What are we READING? | VailDaily.com

What are we READING?

Daily Staff Report

The Bookworm of Edwards1. “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. 2. “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.3. “Blink,” by Malcom Gladwell: “Blink” is about the first two seconds of looking–the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of “thin slices” of behavior. The key is to rely on our “adaptive unconscious” – a 24/7 mental valet – that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.4. “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. Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.5. “Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger: This is the remarkable story of Henry Detamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Care Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant. An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, the “Time Traveler’s Wife” is destined to captivate readers for years to come. 6. “The World is Flat,” by Thomas Friedman: Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim, in his new book, “The World Is Flat,” as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn’t going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman’s breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futurists – the optimistic ones at least – are inevitably prey to. 7. “Known World,” by Edward P. Jones: In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Va. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can’t uphold the estate’s order and chaos ensues. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities. 8. “The Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles 1932,” by Jim Fergus: Ned Giles is a 17-year-old orphan whose father’s advice in a suicide note was that he should “buy himself a good camera.” Ned is working in the clubhouse at the Racket Club in Chicago when one of the members posts a notice: “The Great Apache Expedition: This expedition … plans to go into the Sierra Madre Mountains on the boundary between Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, to attempt to recover the 7-year-old son of Fernando Huerta … the boy having been stolen by the Apache Indians … when 3 years old…” Ned decides to leave Chicago and present himself in Douglas, Ariz., where the expedition is being organized, in the hope of becoming the expedition photographer. He drives his father’s Studebaker Roadster, the last vestige of his old life, and eventually fetches up in Douglas. What he finds there is every boy’s dream adventure and then some. 9. “Million Little Pieces,” by James Frey: A memoir of a drug abuser.10. “Sisterhood of Traveling Pants,” by Ann Brashares: They were just a soft, ordinary pair of thrift-shop jeans until the four girls took turns trying them on – four girls, that is, who are close friends, about to be parted for the summer, with very different sizes and builds, not to mention backgrounds and personalities. Yet, the pants settle on each girl’s hips perfectly, making her look sexy and long-legged and feel confident as a teenager can feel. “These are magical Pants!” they realize, and so they make a pact to share them equally, to mail them back and forth over the summer from wherever they are. Beautiful, distant Lena is going to Greece to be with her grandparents; strong, athletic Bridget is off to soccer camp in Baja, California; hot-tempered Carmen plans to have her divorced father all to herself in South Carolina; and Tibby the rebel will be left at home to slave for minimum wage at Wallman’s.Verbatim Booksellers of Vail Village1. “Sighthound,” by Pam Houston: Rae is a playwright. As the story begins, forty something Rae is living in Colorado with a flinty housekeeper; a good-time dog named Rose; a self-contained cat named Stanley; and a truly enlightened being, Dante the Irish wolfhound. A typical Houston gal – tough and outdoorsy yet creative and vulnerable–Rae hasn’t had the best karma when it comes to parents, friends, or lovers, so Dante is her great love. And Dante, who suffers from cancer and loses a leg, is nothing less than a canine bodhisattva, doing everything in his power to teach Rae to trust love. 2. “Pie in the Sky,” by Susan Purdy: Do your cakes collapse, soufflés slump, cookies crumble, and fruit pies fail? For those living at high altitude, baking can be a challenge at best, or a total disaster. Purdy has actually “gone there and done that,” staying as long as it took to bake these recipes to perfection at five different locations – and elevations – across thecountry. In “Pie in the Sky,” Purdy leaves behind old conversion tables, disproves many oft-repeated calculations and adjustments, and presents reliable recipes in their entirety for each altitude. She takes out the tinkering and guarantees success at any height. 3. “The Vail Hiker ,” by Mary Ellen Gilliland: This book highlights backcountry trails around Vail, Colorado. High hidden lakes, alpine cascades, historic relics and high passes serve as destinations. Visit meadows awash with bright wildflowers and explore weathered buildings that once housed gold rush prospectors 4. “Guide to Colorado Wildflowers,” by G.K. Guennel: This updated book, Volume 2 for Mountains, catalogues 352 descriptions of species that grow from 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet in elevation that you might encounter in the mountain life zone. You don’t have to be an expert in botany to identify Colorado’s bountiful wildflowers. Includes hundreds of color pictures and photos. 5. “The Beast in the Garden,” by David Baron: When, in the late 1980s, residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their yards, it became clear that the cats had repopulated the land after decades of persecution. Here, in a riveting environmental fable that recalls Peter Benchley’s thriller Jaws, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles Boulder’s effort to coexist with its new neighbors. A parable for our times, The Beast in the Garden is a scientific detective story and a real-life drama, a tragic tale of the struggle between two highly evolved predators: man and beast. 6. “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” by Thomas Frank: The largely blue collar citizens of Kansas can be counted upon to be a “red” state in any election, voting solidly Republican and possessing a deep animosity toward the left. This, according to author Thomas Frank, is a pretty self-defeating phenomenon, given that the policies of the Republican Party benefit the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the average worker. According to Frank, the conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans’ actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class.7. “Mozart in the Jungle,” by Blair Tindall: From her debut recital at Carnegie Hall to performing with the orchestras of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, oboist Blair Tindall has been playing classical music professionally for 25 years. She’s also lived the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth, trading sex and drugs for low-paying gigs and the promise of winning a rare symphony position or a lucrative solo recording contract. In “Mozart in the Jungle,” Tindall describes her graduation from the North Carolina School of the Arts to the backbiting New York classical music scene, a world where Tindall and her fellow classical musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hung-over, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions. 8. “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.9. “Shadow Divers,” by Robert Kurson: This superlative journalistic narrative tells of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two deep-sea wreck divers who in 1991 dove to a mysterious wreck lying at the perilous depth of 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. Both had a philosophy of excelling and pushing themselves to the limit; both needed all their philosophy and fitness to proceed once they had identified the wreck as a WWII U-boat. 10. “The Historian,” by Elizabeth Kostova: In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father’s library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word “Drakulya,” but it’s the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results.Vail Colorado

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