There is an economic crisis. Each of each feels the pinch
and the pressure in all kinds of ways.
Yet, interesting, relevant, well thought
through and carefully written books keep on coming out for
our reading pleasure and intellectual stimulation. Many also
serve to distract us more than ever from the grim news that
seems to worsen daily.
So come let us read and spend money well.
"Pops" by Terry Teachout (Houghton Miffflin
Harcourt, $30.00, 475 pages) is a master work, an
illuminating biography about one of my all-time favorites -
- Louis Armstrong, affectionately known as "pops." The
talented Teachout brings the American treasure Armstrong to
life in page after page of anecdotes, observation and
judgments. "Pops" is American cultural history at its best.
"New York 400" edited by acclaimed historian
John Thorn (Running Press, $40.00, running almost 500 pages)
is a mother lode of words and images about the greatest city
in the United States.
Published to coincide with the 400th
anniversary of the Big Apple, "New York 400" starts with
Chapter I (1609-1664) "The Elusive Shifting Sand "and
concludes with Chapter XVI (1990-2009) "Immigrants Reshape
Unlike other works with huge subject matter,
with John Thorn's steady hand at the helm, we never get lost
in this monumental work. It is tightly organized, carefully
edited and a joy to own. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
"Googled" is now part of language, a useful verb that speaks
volumes. Now there is "Googled" by Ken Auletta (The Penguin
Press, $27.95, 384 pages) who had limitless access to the
people past and present who inhabit Google's universe This
is a book that will raise your consciousness, have you
thinking "I didn't know that." It really is not a book as
its sub-title proclaims about "the end of the world as we
know it." But it very well could be some day.
From Schocken Books comes two worthy reads
with special Jewish focus: "Rashi" by Elie Wiesel ($22.00,
107 pages) and David Lehman's "A Fine Romance" ($23.00, 249
"Rashi" is about Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki whose phrase by phrase
oral law explication has been a part of every printing of
the Talmud since the 15th century.
"A Fine Romance" is a marvelous tome about
Jewish songwriters and their American songs. Cole Porter
once acknowledged that he would have to write "Jewish songs"
in order to be successful. And "A Fine Romance" is all
about that phenomenon that Porter understood so well.
MOST NOTABLE: Alice Munro's "Too Much Happiness" (Knopf,
$25.95, 303 pages) won the 2009 Man Booker International
Prize. The book is a collection of ten stories, all spun by
a master , all with much humanity in them, all worth reading
and pondering. It is a book that belongs on your library
shelf, but first read it to gain new awarenesses of so many
things not the least of which is relationships people share.