It must be getting on to football season since we’ve been seeing a variety of biographies about the World’s Greatest Coach. We’re not quite sure how each of these illustrious stalkers of sidelines can be the greatest, but we’re sure they’ll work that all out. Perhaps in a cage match knife fight, much like the one posited about the presidents, once upon a time.
Naturally, the more useful read this weekend would be the following book, which we have, of course.
We notice that How to Fight Presidents doesn’t include Jimmy Carter, which is an oversight. The gentleman who originally put together the Mass Knife Fight Among Presidents also overlooked President Carter, and it was a commenter who pointed out Carter’s early Navy career. Basically, Jimmy Carter retired from being a badass. Sure, Lincoln may have been born in a log cabin, but Jimmy Carter builds them with his bare hands, using nothing but his own spit to hold the logs together. And he doesn’t even take a water break.
Anyway, Sip & Stroll this weekend. We’ll be standing around, talking books, and pouring wine from 4pm to 7pm on Saturday. You’ll have tickets and wine glasses. We’ll get our in-house sommelier (read paid liar) to brush up the canned descriptions of the plonk we’ll be serving.
We’re kidding about the plonk. It’s just such a great word. Our wine choices are definitely a rack above plonk.
Sooo, let’s talk about books now, shall we? And we dallied there a bit because we’re hard-pressed to decide which book is going to make y’all Squee! more. Will it be the new Robert Galbraith? Or the new Deborah Harkness? Or how about the latest from Hard Case Crime? The final novel in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series? So many choices. How about we take them all home?
Okay, so first up is Lethal White, the latest Robert Galbraith thriller. Galbraith, as you may know, is actually J. K. Rowling, and the Comoran Strike novels are thrillers about a much-beleaguered private investigator named Strike and Robin Ellacott, his headstrong assistant/partner. Apparently, Lethal White picks up shortly after Career of Evil (the previous novel, which was a long-running riff on Blue Öyster Cult lyrics), and is the longest book to date. These facts are of great delight to us, as we have been enjoying Rowling’s grown-up novels.
Oh, and these are definitely for grown-ups. Hooray!
And speaking of books for adults, Deborah Harkness returns to her version of the world of academics and vampires with Time’s Convert. Well, sort of a return. The hero of this book is Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts who, in the wake of the American Revolution, meets a mysterious gentleman who lets him in on a big secret. You know, the “immortality” secret. The one with the pesky side effects. Naturally, the story also takes place in modern-day Paris, where love is in the air, and our new favorite vampire must make tough choices about who dies and who lives forever. Like one does in the time-honored tradition of all supernatural love affairs.
Anyway, did you know that Dr. Harkness ran a wine blog for awhile? Good Wine Under $20. Makes one wonder if we’ll be serving something at this weekend’s Sip & Stroll that would rate coverage on her blog? Hmmmm.
And we’re not quite done with books that skew all over the timeline. Charlesgate Confidential is the first novel of Scott Von Doviak, a Texas-based writer whose Hard Case Crime debut is about art thieves. Now, we’re a bit partial to heist stories as it is, and heist novels that deal with art get even more attention. Charlesgate Confidential is Christopher Nolan directing a version of The Thomas Crown Affair as if it were The Godfather Part II, which is to say like having Ryan Gosling and Robert Redford play the same character fifty years apart.
And now we’re sad that this isn’t a real film. Ah, well. There’s always the book.
And speaking of reading instead of waiting for the movie, we’ve also got Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Labyrinth of the Spirits, which, while still being all bookish, is also thrilling and sexy and all about secret histories. Over the years, Zafón has been beguiling us by skewing the line between reality and literature with his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, and in Labyrinth of the Spirits, he peels back the authorized history of the Spanish Civil War. And what’s there, beneath the surface? Ah, a labyrinth of lies and conspiracies, of course. How else are you going to pad out an eight hundred page book? Pages and pages of culinary descriptions?
And speaking of massive tomes that could stop a badger in its tracks, we also have Jill Lepore’s These Truths, a single-volume history of the United States. Yep. That’s right. One volume. The whole history. All the way from the Idea (circa 1492) to the Machine (circa eighteen weeks ago), which sounds more like an Ayn Rand novel than a literate and thought-provoking walk-through of how we got here and how we fumbled and bumbled along the way.
And speaking of fumbling, Ryan North is back this week with How to Invent Everything, a useful guide for stranded time travelers. Because, you know, not everyone has a sonic screwdriver, and there are times when you have to “subsist off the land,” like you’re caught in some cosmic variant of Survivor meets The Truman Show.
How to Invent Everything is organized like a giant flowchart with lots of footnotes, because that’s the best way to drill down quickly to something like, say, domesticating giant wombats or communicating a religious doctrine through a selective use of the high-five. Useful stuff.
And for a historical read-through of how such cleverness was actually put to use, we have Neal Bascomb’s The Escape Artists, the story of a handful of Allied airmen who managed to escape from the most notorious prison in all of Nazi Germany. It’s Papillon meets Saving Private Ryan, as directed by Christopher Nolan (again), from a script by Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian, of course.
Geez. Yet another movie we’d go see in an instant.
Also, notice how this is the "Greatest Prison Break of the Great War." Talk about hyperbole. Though, of course, "Near-Accidental Meander Away From A Low-Fenced Facility During Lunch Some Time Last Month, Or Maybe It Was Last Year" doesn't have the same frisson of excitement, does it?
Anyway, prison breaks. Making things out of string and spit. The usual sort of badass Presidential-style stuff.
And finally, because it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day this week, we have The Magical Unicorn Society Official Handbook.
What? Like this is the first non-sequitur that we’ve ever done. The laziest, perhaps, but not the first.
Look, it's an official handbook for creatures that don't exist. Like we're going to take any crap about making stuff up for this one. And really, what more do you need to know? Unicorns are like pirates. Everyone wants to be one, but no one has really seen one. That doesn't stop us from dreaming now, does it?