Risks Assured: Women on the road!

Did you know that:
The number of women-only tour operators has increased 230% in the past decade?
Of all nature, adventure or cultural trips travelers, 75% are women?
The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a size-12, 47-year-old female? More women travel statistics

Maybe that’s why the U.S. State Dept. feels the need to put out Tips for Women Traveling Alone and prompted website such as SERIOUS SAFETY TIPS FOR WOMEN to advise solo women travelers of the “power in vocal embarrassment", and to practice screaming before you leave home!

Not that Thelma and Louise would heel any of these - they were in for the thrills, the risks, and the possibilities of the open road, and in turn, have inspired a whole new fiction genre. Here are just a few:

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish. From Sonoma to Manhattan, 5 women carry Annie Freedman’s ashes inside a pair of red sneakers to the special places in her life and try to unravel the secret she left them.

Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. Set in contemporary India – 45 and single, an income-tax clerk weighted down by a demanding family, buys a one-way ticket on the all-women sleeping car bound for a resort town.

Lady Luck's Map of Vegas by Barbara Samuel. A snazzy Thunderbird, Route 66, some mother-daughter bonding and a few saucy secrets.

Loop Group by Larry McMurtry. Needing a change of scenery from their complicated lives in Tinsel Town, two women of a certain age take a fun and sex-obsessed road trip through Texas. Hey, let's be careful out there.

Voice of Faith and Science

A new book out this summer by Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is entitled The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Enlightening and engaging, this book is the subject of a wonderful current article at Salon. Collins, who joined the U-M faculty in 1984 and still has ties here, talks in the Salon interview about topics including C.S. Lewis and athesism.

Dog Leads Senator around Washington, D.C.

Here's a new picture book your family might enjoy, My Senator and Me: A dog's eye view of Washington D.C., by Sen. Edward Kennedy, illustrated by David Small. The book follows Kennedy and his Portuguese Water Dog, Champion Amigo's Seventh Wave, or "Splash," through an action-packed day in the nation's capital. A New York Times review was less than a rave - it said Splash's voice sounded like a civics lesson - but I liked this book, particularly the illustrations!

Rallying Liberals to Fix Foreign Policy

With election season heating up, we all probably need to be reading more than just newspapers. Here's a new book with a great deal of promise, The Good Fight: Why liberals - and only liberals - can win the War on Terror and make America great again. The author, Peter Beinart, is editor-at-large of The New Republic magazine. When the book came out earlier this summer, it prompted some favorable reviews, including one in the Washington Post. The book is currently available at Pittsfield and Mallets Creek.

Nora is Older - and Still Very Witty

Nora Ephron - essayist and film director - has a new book out, I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Although I feel fine about my age and my neck, I'm eager to read this book - simply because Nora Ephron wrote it. So far the best article I've seen on it is an interview by Rebecca Traister at Salon, with the headline "What's So Damn Great About Aging?" Very entertaining.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (8/6/06)

I've been a fan of James Lee Burke ever since Dave Robicheaux first appeared in Neon Rain in 1987. His evocation of New Orleans and Louisiana is poetic and haunting. Who better to capture the beauty of the landscape and a way of life that Katrina destroyed? In this latest novel, the action take place just before the hurricane strikes but the mood is elegiac. Dave is looking back with sadness for what has already been lost.

At #1 is Phantom by Terry Goodkind: the author is an admirer of Ayn Rand; some critics find her influence in the author's depiction of the battle between the forces of good and evil in his Sword of Truth fantasy series.

At #4 is Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke: a young woman commits suicide; another young woman comes to New Iberia with vengeance on her mind; Dave Robicheaux becomes convinced of connections between the two and once again tries to save his world.

At #5 is The Ruins by Scott Smith: another critically acclaimed offbeat thriller by Smith, this time involving couples vacationing in the Yucatan.

At #10 is Sleeping with Fear by Kay Hooper: a psychic FBI agent comes under attack by dark forces while investigating occult activity in South Carolina (last book in trilogy after Hunting Fear and Chill of Fear).

Warlord, Barbarian, Empire Builder: Who was Attila the Hun?

He was called the 'Scourge of God' and considered one of the destroyers of the Roman Empire. His own empire stretched from the Rhine to the Black Sea, from the Baltic to the Balkans. He was Attila the Hun, once a byword for mindless barbarism. John Man's fascinating recent book Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome revisits the evidence and retraces the career of this shrewd and powerful leader of the feared nomadic horsemen who challenged the Roman Empire for nearly 20 years during the early 5th Century. Man, a travel writer and historian, has traveled extensively in Asia and Mongolia and is also the author of Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection and Gobi: Tracking the Desert. Another fairly recent look at Attila can be found in Patrick Howarth's Attila, King of the Huns: Man and Myth and in the lushly filmed made-for-TV movie, Attila.

New York Times Podcasts

New York Times Logo

If you don't have the opportunity to read the paper, try downloading a podcast to listen to the New York Times during your daily commute. The New York Times is offering podcasts on all sorts of different sections of the newspaper, including the Sunday Book Review. There are also podcasts summarizing the daily headlines, the science section and even a weekly essay on "matters of the heart". Arrive at your destination more enlightened than when you left home!

Some still like it hot

44 years ago today, we bade farewell to famous actress and notorious temptress Marilyn Monroe who passed away on August 5th, 1962. As one of the most popular stars of the 1950s Marilyn introduced a captivating sex appeal and memorable personality into all of her works. Her movies such as Some Like it Hot and Gentlemen prefer blondes are still hilarious today. And how can anyone forget the famous scene in The Seven Year Itch where a gusty sidewalk grate caused Ms. Monroe's skirts to head skyward? Or how about Marilyn's love life even including playwright Arthur Miller, for whom a theater is currently being built in North Campus at the University? Marilyn remains a fascinating woman for whom even death was a controversy.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #29

You might as well hear about it here, no doubt you will be hearing a lot about this book.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters was THE buzz among librarians and booksellers at the American Library Association annual conference. Some of us stood in line with a coupon in hand, just to pick up a preview copy. The reviews for this debut novel thus far have been mixed but the storyline is intriguingly complex, and the telling mesmerizing.

Miss Celeste Temple travels from her tropical island home to Victorian London in search of her fiance after receiving a cryptic message from him breaking their engagement. This 768-page doorstopper is part adventure, part fantasy, part mystery, part romance, but 100% entertainment. It should appeal to Diana Gabaldon readers.

The author Gordon Dahlquist is an award-wining playwright and a director of experimental films. He lives in New York.

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