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journal #2 Foothills  –– January 4 to August 29, 2009
     also: journal #1   

There we were, in what was our "reduce the overhead and find profitability mood" - a small store on the Main Street of a Sierra foothill town. Book shipments came from distributors and publisher alike, ARCs teased us, customers ordered those offbeat titles, and there were all those reviews of those special books. You want to read it all...well...almost.
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crowing  a book to crow about—a stand out book      not the best or the worst    p   this just didn't do much for me—but no warts


bridge of sighs that ols cape magicthe forever war.the hunterthe lost city of zravens


  Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (F) 8.29.09


  That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo (F) 8.14.09

Richard Russo by my man. I just finished it and enjoyed the ending so much that I am now reading his previous novel, Bridge of Sighs.


little crow The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (NF) 8.10.09


  The Hunter by Julia Leigh (F) 8.6.09


  The Lost City of Z by David Grann (NF) 8.3.09


  Ravens by George Dawes Green (F) 7.30.09



the angel's game juliet, nakednewton and the counterfeiterwater ghosts coopdeath with interruptions



little crow  The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (F) 7.26.09 


little crow  Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (F) 7.22.09


little crow  Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson (NF) 7.17.09


   Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan (F) 7.12.09


   Coop by Michael Perry (NF) 7.8.09


   Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago (F) 7.1.09



strokes of genius   netherland  writing places freeingmumthis  


   Strokes of Genius by Jon Wertheim (NF) 6.27.09


little crow  Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (F) 6.15.09


   Writing Places by William Zinsser (NF) 6.8.09


   Freeing Tibet by John & Elizabeth Roberts (NF) 5.28.09

Freeing Tibet is a very far reaching and complete telling (including much of the newly revealed secret information about the CIA's covert actions) of the history of Tibet. The book has it all: secret documents from the Eisenhower administration directing the CIA  in covert actions supporting Tibet, our many secret efforts to help the Dalai Lama, food and weapons airlifts to Tibet, training Tibetans at military bases in the US, the tossing of the Tibetan rebels overboard by Kissinger as he strived for diplomatic relations with China during Nixon, all the way to our present efforts to try to find a way to help Tibet while keeping our huge trading partner, China, happy. In fact, there's much more in this book, if you're interested, pick it up.

   Losing Mum and Pup
by Christopher Buckley (NF) 5.22.09

This book was a very moving and interesting true life story - or as true life as anything can be around such huge personalities.  Buckley lost both parents in a short period - and it hit him hard, and he tries to work his way through his feelings. Love him or hate him, William F. Buckley was a giant in American public and political life, and an even larger figure up close to his wife and son.


little crow  This is Water by David Foster Wallace (NF) 5.19.09

This book is the text of this late, great author's only graduation address. I'm not often a fan of these instant inspirational mini books that pop up every May, but this is a very special book. As usual, Wallace did very little in any sort of a convention way. It's unique. He handles this short address very cleverly. I was moved ... didn't get to graduate again ... but moved. He gives this traditional speechifying moment a new flavor and reality


 my abandonmentboatterrible splendorstanding up to the madness white tigernobody move

   My Abandonment by Peter Rock (F) 5.17.09
Abandonment is one very well done novel that deals with a man and his child living well off the grid.


   The Boat by Nam Le (F) 5.14.09

  This is just a fantastic collections of short stories that are all so very different. Each story is so distinct and you get to travel the world and be immersed in a wide range of different cultures. The Boat contains some wonderful and creative writing.


little crow  A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher (NF) 5.11.09

Fisher brings together tennis and Nazi Germany. I have always been crazy about tennis as a player, instructor, and fan - I did spend my first honeymoon at a pro tournament in New Hampshire. The description of a match that many thought to be the "best match of all time" runs cover to cover, while the events leading up to Hitler's domination of Germany, the roots of WWII, views on homosexuality, and the histories of three giants of tennis, run throughout the book. The match is a very important 1937 Davis Cup match that pits Germany's Baron Gottfried von Cramm against the American, and future Grand Slam winner,  Don Budge - democracy vs. fascism. This incredible five set match plays out on the center court of Wimbledon and ends with a desperate lunging shot by Budge in the fifth set. Add in the the former American tennis star, Bill Tildon, coaching the German star against Tildon's own countryman, the Great Depression, and the way von Cramm and Tilden's sexuality are handled by their respective countries, and you get just about everything between these covers. By the way, my use of the word respective is sarcasm when speaking of the way America, especially the tennis establishment, wanted to turn its back on Tilden's fancy for athletic young men and the Nazi's deadly way of handling homosexuals in Germany. At any moment von Cramm didn't know if he would just be simply pulled from competition, be imprisoned (yes, he was in a cell eventually) or shot. So many times, sports makes for some very strange bedfellows. Forgive me for that last line, it just came to me. This book is very well crafted and I found myself eager for every page. It's a fine description of the meeting of history, sports and culture on a small patch of grass in England.


   Standing Up to the Madness by Amy & David Goodman (NF) 5.10.09
The Goodmans will get your blood pressure up and your head shaking in disbelief. Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now, puts together the stories that showcase everyday people that have earned the book's subtitle - Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.


open book   The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (F) 5.5.09

little crow  Nobody Move by Denis Johnson (F) 4.28.09

This is by one of my favorite authors, Denis Johnson, proves that he can do no wrong.

 b is for beer victory pointcheever52 mCgsbicycleswhat goes on

   B is for Beer by Tom Robbins (F) 4.22.09
It's fun that this book is being promoted as a "Children's Book for Grown-Ups" and a "Grown-Up Book for Children" - that works for me. But I'm a sucker for most anything Robbins takes a shot at. This is a special little book, one that feels a little like a fable, and one that is instructive on brewing and drinking. The reader learns that beer is made of the four elements (earth, fire, air & water) and, oh yeah, and the five element, mystery. That leads us to the lucky drinker who is in just the right "space" to be able to pass through the "seam" and see more of life's ... well ... mystery ... for the lack of a better word. There is a storyline, with a young girl, an unhappy set of parents, a free-thinking uncle, and a beer fairy. It's a fun time.


   Victory Point by Ed Darack (NF) 4.17.09

This book is written by a friend of ours. Ed Darack has focused on his adventures in mountain climbing and water  journeys around the world before, this book takes him to Afghanistan with American troops. Ed's writing is always incredibly interesting, he never seems to express any fear in some truly frightening situations and it's fascinating seeing how he brings war into his world. 


little crow  Cheever by Blake Bailey (NF) 4.5.09

This is a large book and I've just finished it. It was one hell of a trip though a literary giant's life. I've loved Cheever's short stories and novels for years and knew some of his personal life, but now I know soooo much more. Very interesting to read the facts of a master fiction writer's life and compare them to how he later brought those events and people into his words of fiction. Let me reflect on this a little and I'll write some more.


   52 McGs - The Best Obituaries from the Legendary New York Times writer Robert McGill Thomas Jr. (NF) 3.18.09

Well, it's not really a subtitle, but it tells you what's what. I live with a graveyard just on the other side of my back fence. I've been known to take people to old cemeteries for a date - in the daytime.  Yes, I'm a little dark, BUT this is a wonderful collection of obituaries! We're talking about something way beyond "belonged to the Elks for 47 years and is survived by ..." these obits are filled with life. They are filled with characters that you wish you could just sit down and talk to. At least they got great sendoffs - and you get to read them. You get to learn about the fantastic variety of people that fill this world...even if these particular folks (and the author) are underground now. Writing that brings the dead to life...not bad. I'll just leave you with a quote on life from the author - "Of course I go too far. But unless you go too far how are you ever going to find out how far you can go?"


open book   Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni (P) 3.15.09


open book   What Goes On by Stephen Dunn (P) 3.6.09 


everything else in the worldi'd rather we got casinostelex from cuba the womenolive kitteridgethinking

open book   Everything Else in the World by Stephen Dunn (P) 3.5.09 



open book   I'd Rather We Got Casinos by Larry Wilmore (NF) 2.27.09  


little crow  Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (F) 2.25.09

Telex is a fine bit of writing that gives you much of the revolutionary history of the Castro brothers, previous Cuban leaders, and the nervous and very wealthy American community living there. Vicky was even more impressed by this novel. It's good to have readers living together - sharing is fun. I grew up in a family that passed books back and forth, all over the place.


little crow  The Women by T.C. Boyle (F) 2.22.09

This fine work tells the stormy story that was Frank Lloyd Wright's life from the viewpoint of the women that loved him. Many times those same women learned to hate the man. From some perspectives, he was an easy man to hate. He lived his life large, well beyond his financial means, he was always dodging creditors and looking for the next benefactor and his love moved freely from woman to woman. To love Wright you had to love the two biggest thing in his life, his work and his ego. While not my favorite Boyle novel, Wright fills the book, and the women in his life are forced many times to struggle to survive on any oxygen left in the rooms of Wright's life. It's a fascinating look at a bigger-than-life personality and how sometimes an artist giving his all to his art (and own mythical persona) and is left with not enough of his humanity to treat those surrounding him kindly. Here's a gem of a quote that tells quite a bit about the central figure of this book. "Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I choose arrogance." - Frank Lloyd Wright


little crow  Olive Kitteridge by Elizbeth Strout (F) 2.21.09

This is another great book I read because Vicky recommended it so highly. (see her comments below) I will write on it soon. Let me just pass a great line from Olive, my star of the book, as she comments on a full life. (update - she has now won the Pulitzer Prize)

"But here they were, and Olive pictured two slice so of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union--what pieces life took out of them."

Olive Kitteridge is my favorite kind of book, relying heavily on the characters that live in the stories to propel the action who reside, after I've finished reading, vividly with me. Strout puts her people in unpredictable, sometimes stunning, predicaments but never unbelievable ones. This book was a lovely discovery. - Vicky


   Thinking Points by George Lakoff (NF) 2.17.09

Here's another excellent book on communication and politics by George Lakoff.



e-mail in an instantobamadreams from my fathernaked mole rat get dressedthe book of dead philosophersafter the quake


p   E-Mail in an Instant by Karen Leland & Keith Bailey (NF) 2.17.09


open book   The Inaugural Address 2009 by Barack Obama (NF) 2.15.09


   Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (NF) 2.12.09
This simply seems to be the right book to be reading at this time. It's a very interesting book that tells of a man searching for his identity in America and it also makes it quite clear what a fine writer our president is - he really seems to get himself on the page.


    Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems (F) 2.9.09 


    The Book of Dead  Philosophers by Simon Critchley (NF) 2.9.09


    After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (F) 2.8.09 

stay here with meyes we canthe first person far bright starmister pipsomewher towards the end. 

    Stay Here With Me by Robert Olmstead (F) 2.5.09 


    Yes, We Can by Scout Tufankjian (NF) 2.2.09


    The First Person and Other Stories by Ali Smith (F) 1.30.09


little crow  Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead (F) 1.25.09
Far Bright won't be released in hardcover until late May of 2009, but we got an ARC (advanced reading copy) and Vicky read it and loved it. So I took it out for a test read. The story is of a small troop searching in the deserts and mountains of Mexico for Pancho Villa in 1916. The writing in this book is stupendous and reminds both of us of Cormac McCarthy, both for the violence and the great skill at handling language. Similar to McCarthy, Olmstead's writing is so good that it's almost distracting at times ... I found myself rereading passages to see just how he conveyed the feel that he gives the book. While this contains brutal depictions of battle, torture, and survival in the desert, I can't stop thinking about just how good this was - it's a treat.


   Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (F) 1.23.09

Here's a wonderful written novel with a surprisingly brutal edge. It takes place in a poor village that sees rival bands of rebels come its way, but the story centers on the joys of the written word and the village's only white man sharing his love of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. His reading in the classroom captures the spirit of the village's children and the book's character Pip becomes real to everyone. The love of imagination and creativity fills Mister Pip and Jones explores the effects that these forces can have on both the literate and the ignorant. While the violence caught me off guard, as it should, this was a very good reading experience and I can see why the book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.


   Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (NF) 1.17.09

Athill's book is a fine memoir that focuses on death, her own death. She knows that her end is coming nearer but, like many, doesn't fear death itself - only the act of dying. Our writer is 89 years-old, a fine English gentlewoman, and from a family that has been quite lucky in death. Death has come to many in here family, late in life and with very little, if any, suffering. One relative fell dead off a horse of a heart attack - in mid-laugh. Athill tells of the many loves of her life. Her many affairs with married men, her sex life as a senior and her general outlook on life, never seem sorted but just what happened as she lived her life openly. Regrets do not haunt this fascinating woman. This brief volume contains the many thoughtful words of a person in a very reflective state of mind. I have been thinking about it ever since I finished it. 
footnote - Infinite Jest is cited as one very special modern novels by Athill.



nosehow to be a piratewalden12 terrors of christmas  return of depression economics ...


special type of book   The Annotated Nose - An Annotated Edition of William Hundwasser"s cult classic THE NOSE by Marc Estrin (F) 1.15.09

The Nose is one of those very clever books with a very unique format that may just overpower the story - let me think on this book and get back with you.


open book   How to be a Pirate by John Malam & Dave Antram  (NF) 1.11.09

This is a wonderful kid's book that feeds my pirate fixation. There are some nicely done illustrations and the text explains so much of the pirate world, from food, choosing a captain, tying knots, sailing, plundering, to how to stay alive and many other aspects of the pirate realm. By modern western standards, it was a miserable life, but one full of a great deal of excitement, boredom, cruelty and adventure. I would have been in heaven if I had read this book as a boy, as it was, I was thrilled to read it as a 54 year-old.


little crow  special type of book Walden by Henry David Thoreau (NF) 1.11.09

This is one of those books that I return to every few years and this Shambhala edition is very smartly done,  with the wood engraving of Michael McCurdy and the wonderful paper quality of this volume. It's also a 150th anniversary edition. For me, Thoreau's reflections on man and society are interesting, but sometimes he's seems just too rigid in some of his views on how to live life - come on Henry lighten up a little. It's his writing on what he sees, his nature reporting, that always sucks me in and brings forth so many memories of growing up in Vermont - spending hours, days really, watching clouds, animals, bugs, plants, water, snow and ice, weather and the like, filled my years in the east. It's always a joy to reread those special books and this is one of my most special. Another Thoreau connection is that I share a birthday  (July 12) with Henry David Thoreau AND the book was originally published in 1854, 100 years before by birth year.


open book   The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike & Edward Gorey (F) 1.6.09
This great book with text by John Updike and the drawings of Edward Gorey is just such a twisted treat. This is a reprint and we are the richer for it coming round again.


open book   The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman (NF) 1.4.09
This book just jumped in my bag and begged me to read just one more really depressing economic books. I gave in and while he did explain much about our economic woes and how many of them came to be - I found myself wanting more. He write so clearly for the layperson that he makes the complex understandable. It could just be that with my business background and having read so many business and economics books this year - I have had too much exposure to money troubles and need to move on.


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