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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Late-Night Laughs

I’m a great fan of Flashlight Worthy, a website devoted to “recommending books so good they’ll keep you up past your bedtime.” The site, run by book lovers Peter Steinberg and Eric Mueller, compiles lists of books that are the best in their category not just bestsellers. They have gathered more than 400 lists, some a bit quirky, such as the new "Laugh-Out-Loud Funny Books Written by Women." Whatever your gender, if you’re looking for some late-night humor, try these Flashlight Worthy picks:

Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living
by Bailey White

Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

IFeel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
by Nora Ephron

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless by Sarah Jane Gilman

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gifts for Kids

If you are seeking gift ideas for young readers as you begin your holiday shopping, check out Publisher’s Weekly’s "Best Children's Books 2010." Among the recommended picture books are:

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

For older readers, consider these recommendations:

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving: Little Known Facts

Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, but as your plans are finalized, you may be interested in some little-known facts offered by the History Channel:

●   It is not true that the pilgrims wore only black and white clothing or had buckles on their hats, garments and shoes. Buckles didn’t become fashionable until the late 17th century. Men also dressed in beige, green and brown and women also in red, green, blue, violet and gray.

●   Virginia is one of a handful of states that produce two-thirds of the nation’s more than two billion turkeys. Others include the top-producing state, Minnesota, as well as North Carolina, Missouri and California.

●   The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving dinner is 15 pounds.

●   Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor and writer, who launched the campaign to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday in the mid-19th century, also wrote the children’s nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

●   Snoopy has appeared more times in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade than any other character.

Friday, November 12, 2010

On This Date: Ellis Island Closes

On Nov, 12, 1954, Ellis Island, which had served as an entry point for more than 12 million immigrants, closed. According to, it had opened in 1892 as the first federal immigration processing center. Prior to that time, individual states had been processing immigrants. Today, more than 40 percent of all U.S. citizens can trace their heritage through Ellis Island.

The center’s $160 million historic restoration began in 1984 and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened in 1990. About two million people visit each year.

For more on this historic site, see:

American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent Cannato

Ellis Island’s Famous Immigrants by Barry Moreno

The Family Tree Guide to Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors by Sharon Carmak

Ellis Island Interviews: In Their Own Words by Peter Coan

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Veterans Day Reading

As many of you know, Veterans Day celebrates the end of World War I when Germany signed the Armistice at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. According to the PBS series “The Great War,” World War I was “the first manmade catastrophe of the 20th century.”

With November 11 fast approaching, you may want to check out some of these books on the war that changed European economics, politics, society and culture forever.

An Illustrated History of the First World War by John Keegan

The Greatest Day in History: How, on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month, the First World War Finally Came to an End
by Nicholas Best

World War I by Norman Stone

A World Undone: A Story of the Great War: 1914-1918
by G.J. Meyer

Fighting the Great War: A Global History by Michael S. Neiberg

Friday, November 05, 2010

Prehistoric Lives

It’s hard for me to believe that Jean Auel is still chronicling the adventures of Ayla, the Cro-Magnon raised by Neanderthals, who she introduced in The Clan of the Cave Bear 30 years ago. According to a recent AP article, the sixth book in the Earth’s Children series, The Land of Painted Caves, is due out in March 2011 ("Author May Not Be Done With 'Earth's Children,'" Nov. 3, 2010). She published her first book in the series while in her 40s and now she is 72. I remember hearing Auel speak back in the 1980s when she told of trying to learn the various skills, such as tanning leather, which her Ice-Age characters would have to know.

For those of you who have read all the earlier adventures of Ayla but still enjoy the adventures of Bronze Age, pre-Columbian and other prehistoric peoples, here are some other books to try:

Beyond the Gap by Harry Turtledove

Woman of a Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood

Tales of Adam by Daniel Quinn

Inez by Carlos Fuentes

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Books You’re Excited to Finish

HuffPost Books recently asked its readers “What are you going to finish reading this weekend that you’re really excited about?” While next weekend is still days off, its interesting to see what great books readers couldn’t wait to finish during their leisure hours. I, for one, am re-reading Peter Taylor’s A Summons to Memphis and Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and enjoying both immensely.

Here are a few titles Huffington Post readers recommend:

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

The Reversal by Michael Connelly

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein