Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Put down the remote ...

Posted on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:07 AM

... and pick up a book. Or a Kindle. Whatever. But in your dying moments, are you gonna be happy about all that time you spent watching Kardashians? (Weren't they on Next Generation?) Anyway, you've been meaning to read more. So read more.

Some suggestions:

Everything, by Kevin Canty (Nan A. Talese, July 6)

A story about friends in backcountry Montana — grief, cancer, adultery and real estate all come into play in this multiple-narrative, shifting-viewpoint novel. (The daughter's going off to attend UW.) 

Everything Asian, by Sung J. Woo  (St. Martin's Griffin, July 20)

A novel focusing on immigration issues from the standpoint of a Korean boy who didn't particularly want to immigrate. (Dad left Korea years ago, and now he works in a crappy strip mall in New Jersey.) David and his sister are embarrassed by their parents, struggle with ESL classes, hate Dad's store, and enjoy using their native language to insult oblivious Americans.

Vestments, by John Reimringer  (Milkweed, Sept. 7)

A working-class kid in Minnesota tries to find happiness by getting himself ordained as a priest. One problem: He's just a regular guy who likes sports, drinking and poker. And women. In this novel, flesh tussles with spirit, but no, it isn't just a melodrama, and the flesh doesn't always win. (While Reimringer has worked at newspapers, in public relations, as an English instructor, and as a youth hostel night porter in Edinburgh, he has never been a priest.)

The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow  (Bantam, Sept. 7)

Two physicists tackle the Big Questions: Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do humans exist? Why, exactly, is Earth in the "Goldilocks Zone" (not too hot, not too cold)? And what's the chance that emerging Grand Unified Field Theories (which subsume string theory and fill in some gaps in quantum theory) might eventually explain existence without resorting to an Intelligent Designer? Hawking spent four years writing this sequel to A Brief History of Time (1988), which — because it was intended for a general audience — famously included only a single equation. The two authors answer the Goldilocks question by promoting the ideas of multiverses: The reason that our universe suits us as a life form is that ours is only one of many universes created by the Big Bang.

The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel (Picador, Aug. 3 paperback; originally published Sept. 2009)

Finkel embedded with a battalion of Army Rangers during the Iraq War surge. Not completely rah-rah, but not completely anti-war, either.

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