And we are in Turkey Country now. While some of you might be pulling out the cookbooks and thinking about holiday gatherings, we’re going to keep talking about recreational reading, because let’s not forget to take a little of that for yourself here and there during these last two months of 2017. 

And we’ll just start off with some of the highlights for recreational reading this week. Lee Child is back with Jack Reacher in The Midnight Line. This one starts in classic Child style: Reacher finds a West Point class ring and wonders who it belongs to and why they pawned it. Naturally, this curiosity is like the errant sweater thread, and Reacher always pulls on the sweater thread. And usually discovers a bunch of angry dudes with guns who don’t like having their sweater threads pulled. Seriously. You’d think Reacher would learn. No, wait! We don’t want him to learn because there would be no Reacher books without—pull that thread, man! Pull it! 

And speaking of turning off your brain and having a good time, the latest Clive Cussler novel dropped this week. It’s one of those books that doesn’t have Dirk Pitt in it (and we know that three-quarters of you just stopped paying attention), but it does have a cover image of an out-of-control freight train careening UP a mountain pass while two guys with guns chase each other across the top of one of the train cars. It’s called Typhoon Fury and it’s about the crew of the Oregon, a sea-going ship, and there’s a train on the cover. In the mountains. Okay, okay, so maybe the train IS going downhill, but that means the guys are running UP hill. And shooting at each other. 

We assume it makes more sense inside. 

And speaking of disparate images somehow making coherent sense, we also have the latest Dictionary of Dreams. This one starts with Freud, hits up Gustavus Hindman Miller for his ten thousand or so interpretations, and then sprinkles a bit of 21st century zeitgeistery across the top. Which makes this five-hundred-plus page tome the most comprehensive dictionary of what in the heck those two squirrels and that inflated narwhal meant in that dream you had last night. 

[Oh, was that just us? Sorry.]

And speaking of awkward transitions, outlandish PNW favorite Chuck Palahniuk is back with a second coloring book. That’s right. His second. The first one, Bait, doubled as a new collection of short fiction, and was a book of squicky stories along with black and white illustrations that you could color in any squicky way you liked. Now he’s back with Legacy, his first new fiction in a couple of years, and once again, he’s bringing the black and white art along for you to add your own interpretation to his words. From the man whose previous collection was subtitled “Stories You Can’t Unread,” we now have “Pictures You Can’t Uncolor.” 

And speaking of things that bring us together, Dan Rather has a new book out. Written with the aid of Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us is a collection of essays where Rather waxes nostalgic and sage on some of those things that were important to the foundation of our country. While the book is subtitled “Reflections on Patriotism,” we’re going to go out on a limb and say that it’s really about “not being a jerk and remembering that everything gets built because people work together.” 

And speaking of coming together and being unified in thought and vision, Dr. Hannah Fry and Dr. Thomas Oléron Evans have collaborated on The Indisputable Evidence of Santa Claus. Frankly, you’re either going to love it or think it is more liberal propaganda BS, but it’s got a lot of math in it, so climate change deniers needn’t bother. The rest of us will have all the fun, and Santa will visit us and not you this year, so there.  [Editor’s note: So much for bringing us together.]

And speaking of unification, Kurt Andersen has two books on the shelves right now: Fantasyland: How American Went Haywire and You Can’t Spell America Without Me. The first is a five-hundred year history, which seems like a long time, oh, early-1500s, yeah, okay. That’s a little early, but it’s not like he’s going to back the days of the Ostrogoths to chart the current political climate. And, honestly, he’s the co-writer of You Can’t Spell America Without Me. The other guy is Alec Baldwin in a blonde wig, though how that helps the writing process, we’re not entirely sure. 

Anyway, Andersen has been spoofing popular culture and politics for a couple of decades now (when he isn’t writing insightful and earnest essays for a number of magazines and newspapers), and that degree from Harvard (magna cum laude, no less) probably means he’s read a few books, so he might have some insight here. Baldwin? We don’t know what he brings to the party—oh, right. That thing he does on SNL with the blonde wig. Right. 

So, two choices this week for your political analysis. One has pictures; the other has words: pick the one that won’t make you crazy. 

And speaking of things that make you cray, Jeff Kinney is back this week with the twelfth installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kids series. This time around Greg Heffley and the family try to get out of town for a vacation. Naturally, things go terribly, terribly wrong, which is just perfect for us, because we didn’t get to go on a vacation, and if we’re going to read about someone else getting a vacation, this is exactly the sort of disaster we want to read about. 

And speaking of disasters and vacations, we have a new translation of Homer’s classic ode to sea-faring trips, The Odyssey. Now, we know, there’s been a couple translations over the years, and every generation gets all worked up about how this translation is going to really speak to the current generation and all that. But this time? The translation is by Emily Wilson. We’ll let that sink in for a second. You don’t know her, but she’s bringing something new to the table this time. You should go read the excellent New York Time article about her efforts, starting with the fifth word. 

[And we have to admit we snorted a bit when we encountered William Morris’s rendition of Odysseus as “shifty.”]

And finally, we are delighted that Peter Wohlleben’s follow-up to The Hidden Life of Trees is here. In The Inner Life of Animals, Wohlleben ascribes many of the fundamental emotional qualities to animals. He doesn’t do so scientifically, but does so from an armchair empricist’s standpoint. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t come out and say “Ducks love other ducks like we love ducks,” but rather he presents evidence of affection-like behavior in ducks (for example) and posits the value of that behavior. Wohlleben isn’t a duck—or a goat or a bat or a cow—but he likes to think about what they’re doing and why. We will, of course, be delighted to read this thoughts because, like his previous book about trees, this leads to empathy with the world around us, which is most certainly a quality we like to engender in ourselves and in others. 

Back to that unity thing again. 

So, read some books. Share a smile or two. Say hello. Bring a cup of coffee to the store and watch Rich’s face light up. And be sure to ask the boys about sword canes, but only if you have an hour to spare. 

Overheard At The Battered Casket »»

COLBY: Psst! Hey, Bob!

BOB: Oh! You! You can’t be in here. This is a family restaurant. 

COLBY: It’s a bar. 

BOB: People are eating here. You might get fur—

GINGER: Oh, hi, Colby. 

COLBY: Hi, Ginger. Is it okay if I perch on this stool for a bit? 

GINGER: Sure. Let me get a blanket. 

BOB: But . . . 

COLBY: What? I get a chill from the air conditioning. 

GINGER: There we go. All good? 

COLBY: Yes, thank you. 

GINGER: What’s the matter, Bob? 

BOB: He’s a marmot. Aren’t there laws against marmots being in bars? 

GINGER: No more so than bookstores. It’s okay. I looked it up. 

COLBY: She looked it up. 

GINGER: You want anything? 

COLBY: No, I’m good. I had some bourbon with lunch. 

GINGER: Okay, cool. Bob? You good? 

BOB: Yeah, I’m okay. I guess. This is sort of . . . 

GINGER: Okay, I’ll be back to check on you two in a while. 

BOB: You had bourbon at lunch? 

COLBY: I didn’t, but it’s the only way to get her to stop trying to ply me with alcohol. I never should have had that second thimble when we were at your cabin that one day. 

BOB: You were a little—

COLBY: Never mind that now!

BOB: Sure, marmot. Why are you here? 

COLBY: I need your help. 

BOB: Really? 

COLBY: Don’t make a thing of it!

BOB: Fine. I won’t make a thing

COLBY: It’s the holiday season, right? So this is the time of year when everyone starts getting really nice to one another. Random strangers bringing cups of coffee into the store for the staff. Fruit logs. Wrapped presents. Boxes of donuts. It’s crazy. 

BOB: Well, as a species, we’re kind of terrible at showing affection and appreciation without being prompted, and so we invented these excuses to be nice to one another.

COLBY: You realize that’s terribly broken of you—as a species, I mean. Psychologically speaking. 

BOB: Well, we’re not all round and cuddly and covered in fur. We have angles and hard edges. Some of us even have scars. You just can’t . . . Look. Do you see that? Over by the jukebox? 

COLBY: That shriveled piece of freeze-died flora? 

BOB: Mistletoe. Do you know what happens if you get caught standing underneath it? 

COLBY: You get stoned? 

BOB: No, you get kissed. 

COLBY: By who? 

BOB: Anyone who sees you standing there. 

COLBY: I think I’d rather be stoned. 

BOB: You’ve . . . you’ve never been in love. 

COLBY: What? Of course I have. I’m quite enamored with Milton. And this new translation of Homer’s Odyssey is pretty delightful too. 

BOB: No, that’s not it. I mean, in love. With another person. 

COLBY: Marmots aren’t into love. We’re a communal species. It’s sort of like socialism but without the tractors and work farms. 

BOB: So, how do you . . . procreate? Oh, god, never mind. I don’t want to know. 

COLBY: My fourth uncle’s second cousin took care of all that anyway. 

BOB: I really don’t want to know. 

COLBY: Okay. 

BOB: . . . 

COLBY: . . . 

BOB: You’re really freaked out about this, aren’t you?

COLBY: I’ve never bought a gift before. 

BOB: What do you mean? You bought that book for the otters. You’ve brought me things. 

COLBY: Oh, those weren’t gifts. Those were a means to an end. 

BOB: Oh, right. You just needed something and so you . . . traded for it. 

COLBY: That’s right. 

BOB: So, you’ve never given someone something without expecting something in return? 

COLBY: Is that what it is all about? 

BOB: Yes, sort of. 

COLBY: Sort of!

BOB: Shhh. Don’t shriek like that. 

COLBY: I need answers, beardy man! The season is upon us!


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