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Insight and Books


Herman: Here are my can’t-miss predictions for 2017

Happy 2,017, the year I finally muster up the courage to take a stand and push back against the nonsensical decision, made in late 999, not to put commas in years. I hope you will join me in what I believe will be the crusade of a lifetime. Prior to getting into my can’t-miss predictions for the new year, let’s take a look at how I did with my can’t-miss predictions for the year...
When Adam West brought ‘Batman: The Movie’ to Austin

When Adam West brought ‘Batman: The Movie’ to Austin

On the occasion of actor Adam West‘s death, we recalled that the world premiere of “Batman: The Movie” took place at the Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue during the sweltering summer of 1966. Almost immediately, we found pictures and background from the Austin History Center website and other social media. “In what was perhaps the most successful movie event in Austin&rsquo...
Best-sellers, 6/25/17

Best-sellers, 6/25/17

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Camino Island,’ John Grisham 2. ‘The Identicals,’ Elin Hilderbrand 3. ‘Tom Clancy: Point of Contact,’ Mike Maden 4. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 5. ‘Dragon Teeth,’ Michael Crichton 6. ‘Come Sundown,’ Nora Roberts 7. ‘No Middle Name,’ Lee Child 8. ‘Nighthawk,’ Clive...
Austin writer’s 13th book inspired by the Zodiac Killer

Austin writer’s 13th book inspired by the Zodiac Killer

Recommended reading “Unsub” by Meg Gardiner (Dutton). The Austin writer and California native’s 13th book was inspired by the Zodiac Killer, whose as-yet unsolved (and unlikely to be solved) reign of terror became the stuff of legend, inspiring films from the first Dirty Harry movie to David Fincher’s still-amazing “Zodiac,” not to mention a host of...
Erin Pringle explores grief in wrenching new collection

Erin Pringle explores grief in wrenching new collection

Erin Pringle (“The Floating Order,” 2009) works nine variations on the theme of grief in the wrenching stories of her second collection, “The Whole World at Once.” Her protagonists, often children and often unnamed, live lonely days in the small towns or isolated farmhouses of the upper Midwest, flattened by heat in the summer and risking death from exposure in the winter....
Best Texas books to read in June 2017

Best Texas books to read in June 2017

We’ve learned more about the Nueces River, Texas birding, a standout West Texas Congressman, the King Ranch and Texas swimming holes. “The Nueces River: Rio Escondido.” Margie Crisp with artwork by William B. Montgomery. Texas A&M Press. Much admired Texas artist and naturalist Margie Crisp made quite a splash with her award-winning “River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado...
Brené Brown saying she would sleep inside BookPeople is every Austin book-lover

Brené Brown saying she would sleep inside BookPeople is every Austin book-lover

Author Brené Brown might live and work in Houston, where she is a research professor at the University of Houston, but she clearly has a love for Austin. In particular, like many of us, she holds a deep appreciation for the one and only BookPeople. She was in town recently and stopped by the store to pick up some cards — but she ended up doing much more than that.  In ...
Do Democrats have a playbook for winning back seats?

Do Democrats have a playbook for winning back seats?

The women darting through the statehouse here alongside mentoring lawmakers have what Democrats need: sterling resumes, grit and anger at President Donald Trump so deep that they are overlooking misgivings about establishment politics to run under the party banner. “I woke up the day after the election and said, ‘I have got to do something to try to fix things,’” said Jessica...
Texas’ abstinence-only programs may contribute to teen pregnancies

Texas’ abstinence-only programs may contribute to teen pregnancies

To understand why teen pregnancy rates are so high in Texas, meet Jessica Chester. When Chester was in high school in Garland, she decided to attend the University of Texas-Dallas. She wanted to become a doctor. “I was top of the class,” she said. “I had a GPA of 4.5, a full-tuition scholarship to UTD. I was not the stereotypical girl someone would look at and say, ‘Oh she&rsquo...
A proposal for downtown Austin from the 1970s

A proposal for downtown Austin from the 1970s

Few Austinites have cultivated downtown real estate, development and urban planning contacts as meticulously as Jude Galligan, whose blog, Towers, edited by James Rambin, regularly informs us about the past, present and future of downtown Austin. It was Rambin who recently uncovered an article published in the American-Statesman in 1976 about a proposal to modify Congress Avenue. The plan was put...
Celebrate the most important meal of the day at BookPeople

Celebrate the most important meal of the day at BookPeople

Book events this week Amelia Gray. 7 p.m. Monday. The novelist speaks and signs “Isadora.” BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Edie Jarolim. 7 p.m. Tuesday. The memoirist speaks and signs “Getting Naked for Money: Travel Memoir.” BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. A-105. Samantha Irby. 7 p.m. Tuesday. The essayist speaks and signs “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” BookPeople...
Need a reading suggestion? See what books are hot sellers this week

Need a reading suggestion? See what books are hot sellers this week

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Come Sundown,’ Nora Roberts 2. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 3. ‘Dragon Teeth,’ Michael Crichton 4. ‘Nighthawk,’ Clive Cussler and Graham Brown 5. ‘No Middle Name,’ Lee Child 6. ‘Beren and Luthien,’ J.R.R. Tolkien 7. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 8. &lsquo...
Authors Amelia Gray, Samantha Irby will be at BookPeople this week

Authors Amelia Gray, Samantha Irby will be at BookPeople this week

“Isadora” by Amelia Gray is captivating historical fiction from the award-winning author of “Threats” (2012) and “Museum of the Weird” (2010). As the “mother of modern dance,” Isadora Duncan pioneered a style of movement that released the body from the rigid discipline of ballet. Her choreography favored free-flowing movements designed to seem more like...
Commentary: Why on Father’s Day I hope that heaven has blissful bowling

Commentary: Why on Father’s Day I hope that heaven has blissful bowling

Dear Dad: The skies have finally opened up and a mighty thunderstorm is rolling through Austin. All the shaking, rattling and noise brings to mind something I’ve been regretting these past few years. I forgot to say “bowling.” I know, I know. How could no one say “bowling?” If it was Thursday, you were bowling, right? Dart Bowl, that bastion of polished wood, 10 pins...
Commentary: How indecency in America influences my role as a father

Commentary: How indecency in America influences my role as a father

Comedienne Kathy Griffin recently posed for a photo while holding President Trump’s bloodied head in an apparent attempt to “#resist” through shock and satire. It was a gross display of ignorance and disrespect for this country, the office of the president and human decency. The reaction from both sides of the political aisle was swift: Everyone was disgusted. No one was laughing...
Your favorite writers reveal their summer reading lists

Your favorite writers reveal their summer reading lists

Finally, a chance to stop checking Twitter and open a book — for pleasure. But what to read? For a little help, we asked some popular authors: What are you planning to read this summer, and why? Ann Patchett, author, most recently, of “Commonwealth”: I’ll want a book that’s thrilling and artful, a true page turner that will leave me feeling smart, so I’ll read Maile...
Video explains Austin’s heated 1970s protests against drag boat racing

Video explains Austin’s heated 1970s protests against drag boat racing

Better than almost any other archival resource on the subject, a black-and-white news documentary from 1978, now posted on the Austin Found blog, explains the controversy over drag boat racing on what was then known as Town Lake. The videomakers’ attempts at even-handedness — the old-line business community, for instance, strongly supported the divisive races as a magnet for prestige and...
Writer Thomas E. Ricks explores Churchill and Orwell in dual biography

Writer Thomas E. Ricks explores Churchill and Orwell in dual biography

“Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom” by Thomas E. Ricks is a joint biography of two men who “led the way, politically and intellectually, in responding to the twin totalitarian threats of fascism and communism” in the mid-20th century. As dual biographies pour off the presses, authors stretch to find a suitable pair. That includes Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist...
Delve into the history of some of the least cool pop music ever made

Delve into the history of some of the least cool pop music ever made

Recommended reading “The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock” by Dave Weigel (Norton). When hard news journalists engage in arts criticism or cultural history, it usually ends badly (or at least boringly) for both reader and writer. An exception can be made for Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel, who throws himself into this straightforward...
Paula Hawkins, Lee Child, Neil deGrasse Tyson top best seller list

Paula Hawkins, Lee Child, Neil deGrasse Tyson top best seller list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 2. ‘Dragon Teeth,’ Michael Crichton 3. ‘No Middle Name,’ Lee Child 4. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 5. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 6. ‘Same Beach, Next Year,’ Dorothea Benton Frank 7. ‘Testimony,’ Scott Turow 8. ‘The Frozen...
Read Kayla Olson’s book ‘Sandcastle Empire’ before it becomes a movie

Read Kayla Olson’s book ‘Sandcastle Empire’ before it becomes a movie

Eden won’t be taken. She must cross a mine-laden beach to make the escape she’s been dreaming of for two years — two years’ worth of sitting silently on the beach gazing out at the horizon, in plain view of the guards known as Wolves. It’s been her only respite from the work camp she was sent to when society collapsed. The guards don’t even pay attention to her...
Webb Report: Do you remember Wonder Woman’s weirdest costumes?

Webb Report: Do you remember Wonder Woman’s weirdest costumes?

Superhero costumes are, in a word, badass. Such is their form; such is their function. From the birth of comic book vigilantism, a crimefighter’s sartorial sensibility has been half the fun of the genre, from Superman’s long underwear to the Crimson Avenger’s domino mask and cape. Wonder Woman, the grand dame of all superheroines, is no different. With actress Gal Gadot now donning...
David Sedaris is 60 and ready to look back — again

David Sedaris is 60 and ready to look back — again

“I think I peaked in 1988, and it’s all downhill now. How awful, to decline this way. What makes young people young is that they see themselves going up, up, up. Not me, though. I’m old now.” — David Sedaris, Jan. 13, 1992 NEW YORK - The diary entry above was written when Sedaris was 35, 11 months before he ever appeared on National Public Radio. Two years before his...
Alison Macor’s ‘Rewrite Man’ celebrates the great Warren Skaaren

Alison Macor’s ‘Rewrite Man’ celebrates the great Warren Skaaren

Patton Oswalt has a bit about his lack of interest in movies with vague titles such as “Something’s Gotta Give” and how “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” might be the best movie title of all time as it tells you exactly what is going on. And he’s correct. Which is to say that if the late Austin screenwriter Warren Skaaren had done nothing else but come up with the...
Re-releases, sequels and classic movie characters abound in June

Re-releases, sequels and classic movie characters abound in June

Here are some of the best and highest-profile new releases in music, movies, TV and more on the horizon in June. As always, dates are subject to change without notice. 1. U2, “The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)” (Island/UMe) 2. Radiohead, “OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017” (XL Recordings) 3. Prince and the Revolution, “Purple Rain Deluxe” (NPG/Warner)...
Commentary: How I overcame grief after my husband succumbed to PTSD

Commentary: How I overcame grief after my husband succumbed to PTSD

The effects of health problems suffered by our military members can impact their families as well, whether they be physical, such as a brain injury or loss of a limb, or emotional, like post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s exactly what happened to me after my husband, Mitch, lost his life to PTSD-related depression. We met in Corpus Christi, where he was stationed in the Navy. Corpsmen serve...
Commentary: Finstas are a window into millennial’s imperfect life

Commentary: Finstas are a window into millennial’s imperfect life

Do you know what a finsta is? Neither did I, because I am not between the ages of 13 and 34. Anyone 13 to 18 is part of Gen Z, and those ages 18 to 34 are the much-discussed millennials. Dan Coates studies them both. His company, Ypulse, is a youth-marketing research firm based in New York, and lately some of its research has been on finstas. Finstas are “fake” Instagram accounts that...
The day the Comanches returned to Austin

The day the Comanches returned to Austin

We live on the the eastern edge of the Comancheria, the empire controlled by the Comanche people for hundreds of years until the late 19th century. “Many a story of early Austin involved raids in which the Indians made good their escape to the mountains west of town,” history advocate Richard Denney writes in an article for an upcoming issue of a Northwest Hills area newsletter, which...
Sylvain Neuvel’s ‘Waking Gods’ is a must-read — with robots

Sylvain Neuvel’s ‘Waking Gods’ is a must-read — with robots

A brazen fusion of science fiction and apocalyptic thriller, “Waking Gods,” the second installment in Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files (“Sleeping Giants,” 2016) is powered by nonstop action and adventure involving alien invaders and an army of seemingly indestructible giant robots — but ultimately it’s also a deeply character-driven exploration of what it means...
Need a good book recommendation? Try these best-sellers

Need a good book recommendation? Try these best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 2. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 3. ‘Against All Odds,’ Danielle Steel 4. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 5. ‘Golden Prey,’ John Sandford 6. ‘The Thirst,’ Jo Nesbo 7. ‘Since We Fell,’ Dennis Lehane 8. ‘Men Without Women,&rsquo...
Read about the rebirth of rock ‘n’ roll in New York

Read about the rebirth of rock ‘n’ roll in New York

Recommended reading “Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011” by Lizzy Goodman (Dey Street). By the 1990s, indie rock in general (and major label rock even more so) seemed like a spent bullet. So imagine the thrill to be in New York City, one of the world’s most reliable cultural capitals, in the early 2000s when young rock bands (be they using...
What should your kids be reading this summer? Check out our list

What should your kids be reading this summer? Check out our list

Summer is nearly upon us — and so is the lovely season of agenda-less reading. No reading logs, no genre requirements, no literature prompts. Those all have their place, but developing a love of reading in this digital age also needs a shot of sheer pleasure. To that end, here are summer reading picks for all ages, from a modern pioneer’s biography to an undercover warrior’s fantastical...

Al Franken suspends ‘unwritten rules’ to air loathing of Texan Ted Cruz

Unsurprisingly in a partisan way, perhaps, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken calls his Republican nemesis, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a “dunderhead” in a book coming out soon. Franken does even more in “Giant of the Senate.” The book includes a chapter devoted to Cruz. Today, the Austin American-Statesman’s First Reading blog presents Cruz mentions in Franken’s book...
PolitiFact Texas: Going on the record with immigration claims

PolitiFact Texas: Going on the record with immigration claims

President Donald Trump’s maintains his vision of a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while Republican counterparts in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have focused on preventing local communities from harboring unauthorized residents. PolitiFact has sorted many high-profile claims about immigration. Here are five highlights: 1) Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, said in September...
Alison Weir continues historical series with the story of Anne Boleyn

Alison Weir continues historical series with the story of Anne Boleyn

A notorious Tudor queen is sympathetically imagined in “Anne Boleyn, a King’s Obsession” by Alison Weir. Weir (“Katherine of Aragon,” 2016, etc.), prolific Tudor historian, biographer and novelist, offers the second volume in her fictional series about Henry VIII’s six wives, focusing on the outspoken, doomed Anne Boleyn. Anne is certainly the most famous of those...
Step into the sci-fi world of “Borne”

Step into the sci-fi world of “Borne”

Recommended reading “Borne: A Novel” By Jeff VanderMeer (MCD). In the highly anticipated follow-up his outstanding Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer explores the story of Rachel, a scavenger in a dead, filthy city once dominated by a collapsed biotech corporation called the Company, a group which has released all sorts of terrifying creatures into the city. Rachel adopts a being called...
Why Americans should already be worried about Census 2020

Why Americans should already be worried about Census 2020

The director of the Census Bureau announced last week that he would be retiring next month, an abrupt departure that will leave the agency without a leader as it negotiates a funding shortage in the lead-up to the 2020 census. John H. Thompson, who had served at the bureau since 1975 and became its director in August 2013, will step down on June 30, according to a statement released by the Department...
Neil deGrasse Tyson tops best-seller lists in Austin, nationally

Neil deGrasse Tyson tops best-seller lists in Austin, nationally

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 2. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 3. ‘Against All Odds,’ Danielle Steel 4. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 5. ‘Golden Prey,’ John Sandford 6. ‘The Broken Road,’ Richard Paul Evans 7. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis...
Commentary: How I’m still alive to talk about surviving cancer

Commentary: How I’m still alive to talk about surviving cancer

The most astounding part of my cancer story might be that I’m still alive to tell it. For nearly 10 years, doctors misdiagnosed my persistent jaw pain and trismus as temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ. Nerve damage to the side of my face was deemed a pinched nerve. Sadly, I believed the doctors and learned to live with the pain. That is, until I woke up one evening with such excruciating...
Doree Shafrir unpacks ‘Startup’ culture

Doree Shafrir unpacks ‘Startup’ culture

“They don’t work for money anymore, but to earn a place in Heaven, which is a big motivating factor once upon a time, believe you me. They’re working and inventing because they like it … they don’t seem to see the difference between working, and not working. It’s all become a part of one’s life.” — Spalding Gray’s character in “True...
A look at best-selling works from Caitlyn Jenner and Elizabeth Strout

A look at best-selling works from Caitlyn Jenner and Elizabeth Strout

“The Secrets of My Life” by Caitlyn Jenner and Buzz Bissinger is a rugged tale of brute beauty and pyrrhic individualism. When Bruce Jenner took his iconic victory lap around Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on July 30, 1976, he invited the world to witness the zenith of his triumphant transformation from talented small-town athlete to Superman-like decathlete for the ages. Fast-forward...
Book chronicles musicians from all over the Lone Star State

Book chronicles musicians from all over the Lone Star State

Recommended reading “All Over The Map: True Heroes of Texas Music” by Michael Corcoran (UNT Press). Former Statesman music reporter Michael Corcoran has moved smoothly from daily chronicler of the ins-and-outs of Austin music (a job he did for both the Statesman and the Austin Chronicle) to freelance historian of sorts. He combine both disciplines in this new edition of his book, which...
Facebook to the rescue of 1974 photo taken on Austin’s Sixth Street

Facebook to the rescue of 1974 photo taken on Austin’s Sixth Street

The power of Facebook: Within minutes, a posted street photograph taken more than 40 years ago on Austin’s Sixth Street was identified and lionized by multiple readers. We asked: Who is here? This picture came to us from Henry Williams via Debbie Russell as part of her ongoing project to recover the memory of the Old Pecan Street Festival. “Although taken on East Sixth Street, it predates...
Two Views: A modest proposal

Two Views: A modest proposal

“Cultural appropriation” has become the latest evil denounced by soi-disant social justice warriors, on campus and off. A few examples: “I was taught that white people shouldn’t listen to rap music because it’s cultural appropriation and could be offensive to my classmates,” writes Pomona College student Steven Glick in The Washington Post. ...
Two Views: Native designs are as American as fashion gets

Two Views: Native designs are as American as fashion gets

When you think about Native Americans and fashion, your first thought may be — or at least mine was — beads. Wait, no. Feathers! No — buckskin with fringe. What’s more Native American than buckskin pants worn by some high-cheeked hunter about to shoot a deer? Well, how about a Louis Vuitton arrow quiver? That’s just one of the beautiful and unsettling items on display...
Paula Hawkins tops best-sellers in Austin, nationally

Paula Hawkins tops best-sellers in Austin, nationally

BEST-SELLERS NEW YORK TIMES FICTION 1. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 2. ‘Dragon Teeth,’ Michael Crichton 3. ‘No Middle Name,’ Lee Child 4. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 5. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 6. ‘Same Beach, Next Year,’ Dorothea Benton Frank 7. ‘Testimony,’ Scott Turow 8. ‘The Frozen...
James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, Paula Hawkins among best-sellers

James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, Paula Hawkins among best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘16th Seduction,’ James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 2. ‘Into the Water,’ Paula Hawkins 3. ‘Against All Odds,’ Danielle Steel 4. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 5. ‘Golden Prey,’ John Sandford 6. ‘The Broken Road,’ Richard Paul Evans 7. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis...
Cory Doctorow explores the world of tomorrow in ‘Walkaway’

Cory Doctorow explores the world of tomorrow in ‘Walkaway’

Cory Doctorow (“Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free”) offers a counterintuitive alternate (possible?) future in “Walkaway,” a gritty yet hopeful sci-fi epic. Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s “A Paradise Built in Hell” (2009), Doctorow offers meticulous world-building and philosophizing about how the world just around the corner might be. In an age of makers...
Cheating death and the end of society as we know it in ‘Walkaway’

Cheating death and the end of society as we know it in ‘Walkaway’

Recommended reading “Walkaway” by Cory Doctorow (Tor). The co-editor of “Boing Boing” delivers his first novel for adults in some time (his YA fiction is terrific). In “Walkaway,” modern society has called it quits, more or less. So the rich have gotten even richer, and everyone else is just sort of getting by. The planet may be a mess, but it is also...
Looking for a good book to read? Check out this list

Looking for a good book to read? Check out this list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 2. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis 3. ‘Fast and Loose,’ Stuart Woods 4. ‘Thrawn,’ Timothy Zahn 5. ‘All by Myself, Alone,’ Mary Higgins Clark 6. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 7. ‘The Women in the Castle,’ Jessica Shattuck 8. ‘Two...
Before Michelle, Barack Obama proposed to another woman, book claims

Before Michelle, Barack Obama proposed to another woman, book claims

A new book about the life of President Barack Obama emphasizes the former president’s commitment to career and political success at the expense of his personal relationships. >> Read more trending news  “Rising Star” by David J. Garrow “portrays Obama as a man who ruthlessly compartmentalized his existence; who believed early on that he was fated...
Working women upset about Ivanka Trump's new book, 'Women Who Work'

Working women upset about Ivanka Trump's new book, 'Women Who Work'

Ivanka Trump’s second book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” which was released Tuesday, didn’t receive an entirely warm welcome, especially from working women. >> Read more trending news  Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that teaches girls to learn how to write code, was featured in the book.  Saujani wasn&rsquo...
Bestsellers, 4/30/17

Bestsellers, 4/30/17

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 2. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis 3. ‘Fast and Loose,’ Stuart Woods 4. ‘Thrawn,’ Timothy Zahn 5. ‘All By Myself, Alone,” Marry Higgins Clark 6. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 7. ‘The Women in the Castle,’ Jessica Shattuck 8. &lsquo...
A look at how laws promoted discrimination

A look at how laws promoted discrimination

Recommended reading “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein (Liveright). Legal scholar and housing expert Richard Rothstein examines one of the ugliest aspects of the American century and makes the argument that it was laws themselves, rather than the actions of private citizens or corporations, that actively framed out and...
A look back at Jim Jones, plus Suzanne Burns’ strong voice

A look back at Jim Jones, plus Suzanne Burns’ strong voice

“Kool-Aid rather than equality is what the rest of the world remembers” — a searing account of what has since become a byword for religious cultism, in “The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple” by Jeff Guinn. That Jim Jones (1931-1978) was disturbed — no term of psychiatric art but still true — was plain for most to see way back before he became...
Why are the Beatles still so beloved? Author examines Fab Four’s fame

Why are the Beatles still so beloved? Author examines Fab Four’s fame

Recommended reading “Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World” by Rob Sheffield (Dey Books). You may, for good reason, have been under the impression that what the world doesn’t need now is yet another book about the Beatles. Even the narrowest search on Amazon.com search yields more than 3,000 hits, including several under Parenting & Relationships and...
Looking for a good book? See what’s on the best-seller list

Looking for a good book? See what’s on the best-seller list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis 2. ‘Thrawn,’ Timothy Zahn 3. ‘All by Myself, Alone,’ Mary Higgins Clark 4. ‘One Perfect Lie,’ Lisa Scottoline 5. ‘The Burial Hour,’ Jeffery Deaver 6. ‘Two from the Heart,’ James Patterson and Frank Constantini 7. ‘Norse Mythology,&rsquo...
Books to read: A struggling town, a walking guide and a legend’s story

Books to read: A struggling town, a walking guide and a legend’s story

A Midwestern town struggles to survive in the aftermath of an economic disaster in “Janesville: An American Story” by Amy Goldstein. Based on three years of probing interviews, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post journalist Goldstein makes her literary debut with an engrossing investigation of Janesville, Wisconsin, where General Motors, the town’s major employer, closed...
Chelsea Clinton’s new book aims to inspire young people

Chelsea Clinton’s new book aims to inspire young people

Recommeded reading “It’s Your World” by Chelsea Clinton (Philomel Books). It’s going to be pretty interesting to see how the next few decades shake out for one Chelsea Victoria Clinton, formerly of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, now of a really nice apartment in New York City. Will she become a deeply private citizen? Probably not. Will she run for office? Well, it’s worked out...
Need a good book to read? Try the best-sellers list

Need a good book to read? Try the best-sellers list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis 2. ‘Mississippi Blood,’ Greg Iles 3. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 4. ‘Vicious Circle,’ C.J. Box 5. ‘If Not for You,’ Debbie Macomber 6. ‘The Women in the Castle,’ Jessica Stattuck 7. ‘Dangerous Games,’ Danielle Steel 8. &lsquo...
A powerful call for empathy in the debate about immigration and kids

A powerful call for empathy in the debate about immigration and kids

“Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions” is a heartfelt plea to change the dialogue on Latin American children fleeing violence in their homelands to seek refuge in America. A Mexican-born novelist, Valeria Luiselli began the inquiry that informs her book-length essay as a Mexican-born writer, living in America, awaiting her green card. Her sense of mission intensified when she...
Anthology aimed at teens explores contemporary feminism

Anthology aimed at teens explores contemporary feminism

“Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World” is a progressive antidote to the ancient teen health textbooks that mull over the dry basics of teen identity. Kelly Jensen here assembles a stellar collection of writings — prose, illustrated pieces and poetry — that showcase contemporary expressions of feminism: what it is, what it isn&rsquo...
Looking for a good book? See what’s on the best-seller list

Looking for a good book? See what’s on the best-seller list

Rankings based on reports from selected book stores in Southern California: NONFICTION 1. “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance (Harper: $27.99). The investment banker’s account of growing up poor in Appalachia. 2. “South and West,” by Joan Didion (Knopf: $21). Excerpts from the author’s unpublished notebooks from a Southern road trip and Patty Hearst’s trial....
David Shields writes brilliantly about David Shields in “Other People”

David Shields writes brilliantly about David Shields in “Other People”

Recommended reading “Other People: Takes & Mistakes” by David Shields (Knopf). Back in 1996, Shields blew minds with his beautifully odd essay collection “Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity” — I recommend it, lightly dated (read: pre-Internet) though it is. Shields has knocked out a book about his intellectual obsessions every year or two since. This...
Get inside the mind of one half of 1980s powerhouse Hall and Oates

Get inside the mind of one half of 1980s powerhouse Hall and Oates

Recommended reading “Change of Seasons” by John Oates (St. Martin’s Press). There are lots of different ways to think about the astoundingly successful duo Hall and Oates (21 albums cut, 80 million copies sold worldwide). For some, they were slick 1980s radio pop, the kind that was impossible to avoid back then. To others, they were a rock-solid Philly soul act whose members happened...
Civil War story ‘An Extraordinary Union’ defies stereotypes

Civil War story ‘An Extraordinary Union’ defies stereotypes

A spy posing as a slave in Civil War Virginia risks her own life and the outcome of the war by falling in love with a fellow spy of another race in Alyssa Cole’s “An Extraordinary Union.” After being freed from slavery as a child, Ellen “Elle” Burns has one purpose: She is “going to help destroy the Confederacy.” But to do that, she has to do something she...
Looking for a good book? Check out the best sellers list

Looking for a good book? Check out the best sellers list

Rankings for hard-cover books sold in Southern California, as reported by selected book stores: FICTION 1.“Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders (Random House: $28) President Abraham Lincoln grieves the loss of his son and is haunted by ghosts. 2.“Norse Mythology,” by Neil Gaiman (Norton: $25.95) A reimagining of the great Norse tales of Thor and other gods. 3.“A...
In ‘Ill Will,’ Dan Chaon explores abuse, murder and memory

In ‘Ill Will,’ Dan Chaon explores abuse, murder and memory

While discussing the origins of “Ill Will,” his terrific new thriller (that somewhat disappointingly is not about a rapper named William), Dan Chaon said at least one thread is decades old. About 10 years ago, Chaon (pronounced “Shawn”) was talking to his brother-in-law about some incidents that transpired when the latter was in college in Wisconsin. “There were a series...
Have time to read? Check out the best-sellers

Have time to read? Check out the best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Dangerous Games,’ Danielle Steel 2. ‘Silence Fallen,’ Patricia Briggs 3. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 4. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo,’ George Saunders 5. ‘Exit West,’ Moshin Hamid 6. ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ Amor Towles 7. ‘Hearbreak Hotel,’ Jonathan Kellerman 8. ‘The Whistler...
Katey Sagal, John Oates write memoirs, on way to Austin for signings

Katey Sagal, John Oates write memoirs, on way to Austin for signings

Golden Globe–winning actress Katey Sagal tells the story of her life as a singer/songwriter who unexpectedly became a TV star in “Grace Notes: My Recollections.” Sagal grew up with two parents who had artistic aspirations. Her mother had been a TV screenwriter, and her quick-tempered, workaholic father had dropped out of Harvard Law School to become a respected TV director. But their...
Visit a new sci-fi universe in ‘The Collapsing Empire’

Visit a new sci-fi universe in ‘The Collapsing Empire’

Recommended reading “The Collapsing Empire” by John Scalzi (Tor). One of the most popular science fiction authors to emerge in the last decade, Scalzi now returns with the beginning of another saga. The author of “Redshirts” and the “Old Man’s War” series is presenting the first novel, “The Collapsing Empire,” of a new space-opera sequence set...
The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

This week in “Texas Titles,” we revisit the Armadillo World Headquarters, rediscover a Houston philanthropist, look into a Texas governor’s impeachment, dip into a historical novel and find out about a Texas progressive coalition that beat Jim Crow and Juan Crow. “Armadillo World Headquarters” by Eddie Wilson with Jesse Sublett (TSSI Publishing/UT Press) One wag called...
Magical novel makes readers think about struggles of refugees

Magical novel makes readers think about struggles of refugees

Recommended reading “Exit West: A Novel” by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books). The author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” goes full-on magical realist in this exceptional novel, as two young lovers, Saeed and Nadia, meet in an unnamed city. They text, they hang out, they start building a life. But they must flee as war...
What to read right now? Try a best seller

What to read right now? Try a best seller

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 2. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo,’ George Saunders 3. ‘Banana Cream Pie Murder,’ Joanne Fluke 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘Echoes in Death,’ J.D. Robb 6. ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Jonathan Kellerman 7. ‘Humans, Bow Down,’ James Patterson...
Benjamin Alire Sáenz dives back into the rich lives of teens

Benjamin Alire Sáenz dives back into the rich lives of teens

Three college-bound Latino teens navigate their ways through senior year in El Paso in the “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (for ages 14-17). Born to white parents, Salvador was adopted at the age of 3 by a gay, Mexican-American man and embraced by his extended family. His closest friends are Sam, an extroverted girl with a drama-filled life, and Fito...
Get a peek inside writer Joan Didion’s mind

Get a peek inside writer Joan Didion’s mind

Recommended reading “South and West: From a Notebook” by Joan Didion (Knopf). Well, this was unexpected. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and “The White Album,” Didion’s game-changing collections about the ’60s and ’70s, remain touchstones for those wishing to write about America. In “South and West,” we get to look at two excerpts from...
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