Remember reading the Old Testament and seeing the list of “begats” that seemed to last forever? This book examines human history as recorded in our DNA. It’s full of fascinating lore: recently geneticists and statisticians have proved that African countries where the slave trade was rampant have not only a much higher sense of distrust toward friends and strangers, but also have much poorer economies today over a hundred fifty years later.
And Genghis Khan really did father thousands of children, yet at the same time he lived up to his name as the Destroyer. During the two centuries of the Mongol raids that he initiated, 40 million people died. So many that much of the inhabited earth became reforested. This was the only time in recorded history that the CO2 in the atmosphere actually dropped enough to measure.
Genghis Khan also lives on for his particular Y chromosome. Not only did he pass this on to countless sons, but he and his armies killed so many men with different Y chromosomes that his became the predominant one in many parts of Asia. Read more about Family Secrets
What happens when an energetic, middle-aged Bostonian moves to a sleepy town in Florida in 1962? First, she starts a radio show under the persona of Miss Dreamsville and secondly forms a book club. Ex-Bostonian Jackie Hart starts a ruckus when she invites people of other races and sexual persuasions to the club in a decidedly racist, homophobic town where a divorcee is considered socially-risque and improper.
Narrated by a lovable octagenerian, Dora, who does not fit into Naples herself, this novel discusses important issues such as racism, feminism, and homophobia while presenting an interesting mix of characters. With a backdrop of serious and important issues, it provides a humorous and entertaining read.
A while ago I wrote about one of my favorite John Wayne Movies, The Quiet Man. The Quiet Man was a romance and a departure from the War and Western films that John Wayne was most well known for. My second favorite John Wayne film, The Shootist is also a departure from his usual role even though it is a western, it is the story of an older gunfighter now battling a greater battle; cancer. Seeking a place to spend his last days, he takes up residence in a boarding house run by a widow who is against everything the gunfighter’s life represents while her teenage son harbors a secret desires to be just like the old shootist .
The cast for The Shootist is among the best. Besides “The Duke” as the shootist J.B. Books, the film features Lauren Bacall as boarding house owner Bond Rodgers and Ron Howard as her son Gillom. Despite the film’s title you won’t find a lot of shoot outs in the film. It’s the story a dying man, who wants to die with dignity and perhaps regain a little taste of the life he could have had if his life had not taken the violent turn it did. Yes, John Wayne is still the tough guy, but his view is now tempered as he faces his cancer and the knowledge that there is nothing he can do to win his battle against it. Each character must in the end examine themselves as they are faced with Books’ mortality and eventual death.
Here's one of my favorite American movies I've seen this year. I heard about this while it was making the rounds on the festival circuit last year and finally got a chance to check it out recently. It won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival last summer (the international critics' prize for best independent feature). While it's worth checking out for the Virgina set cinematography, it is primarily a suspense film about how revenge never goes the way you want it to. Read more about Blue Ruin
Like bookstores? Like islands off the coast of New England? Favor novels that feature an orphan and a single dad? Drawn to love stories especially ones where the couple start off at each other's throats? Have a thing for rare manuscripts especially those of Edgar Allen Poe? If so this charming book-celebratory novel is just your thing.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry begins with publisher’s rep, Amelia Loman (“a tall dandelion of a woman") disembarking from a ferry to visit a small bookstore on Alice Island to go over the winter accounts for her publisher, Knightley Press. The owner, the very curmudgeonly A.J. Fikry, is decidedly unfriendly and shocked by the fact that the old book rep has not come. Loman tells him that he has died and then proceeds to push her favorite book, a memoir by a widower dealing with his bereavement.
For Fikry this hits too close to home but he does not tell Alice why. He has recently lost Nic, his intelligent and beautiful wife while she was pregnant with their first child. Fikry begins a delightful rant about all the books he does not like: postmodern, post apocalyptic, magical realism, ones with multiple fonts, children’s books, poetry, YA, etc. Read more about The Storied Life of A.K. Fikry
The Man Booker Prize winner for 2014 was announced on Tuesday. Richard Flanagan, a popular and highly-regarded Australian novelist, won it for his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a historical novel set during WWII.
It’s about the construction of the Thai-Burma railroad, known as the Death Railway. For an odd bit of symmetry, Flanagan’s father, who worked on this railway during World War II, died on the very day that Flanagan finished his book.