What are we READING? | VailDaily.com

What are we READING?

The Bookworm of Edwards1. “An Unfinished Life,” by Mark Spragg: An old rancher reluctantly takes in his daughter-in-law and granddaughter in this second novel by Spragg (“The Fruit of Stone”). Jean Gilkyson hasn’t been back to her hometown of Ishawooa, Wyo., since her husband, Griffin, died in a car accident. Jean was driving, and Griffin’s father, Einar, has never forgiven her for his son’s death. Ten years and four boyfriends later, Jean has run out of money and options. With her precocious nine-year-old daughter, Griff, she escapes boyfriend number four, a smirking brute named Roy. Einar isn’t happy to see mother or daughter, but Griff loves his log house and ranch life. She makes friends right away with Mitch, Einar’s old Vietnam War buddy, who’s been mauled by a grizzly and is horribly scarred, and gradually wins over her grandfather. Meanwhile, Jean is charming the town sheriff, which comes in handy when Roy tracks her down. 2. “Virgin’s Lover,” by Philippa Gregory: In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen. One woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will pull her husband back to the very center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be. Can Amy’s steadfast faith in him, her constant love, and the home she wants to make for them in the heart of the English countryside compete with the allure of the new queen? 3. “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 v4. “Work of Wolves,” by Kent Meyers: Meyers’s third novel (“The River Warren”; etc.) is a gorgeously written, exacting exploration of duty and retribution set in dusty rural South Dakota. There’s no love lost between horse trainer Carson Fielding and land baron Magnus Yarborough ever since a confident 14-year-old Carson got the better of Magnus in a horse buy. But Carson, now 26, is broke, and Magnus needs someone to train his horses and teach his wife, Rebecca, to ride. Carson and Rebecca fall for each other, and though their relationship remains in the realm of perfectly rendered, unconsummated desire, Magnus becomes convinced they’re having an affair. In a bizarre act of revenge, he hides and starves the horses Carson trained. When two teenagers, Lakota math whiz Earl Walks Alone and German exchange student Willi Schubert, discover the abused animals, they plot with Carson to save them; alcoholic Ted Kills Many soon joins the mission. Meyers weaves the folklore and legend of Lakota culture with the tension between ranchers who have worked the land for generations and the greed of those who would take it away from them. His spare dialogue is brilliantly and often comically expressive, and Carson, his taciturn, rational hero, is an original and compelling character. Strong themes of generational responsibility and family history add resonance to this gratifying, very American novel. 5. “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. 6. “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. 7. “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. 8. “Birth of Venus,” by Sarah Dunant: Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen 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.9. “Bess,” by Carol McManus: Bess is Carol McManus’ second historical novel. As with Ida, Carol’s award-winning and best-selling first novel, Bess is based on the author’s close observations of pioneer women living and working in western Colorado during the first part of the twentieth century. Life in those days was filled with determined women who tried to make a better life for themselves and their families. As opposed to their Victorian counterparts, who were for the most part resigned to their stations in life, the women of Bess’ time began to develop a sense that they and their children could become successful if only they were willing to work hard enough. Many of these women became true working partners with their husbands on the family farm, while other women worked as teachers, shop clerks, and secretaries. 10. “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. Verbatim Booksellers of Vail Village1. “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. 2. “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. 3. “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. 4. “Land and Light in the American West,” by John Ward: The author chronicles his journeys throughout the nation’s national parks, forests, and wilderness areas from behind the camera, offering a breathtaking collection of stills from throughout the American West that showcase the powerful forces of nature at work.5. “Inventors of Vail,” by Dick Hauserman: This book tells the entire story of the remarkable men and women who created a world-class community from acres of pasture. More than 60 interviews were conducted with early founders, pioneers and entrepreneurs of Vail in order to piece together a fascinating history replete with detail, fact, intrigue, conflict and romance. 6. “Desert Solitaire,” by Edward Abbey: Edward Abbey lived for three seasons in the desert at Moab, Utah, and what he discovered about the land before him, the world around him, and the heart that beat within, is a fascinating, sometimes raucous, always personal account of a place that has already disappeared, but is worth remembering and living through again and again. 7. “No Country for Old Men,” by Cormac McCarthy: Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, instead finds men shot dead, a load of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash. Packing the money out, he knows, will change everything. But only after two more men are murdered does a victim’s burning car lead Sheriff Bell to the carnage out in the desert, and he soon realizes how desperately Moss and his young wife need protection. One party in the failed transaction hires an exSpecial Forces officer to defend his interests against a mesmerizing freelancer, while on either side are men accustomed to spectacular violence and mayhem. The pursuit stretches up and down and across the border, each participant seemingly determined to answer what one asks another: how does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?8. “1776,” by David McCullough: As the year 1776 began, hostilities between American forces and British regulars, which had begun the preceding April, continued. Yet a full-fledged war for independence was not inevitable. In Parliament, such conciliators as Edmund Burke and Charles Fox attacked government policy as needlessly provocative. In America, many members of the Continental Congress also sought compromise. But the rush of events, especially the ongoing bloodletting, soon drowned out calls for moderation. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McCullough has provided a stirring account of the year that began with the humiliating British abandonment of Boston and ended with Washington’s small but symbolically important triumph at Trenton. 9. “New Rules,” by Bill Maher: Bill Maher’s popular new HBO television show, Real Time, has put Maher more front and center than ever before. Particularly one regular segment on the show, entitled “New Rules,” has been a hit with his ever-growing legion of fans. It is the part of the show during which Maher takes serious aim, bringing all of his intelligence, incisiveness, wit, and his signature exasperation to bear on topics ranging from cell to fast food, to the conservative agenda (“Stop claiming it’s an agenda. It’s not an agenda. It’s a random collection of laws that your corporate donors paid you to pass.”) His new book brings these brilliantly conceived riffs and rants to the written page. Appropriately titled New Rules, the book will collect some of the best of the rules derived from previously written material and will also contain substantial new material, including some longer form “editorials”–of course with a twist and bite that only Bill Maher can deliver.10. “Vail – Triumph of a Dream,” by Pete Seibert: This is the inside story of Vail by the man who helped create it. A ski trooper and member of the famed 10th Mountain Division during World War II, Seibert came back from the war with wounds so severe he was not expected to ski again. Against all odds he became a champion ski racer and a member of the 1950 Men’s Alpine Team. Then he focused on the dream he had since childhood – of building his own ski resort.

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