Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Diet and Fitness

Cupcakes and diet/nutrition/exercise books got along together like the best of friends at last night's Genre Reading Group meeting!  Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 27th at 6:30pm and the genre up for discussion will be historical fiction.

( Imagine a diet plan that lets you eat at Burger King, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Olive Garden and still strip away 10, 20, even 30 pounds or more! A diet plan that lets you order takeout pizza, whip up a box of macaroni & cheese, even reach into the freezer section for ice cream and never worry about gaining weight or going hungry! A diet plan that lets you enjoy your most indulgent comfort foods whenever you want and actually teaches you how to eat them more often! The Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet is the easiest, most revolutionary weight-loss plan ever created.

Whether you’re in the drive-through, the family restaurant, the supermarket aisle or your own kitchen, you make dozens of decisions every day that affect your weight and your health. Now, those decisions are made easier than ever! Authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding have built on the success of their wildly popular Eat This, Not That! series offood-swap guides and created a complete morning-to-night, 365-day eating plan that will have you enjoying all your favorite foods and shedding pounds like you’ve never imagined! No matter where you are or what you crave, you’ll be stunned to discover how easy losing weight can be!

( With engineers working around the clock to figure out how to add irresistibility and whoosh to food, and the ever-expanding choices (and portions) available to us, it's no wonder we've become a culture on caloric overload. But with obesity rising at alarming rates, we're in desperate need of dietary intervention.

In The End of Overeating, Dr. David A. Kessler, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, takes an in-depth look at the ways in which we have been conditioned to overeat. Dr. Kessler presents a combination of fascinating anecdotes and newsworthy research — including interviews with physicians, psychologists, and neurologists — to understand how we became a culture addicted to the over-consumption of unhealthy foods. He also provides a controversial view inside the food industry, from popular processed food manufacturers to advertisers, chain restaurants, and fast food franchises. Kessler deconstructs the endless cycle of craving and consumption that the industry has created, and breaks down how our minds and bodies join in the conspiracy to make it all work. He concludes by offering us a common sense prescription for change, both in ourselves and in our culture.

( Pioneering research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, Willpower shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows readers how to be realistic when setting goals, monitor their progress, and how to keep faith when they falter. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, Willpower makes it clear that whatever we seek—from happiness to good health to financial security—we won’t reach our goals without first learning to harness self-control.

( Five years ago, with the publication of TheSouth Beach Diet, renowned Miami cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston set out to change the way America eats. Now he has an even more ambitious goal: to change the way America lives by helping Americans become fitter as well as thinner and healthier . . . for life.

In the all-new The South Beach Diet Supercharged, Dr. Agatston shows you how to rev up your metabolism and lose weight faster while following the proven healthy eating principles of the original diet: choose good carbs, good fats, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Collaborating with Dr. Joseph Signorile, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Miami, Dr. Agatston presents a cutting-edge, three-phase workout that perfectly complements the three phases of the diet itself. Based on the latest exercise science, this ease-into-it fitness program combines low- and high-intensity interval exercise (with a focus on walking) and functional core body-toning exercises. The result: You'll look fitter and you'll burn more fat and calories all day, even at rest.

Also included is the latest nutritional research on how specific foods high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of phytonutrients help keep you healthy; new and expanded lists of Foods to Enjoy; taste-tempting Meal Plans for phases 1 and 2; and dozens of easy-to-prepare new recipes, including Eggs Frijoles, Chock-Full-of-Veggies Chili, Roasted Tomato Soup, Homestyle Turkey Meatloaf, and South Beach Diet Tiramisu. In every chapter you'll find inspiring success stories from real-life South Beach dieters and plenty of effective weight loss tips. And as an added bonus, Dr. Agatston answers the questions you've most often asked him about the diet since the original book was published.

( Introducing a breathtaking promise: transform your body and get fit in just 10 minutes a day. Incorporating the latest research in exercise physiology, The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough is an ingenious program of interval, circuit, aerobic, and resistance training that accrues the benefits of hours at the gym in daily 10-minute workouts. And these are workouts that can be done anywhere, any time--home, office, hotel room, the park, and, of course, the local health club.

Created by Sean Foy, an exercise physiologist and behavioral coach, The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough counters the #1 reason people don't exercise--not enough time--with a scientifically proven, clinically tested 4-3-2-1 program: 4 minutes of high-energy cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of core, and 1 minute of stretching and deep breathing. The step-by-step illustrated exercises are simplicity itself--air boxing, wall push-ups, chair jogging, stationary high-knee marching--and are presented in three levels geared to the reader's fitness, with four weeks of routines per level. Their potency lies in the benefits of nonstop movement, thermal effect, intensity, and more: in other words, why it truly takes just 10 carefully crafted minutes to boost metabolic rate, exercise all the major muscle groups, increase cardiovascular endurance, have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood pressure, and deliver a sense of well-being.

( Do you suffer from ailments your doctors can't seem to diagnose or help: mysterious rashes, unpredictable digestive problems, debilitating headaches, mood and energy swings, constant tiredness? If so, nerve compression is likely the cause.

What Grain Brain did for wheat, leading peripheral nerve surgeon Dr. Richard Jacoby now does for sugar, exposing the shocking truth that a diet high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and wheat can compress and damage the peripheral nerves of the body, and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet, as well as a host of related conditions, from migraines, autism, and ALS to gallbladder disease and diabetes.

Over the years, Dr. Richard Jacoby has treated thousands of patients with peripheral neuropathy. Now he shares his insights and tells the story of how he connected the dots to determine how sugar is the common denominator of many chronic diseases.

Practical and accessible, Sugar Crush breaks down our dangerous addiction to sweets, offering a unique, holistic understanding of the toll sugar and carbs take on the body, and demonstrating how dietary changes can help nerves regain their normal function dramatically.

Whether you have diabetes or prediabetes, or are even just concerned about your health, Sugar Crush is the essential guide to knowing the dangers of nerve compression. Complete with dietary advice, the latest thinking on ways to prevent and reverse neuropathy, and a quiz to help you assess your nerve damage, this book will give you the tools you need to quit sugar, calm your nerves, and reclaim well-being.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

( Have you ever finished a meal that tasted horrible but not noticed until the last bite?
Eaten in your car so you wouldn't have to share with your children? Gotten hungry while watching a dog food commercial? Does the presence of green vegetables make you angry?

If you answered yes to any of the following questions, you are pretty pathetic, but you are not alone. Feast along with America's favorite food comedian, bestselling author, and male supermodel Jim Gaffigan as he digs into his specialty: stuffing his face. Food: A Love Story is an in-depth, thoroughly uninformed look at everything from health food to things that people actually enjoy eating.


One of our bookgroup members is participating in a nutritional study at UAB and is giving us a first person perspective of his experience:

“The purpose of the Fiber and Mood study is to determine the effect of a fiber-containing shake on mood. The study is set up in two separate phases. The first phase will include screening and baseline testing. In the second phase, participants will come to UAB to eat all of their meals for two weeks,-Monday-Friday. There will be two weeks in between each week-long session of eating at UAB.”

We spent a few minutes remembering the pioneers:

More recent trendsetters:

Food trucks are experiencing a surge of popularity.  There are several books out on the topic and last year’s Jon Favreau film, Chef, was particularly good.

Esquire article, “Why Did Everyone Stop Taking Real Lunch Breaks?” by John Hendrickson

What are YOU reading/watching/listening to?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Books Adapted to Screen

A couple of funny comic strips brought in by valued GRG'er Kathleen R.!

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, film/tv adaptations of books are hot right now and the Genre Reading Group met last evening to tackle this genre!  

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, September 29th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be diet, nutrition, and fitness.  I make no promises, but I’ll try to have some healthy snacking options available at that meeting.  It’d be awkward otherwise…

Aaaaannnndddd ACTION!

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
(powells) The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving "a great gentleman." But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington's "greatness" and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

(rottentomatoes) Filmed with the usual meticulous attention to period and detail of films from Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Remains of the Day is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the "perfect" butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity. But when duty calls, Stevens won't even attend his own dying father's last moments on earth. The butler also refuses to acknowledge the fact that his master is showing signs of pro-Nazi sentiments. 

Disillusioned by Hitler's duplicity, the master dies an embittered man, and only then does Stevens come to realize how his own silence has helped bring about this sad situation. Years later, regretting his lost opportunities in life, he tries once more to make contact with Miss Kenton, the only person who'd ever cared enough to seek out the human being inside the butler's cold veneer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Martian by Andy Weir
(powells) Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

(rottentomatoes) During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover. (C) Fox

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
(amazon) After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.

The Dressmaker (not available on DVD yet)
(rottentomatoes) Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, this bittersweet, comedy-drama is set in early 1950s Australia. Tilly Dunnage, a beautiful and talented misfit, after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy, but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, she transforms the women of the town and in so doing gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

(powells) BeforeSex and the City and Viagra™, America relied on Masters and Johnson to teach us everything we needed to know about what goes on in the bedroom. Convincing hundreds of men and women to shed their clothes and copulate, the pair were the nation’s top experts on love and intimacy. Highlighting interviews with the notoriously private Masters and the ambitious Johnson, critically acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier shows how this unusual team changed the way we all thought about, talked about, and engaged in sex while they simultaneously tried to make sense of their own relationship. Entertaining, revealing, and beautifully told, Masters of Sex sheds light on the eternal mysteries of desire, intimacy, and the American psyche.

(rottentomatoes) The lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson are depicted in this critically acclaimed drama. Season 1 begins with Masters (Michael Sheen), a successful gynecologist at Washington University in St Louis, conducting a secret study of human sexuality. Soon, he meets Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), a former nightclub singer who is now part of the hospital secretarial staff. He enlists her help with his study, and she quickly proves to be an asset to Masters's work. Together, they delve deeper than anyone before them into the science of sex and later become participants in their own research, which takes an unforeseen toll on Masters's married life.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
(powells) In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery."Poignant, honest and triumphantly funny. . . [a] compelling and heartbreaking story." --Susan Cheever, The New York Times Book Review

(rottentomatoes) In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder-an affliction with symptoms so ambiguous almost any adolescent girl might qualify-and sent to a renowned New England psychiatric hospital where she spent the next two years in a ward for teenage girls. There, Susanna loses herself in an OZ-like nether world of seductive and disturbed young women: among them Lisa, a charming sociopath who stages a disastrous escape with Susanna, Daisy, a pampered girl with a predilection for rotisserie chicken, and Polly, a remarkably kind burn victim. Ultimately, assisted by the hospital's head psychiatrist, Dr. Wick, and a no-nonsense ward nurse, Valerie, Susanna, like Dorothy, resolves to leave this Oz and reclaim her life.

(amazon) Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

(rottentomatoes) Promoted as a family musical by Paramount Pictures, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more of a black comedy, perversely faithful to the spirit of Roald Dahl's original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) stages a contest by hiding five golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather (Jack Albertson). In the course of the tour, Willy Wonka punishes the four nastier children in various diabolical methods -- one kid is inflated and covered with blueberry dye, another ends up as a principal ingredient of the chocolate, and so on -- because these kids have violated the ethics of Wonka's factory. In the end, only Charlie and his grandfather are left. Ostensibly set in England, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was lensed in Germany (as revealed by the film's final overhead shot). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

(rottentomatoes) Director Tim Burton brings his unique vision and sensibility to Roald Dahl's classic children's story in this lavish screen interpretation. Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is the secretive and wildly imaginative man behind the world's most celebrated candy company, and while the Wonka factory is famously closed to visitors, the reclusive candy man decides to give five lucky children a chance to see the inside of his operation by placing "golden tickets" in five randomly selected chocolate bars. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), whose poor but loving family lives literally in the shadow of the Wonka factory, is lucky enough to obtain one of the tickets, and Charlie, escorted by his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), is in for the ride of a lifetime as he tours the strange and remarkable world of Wonka with fellow winners, media-obsessed Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), harsh and greedy Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), and ultra-competitive Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb). Over the course of the day, some of the children will learn difficult lessons about themselves, and one will go on to become Wonka's new right hand. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also stars Christopher Lee, James Fox, and Noah Taylor; the book was famously adapted to the screen before in 1971 under the title Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder as the eccentric candy tycoon. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Marvel’s Ant Man Prelude by Will Corona Pilgrim
(powells) Get ready for Marvel's next smash-hit film with this all-new official prequel! Before Scott Lang becomes Marvel's shrinking sensation, his predecessor, Dr. Hank Pym, will pull on the Ant-Man helmet and leap into action on a death-defying mission that will take him into the icy heart of Cold War East Berlin! Then, thrill to an all-new Infinite-style adventure set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as explosive new details in the history of the astonishing Ant-Man are revealed! But can the lessons of his past prepare him for the trials he is about to face? Plus: Experience Scott Lang's comic-book transformation into Ant-Man and the first chapter in his all-new adventures, and witness a dramatic change for the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym! The action-packed buildup to Marvel' Ant-Man begins here, so get on board now!

Ant Man (not available on DVD yet)
(rottentomatoes) The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios' "Ant-Man." Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. -- (C) Marvel

Shrek! by William Steig
(powells) Before Shrek made it big on the silver screen, there was William Steigs SHREK!, a book about an ordinary ogre who leaves his swampy childhood home to go out and see the world. Ordinary, that is, if a foul and hideous being who ends up marrying the most stunningly ugly princess on the planet is what you consider ordinary.

(rottentomatoes) Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, there lived an ornery ogre named Shrek whose precious solitude is suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy tale characters. There are blind mice in his food, a big, bad wolf in his bed, three little homeless pigs and more, all banished from their kingdom by the evil Lord Farquaad. Determined to save their home--not to mention his own--Shrek cuts a deal with Farquaad and sets out to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona to be Farquaad's bride. Accompanying him on his mission is wisecracking Donkey, who will do anything for Shrek... except shut up. Rescuing the Princess from a fire-breathing dragon may prove the least of their problems when the deep, dark secret she has been keeping is revealed.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
(powells) The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming reacquainted after the war's long separation. Like most practical women, Claire hardly expects her curiosity to get the better of her. But an ancient stone circle near her lodgings holds an eerie fascination, and when she innocently touches one of the giant boulders, she's hurtled backward in time more than two hundred years, to 1743.

Alone where no lady should be alone, and far from the familiar comforts of her other life, Claire's usual resourcefulness is tested to the limit. The merciless garrison captain so feared by others bears an uncanny resemblance to the husband she has just left behind. Her own odd circumstances expose her to accusations of witchcraft. And the strands of a political intrigue she doesn't understand threaten to ensnare her at every turn.

But of all the perils her new life holds, none is more disquieting than her growing feelings for James Fraser, the gallant young Scot she is forced to marry for her own protection. Sworn by his wedding vows to keep her from harm, Jamie's passion for Claire goes beyond duty. As she struggles with the memories of another lifetime, she is forced to make an agonizing and fateful choice, and learns ultimately that a man's instinct to protect the woman he loves is as old as time.

(rottentomatoes) While on her second honeymoon, World War II combat nurse Claire Randall, played by Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, is mysteriously transported back in time to 1743 Scotland. After an encounter with a British soldier, she's kidnapped by a group of Scottish Highlanders whose ranks include an injured young man named Jamie.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
(powells) Rebecca Bloomwood just hit rock bottom. But she's never looked better....
Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is that she can't actually afford it — not any of it.

Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all. And lately Becky's been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank — letters with large red sums she can't bear to read — and they're getting ever harder to ignore.

She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Becky's only consolation is to buy herself something ... just a little something....

Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life — and the lives of those around her — forever.

Sophie Kinsella has brilliantly tapped into our collective consumer conscience to deliver a novel of our times — and a heroine who grows stronger every time she weakens. Becky Bloomwood's hilarious schemes to pay back her debts are as endearing as they are desperate. Her "confessions" are the perfect pick-me-up when life is hanging in the (bank) balance.

(rottentomatoes) In the glamorous world of New York City, Rebecca Bloomwood is a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping--a little too good, perhaps. She dreams of working for her favorite fashion magazine, but can't quite get her foot in the door--until ironically, she snags a job as an advice columnist for a financial magazine published by the same company. As her dreams are finally coming true, she goes to ever more hilarious and extreme efforts to keep her past from ruining her future.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre
(powells) Frightening, heartbreaking, and exquisitely calibrated, John le Carré's new novel opens with the gruesome murder of the young and beautiful Tessa Quayle near northern Kenya's Lake Turkana, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover and traveling companion, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has vanished from the scene of the crime. Tessa's much older husband, Justin, a career diplomat at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive.

A master chronicler of the deceptions and betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, le Carré portrays, in The Constant Gardener,the dark side of unbridled capitalism. His eighteenth novel is also the profoundly moving story of a man whom tragedy elevates. Justin Quayle, amateur gardener and ineffectual bureaucrat, seemingly oblivious to his wife's cause, discovers his own resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love. The Constant Gardener is a magnificent exploration of the new world order by one of the most compelling and elegant storytellers of our time.

(rottentomatoes) When a British diplomat's wife -- a socially-conscious lawyer -- turns up dead in Kenya, he sets out to find the truth surrounding her murder. In the process, he finds out that his wife had been compiling data against a multinational drug company that uses helpless Africans as guinea pigs to test a tuberculosis remedy with unfortunately fatal side effects. Therefore, those who may have had the most reason to silence her are closer to home than he ever imagined.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
(powells) The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement—especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla—his Moscow Centre nemesis—and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

(rottentomatoes) Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government - which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. -- (C) Focus Features

(amazon) "Marvelously riveting" --The New York Times "Scintillating, seductive" --The Washington Post
The thrilling sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tell Max it concerns the Sandman…
Both had supposedly outlived their usefulness to the Circus, the British Secret Intelligence Service: George Smiley, the retired head of espionage, and General Vladimir, an aging informant who reported to him. When the general walks into a bullet after sending an urgent message to his old handler, the Circus asks Smiley to "tidy things up." But Smiley hears Vladimir’s message as a call to arms against his nemesis, the Soviet super spy Karla, once again tantalizingly within his grasp.
Alec Guinness reprises the role of British spymaster George Smiley in this gripping sequel to the television masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Filmed on location in London, Paris, Hamburg, and Berne, Smiley’s People also stars Eileen Atkins, Anthony Bate, Bernard Hepton, Michael Lonsdale, Beryl Reid, Patrick Stewart, and Bill Paterson.

 What are YOU reading and watching?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Real Life Adventures

The August 25th meeting will be dedicated to books that have been adapted into film, fiction and nonfiction alike.  Your choice :-) 

Buckle up and hold on to your hats!  Real life adventure was up for discussion last night and the books ranged far and wide; from Africa to Spain to Utah to the furthest reaches of the solar system.

Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway
( His second major venture into nonfiction (after Death in the Afternoon in 1932), Green Hills of Africa is Ernest Hemingway's lyrical journal of a month on safari in the great game country of East Africa, where he and his wife Pauline journeyed in December of 1933. Hemingway's well-known interest in — and fascination with — big-game hunting is magnificently captured in this evocative account of his trip. In examining the poetic grace of the chase, and the ferocity of the kill, Hemingway also looks inward, seeking to explain the lure of the hunt and the primal undercurrent that comes alive on the plains of Africa. Yet Green Hills of Africa is also an impassioned portrait of the glory of the African landscape, and of the beauty of a wilderness that was, even then, being threatened by the incursions of man. Hemingway's rich description of the beauty and strangeness of the land and his passion for the sport of hunting combine to give Green Hills of Africa the freshness and immediacy of a deeply felt personal experience that is the hallmark of the greatest travel writing.

( Magnetically written by former CEO of a North Carolina Girl Scout Council and award winning CEO for the Western New York chapter of a national arts-in-education organization, this uniquely engaging travel journal describes four keys to unlocking personal and spiritual fulfillment: solitude, introspection, courage, and commitment. Through a series of compelling travel essays and deeply thoughtful memoirs, Janice Booth draws readers into each adventure—ranging from a solo hike through Northern California to galloping across the fields of Ireland to a short stint with the Circus Arts learning the flying trapeze—and shares her secrets to a fuller life through traveling alone. Step by step, she demonstrates why leaving everything—and everyone—behind for a few days (or more!) is the best path to inner strength, confidence, and true self-knowledge.

( For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dis­missed these stories—waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea—including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of peo­ple as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100­-foot wave.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves—from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast. Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

( In 1928, defying Italy's Mussolini and the entire fascist party, aviator Umberto Nobile, undertook a daring expedition to the North Pole in Italia, one of several successful airships he had designed. The tragic crash of the airship on the ice and search for survivors was the most extensive in Arctic history, involving seven nations. Although Nobile and eight crew members survived, those lost included not only their tragic companions but searchers, including the famous explorer, Roald Amundsen. The Italia tragedy was described by The New York Times as one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of aviation.

( The Voyager spacecraft are our farthest-flung emissaries; 11.3 billion miles away from the crew who built and still operate them, decades since their launch.

Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2012; its sister craft, Voyager 2, will do so in 2015. The fantastic journey began in 1977, before the first episode of Cosmos aired. The mission was planned as a grand tour beyond the moon; beyond Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; and maybe even into interstellar space. The fact that it actually happened makes this humanity’s greatest space mission.

In The Interstellar Age, award-winning planetary scientist Jim Bell reveals what drove and continues to drive the members of this extraordinary team, including Ed Stone, Voyager’s chief scientist and the one-time head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab; Charley Kohlhase, an orbital dynamics engineer who helped to design many of the critical slingshot maneuvers around planets that enabled the Voyagers to travel so far; and the geologist whose Earth-bound experience would prove of little help in interpreting the strange new landscapes revealed in the Voyagers’ astoundingly clear images of moons and planets.

Speeding through space at a mind-bending eleven miles a second, Voyager 1 is now beyond our solar system's planets. It carries with it artifacts of human civilization. By the time Voyager passes its first star in about 40,000 years, the gold record on the spacecraft, containing various music and images, including Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, will still be playable.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
( In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's storytelling blaze through every page.

The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
( In the more than twenty years since the body of Chris McCandless was discovered in the wilds of Alaska, his spellbinding story has captivated millions who have either read Jon Krakauer's iconic Into the Wild or seen Sean Penn's acclaimed film of the same name.
And yet, only one person has truly understood what motivated Chris's unconventional decision to forsake his belongings, abandon his family, and embrace the harsh wilderness. In The Wild Truth, his beloved sister Carine McCandless finally provides a deeply personal account of the many misconceptions about Chris, revealing the truth behind his fateful journey while sharing the remarkable details of her own.

Exposing the dark reality that existed behind the McCandless's seemingly idyllic home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Carine details a violent home life, one where both parents manipulated the truth about a second family — a deception that pushed Chris over the edge and set the stage for his willing departure into the wild. And though he cut off all family ties, Carine understood — through their indelible bond and some cryptic communication — what Chris was seeking.

This understanding, kept under wraps for years as Carine struggled to maintain a relationship with her parents, now comes to spectacular light in the pages of The Wild Truth. In the decades since Chris's death, Carine and her half-siblings have come together to find their own truth and build their own beauty in his absence. In each other, they've found absolution, just as Chris found absolution in the wild before he died.

Beautiful and haunting, told with candor and heartbreaking insight, The Wild Truth presents a man the world only thought they knew — and the sister who has finally found redemption in sharing the rest of their story.

( It has been nearly three decades since Shirley MacLaine commenced her brave and public commitment to chronicling her personal quest for spiritual understanding. In testament to the endurance and vitality of her message, each of her eight legendary bestsellers — from Don't Fall Off the Mountain to My Lucky Stars — continues today to attract, dazzle, and transform countless new readers. Now Shirley is back — with her most breathtakingly powerful and unique book yet.

This is the story of a journey. It is the eagerly anticipated and altogether startling culmination of Shirley MacLaine's extraordinary — and ultimately rewarding — road through life. The riveting odyssey began with a pair of anonymous handwritten letters imploring Shirley to make a difficult pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela Camino in Spain. Throughout history, countless illustrious pilgrims from all over Europe have taken up the trail. It is an ancient — and allegedly enchanted — pilgrimage. People from St. Francis of Assisi and Charlemagne to Ferdinand and Isabella to Dante and Chaucer have taken the journey, which comprises a nearly 500-mile trek across highways, mountains and valleys, cities and towns, and fields. Now it would be Shirley's turn.

For Shirley, the Camino was both an intense spiritual and physical challenge. A woman in her sixth decade completing such a grueling trip on foot in thirty days at twenty miles per day was nothing short of remarkable. But even more astounding was the route she took spiritually: back thousands of years, through past lives to the very origin of the universe. Immensely gifted with intelligence, curiosity, warmth, and a profound openness to people and places outside her own experience, Shirley MacLaine is truly an American treasure. And once again, she brings her inimitable qualities of mind and heart to her writing. 

Balancing and negotiating the revelations inspired by the mysterious energy of the Camino, she endured her exhausting journey to Compostela until it gradually gave way to a far more universal voyage: that of the soul. Through a range of astonishing and liberating visions and revelations, Shirley saw into the meaning of the cosmos, including the secrets of the ancient civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, insights into human genesis, the essence of gender and sexuality, and the true path to higher love.  With rich insight, humility, and her trademark grace, Shirley MacLaine gently leads us on a sacred adventure toward an inexpressibly transcendent climax. The Camino promises readers the journey of a thousand lifetimes.

Take a Seat (DVD) "Take a Seat: Sharing A Ride Across America" is an inspirational documentary focused on the adventurous human spirit. The film follows British adventurer Dominic Gill as he journeys across America on a tandem bicycle with the help of ten companions, all of whom are physically disabled. Gill brings viewers into the lives of his travelers and provides an expose on the every day struggles they face while they deal with disabilities like muscular dystrophy, blindness, and Parkinson's disease. Gill shows that fervor, determination and hope can transcend physical ailments and that spirits propelled by passion can ascend any apex imaginable.
View the full documentary film here:

The Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
( It started as a daydream. Poring over a map of the world at home one quiet Saturday afternoon, Ewan McGregor — actor and self-confessed bike nut — noticed that it was possible to ride all the way round the world, with just one short hop across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska. It was a revelation he couldn't get out of his head. So he picked up the phone and called Charley Boorman, his best friend, fellow actor and bike enthusiast. 'Charley,' he said. 'I think you ought to come over for dinner...'

From London to New York, Ewan and Charley chased their shadows through Europe, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia, across the Pacific to Alaska, then down through Canada and America. As the miles slipped beneath the tires of their big BMWs, their troubles started. Exhaustion, injury and accidents tested their strength. Treacherous roads, unpredictable weather and turbulent politics challenged their stamina. They were chased by paparazzi in Kazakhstan, courted by men with very large guns in the Ukraine, hassled by the police, and given bulls' testicles for supper by Mongolian nomads.

And yet despite all these obstacles they managed to ride over 20,000 miles in four months, changing their lives forever in the process. As they travelled they documented their trip, taking photographs, and writing diaries by the campfire. Long Way Round is the result of their adventures — a fascinating, frank and highly entertaining travel book about two friends riding round the world together and, against all the odds, realizing their dream.

The Long Way Round (DVD) Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman prepare to hit the road on their motorcycles in an epic journey around the world.

View the first episode here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Louis L'Amour and the American West

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, "westerns, a genre of novels and short stories, motion pictures, and television and radio shows, are set in the American West, usually in the period from the 1850s to the end of the 19th century. Though basically an American creation, the western had its counterparts in the gaucho literature of Argentina and in tales of the settlement of the Australian outback. The genre reached its greatest popularity in the early and middle decades of the 20th century and declined somewhat thereafter ("

American writer Louis L'Amour  (March 22, 1908-June 10, 1988) was "the best-selling author of more than 100 books.  He was a world traveler who mined in the West, sailed aboard an East African schooner, lived with bandits in Tibet, and worked as an elephant handlers, a professional boxer, and a fruit picker before embarking on a career as a writer in the 1940s.  His books sold 200 million copies in 20 languages, and at least 30 of his books formed the basis of films.  In 1983 he became the first novelist to receive a Congressional Gold Medal, and in the following year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom ("

The Genre Reading Group met last night to discuss his life and work and explore the mystique of the American west for ourselves!

The Haunted Mesa
( The Navajo called them the Anasazi: an enigmatic race of southwestern cliff dwellers. For centuries, the sudden disappearance of this proud and noble people has baffled historians. Summoned to a dark desert plateau by a desperate letter form an old friend, renowned investigator Mike Raglan is drawn into a world of mystery, violence, and explosive revelation. Crossing the border beyond the laws of man and nature, he will learn the astonishing legacy of the Anasazi — but not without a price. Set in the contemporary Southwest, The Haunted Mesa draws on Louis L'Amour's extensive knowledge of Indian lore and mysticism. In this extraordinary book L'Amour tells a tale of epic adventure that takes his readers across the most extraordinary frontier they have ever encountered.

Rivers West
( His dream was to build magnificent steamboats to ply the rivers of the American frontier. But when Jean Talon began his journey westward, he stumbled upon a deadly conspiracy involving a young woman's search to find her missing brother, and a ruthless band of renegades.  Led by the brazen Baron Torville, this makeshift army of opportunists is plotting a violent takeover of the Louisiana Territory. Jean swears to find a way to stop this daring plan. If he doesn't, it will not only put an end to all his dreams; it will change the course of history and destroy the promise of the American frontier.

The Trail to Seven Pines
( Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and  betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the  lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men  -- one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning  with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man  has been shot through the temple. Who would  commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on  at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns  that more than a thousand cattle have been run off  by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and  the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of  gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those  responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he  can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk  their lives to do what's right. With their help,  Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to  find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a  life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.

Last of the Breed
( This is the compelling story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, a man born out of time. When his experimental aircraft is forced down in Russia and he escapes a Soviet prison camp, he must call upon the ancient skills of his Indian forebears to survive the vast Siberian wilderness. Only one route lies open to Mack: the path of his ancestors, overland to the Bering Strait and across the sea to America. But in pursuit is a legendary tracker, the Yakut native Alekhin, who knows every square foot of the icy frontier—and who knows that to trap his quarry he must think like a Sioux.

Beyond the Great Snow Mountains
( From the American West to the Siberian coast, from Hollywood to the boxing ring, here are timeless tales of war, mystery, romance, crime, and punishment as only Louis L'Amour can tell them.  These stories are vintage L'Amour: A hard-bitten cattle driver is pitted against a man trying to steal his woman, the disappearance of a thousand head of cattle, and a plot to frame him for murder....A private eye visits a remote mining town on a case involving a sexy widow, an uneasy lawman, and a fortune in gold buried in an abandoned mine shaft....A country boy with a good right hand must fight not only his vicious opponent in the ring but the ruthless gangsters who'll do anything for profit-even commit cold-blooded murder....A young woman stranded in an isolated harbor must survive the wilderness and a brutal battle of wits with a sadistic fortune hunter.  Here is the trademark blend of action, suspense, historical detail, and unforgettable characters that have made Louis L'Amour one of the world's most extraordinary writers.

( He was etched by the desert’s howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.

Hondo (DVD, 1953)
( Hondo is so "perfect" a John Ford western that many people assume it was directed by John Ford--or at the very least, Andrew McLaglen. Actually the director was suspense expert John Farrow, who worked with the "Duke" only twice in his career (the second film was an oddball war drama, The Sea Chase [55]). In Hondo, John Wayne plays a hard-bitten cavalry scout who is humanized by frontierswoman Geraldine Page and her young son (Lee Aaker, star of TV's Rin Tin Tin). Try as he might, Wayne can't convince Page to move off her land in anticipation of an Apache attack. He leaves her ranch, only to be ambushed by desperado Leo Gordon--who happens to be Page's long-absent husband. Having killed Gordon, Hondo returns to the ranch to protect Page from the Indians, and to rekindle the woman's hesitant love for him. The climactic attack sequence is enhanced by Hondo's 3-D photography, one of the few truly effective utilizations of this much-maligned process. Long unavailable thanks to the labyrinthine legal tangles of the John Wayne estate, Hondo was finally released to videotape in the early 1990s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I challenge you to read a western this summer!