beautiful maidens in distress, and weird flora and monstrous fauna the likes of which could only exist in the author's boundless imagination. Sheer escapism of the tallest order, the Martian novels are perfect entertainment for those who find Tarzan's fantastic adventures aren't, well, fantastic enough. Although this novel can stand alone, there are a total of 11 volumes in this classic series of otherworldly, swashbuckling adventure. --Stanley Wiater

Just Kids by Patti Smith.

The third book I have not read. During a recent trip to New York a friend and I visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. This book was in their store and my friend said it was a must read, then promptly bought it and handed it over. The book is "Just Kids" by Patti Smith, and it comes in at 288 pages. I will let the write up speak for itself:

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

So there you go Stan, three completely different books to choose from.

See you all Tuesday.


Aug 19, 2011

Roy's Book Picks for September

Roy has culled through some of the best titles we've previously considered but, for varying reasons, not selected.  He gave me the names and left me the hard work of listing and summarizing them.  Rather than recreate their summaries, I've listed the date they were posted and the name of the man responsible for each title.  So check out the post if you can't remember the book's description.
Note that nos. 3 and 4 are works of non-fiction, and the three novels were written by authors we have already read.  (And of those three authors, two were well-received and one was excoriated for the unforgettable Oscar and Lucinda.  That reaction, however, didn't prevent Peter from proposing him again.) 

1.  All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy (John, 2/23/09)
2.  A True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey (Peter, 2/8/11)
3.  Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand (John, 12/12/10)
4.  The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson (Glen, 7/26/10 and Larry, 6/16/09)
5. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner (Peter, 3/23/09)
Thanks, Roy.  See you all at Tom's on Tuesday.

Jul 22, 2011

No Breakfast for these Champions!!!!

What the host thought would be an extensive
crowd became a much more manageable
gang of meat-eaters hunkering around the table.

and it looked something like this:

Prior to the elegant meal prepared by our
gracious host, a majority of us congregated in
the man cave for a few libations.

That looked something like this: After a few drinks we retired into the dining room
garnished with hand made place mats. from Dean

They looked something like this:
Here we filled our glasses with fine wine and ate
bountiful of exquisite cuisine consisting of:
(cooked to perfection I might add!!!)

Cedar Plank Salmon
Ginger Flank Steak
Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
Asian salad

That looked something like this:

Without the commander in chief attending
(2nd time in a row for this host, I might add)
we debated whether we should commit mutiny
and enjoy one another's company or abide by
the rules and discuss that book in hand.

Then something like this happened......

"Andrew checking in........."

MBC RSVP Rule 7-14a

Attending by phone only gives you 1/2 credit
and a 2 shot penalty

(That's 2 shots of whatever the next host is pouring)

MBC RSVP Rule 7-14b

RSVP and a no show
O credit and a 4 shot penalty

And on that note we began our discussion
that started out something like this..........

Holds true to now/liked how he brought himself into the book
Over thinking
God figure/ controlling
Liked it but didn't love it
Fun read, sarcastic read, enjoyed the drawings
Drawings touched on all aspects of life
Self indulgent author
Play on free will, just can't wrap my head around it now

Meticulous notes looked like this;
All in all the book had mixed reviews which showed in
its ratings. Even though Stan the MAN gave it a 10
followed by a 9 and a couple of 8s, Breakfast of Champions
couldn't break the 7 barrier. It came in with a respectable

Final note: Everyone who attended read the book in full.

A FIRST in MBC history


Next up the R. L. Stevenson's classic


That looks something like this..........

.....well not really but that's the best I could do.

YO! HO! YO HO! A pirates life for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See y'all on Tom's ship Aug 23 and be prepared to
drink RUM!!!!!

Jun 28, 2011

Tom's Suggested Picks for August

I want us to read a classic adventure book. All my selections are true classics and on the top of all adventure book lists. All are fiction, in paperback, about 350/or less pages. All of us have probably read these in our early school years but it’s time to read again and share our thoughts. Five true classics for your consideration:
Treasure Island by Robert L. Stevenson

Ho-ho-ho, and a bottle of Rum!  Treasure Island is perhaps THE classic pirate's tale. Robert Louis Stevenson, the author, created a rich story of adventure and treachery on the high seas all seen through the eyes of a boy named Jim Hawkins. Jim starts off as the son of tavern owners in a humble little port village. When an old seaman stays at the tavern, trouble soon follows him in the form of a pirate crew seeking revenge.

The pirate language is good and thick. The plot moves along very briskly with no wasted scenes. In short, Treasure Island well deserves its status as a beloved classic. It's a story of suspense and adventure that can be enjoyed at a child's level, but has substance for adults as well. 238 pages; first published in 1883

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe is a neatly woven adventure yarn, but under the surface there are several themes. The most apparent is that the novel seems like a morality tale -- i.e., hard work and faith in God will see you through bad times; virtue is rewarded and arrogance is punished. Another theme is that although nature can be a cruel foe, man is better off learning to work in harmony with it than struggling against it. Most interesting, though, is that reading about Crusoe's self-education in the art of survival is like witnessing the anthropological process of how civilization developed from savagery. 352 pages; first published in 1719

Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Captain's Courageous is both grabbing and accurate. Kipling who spent no more than six weeks at sea captures the life of the Grand Bank Schooner fishing culture spot on. Although the account traces the transformation of a spoiled rotten rich 15 year old to a respectable member of a fishing crew, Kiplings discriptions of life at sea are so accurate. 209 pages; first published in 1897


May 29, 2011

Fellow MBC members 2011 BOCCE CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!

San Marino Mortadellas, winners of the novice division at the St Vincent de Paul fundraiser.
Team Leader: Capt. Dean & Debbie followed by Tom "Mr. Clutch" and Robin (not shown), bringing up the rear,Dan & Penny.
Also in the picture is Father Rossi.

May 11, 2011


I have came to the conclusion that 4 martinis and codeine probably is not a good mixture when it comes to transferring your thoughts to words or for even having any thoughts.My apologies for my lame lack of words regarding my views towards the book, Chernobyl and my selections.
The few things that I do remember while in Danland are:
1 Google map sucks
2. I prefer the other vodka
3. John's wonderful attire
4. Russian food without meat
5. I remember dessert but I don't remember what it was but I do remember the dessert
martini. Thanks Garth!
6. Wondering when & where did Peter come from?
7. Larry, hit the nail on the head regarding the book,Chernobyl. But I can't remember what was
8. 2 people would like to read my uncles book and I want to say it's George & Larry?
9. We are reading Kurt's book Breakfast of Champions
10. And finally, if I show up at the party in 1 vehicle and go home in another vehicle(hammered)
does that make me a two bit drunkin old whore?

Breakfast of Champions @ 181 San Marino, June 28 (last Tues of the month)
Please advise which type of milk you prefer with your Wheaties.
I will provide all the fixins...bananas, blueberries or strawberries.


May 5, 2011

Amended list for June

Condemned to Freedom/The Bridge of San Luis Rey will remain as one of the selections.

The other two are:

The Ginger Man, JP Donleavy 368 pgs
National Book Award runner up (1959), Also was banned in Ireland until 1970, so you know it's good when you piss off the Irish!!!!

Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut 303 pgs

Apr 25, 2011

Twofer June

After digesting what was said regarding some of our recent book selections I will forgo from forcing you to read my uncle's book but rather persuade you to read 2 books (1 being my uncles) the others are award winning authors/books that are under 150 pgs. Therefore the combined number of pages for both books would be under the 500 page rule. We would also meet on the last Tues of June and that would be the 28th.

So here are my selections:

1. Condemned to Freedom by John DeFrank (330 pgs.)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder (107 pgs)

2. Condemned to Freedom by John DeFrank (330 pgs)
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (144 pgs.)

3. Condemned to Freedom by John DeFrank (330 pgs.)
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (128 pgs.)

Apr 24, 2011

No Fries With our Freedom

Larry deserves our thanks and praise:  he subbed in for Garth on short notice, put up an eclectic list of titles, and somehow convinced us to pick a novel that grossly exceeded our 500-page limit.  The real surprise is that, after plenty of good-natured grumbling, we appeared at Larry's and propelled Franzen's Freedom to our top five list.  But more on that in a moment.

In addition to dragging Jack back for an evening with the boys, Larry also deserves kudos for setting his table with his own version of Midwest comfort food.  His dry-rubbed ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender and nicely complemented by tossed potatoes and a green salad.  But the best was saved for last.  Larry made a homemade ice cream, a sheet of cookies, and then deftly assembled them into mouth-watering ice cream sandwiches, whose only drawback was their dainty size.  C'mon, Larry.  If you're going for Midwestern fare, then please say no to nouvelle cuisine portioning!

The Book
In Franzen's bestselling follow-up to The Corrections, the dysfunctional Berglund family in Freedom is presented as a crazy quilt of the aspirational upper-middle class.  A single family splinters (over the course of 568 pages) into competing strands of liberalism and neoconservatism, obsession and indifference, choice and passivity, deviance and desire, and more.  Much more.  In the end Franzen ties it up with a bow, but not before making his characters (and the reader) suffer a little.

As Larry noted at the outset, Freedom isn't sustained by an especially interesting plot, but rather (as we all agreed) by its characters.  They're engrossing, outrageous, unlikeable, sanctimonious, pathetic...and ultimately, to a one, unforgettable.  Their largely negative attributes would seem to be a prescription for disaster, and it was enough to make Doug and Stan express an ambivalence that was probably shared by others.

In the end, though, our fascination overcame our distaste and we gave Freedom a heady 7.9 rating.  Even Dean, our usually reliable critic of overstuffed prose, exclaimed how much he looked forward to reading every night.  And I, never objective in my assessment, agreed wholeheartedly.  Freedom was as compelling a love story as I've read in a long time. It's just not quite the love story we're all accustomed to reading.

Next Up
Our selection for next month was clouded by the controversy attending Garth's list of proposed books.  In an effort to tie all of his selections to the current debate over nuclear power, Garth chose three award-winning treatises, each addressing some aspect of nuclear power, and two exceeding our 500-page limit.  In Garth's absence we asked ourselves whether it's appropriate for one theme--especially a politically-charged topic like nuclear power--to dominate a list of titles.  In the end, we picked Voices of Chernobyl, in deference to Garth's wishes and out of curiosity over the subject matter.  But we agreed that, in the future and to ensure that we have a genuine choice of titles (by length, subject matter, and style), a slate of non-fiction titles should be accompanied by at least one novel.  And, if a 500-page tome is proposed, it should complement a list of conforming titles (i.e., be the 4th selection, with the other three all under 500 pages).

With Garth's Rule duly adopted, we'll all look ahead to next month when we can consider whether the current move towards "renewable nuclear" is a wise response to climate change and fossil fuel scarcity.  We'll also ask ourselves if the selection of our first book by a woman is a pardonable breach of MBC rules.

Apr 18, 2011

Garth's Picks for May

For our reading pleasure in May, Garth has proffered some very interesting reads:  all serious and weighty--just like his personality--and all designed to help us explore our views on the role of nuclear technology in today's world.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (721 pages)
Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize (Biography)

J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer's life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative. (Publisher’s Synopsis)

The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (592 pages)
Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize (Non-Fiction)

In the first full account of how the arms race finally ended, The Dead Hand provides an unprecedented look at the inner motives and secret decisions of each side. Drawing on top-secret documents from deep inside the Kremlin, memoirs, and interviews in both Russia and the United States, David Hoffman introduces the scientists, soldiers, diplomats, and spies who saw the world sliding toward disaster and tells the gripping story of how Reagan, Gorbachev, and many others struggled to bring the madness to an end. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the danger continued, and the United States began a race against time to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists and and rogue states. (Publisher’s Synopsis)

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Aleksievich (256 pages)
Winner of the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award (Non-Fiction)

A chorus of fatalism, stoic bravery and black, black humor is sounded in this haunting oral history of the 1986 nuclear reactor catastrophe in what is now northeastern Ukraine. Russian journalist Alexievich records a wide array of voices: a woman who clings to her irradiated, dying husband though nurses warn her 'that's not a person anymore, that's a nuclear reactor'; a hunter dispatched to evacuated villages to exterminate the household pets; soldiers sent in to clean up the mess, bitter at the callous, incompetent Soviet authorities who 'flung us there, like sand on the reactor,' but accepting their lot as a test of manhood; an idealistic nuclear engineer whose faith in communism is shattered. Alexievich shapes these testimonies into novelistic 'monologues' that convey a vivid portrait of late-Communist malaise, in which bullying party bosses, paranoid propaganda and chaotic mobilizations are resisted with bleak sarcasm ('It wasn't milk, it was a radioactive byproduct'), mournful philosophizing ('the mechanism of evil will work under conditions of apocalypse') and lots of vodka. The result is an indelible X-ray of the Russian soul. (Publishers Weekly)

Mar 22, 2011

So, who among us picks the best titles?

Is it Stan?  In his recent comment, he seems to think so when he asserts that "I brought the best books to the club...."  So I figured it was time to collate our best and worst picks.  Check out the pages in the sidebar.  Our Top 5 and Worst 5 lists reveal two other guys who are disproportionately responsible for the best and the worst of what we've read the past four years.  Next time they propose titles, we should all listen closely.  Including Stan.

Mar 16, 2011

From the Kashmir Valley to the Copper Canyon....It's the Full Peter!

On Tuesday Peter broke with tradition and made no effort to theme his meal with McDougall's ultrarunner's opus, Born to Run.  Instead, he treated us to an outstanding rendition of Kashmiri chicken laced with saffron he picked up in Kashmir back in 1992.  We may not have tasted the vintage saffron (nor seen evidence of its distinctive yellow coloring), but we did taste the freshly ground cinnamon and cardamom and the minced pistachios that flavored his dish.  I would have taken home leftovers, but in Peter's politically correct household (yes, the temperature stays at an even 62F to remind his daughters--and his guests--of their environmental responsibility), I couldn't find a single container of Tupperware!

Despite Peter's preference for the Himalayas, most of us prepared for a Mexican evening.  We brought plenty of Mexican beer and Stan even wore his bespoke sandals that were custom fit in the Copper Canyon in 2004.  John wore nothing (on his feet, that is), but Larry succumbed to the new ethos of minimal footwear and sported a pair of just-bought Nike Frees.

As we sat down to dinner, Peter was forced to recount the story of his failure to run a 5:00 mile at age 50, and the consequences thereof.  Suffice to say, none of us will ever join the Tamalpa runners on Tuesdays at the S.R. track without thinking of Peter's bold move last October on the evening of his 51st birthday.

The Book
McDougall's Born to Run showcases the extraordinary running abilities of the Tarahumara people in northern Mexico and culminates in a showdown in the Copper Canyon between Scott Jurek, a seven-time winner of the Western States 100, and a clutch of unknown Tarahumarans.  Most of us agreed with Doug that McDougall's story was perfect fodder for one of his magazine pieces (he writes for Men's Health, Esquire, Outside, and other manly periodicals) but a rather slender premise for a full-length book.  No matter.  McDougall lards up his paean to ultra runners with plenty of diverting (and distracting) anecdotes about every major distance runner since Emil Zatopek.

Despite our criticisms of the writing, everyone enjoyed the subject matter.  Indeed, as Paul and Larry both noted, the book was literally inspiring.  By attacking as myth the notion that distance runners are predisposed to injury, McDougall poses a compelling alternative:  that a naturally trained stride, a rejection of modern shoe technology, and a genuine love of running can produce extraordinary and extraordinarily durable runners.  He's certainly convinced Terry, who is back on the trails of China Camp, and John, who promises to go shoeless at his next early morning boot camp session.

Our rating for Born to Run (7.1) proves that a fascinating subject can overcome the choppy, journalistic prose that infuses so many acclaimed works of non-fiction these days. 

Next Up
Our next title is Jonathan Franzen's much-hailed novel, Freedom.  At 576 pages (and hardcover to boot), we've disregarded our usual 500-page limit in the hopes that this meaty study of current American manners will give us plenty to chew on when we meet next at Larry's.  If the novel is a bust, we'll blame Doug for misleading us with his riveting description of Franzen's storyline.

Mar 14, 2011

Larry's Book Options for April

I just found out today that I will be hosting April's book club. I've put the following list together. They are all books I'd like to read, but basically I think you will find them all entertaining and readable. No clear winner. I'll talk about positives and negatives tomorrow. -- Larry

The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team – by Jim Dent – 304 pages

When Bear Bryant took over the Texas A&M football program in 1954, he inherited a team that had lost its last five games by a combined score of 133-41. That season more than 100 Aggie hopefuls arrived in the small town of Junction for the first practice of a now legendary training camp. Ten hellish days later, only 34 remained to form the 1954 team that would only win one game, but those survivors--and that's what they were--formed the nucleus of the squad that would go undefeated just two years later.

Freedom-- byJonathan Franzen –576 pages: but should be a fast read

Novel by the same author that wrote The Corrections. Amazon Best of the Month, August 2010. An author we should read at some point in our existence. This book or The Corrections and Franzen have made almost every book list.

Growing Up – by Russell Baker – 352 pages

Baker's first Pulitzer was for distinguished commentary for his New York Times "Observer" columns (1979) and the second one was for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982).
An Amazon Review -- Russell Baker deserves to be a national treasure on the basis of this book alone. It traces his youth in rural Virginia, from the death of his father when he was only five through his growing up years between the wars. The rest of the book is a paean to his mother, a strong-willed optimist who never accepted defeat as an alternative to success. Her unfailing faith in the talents of her young son were not misplaced. This is an iconic and magical piece of literature, a story of courage and love, of the bonds of family in spite of tension and disagreement. Wonderful both as a story and as a piece of writing

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything -- Christopher Hitchens – 307 pages

Amazon Review -- God is getting bad press lately. Sam Harris' The End of Faith(2005) and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (2006) have questioned the existence of any spiritual being and met with enormous success. Now, noted, often acerbic journalist Hitchens enters the fray. As his subtitle indicates, his premise is simple. Not only does religion poison everything, which he argues by explaining several ways in which religion is immoral, but the world would be better off without religion.

Feb 8, 2011

Peter's Picks for March

Below are Peter's proposed titles for our enjoyment in March:

The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

The antireligion wars started by Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris will heat up even more with this salvo from celebrated Oxford biologist Dawkins. For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. But Dawkins, who gave us the selfish gene, anticipates this criticism. He says it's the scientist and humanist in him that makes him hostile to religions—fundamentalist Christianity and Islam come in for the most opprobrium—that close people's minds to scientific truth, oppress women and abuse children psychologically with the notion of eternal damnation.

The Book of Negroes (aka, Someone Knows My Name), by Lawrence Hill

Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom—and of the knowledge she needs to get home. Sold to an indigo trader who recognizes her intelligence, Aminata is torn from her husband and child and thrown into the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan, Aminata helps pen the Book of Negroes, a list of blacks rewarded for service to the king with safe passage to Nova Scotia. There Aminata finds a life of hardship and stinging prejudice. When the British abolitionists come looking for "adventurers" to create a new colony in Sierra Leone, Aminata assists in moving 1,200 Nova Scotians to Africa and aiding the abolitionist cause by revealing the realities of slavery to the British public. This captivating story of one woman's remarkable experience spans six decades and three continents.

The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey

Out of nineteenth-century Australia rides a hero of his people and a man for all nations, in this masterpiece by the Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda and Jack Maggs. Exhilarating, hilarious, panoramic, and immediately engrossing.

Born to Run
, by Christoper McDougall

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.