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What are we READING?

Daily Staff Report

1. “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. “The Vail Hiker ,” by Mary Ellen Gilliland: This book highlights backcountry trails around Vail. 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. 3. “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. 4. “The Other Boleyn Girl,” by Phillipa Gregory: The daughters of a ruthlessly ambitious family, Mary and Anne Boleyn are sent to the court of Henry VIII to attract the attention of the king, who first takes Mary as his mistress and then Anne as his wife. 5. “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. 6. “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.7. “Freakonomics,” by Steven Levitt: In “Freakonomics,” 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. “Million Little Pieces,” by James Frey: A memoir of a drug abuser.9. “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. 10. “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. Verbatim Booksellers of Vail Village1. “A Star From Grandma,” by Janet Mueller: Michael’s grandmother shares a secret gift with Michael when his baby brother is born. The story of this secret gift can help remind any child from age 2 to 92 how very special they are. 2. “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. 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. “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. 5. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” by Michael Chabon: It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn’s own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun. 6. “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. 7. “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.8. “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 the country. 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. 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. “Culinary Colorado,” by Claire Walter: Whether dining in or out, Culinary Colorado is a food-lovers guide to the Mountain State’s delectable food scene! This ultimate food-trip includes outstanding bakeries, great places to dine, cooking schools, top food festivals, farmers’ markets, and many more.Vail, Colorado


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