Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Salon Discussion

Twice a year, the Genre Reading Group takes a step back from selected topics and harkens back to the literary salons of old for a discussion of any books group members care to share.  Yesterday evening was both our last meeting of the year and the second Salon Discussion.  What a kaleidoscopic of topics and view points!  Our next meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 29th at 6:30pm and we'll be discussing the work of James Michener.  Read any book written by Michener and come tell us about it!  Now, on to the list!

First Lady From Plains by Rosalynne Carter
A story of victory and defeat, of Camp David and the Iranian hostage crisis, First Lady from Plains is, most of all, the story of a woman who developed into a dynamic leader and captured the respect of millions.

It was one of the greatest romances of our time. They were both Hollywood giants in their own right, yet it was the nine hit films Katherine Hepburn made with Spencer Tracy that, in the eyes of the American public, defined them as Hollywood's most celebrated romantic team. On-screen, the headstrong Tracy had met his match and she put him in his place. Off-screen, despite the fact that he never divorced his wife, Kate remained utterly devoted to the mercurial, sometimes violent Spencer as he battled his dependence on alcohol. Christopher Andersen reveals fascinating insights from important sources, and offers the full, poignant story of their life together. An Affair to Remember paints the complete, inspiring, often funny, sometime heartbreaking, always captivating portrait of the unique relationship between these two American icons.

Christmas comes but once a year: a Christmas book like this comes but once in a lifetime. First, the illustrations are by America's best-loved artist, Norman Rockwell, and the book, like Rockwell himself, is made up of equal parts of love, good cheer, gentleness, and humor. Then, this rich Yuletide feast includes not only stories and poems but the words "and" music of many songs--and they run the full gamut of Christmas moods, from tender reminiscence to rollicking jollity.

Norman Rockwell’s Faith of America by Fred Bauer and Norman Rockwell
More than one hundred heartwarming illustrations, many in full color, by the acclaimed artist offer an inspirational portrait of uniquely American towns, families, traditions, and more, all captured with Rockwell's trademark understanding of everyday human existence.

Do you believe other gospels, contemporary with those in the Bible, ought to be heard? Do you question certain articles in the Apostles' Creed, such as the virgin birth and bodily resurrection? Do you believe other religions other than Christianity have validity? Do you accept that women have the right to be clergy? Is your personal relationship to God more important than believing what you are told to believe? Is your way of faith honestly seeking what is true for the world and God? Do you believe Christ's call was to a dynamic faith rather than to any system of beliefs? If you answered "yes" to a majority of these questions, you will find that the Gnostic Gospels support a different way to be Christian. These long lost, hidden, writings, as do the gospels in the Bible, lift up the power and love of Christ. This book explains how and why!

Research into the human brain has exploded in recent years, and neuroscience has become a major program at many universities and a required course for a wide range of studies. Neuroscience For Dummies tracks to an introductory neuroscience class, giving you an understanding of the brain's structure and function, as well as a look into the relationship between memory, learning, emotions, and the brain. Providing insight into the biology of mental illness and a glimpse at future treatments and applications of neuroscience, Neuroscience For Dummies is a fascinating read for students and general interest readers alike.

The brain holds the secrets to our personalities, our use of language, our love of music, and our memories. Neuroscience For Dummies looks at how this complex structure works, according to the most recent scientific discoveries, illustrated by helpful diagrams and engaging anecdotes.

From how the brain works to how you feel emotions, Neuroscience For Dummies offers a comprehensive overview of the fascinating study of the human brain.

In less than three years, I’ve gone from being the worst waitress in LA to living out my childhood dreams of singing my songs to people all over the world. Sometimes, it feels as if the last few years have encompassed a few decades. . . . You might have heard my voice on the radio, seen me onstage and on the red carpet, or in a music video, but that’s only a part of the story. In these pages, I’m revealing a more complete picture of what my life is really like. It’s not all glamorous and it’s not all pretty, but it’s all real. . . . I want you to come on a whirlwind journey with an all-access pass to My Crazy Beautiful Life.

A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana—the book that inspired the equally classic Yuletide film.

The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’sa Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?

The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.

"What a joy! Live your favorite Christmases over again with this sugar-sprinkled guidebook of magic memories." --Karal Ann Marling, Author of Merry Christmas
  A nostalgic look at Christmas in the mid-twentieth century
  Memorable color illustrations
From plastic nativity scenes to aluminum trees, Christmas became a major marketing extravaganza in America in the mid-twentieth century. This book recalls the holiday between 1940 and 1970, courtesy of department stores, five and tens, toy manufacturers, publishing houses, and record companies. Boomers and Gen-Xers will relive memories of special holiday toys and treats, Christmas children's books by Little Golden and Wonder, holiday music released by Peter Pan and Disneyland records, and merchandising characters such as Frosty the Snowman and Montgomery Ward's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Liberally illustrated with vintage ads, book covers, record sleeves, and photographs.

Award-winning blogger Jen Yates has focused on confectionery calamities at her popular Web site Cake Wrecks since May 2008, while her debut book, Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go HilariouslyWrong, quickly climbed the charts to become a New York Times best-seller within weeks of its release. Now, Yates is back with Wreck the Halls, a fresh mix of fan favorites and plenty of never-before-seen holiday wreckage.

From thankless Thanksgiving turkeys and confusing Christmas conundrums, to less-than-happy Hanukkah horrors and New Year's meltdowns, Wreck the Halls has an icing-smeared disaster for every occasion. With additional chapters on Black Friday, family communication, and navigating the murky waters of politically correct cake greetings ("Winter!"), Wreck the Halls combines Yates's signature blend of wit and sarcasm with the most hilarious frosting fails this side of winter solstice. Find sweet relief from the holiday madness (not to mention plenty of laughs) with Wreck the Halls.

In this technology-driven age, it’s tempting to believe that science can solve every mystery. After all, science has cured countless diseases and even sent humans into space. But as Jonah Lehrer argues in this sparkling debut, science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first.

Taking a group of artists — a painter, a poet, a chef, a composer, and a handful of novelists — Lehrer shows how each one discovered an essential truth about the mind that science is only now rediscovering. We learn, for example, how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot discovered the brain’s malleability; how the French chef Escoffier discovered umami (the fifth taste); how C├ęzanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Gertrude Stein exposed the deep structure of language — a full half-century before the work of Noam Chomsky and other linguists. It’s the ultimate tale of art trumping science.

More broadly, Lehrer shows that there’s a cost to reducing everything to atoms and acronyms and genes. Measurement is not the same as understanding, and art knows this better than science does. An ingenious blend of biography, criticism, and first-rate science writing, Proust Was a Neuroscientist urges science and art to listen more closely to each other, for willing minds can combine the best of both, to brilliant effect.

In her astonishing new book Susan Casey captures colossal, ship-swallowing waves, and the surfers and scientists who seek them out.

For legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, hundred foot waves represent the ultimate challenge. As Susan Casey travels the globe, hunting these monsters of the ocean with Hamilton’s crew, she witnesses first-hand the life or death stakes, the glory, and the mystery of impossibly mammoth waves. Yet for the scientists who study them, these waves represent something truly scary brewing in the planet’s waters. With inexorable verve, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel
From the water's surface, it's a simple exercise: a dog's leap, a splash, and then a wet head surfacing with a ball, triumphant.

But beneath the water is a chaotic ballet of bared teeth and bubbles, paddlingpaws, fur and ears billowing in the currents. From leaping lab to diving dachshund, the water is where a dog's distinct personality shines through; some lounge in the current, paddling slowly, but others arch their bodies to cut through the water with the focus and determination of a shark.

In more than eighty portraits by award-winning pet photographer and animalrights activist Seth Casteel capture new sides of our old friends with vibrant underwater photography that makes it impossible to look away. Each image bubbles with exuberance and life, a striking reminder that even in the most lovable and domesticated dog, there are more primal forces at work. In Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel gives playful and energetic testament to the rough-and-tumble joy that our dogs bring into our lives.

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