Today’s must-read – The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates

by Sarah Vowell

wordy_shipmatesEssayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America’s Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country’s present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop’s followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton’s proclamation that they were God’s chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11).


Apple approves e-book after dirty words removed

Apple has approved a version of Knife Music as an e-book application after the author removed words Apple considered objectionable.

An e-book submitted to Apple’s App Store has been approved after the author removed language that apparently offended Apple.

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Atlas Shrugged is absurd but strangely compelling

Ayn Rand’s libertarian rant is unpleasant, daft and deeply flawed. I hated it – but I couldn’t put it down


Less Equal Than You’d Think

Are women writers underrepresented in our literary landscape? Elaine Showalter, Princeton University Professor Emerita and author of A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (Knopf) certainly thinks so. On a recent On Public Radio International broadcast, Showalter explained her thoughts:

Today’s Must-Read – Letter to my daughter

letter_daughterLetter to My Daughter

by Maya Angelou

From the mellifluous voice of a venerable American icon comes her first original collection of writing to be published in ten years, anecdotal vignettes drawn from a compelling life and written in Angelou’s erudite prose. Beginning with her childhood, Angelou acknowledges her own inauguration into daughterhood in “Philanthropy,” recalling the first time her mother called her “my daughter.” Angelou becomes a mother herself at an early age, after a meaningless first sexual experience: “Nine months later I had a beautiful baby boy. The birth of my son caused me to develop enough courage to invent my life.” Fearlessly sharing amusing, if somewhat embarrassing, moments in “Senegal,” the mature Angelou is cosmopolitan but still capable of making a mistake: invited to a dinner party while visiting the African nation, Angelou becomes irritated that none of the guests will step on a lovely carpet laid out in the center of the room, so she takes it upon herself to cross the carpet, only to discover the carpet is a table cloth that had been laid out in honor of her visit. The wisdom in this slight volume feels light and familiar, but it’s also earnest and offered with warmth.

Best Price at Amazon  $13.47

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Today’s Must-read – The Slap

The Slapby Christos Tsiolkas

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye on to that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity – all the passions and conflicting beliefs – that family can arouse.

Image: View an image of author Christos Tsiolkas

PDF Download: Read an excerpt from The Slap
Warning PDF contains language which could offend.

Latest must-read – A fraction of the whole


A Fraction of the whole

by Steve Tolz

fraction_wholeA Fraction of the Whole is that rarest of long books–utterly worth it…The story starts in a prison riot and ends on a plane, and there is not one forgettable episode in between…It reads like Mark Twain with access to an intercontinental Airbus…This book moves; it bucks and rocks in a world that feels more than a hemisphere away…So comically dark and inviting that you have no choice but to step into its icy wake.” —Esquire
“Rollicking…laugh-out-loud funny.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A rich father-and-son story packed with incident, humor, and characters reminiscent of the styles of Charles Dickens and John Irving…Occasionally, a big, sprawling first novel fights its way into print with a flourish, at which point its ambition and the eccentricities of its ‘firstness’ can become its best marketing tools. Such is the case with A Fraction of the Whole, a book that is willfully misanthropic and very funny…like Irving, Toltz makes minor characters leap off the page…He’s a superb, disturbing phrasemaker…this long novel, which lives or dies in the brilliance of its writing, has a subtle, compelling structure

A Fraction of the Whole soars like a rocket.” —Los Angeles Times

“Combines the hilarious high-low reference points of early Martin Amis with the annihilating punk inventiveness of Chuck Palahniuk.” —Best Life


A Visit to Crusoe’s Island

In 1704, a 28-year-old Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk found himself in a fix. He had taken up privateering—piracy with an official seal, in other words—and had spent too much time cooped up on a galley with an irascible captain of the sort Geoffrey Rush so ably portrays in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Grievance boards and human-resources departments being nonexistent in that line of work, Selkirk made a potentially catastrophic decision: when he was demoted after a squabble with the captain about the seaworthiness of their ship, which was apparently riddled with shipworms, he asked to be put ashore on an island (pictured here) far away from anything in particular, 400 miles west of the port of Valparaiso, Chile, in the Juan Fernandez archipelago. Though remote, the 36-square-mile island contained large stores of sweet water from which passing ships would replenish their supplies, and Selkirk apparently figured that it would not be long before another ship came along.

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Robinson Crusoe's Island, Chile. Photograph [c] by Leonardo Ramirez

Bringing Comics to the Amazon Kindle

Since the release of the Kindle, Amazon’s popular digital reading device, a few publishers have started to experiment with converting their comics to Kindle editions. But while the recently released and upgraded Kindle 2 offers an improved design and a better screen experience—unlike the first Kindle, the Kindle 2 offers a 16 tone grayscale screen—reading comics on the device is not an altogether enjoyable experience.

Comics on the Kindle 2 can look dim and small; word balloons are often difficult to read even when enlarged—indeed the Kindle’s zoom and enlarge feature is often inadequate. Nevertheless, while the publishers PWCW spoke with had varying degrees of success converting their comics to the Kindle, they all stressed the importance of carefully examining and understanding the Kindle digital format, emphasizing that the device and its technology will likely improve in the future. “At this point, it’s just to learn what it takes to get these books into the format under the assumption that the technology will get better,” said Neil DeYoung from Hachette’s Digital Media Group. “When that does happen and the market is ready, we’ll already have the chops needed.”