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What are we READING?

Daily Staff Report

The Bookworm of Edwards1. “You: The Owner’s Manual,” by Mehmet C. Oz: If there ever was a pair of docs who can make the small intestine seem truly intriguing, here they are. Dr. Mehmet Oz is an alternative-medicine maverick and a cardiologist known to implement acupuncture during open-heart surgery. Dr. Michael Roizen developed the “RealAge” concept of calculating one’s biological, as opposed to chronological, age. Here they’ve whipped up a witty guide to the workings of the entire body, appropriate not just for those who can’t tell their pancreas from their pituitary. Even Cheers’ Cliff Claven types who think they know it all will likely be humbled by the 50-question “body-quotient” quiz that starts off the book. With much sassy humor (they describe the adrenals as similar in shape to Mr. Potato Head’s hat), they give a guided tour of the body’s anatomy and major systems (hormonal, nervous, digestive, sensory, etc.) including plenty of fascinating trivia along the way. How often should you get your thyroid level checked? How much gas does the average person produce in a day? And, most importantly, how many times a year do most people have sex? Drs. Oz and Roizen know. They also reveal plenty of bizarre (and potentially life-saving) facts such as this: If your earlobe has a prominent vertical wrinkle, it’s likely that your arteries are aging faster than they ought to be. If only eighth-grade health class had been this fun. 2. “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” by Mireille Guilano: Author Mireille Guiliano is CEO of Veuve Clicquot, and “French Women Don’t Get Fat” offers a concept of sensible pleasures: If you have a chocolate croissant for breakfast, have a vegetable-based lunch – or take an extra walk and pass on the bread basket at dinner. Guiliano’s insistence on simple measures slowly creating substantial improvements are reassuring, and her suggestion to ignore the scale and learn to live by the “zipper test” could work wonders for those who get wrapped up in tiny details of diet. She sympathizes that deprivation can lead straight to overindulgence when it comes to favorite foods, but then, in a most French manner, treats them as a pleasure that needs to be sated, rather than a battle to be fought. 3. “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini: This is the story of a friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him. 4. “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Suess: Kindergartners, graduate students, newlyweds, newly employeds – all will glean shiny pearls of wisdom about the big, bountiful future from “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” The incomparable Dr. Seuss rejoices in the potential everyone has to fulfill their wildest dreams. 5. “The Naked Roommate,” by Harlan Cohen: A syndicated columnist for teens and young adults and the author of “Campus Life Exposed,” Cohen dishes commonsensical wisdom about college life. Tips include: be yourself, lock your door, set boundaries with your roommate, don’t drink too much and be sensitive to others’ differences. Cohen tackles the ins and outs of residence halls, student organizations, friendships, dating, drugs and money-oh, and he considers classes, too, though with perhaps with less enthusiasm (and certainly fewer pages) than he devotes to sex. Though he lists interesting statistics, additional resources and plenty of first-person letters from students seeking his advice, Cohen doesn’t offer much that a reasonably intelligent college kid couldn’t figure out on his or her own – but that may not be a weakness: “everything’s going to be OK” could be just what a nervous first-year student needs to hear most. 6. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer: Using as a focal point the chilling story of offshoot Mormon fundamentalist brothers Dan and Ron Lafferty, who in 1984 brutally butchered their sister-in-law and 15-month-old niece in the name of a divine revelation, Krakauer explores what he sees as the nature of radical Mormon sects with Svengali-like leaders. Using mostly secondary historical texts and some contemporary primary sources, Krakauer compellingly details the history of the Mormon church from its early 19th-century creation by Joseph Smith (whom Krakauer describes as a convicted con man) to its violent journey from upstate New York to the Midwest and finally Utah, where, after the 1890 renunciation of the church’s holy doctrine sanctioning multiple marriages, it transformed itself into one of the world’s fastest-growing religions. Through interviews with family members and an unremorseful Dan Lafferty (who is currently serving a life sentence), Krakauer chronologically tracks what led to the double murder, from the brothers’ theological misgivings about the Mormon church to starting their own fundamentalist sect that relies on their direct communications with God to guide their actions. According to Dan’s chilling step-by-step account, when their new religion led to Ron’s divorce and both men’s excommunication from the Mormon church, the brothers followed divine revelations and sought to kill, starting with their sister-in-law, those who stood in the way of their new beliefs. Relying on his strong journalistic and storytelling skills, Krakauer peppers the book with an array of disturbing firsthand accounts and news stories (such as the recent kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart) of physical and sexual brutality, which he sees as an outgrowth of some fundamentalists’ belief in polygamy and the notion that every male speaks to God and can do God’s bidding. While Krakauer demonstrates that most nonfundamentalist Mormons are community oriented, industrious and law-abiding, he poses some striking questions about the closed-minded, closed-door policies of the religion-and many religions in general. 7. “The Prophet,” by Kahlil Gibran: A brilliant man’s philosophy on love, marriage, joy and sorrow, time, friendship and much more. Originally published in 1923 – translated into more than 20 languages. With 12 full page drawings by Gibran.8. “Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles, 1932,” by Jim Fergus: Depicting the dusty Depression-era West, this saga, inspired by events that took place in Arizona and south of the border in the Sierra Madre badlands, dramatizes latter-day conflicts between whites and Native Americans. 9. “Mermaid Chair,” by Sue Monk Kidd: Jessie Sullivan, the protagonist of this rewarding second novel by the author of the bestselling “Secret Life of Bees,” is awakened by a shrilling phone late one night to horrifying news: her mother, who has never recovered from her husband Joe’s death 33 years earlier, has chopped off her own finger with a cleaver. Frantic with worry, and apprehensive at the thought of returning to the small island where she grew up in the shadow of her beloved father’s death and her mother’s fanatical Catholicism, 42-year-old Jessie gets on the next plane, leaving behind her psychiatrist husband, Hugh, and college-age daughter, Dee. On tiny Egret Island, off the coast of South Carolina, Jessie tries to care for her mother, Nelle, who is not particularly eager to be taken care of. Jessie gets help from Nelle’s best friends, feisty shopkeeper Kat and Hepzibah, a dignified chronicler of slave history. To complicate matters, Jessie finds herself strangely relieved to be free of a husband she loves – and wildly attracted to Brother Thomas Whit O’Conner, a junior monk at the island’s secluded Benedictine monastery. Confusing as the present may be, the past is rearing its head, and Jessie, who has never understood why her mother is still distraught by Joe’s death, begins to suspect that she’s keeping a terrible secret. 10. “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” by Mark Haddon: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. At 15, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog Wellington impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing. Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer, and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As Christopher tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, the narrative draws readers into the workings of Christopher’s mind.


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