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2011 Gift Suggestion List — Books for Adults

November 17, 2011 by Reader's Connection

Once again I have wandered among the hardworking Collection Management staff, scanning the newly arriving books, in the hope that there will be something you´ll want to buy as a gift–or just request from the library and read.




House and Psychology : Humanity Is Overrated edited by Ted Cascio and Leonard L. Martin.
House and Psychology : Humanity Is OverratedWhile House is a smart medical drama and Gregory House faces countless ethical quandaries as a doctor, what makes the show unique is that it’s much more deeply rooted in psychology than in medicine. At its core, House is a show about the mind and human behavior. Gregory House is a medical genius and a Sherlock Holmesian figure, but he’s also a deeply troubled misanthrope. What’s going on inside the brain of this beloved, arrogant, cane-waving curmudgeon that is so appealing? House and Psychology tackles this question and explores the latest findings in brain science research, defines addiction in its many forms, and diagnoses dysfunctional relationships, all using test cases at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital.

    * Offers a revealing psychological profile of Gregory House and his team
    * Uses the latest psychological theory and research to answer questions ranging from “How does House handle addiction?” to”Why does he act like such a jerk?”
    * Features contributions from a group of world-renowned psychological experts who also happen to love House — Publisher’s note 


Kearny’s March : The Epic Journey that Created the American Southwest, 1846-1847 (I think that’s the title on the title page of the book, as opposed to what’s on the cover) by Winston Groom

Kearny's March : The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846-1847Written with novelistic appreciation for character and ambition, Groom’s military histories are vibrant, kinetic, and popular. His newest features the expedition ordered by President James Polk to conquer New Mexico and California. Via Groom’s nigh-audible prose, readers can easily imagine the cacophony of thousands of animals and men as the force, commanded by Colonel Stephen Kearny, trekked southwest along the Santa Fe Trail. Meanwhile, Polk hedged his bet on California, in case Kearny ran into trouble, by hinting to officers there–John C. Frémont happened to be conveniently “exploring” the area–to overthrow Mexican rule in the event of war. Completing Groom’s historical tableau of the “promiscuous commotion” of 1846 are the Donner party of pioneers, the Mormon Battalion raised by Brigham Young, and the Missouri Volunteers led by Alexander Doniphan. All set forth westward in Kearny’s wake toward, respectively, cannibalism, road building through Arizona, and spectacular battle victories. Noting modern imprecations on the Mexican-American War, Groom sensibly refracts his account through contemporaries’ experiences, lending gritty, bloody immediacy to an energetic, enthralling narrative history. — Booklist


Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

Ionia SanctionMix one part ancient history, one part clever and contemporary banter, and one part action, and you have a top-notch crime caper. Corby brings back his dynamic crime-detecting couple, Nicolaos and Diotima, for their second outing (after The Pericles Commission). Pericles dispatches Nicolaos abroad to Ephesus to return a slave girl who’s really a government official’s daughter and to retrieve a stolen document that should explain why an Athenian diplomat was hanged. The arrogance of Athenian native Nicolaos is quickly dashed when he’s confronted with new customs in this region controlled by Persia. Luckily, the charming Diotima paves the way. Layers of intrigue pile up, and our duo can see that time may run out before they can smuggle critical information–and get themselves–back to Athens. VERDICT The mix of real history with a crime romp makes Corby’s sequel go down easily. The author deftly concocts a Mel Brooks type of history. Highly recommended for those looking for humor with their crime detecting. — Library Journal  

That Is All by John Hodgman

That Is AllEveryone weary of the end-of-the-world hoopla over the Mayan prediction for the year 2012 will find a welcome antidote in this latest faux reference guide from noted wag and self-professed expert on everything Hodgman. Continuing where The Daily Show regular left off in the best-selling More Information than You Require–even the page numbers start a digit after the last volume–Hodgman provides his customary collection of false facts and eccentric lists, albeit this time with an apocalyptic twist. Appearing at the top of each page, almanac style, is a daily calendar of predicted international incidents–many involving monstrous Lovecraftian “Old Ones”–that starts December 21, 2011, and ends a year later, on the Mayan calendar’s final day, when Hodgman confidently pronounces the world will split in half. As for the rest of the volume’s barrage of offbeat analyses and eclectic lists, from a guide to making wine in a toilet to explaining why Oprah Winfrey has an earth evacuation plan, it would be generous to suggest they have much in common beyond their source in Hodgman’s own endearingly surreal imagination. — Booklist


Stealth of Nations : The Global Rise of the Informal Economy by Robert Neuwirth

Stealth of Nations : The Global Rise of the Informal EconomyNeuwirth explores the global significance of the “informal economy,” those small transactions of incremental profits eked out in city dumps, outdoor markets, and unlicensed bazaars that employ roughly half of the global work force. The author takes his cue (and title) from Adam Smith and links such activity to a fuller conception of economic development, offering the alternative term “System D” (borrowed from an Afro-Caribbean slang term for the unofficial economy). As Neuwirth’s roving narrative shows–in case study chapters on Lagos, Nigeria (where System D has provided potable drinking water and public transit); São Paulo, Brazil; San Francisco, California; and Guangzhou, China–this “unregulated economic activity” is indeed a system, relying on individual and group organization, social solidarity, and surprisingly universal sets of unwritten rules. It also captures much more than the microprofits of the roadside sale: in the U.S., for instance, (where System D is on the rise amid a larger economic downturn), there are the unlicensed mobile kitchens of San Francisco’s Mission District that can mature into full-blown companies feeding chains like Whole Foods. In many cases, System D and the formal economy are directly intertwined, and Neuwirth makes a striking case for both the influence of System D and the need to engage it as a partner in economic development. — Publishers Weekly


Into the Silence : The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis

Into the Silence : The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of EverestDavis’ meticulous history of the first attempts to scale Everest covers everything from the mooting of it in the early 1900s to its realization in three 1920s expeditions to Tibet, which ended with the disappearance of George Mallory, tantalizingly close to the summit, in 1924. Ambitious to do more than pen a mere mountaineering tome, Davis plumbs the biographies of most of the British personnel involved, delving into the social moldings of some by the British public school and Oxbridge systems and of others in the milieu of imperial administration. Exceptionally sensitive to personality traits, Davis expertly capitalizes on diaries and correspondence to limn a fascinating cast of characters, most of whom, like Mallory, fought in WWI. After its sordid carnage, evoked in Davis’ depictions of expedition members’ war experiences, mastering Everest held personal redemptive possibilities that publicity inflated into a reassertion of national greatness by a country traumatized in the trenches. Culminating in detailed accounts of the ascents that astutely weigh events and controversies, this vital contribution to Everest literature should rivet readers. — Booklist


Le Freak : An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny (the cover title is more interesting, this time, so I’m sticking with it) by Nile Rodgers

Le Freak : An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and DestinyOne of the heaviest figures from an unjustly maligned musical era tells all, and tells it well. Casual music fans may not recognize Rodgers’ name, but they will definitely recognize his music: The producer/composer/arranger/guitarist’s fingerprint is all over such smashes as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” But what launched and ultimately made Rodgers’ career was his work with his band Chic, most notably on the disco classic “Le Freak.” His heavy discography alone would merit a memoir, but add a dash of family drama, a dose of drug addiction, a bird’s-eye view of the music industry, and the result is a book that will appeal to both music aficionados and casual fans. Rodgers is enthusiastic, honest and charming, and he has a reverence for the artists who came before him . . . The book should appeal to readers interested in music, the ’70s, survival and triumph. In his energetic memoir, Rodgers, as was almost always the case with his songs, brings the funk. — Kirkus Reviews


Lions of the West : Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion by Robert Morgan

Lions of the West : Heroes and Villains of the Westward ExpansionBiographer and novelist Morgan here presents a biographically based book in which he focuses on ten men deeply involved in America’s western expansion, with one chapter devoted to each figure. Beginning with President Jefferson and his Louisiana Purchase and national vision, Morgan then provides an account of the War of 1812 through the perspectives of President Andrew Jackson and “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman. Southwestern expansion occupies the remainder of the book through the lives of U.S. President James K. Polk, Sam Houston, president of the republic of Texas, frontiersmen David Crockett and Kit Carson, as well as Gen. Winfield Scott, and U.S. statesman Nicholas Trist. The epilog on President John Quincy Adams has a concise discourse on the use of western expansion by Southern interests attempting to prolong the slave-based economy and the resulting opposition from Adams, the Yankee intellectual. The villains of the subtitle are the opponents of western expansion, including Britain, Spain, and Mexico, none of which is really villainized here. — Library Journal


The Voice of the River by Melanie Rae Thon

The Voice of the RiverThon’s latest haunting and deeply spiritual novel spans one long day in the life of a small, tightly knit community immersed in the search for Kai Dionne, a 17-year-old boy, and his dog. Kai’s grandfather finds a hole in the ice on a half-frozen river, and hundreds come to help in the search. Each one has memories of struggles to survive, or of children lost, either literally or figuratively. The searchers are scattered along the river’s edge, “each one, alone, borne by faith or fear.” Kai’s cousin, who flew off his bike two years earlier, has been in a wheelchair ever since. Maybe a homeless man who survived his jump from the West Seattle Bridge, or the one-legged man who pulled Vincent Flute out of his rolled truck just before it exploded, will find Kai and his dog. “Why does anything die?” Thon asks. Who decides which child is pulled from a well, and which drowns in his mother’s bathtub? This thought-provoking novel probes those questions, illuminated by the simple acts of humanity that bind Kai’s community inextricably together. — Booklist


How to Survive the Titanic : The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay by Frances Wilson

How to Survive the Titanic : The Sinking of J. Bruce IsmayBruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star shipping line, became infamous because of the night in April 1912 that he boarded a lifeboat leaving his company’s brand new ship, Titanic, to sink and more than 1500 passengers and crew to die. Not technically a passenger, he as the ship’s “owner” bore some responsibility for the lack of adequate lifeboats; his right to a seat in one of those lifeboats has been debated for almost 100 years. Wilson (The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth), with access to Ismay family material in private hands and an impressive command of the sources, has composed a very readable study of an unsympathetic character. Notions of duty and responsibility, of heroism and cowardice, are thoughtfully discussed. Wilson draws comparisons between Ismay and Joseph Conrad’s title character in Lord Jim, but some readers might wish to skip the tangential discussions of Conrad’s life and works. VERDICT It is a pleasure to read a book, as the centennial of the Titanic sinking approaches, that offers something new on this topic. — Library Journal


With My Little Eye by Gerald Hammond

With My Little EyeScottish surveyor Douglas Young is walking his dog in the Scottish countryside when he discovers Underwood House, an old mansion in disrepair. Recognizing its potential, he manages to find investors to buy in with him and transforms the property into flats. He keeps one for himself and becomes the de facto leader of the tenants. When one of his neighbors, a retired gardener who is getting a good deal on rent in exchange for his services as a groundskeeper, is found dead in his flat, Douglas and his attractive young assistant, Tash, find themselves involved in the police investigation. Detective Chief Inspector Sandy Laird is in charge, but the clues are slow in coming. When a thorough search of the victim’s flat uncovers electronic equipment implying a serious voyeuristic hobby, the other women in the building, not to mention the local press, suddenly have much to discuss. When the victim’s brother disappears, the case becomes more complicated. This delightful cozy is full of good humor and a touch of romance, along with a solid plot. — Booklist


Unconquered : In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes by Scott Wallace

Unconquered : In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted TribesIn 2002 Brazilian government official Sydney Possuelo, at the time well known as an advocate for indigenous tribes, led an expedition to the Amazon’s upper tributaries. Reserved for Indians, the region was inhabited by a band Possuelo called the Arrow People, whom no white person had ever contacted. Possuelo’s paradoxical purpose was to keep things that way by mounting an incursion into the tropical forest with 30 armed men, who were joined by Wallace as a National Geographic-assigned writer. Wallace’s narrative of the arduous adventure of three months of traveling by riverboat in torridly wet discomfort builds through day-to-day incidents of slashing through jungle toward the climax of discovering a campsite of the Arrow People. Possuelo, having achieved his objective of locating without meeting the Arrow People, departs downstream on the corollary to his no-contact goal, ejecting squatters, miners, and other interlopers from the Indian reserve. With tactile descriptions of Amazonian foliage and fauna and minidramas of group dynamics under the imperious Possuelo, Wallace delivers a daunting vicarious experience to aficionados of extreme travel. — Booklist


Physics on the Fringe : Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything by Margaret Wertheim

Physics on the Fringe : Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of EverythingWith insight, wit, and warmth, Wertheim (Pythagoras’ Trousers) offers a look into the hearts and minds of the “outsider” physicists: solitary figures who, usually with little or no formal training, strive to explain our world. Wertheim builds the book around the affable Jim Carter, explorer, self-taught physicist, trailer park owner, and proponent of circlon synchronicity, with atoms shaped like tiny circles of coiled spring. Carter is one of thousands of outsider theorists with their own books and papers often patterned ” [by] an abundant use of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!!” Those included in this special breed of scientist feel alienated by accepted physics, from gravity to the space-time continuum. Often their work recreates or builds upon concepts proposed and discarded hundreds of years ago. A chapter is dedicated to A Budget of Paradoxes, a collection of alternative science theories compiled in the 18th century by mathematician Augustus De Morgan. NASA’s brief Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project even hoped to exploit outsider ideas, whereas the complex wonderland of mainstream string theories seems to echo the work of fringe theorists. Readers may hope for a deeper look into outsider theories past and present, but this sympathetic portrayal of one outsider’s work offers an entry point into a fascinating corner of pseudoscience. — Publishers Weekly


The Luminist by David Rocklin

The LuministAn absolute spellbinder. In Victorian-era Ceylon, amidst colonial strife and natural splendor, taboo love unfolds . . . Fictionalizing the bio of 19th-century photographic innovator Julia Margaret Cameron, he creates, in Catherine Colebrook, an artist-as-mystic. “I brought forth the holy. I made light stop,” she marvels as she develops her portraits, luminous in beauty and far in technical advance of European (male) lensmen. As sorcerer’s apprentice, Eligius, the family’s 15-year old Tamil servant, not only facilitates her work but is compelled into a dangerous fascination with the Colebrooks—Catherine, his mother figure and aesthetic soul mate, daughter Julia, a Pre-Raphaelite lovely he adores from afar, and father, Charles, an aging, ailing imperialist functionary whose good heart but weak spirit moves and confounds him. The danger is psychologically and politically complex. His own father murdered for seeking Ceylonese rights, Eligius fears that, while Colebrook kindness melts his rage at everything Brit, his tenderness toward this foreign family may betray his native soul . . . History, art, celebratory feminism, rapturous writing and true suspense— this is a staggeringly good book. — Kirkus Reviews


  1. Thaddeus Edwards says:

    Thanks! Looks like some good reads.

  2. Margaret Jones says:

    Just discovered this–it’s great! How often is it updated? I’d like to know when to check it.
    Thanks so much,

    Margaret Jones (I’m a Library Express volunteer)

  3. Glenn Halberstadt says:

    I’m glad you like it, Margaret. The blog is updated a couple of times a week, not on any particular day. You can click at the top where it says Follow Reader’s Connection, and sign up to follow us on Twitter–you’ll get a tweet whenever we post.

    Thanks for your work with Library Express,
    Glenn Halberstadt
    Reader’s Connection

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