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What are we READING?

Daily Staff Report

The Bookworm of Edwards1. “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. 2. “One Thousand White Women,” by Jim Fergus: “One Thousand White Women” is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end, May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.3. “Birth of Venus,” by Sarah Dunant: Alessandra Cecchi is not quite 15 when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control.4. “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. 5. “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. 6. “Winning,” by Jack Welsch: “Winning” describes the management wisdom that Welch built up through four and a half decades of work at GE, as he transformed the industrial giant from a sleepy “Old Economy” company with a market capitalization of $4 billion to a dynamic new one worth nearly half a trillion dollars. 7. “Freakonomics,” by Steven Levitt: In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald’s, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don’t really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner’s 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written.8. “Star in the Storm,” by Joan Harlow: Harlow’s descriptive prose clearly evokes images of the Newfoundland coast and life in 1912, and she carefully incorporates folklore of the region into her story. Maggie, 12, is determined to keep her beloved Newfoundland, Sirius, in spite of a new law that bans all but sheepdogs from this sheep-raising community.9. “1776,” by David McCullough: Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world’s greatest army. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale–a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton was magnified despite its limited strategic importance. 10. “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.Vail Colorado


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