Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts # 25

Historical mystery fans – here is a new reason to rejoice. Let’s see… exotic locale, opulent settings, a tough, savvy amateur sleuth, plenty of seduction, danger and intrigue, not to mention a few dead bodies. Could we ask for more?

Jason Goodwin, a noted historian turns to fiction for the first time with The Janissary Tree, a mystery set in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan’s eunuch (Warning: DO NOT jump to conclusions here) Yashim Togalu suspects the involvement of the Janissaries’, an elite troop in a series of barbaric murders and jewel theft around Istanbul and the royal court.

This is the impressive debut of a projected series.

The Hostage Crisis Revisited: The U.S., Iran and Islam

A new, highly praised account of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 views the events against the background of United States relations with countries in the Islamic world and the rise of militant Islam. Mark Bowden's narrative Guests of the Ayatollah revisits the capture of 66 Americans and their 444 day ordeal. In the process the author looks at the motivation of the radical student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, portrays key figures on both sides including American staffers, Marine guards, CIA members, Islamic ideologues and others with a page-turning "you are there" approach. This is a well-written account of what the author terms "the first battle in America's war with militant Islam." Another fairly recent book on the topic is The Crisis: The President, the Prophet and the Shah by David Harris. Additional books on crisis are also available.

Orange Award for New Writers

Yiyun-Li's first collection of stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is one of the recipients of the Orange Award for New Writers. In the title story, an old man from China tells his new friend, an Iranian woman, of the gulf he's tried to bridge with his daughter from whom he's been estranged for many years. Ironically, even with the language barrier, he's able to communicate more effectively with her than with his own flesh and blood. Other stories also speak to the dislocation of the Chinese both in their own country and in America after the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

Zaha Hadid at the Guggenheim

zahahadid

Zaha Hadid is the first woman to be awarded the distinguished Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004. The Iraqi-born, London-based architect is internationally known for projects that have literally "shifted the geometry of buildings."

The current exhibition at the Guggenheim is a 30-year retrospective of her work in a wide range of mediums: paintings, sketches, architectural drawings, urban plans, models, relief models, animations, furniture, and design object. It opens today and runs through October 25th, 2006.
The exhibition catalog will be available soon but you can read up on Zaha Hadid in Zaha Hadid : Testing the Boundaries.

Summer's Most Magical Form of Transport: Books

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Looking for some great summer reading recommendations? You cannot go wrong with NPR’s Alan Cheuse. Here are the excerpts of some of the titles on his 2006 Summer Reading list.

Swell Books for Summer Loafing by Susan Stamberg is another source not to be missed. This morning I heard wonderful suggestions from three independent booksellers. My list is growing and I need to get a bigger beach bag!

And then there is the Talk of the Nation Summer Reading List.

Just to make sure you won’t run out of good reads this summer, we will soon be making some summer reading suggestions too in our Books Blog. Watch for them.

New Fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers List (6/4/06)

After last weekend's sunshine it appears we are back to gloomy weather this week. The two new entries are "hard-boiled" American mysteries that also walk on the dark side of human nature.

At #2 is Dead Watch by John Sandford: in this new series Jacob Winter is a political operative instead of a newspaperman but he also ends up pursuing a murderer.

At #3 is The Hard Way by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, helping a dealer in mercenaries find his kidnapped wife.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #24 - Geography as Character

Two exemplary recent Australian releases treat geography as character - the highly original and witty debut Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany, and The Secret River by the 2001 Orange Prize winner, Kate Grenville.

Set in 1930s Victoria, Everyman is narrated by Jean Cunningham, the young, curious and courageous sewing teacher on the “Better-Farming Train” which travels throughout the country, bringing advice to agricultural communities. Love comes in the form of Robert, an idealistic soil scientist with the rare ability to identify the origin of soil by taste, and who adheres unyieldingly to his Rules for Scientific Living.

The Secret River on the other hand, is inspired by Grenville’s own family history and the early settlement of New South Wales. William Thornhill and his family must struggle for a delicate coexistence with the native population along the savage Hawkesbury River.

Landscape is far more than mere setting. Whether harsh or lush, beneficent or punishing, it drives the plots and leaves indelible marks in the lives of these characters.

The Truth About Bodyfat Loss

Andrew Phelka

Wednesday June 7, 7:00 - 8:30 pm Downtown Multi-Purpose Room

Are you into fitness and personal training? Interested in losing a few inches for the summer season? Then come hear Fitness and Nutrition Counselor Andrew Phelka discuss the myths and facts about losing bodyfat. Mr. Phelka will talk about how nutrition, exercise and metabolism can all affect body fat loss.

Barry Harris: The Spirit of Bebop

Barry Harris

Monday, June 5, 7:00-8:30 pm Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room

Come see this fascinating documentary of jazz innovator Barry Harris. This film, by Edgar Howard, also pays homage to jazz luminaries like Parker, Monk, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie. Jazz scholar Lars Bjorn will introduce this 55 minute film and lead a discussion afterwards.

An extraordinary story

Death becomes a pivotal character in the mezmerizing novel, The Book Thief by Australian author, Marcus Zusak. Death, often hard hearted, is drawn to Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl growing up near Munich during World War II. Abandoned by her mother and still sffering nightmares about the death of her younger brother, Liesel is taken in by foster parents in the rough working class neighborhood of Molching where she steals her first book. Over the ensuing years, Liesel steals more books which become for her an escape and a silent protest to the totalitarian regime in which she lives. She befriends Max, a Jew, whom her parents hide in their basement and who whitewashes the pages of Mein Kampf to make his own book as a gift to Liesel. To hear an interview done by NPR's John Ydstie with Zusak, log on to the NPR site.

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