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  Holiday Treats I : "Pops," "New York 400," "Googled" and more . . .

Book Review

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 the City."
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 pages).
"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.

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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