What are we reading?
September 8, 2005
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 9-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. “On the Road to Vail and Beyond,” by Dick Hauserman.3. “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. 4. “Million Little Pieces,” by James Frey: A memoir of a drug abuser. 5. “Shadow of the Wind,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax’s novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax’s novels. As he grows up, Daniel’s fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a “porcelain gaze,” Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend’s sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, he discovers a cast of characters with secrets to hide.6. “100 People Screwing Up American,” by Bernard Goldberg: No preaching. No pontificating. Just some uncommon sense about the things that have made this country great — and the culprits who are screwing it up. Bernard Goldberg takes dead aim at the America Bashers (the cultural elites who look down their snobby noses at “ordinary” Americans) … the Hollywood Blowhards (incredibly ditzy celebrities who think they’re smart just because they’re famous) … the TV Schlockmeisters (including the one whose show has been compared to a churning mass of maggots devouring rotten meat) … the Intellectual Thugs (bigwigs at some of our best colleges, whose views run the gamut from left wing to far left wing) … and many more.7. “Indecision,” by Benjamin Kunkel: Dwight Wilmerding, the vacillating, down-market prepster protagonist of Kunkel’s debut novel, gets fired from his low-level job at Pfizer and, with the lease running out on his hive-like Chambers Street boys-club apartment, lights out for Quito, Ecuador, where high school flame Natasha is holed up. Before this momentous undertaking, Dwight has been afflicted with chronic postcollegiate indecision, particularly in relationships: should he pursue a life with his quasi-girlfriend, Vaneetha? Start up again with Natasha? And what about his weird thing for his sister, Alice? As luck would have it, one of his roommates is a med student who turns Dwight on to Abulinix, an experimental new treatment for chronic indecision, which makes his South American jaunt very eventful indeed.8. “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” 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.9. “Secret Life of Bees,” by Sue Monk Kidd: Lily Owens has shaped her life around one devastating, blurred, memory – the afternoon her mother was killed. Since then, her only real companion on the peach farm of her harsh, unyielding father has been a fierce-hearted black woman, Rosaleen. When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it is time to spring them both free. 10. “Eldest: Inheritance Book II,” by Christopher Paolini: The second book in the Inheritance Trilogy, following “Eragon”(2003), takes up the epic story just three days after the end of the bloody battle in which Eragon slew the Shade Durza, and the Varden and dwarves defeated the forces of the evil ruler of the Empire. Although Eragon has proved himself in battle as a Dragon Rider, he has much to learn, so he travels to the land of the elves to complete his rigorous training. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran finds himself the target of Empire forces, which threaten to obliterate his village if Roran is not turned over to them. Alternating narratives follow the exploits of Eragon and of Roran as each plays his role in the inevitable advance toward the final battle. Verbatim Booksellers of Vail Village1. “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog,” by Jill Sheeley: Fraser follows Courtney, a young girl skiing Vail Mountain on a sunny powder day. When she’s caught in a snow slide, her faithful dog Fraser leads ski patrollers to her rescue in this uplifting story about courage, companionship and ski safety. 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. “Wild Ducks Flying Backward,” by Tom Robbins: Known for his meaty seriocomic novels – expansive works that are simultaneously lowbrow and highbrow – Tom Robbins has also published over the years a number of short pieces, predominantly nonfiction. His travel articles, essays and tributes to actors, musicians, sex kittens and thinkers have appeared in publications ranging from Esquire to Harper’s, from Playboy to the New York Times, High Times, and Life. A generous sampling, collected here for the first time and including works as diverse as scholarly art criticism and some decidedly untypical country music lyrics, “Wild Ducks Flying Backward” offers a rare sweeping overview of the eclectic sensibility of an American original. 4. “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. 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. “Colorado Rascals, Scoundrels and No Goods,” by Mary Ellen Gilliland: Meet the high-spirited miscreants of Colorado mine camp history: Rowdies, seducers, and swindlers. Shady ladies, shysters, and cheats. Scalawags, rogues and lushes. Their inspired misbehavior will make you chuckle. 7. “Mushrooms of Colorado,” by Vera Evenson: Over 170 species of mushrooms grow in Colorado and the southern Rockies – in fields and forests, on riverbanks and mountainsides, even in your own backyard. This new field guide will appeal to anyone interested in mushrooming, from amateurs to experienced fungiphiles. Color photographs of mushrooms in their natural habitats are paired with descriptions and diagrams to help you identify the different species 8. “Flavors of Vail,” by Peak Properties: Now you can enjoy recipes from award-winning restaurants and acclaimed chefs. It also features special family recipes from around the world. Treat yourself to what everyone is tasting in Vail. 9. “Eldest,” by Christopher Paolini: The second book in the Inheritance Trilogy, following “Eragon”(2003), takes up the epic story just three days after the end of the bloody battle in which Eragon slew the Shade Durza, and the Varden and dwarves defeated the forces of the evil ruler of the Empire. Although Eragon has proved himself in battle as a Dragon Rider, he has much to learn, so he travels to the land of the elves to complete his rigorous training. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran finds himself the target of Empire forces, which threaten to obliterate his village if Roran is not turned over to them. Alternating narratives follow the exploits of Eragon and of Roran as each plays his role in the inevitable advance toward the final battle. 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.