Recommended Paperbacks: Sex Secrets, Bios of Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and Lombardi, Spotting Liars, and Organic Gardeningby Larry Cox on Aug. 31, 2010, under Uncategorized
The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy with New Chapters on His Death and Legacy by the Team of the Boston Globe, edited by Peter S. Canellos (Simon & Schuster, $16)
Shortly before his death last year, this remarkable, balanced biography of Ted Kennedy was written by staff writers at the Boston Globe. A year later, the nation is still immensely curious about Kennedy’s story and place in our national history. Now available in paperback, readers who think they know everything there is to know about this iconic man will be surprised to find new and sometimes astonishing information on nearly every page. Some of the more intriguing revelations are Joan Kennedy’s memories of her short, chaste courtship with Ted and how they really didn’t get to know each other until after they were married. She reveals how she reacted to his philandering, her closeness to Jackie Kennedy, and Ted prevailed on her to attend Mary Jo Kopechne’s funeral even though she was supposed to be ion bed for her pregnancy. In two new chapters, it is documented the crucial backstage role Kennedy continued to play to get health care reformed passed, how his friends and even enemies secretly found a way to pay their respects in the last year of his life, and how he planned his own funeral and even joked with friends about his mortality. This book is highly readable and humanizes this bigger-than-life man.
It’s a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quite the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life by Keith Stewart with illustrations by Flavia Bararella (Experiment Books, $18.95)
Since the original publication of this book in 1006, Keith Stewart has expanded his organic operations on his farm near Westtown, New York, and has become one of the country’s leading spokesmen promoting the many benefits of buying and eating locally grown, organic produce – for the environment, for our health, and for our taste buds. From May through December, Restaurant chefs and everyday shoppers crowd his food booth twice weekly at Manhattan’s famed Union Square Greenmarket. In perfectly crafted essays, Stewart describes the nuts and bolts of organic farming in 21st century America. This book will be especially appealing to readers who appreciate the importance of growing and consuming nutritious food via sustainable agricultural practices. The illustrations by Flavia Bacarella, Stewart’s wife and an art instructor at Lehman College of the City University of New York, add just the right touch to this highly recommended book.
The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars by Christopher Cokinos (Tarcher/Penguin, $16.95)
For hundreds, thousands, even millions of years, meteorites have struck Earth. In fact, one of the major tourist attracts in Northern Arizona is a massive crater where just such an event occurred. These strikes are so common, even the dust in our homes, our car, and even our workplace contains particles from the cosmos. Cokinos, a professor of English at Utah State University, takes readers on a hunt through time and space as he profiles the maverick scientists, mad dreamers and starry-eyed profiteers who chased meteorites and turned their study into a legitimate science. They include Robert Peary, who went in search of the North Pole but instead stumbled across the “ghost rocks of Greenland,” Daniel Moreau Barringer, the mining engineer, lawyer, and blowhard, who popularized the idea that caters could be created by meteorites, and Biology professor Harvey Nininger, a rabid collector who opened the first meteorite museum. In this work that is part science, part history, and part memoir, the exploration of meteorites and the passions of those who hunt them are fully explored.
Disquiet, Please! More Humor Writing from The New Yorker edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder (Random House, $18)
For more than eighty years, The New Yorker has served up some of the most humorous writing ever including the work of such heavy-hitters as David Sedaris, James Thurber, Woody Allen, Dorothy Parker, Wendy Wasserstein, E.B. White, and Robert Benchley. As the book cover states, if laughter is the best medicine, this collection is truly a wonder drug. Some of the standouts not to be missed “Intelligent Design” by Paul Rudnick; “A Man Who Can’t Love (Dedicated to Women Who Love Too Much)” by George W.S. Trow; “Side Effects” by Steve Martin; and “Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer” by S.J. Perelman. Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker and Finder is the publication’s editorial director. Their collection is superb.
When Pride Still Mattered – Lombardi by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster, $17)
Even though Vince Lombardi has been dead for more than four decades, the mythic coach who led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships during the 1960s is still a legendary man who transcended the sport. In this biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, Lombardi’s live is revealed through hundreds of interviews, letters, documents, and archival materials. This biography works because of its balance and the fact that the author is able to separate Lombardi, the human being, from the almost super-human character so symbolic of America’s obsession with winning. According to a critic from Sports Illustrated, this book “forges a near-perfect synthesis of fine writing and fascinating material…May be the best sports biography ever published.”
Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story 1958-2009 by J. Randy Taraborrelli (Grand Central Publishing, $14.99)
Published shortly after Michael Jackson’s death and now issued in paperback, this revealing biography of the pop star celebrates the life of one of the most iconic performers of the twentieth century. So much has been said and written about the life and carrer of Michael Jackson it has become almost impossible to determine truth from myth. J. Randy Taraborrelli, a CBS news consultant and a close friend of the entertainer, updates his acclaimed 1991 biography with new information and startling facts about the legal struggles and mysterious illness that seemed to consume the last five years of the singer’s life. Based on more than thirty-five years of research and hundreds of exclusive interviews with those closest to the star, Taraborrelli covers almost every aspect of Jackson’s life. His almost 800-page book is authoritative, comprehensive, and highly readable. To borrow a phrase, this is it.
Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond (Grand Central Publishing, $14.99)
Forget many of the things you’ve been told about healthy living and losing weight. According to Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, authors of the bestselling “Fit for Life 2” which sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, you can eat more kinds of food than you ever ate before without counting calories and still lose weight. The transformation begins with “Fit for Life” secrets that include timing and food combinations that work with natural body cycles. When combined with a 4-week meal plan, nutritious menus, and exercise, the results can be dramatic. The Diamonds build a convincing case that their permanent weight-loss program gets results since it is based on not just what we eat, but also when and how. Knowing and using that knowledge, can, they claim, help achieve the desired results.
Half Baked: A Memoir – The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe by Alexa Stevenson (Running Press, $14.95)
Alexa Stevenson’s life was changed forever when the birth of her daughter occurred 3 months early. Suddenly, she was surrounded by throngs of doctors, nurses, and specialists, all focusing on the care of little Simone in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. As she recalls in her beautifully written and moving memoir, she was forced into “a Zen-like acceptance of medical uncertainties absurdities.” The St. Paul-based woman soon began a blog where her topics included such things as parenthood, procrastination, and life in general. “Half-Baked” is an uniquely satisfying mix of humor, intelligence, and inspiration. It is certain to resonate with everyone who has faced happiness and adversity at the same time and, yes, for those who just enjoy a well-told poignant story that remains with the reader long after the final page has been read.
The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships by Robert Feldman (Twelve, $14.99)
The question isn’t whether people lie since we know that everyone does. The real question is how much they lie and why. Dr. Feldman, a Fellow at both the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science and Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is one of the world’s leading authorities on deception and in his fascinating book he gets to the bottom of one of the central paradoxes of deception, namely that despite our regular exposure to it, we don’t understand it very well. He adds that our culture has become increasingly tolerate of deception and explodes some of the most popular myths about lying. Surprisingly, he reveals that it is nearly impossible to spot a liar and even lie detectors are only about 47% accurate. There is a real cost of lying and the author suggests that the secret is learning how to best cope with it. Drawing on extensive research and written with insight, this book is a road map out of the land of mendacity.
Secrets from the Sex Lab: From First Kiss to Last Gasp…How You Can Be Better in Bed by Judy Dutton (Broadway Books, $14.99)
Originally published last year under the title, “How We Do It,” this dandy little book addresses such questions as whether the seven-year itch truly exists, how partners can be prevented from straying, the number one drain on a couple’s sex life, and the number of erogenous zones there are on the human body. Part exploration of the science of our sexuality and part self-help manual, “Secrets from the Sex Lab” highlights the latest, greatest, and most bizarre experiments that that have heated up laboratories throughout the world in an effort to document everything that’s going on chemically, neurologically, and biologically during a typical sexual encounter — from start to finish. Two of the more intriguing facts are that humans use fifty-two flirting signals to draw in potential mates, and not only is there a G-spot, sex researcher Chua Chee Ann has uncovered an A-spot that when touched properly…. You get the picture. In addition to being a self-help guide, it is also surprisingly fun. Dutton is a Brooklyn-based editor who has worked for such publications as Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Maxim.