So, is it hot enough for you? (Don’t you want to strangle people when they say that? If so, Ellis, below, is for you.) In the midst of summer, it’s best to find a cool spot, put your feet up, and kick back with a good book. In fiction, I’ve got a vintage thriller, a couple of anniversary volumes, and a little sf from a genre grande dames. Nonfiction offers a reflection on the unsung four-legged heroes of 9/11, a rock star bio, and a man and his otter.‚ Mike Rogers
Buchan, John. The 39 Steps. Michael O’Mara, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Oct. 2011. 191p. ISBN 9781843175933. $15.95. F
First published in 1915, this is the first of five novels featuring protagonist Scot Richard Hannay, an ordinary yet tough-as-nails man with a good British stiff upper lip who often finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time but somehow manages to squeeze out of it. This introductory outing finds him sucked into a German plot to steal Britain’s war plans on the cusp of World War I. This edition offers the story in a hardcover with a ribbon marker for a nice price. And be sure to have the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation in your DVD collection.<
Ellis, Brett Easton. American Psycho. Vintage: Random. 2011. 399p. ISBN 9780679735779. pap. $15. F
Hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Ellis’s novel caused such a stink in libraries and elsewhere to the extent that LJ even chronicled this book’s troubled history in its news section. Simon & Schuster dropped the book after internal complaints about its misogynistic violence; a slightly toned-down version was picked up by Vintage. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and the book enjoyed brisk sales and was filmed by Hollywood. Protagonist Patrick Batemen is a young Wall Street whiz racking up the big bucks by day and gruesomely murdering women by night. Underneath the blood and guts is a story about 1980s excess.
Gaiman, Neil. American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition. Morrow. 2011. 541p. ISBN 9780062059888. $26.99. F
Released in 2001, Gaiman’s novel quickly caught fire, generating a loyal audience that snapped up copies as fast as they could be printed. This tenth anniversary edition presents a revised and expanded text and is being billed as the “Author’s Preferred” edition. Gaiman has legions of devout fans who will be clamoring for this, so pony up for at least one copy.
Le Guin, Ursula. The Wild Girls. PM Pr. (Outspoken Authors). 2011. 102p. ISBN 9781604864038. pap. $12. SF
All sf/fantasy heads know that Le Guin is one of the best and that The Left Hand of Darkness and “The Earthsea Trilogy” are among her many standards in those genres. This slim volume combines the title short story, which has been revised from its original incarnation appearing in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine in 2002, with the essays “Stay Awake While We Read” and “The Conversations of the Modest,” some poems, an interview with the author, and a bibliography of her works. All those goodies at $12 make this a steal.
Schami, Rafik. Damascus Nights. Interlink. 2011. 263p. tr. from German by Philip Boehm. ISBN 9781566568319. pap. $15. F
“This wonderful book is enlightening and endearing, witty and wise,” gushed LJ‘s reviewer of this 1989 novel (it also garnered praise from-ahem-lesser reviewing organs), which originally was published in Germany. The plot follows Salim, Damascus’s top storyteller, who mysteriously is struck dumb. To restore his voice-and the stories-seven of his friends gather for seven nights to tell their own stories.
Bauer, Nona Kilgore. Dog Heroes of September 11. Kennel Club. Jul. 2011. c.352p. photogs. ISBN 9781593789985. $29.95. HIST
The 9/11 terrorist attacks made heroes out of many ordinary people, many whose stories have been told. The silent heroes were the numerous search-and-rescue dogs brought into the rubble of Manhattan’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93’s wreckage in a Pennsylvania field. To mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks, this 2006 original has been revised and updated with 100 new photos, plus a new foreword by former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and a new preface. The book also covers new topics, including profiles of therapy dogs that worked with victims’ families, tributes to the dogs that since have died, and more. Solid.
Bordowitz, Hank. Billy Joel: The Life and Times of an Angry Young Man. rev. ed. Backbeat: Hal Leonard. 2011. 336p. photogs. biliog. index. ISBN 9781617130052. pap. $19.99. MUSIC
Joel recently cancelled his own memoir because he didn’t want to discuss the gossipy elements of his life (then stop marrying chicks younger than your daughter, dipstick!). No worries-top music writer Bordowitz here updates his 2006 original to bring Joel’s life and career up to date. He chronicles Joel’s youth as a Long Island, NY, street punk to budding singer to superstar with supermodel wives, nasty divorces, addictions, and the other standard trappings of the rich and famous.
Heatter, Maida. Maida Heatter’s Cakes. 354p. ISBN 9781449401146.
Heatter, Maida. Maida Heatter’s Cookies. 322p. ISBN 9781449401153.
ea. vol: Andrews McMeel. 2011. index. pap. $19.95. COOKING
It’s summer, and not too many people are cranking up their ovens to 400 degrees to bake, but when the cool weather comes, suddenly homemade cakes and cookies will start sounding real good. Reaching back to 1977 and 1997, respectively, both of these James Beard Award-winning volumes contain several hundred recipes, along with descriptions of the equipment needed, what ingredients to buy, and how to mix, beat, separate eggs, etc. Both volumes from the “mother of desserts” will be welcomed additions to any cooking collection.
Maxwell, Gavin. Ring of Bright Water: A Trilogy. Godine. Jul. 2011. 327p. illus. ISBN . pap. $18.95. NATURE
Released in 1960, Ring is Maxwell’s memoir of his life with an otter he brought back from Iraq to his hometown of London. A wild animal in a small flat is a bad idea, so Maxwell relocated to western Scotland to raise this critter and later additional otters, which he chronicles in The Rocks Remain and Raven Seek Thy Brother also included here. Maxwell also was a budding artist, and many of his drawings are included along with photos. Ring was filmed in 1960 and might already be in your DVD collection.
This article originally appeared in the newsletter BookSmack! Click here to subscribe.