So you think you can vote?

Well, if you're a citizen, you probably can vote. The question posed by Bryan Caplan in The Myth of the Rational Voter is whether you're good at it. Specifically, he questions voters' intelligence in making decisions about the economy. The American voting public routinely advocates policies, Caplan says, that make them worse off.

Why, you might ask? I'm a smart person, I know what I'm doing when I vote. But according to Caplan, many voters have four biases that screw up the economy: voters tend to be anti-market, anti-foreigner, think more jobs solve everything, and are overly pessimistic. And Caplan demonstrates graphically, as economist are wont to do, that as stupid policies less directly affect voters, they become more irrational. Think global warming.

Whether people think it's genius or elitist, the book is bound to be influential. Check out the intro here. Does it pique your interest? Then why not check it out from your friendly public library?

Bradbury and Proulx

Today, August 21st is the birthday of two literary luminaries, Ray Bradbury and Annie Proulx. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was twelve. Hoping to be an actor, he was encouraged by two of his high school teachers who saw promise in his writing to take that road instead. He first published in small science fiction magazines but got his first break when one of his stories was accepted in the 1945 edition of the anthology, Best American Short Stories. Perhaps his best known novel is Fahrenheit 451 about a fireman in a future society whose job it is to burn books. But on taking one home and reading it, he decides to join a revolutionary group that tries to keep literature alive.

Magdalen Nabb Dies

Magdalen NabbMagdalen Nabb

Magdalen Nabb, creator of the estimable Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia, died at the age of 60 last Saturday of a stroke while out riding in Florence, Italy.

The genial Marshal, a domestic man (wife, two sons), was slow moving and solved his cases through a quiet indirection, chatting with the proprietors of cafes, bars, and shops in Florence. The mysteries are as nonviolent as murder mysteries can be. The Sicilian-born Marshal was with the Carabinieri. The stories were generally based on real cases, the Carabinieri would bring the case files to her to study. Officers of the Carabinieri in full ceremonial dress formed a guard of honor at her funeral.

She had finished one last Guarnaccia novel, Vita Nuova, due out in 2008. Nabb started writing the stories when Simenon stopped writing his Maigret books. She always sent the first copy of each of her books to Simenon.

Human strays?

Ted prefers animals to humans; animals "never lie," and unlike the kids at school, he understands them. When Ted loses his parents in a car accident, he particularly identifies with strays--after all, as a foster kid, that's what he is. Ted lands in a new home, where his basic needs are met by fair but semi-dysfunctional foster parents and where he coexists with Astin, his older roommate, and C. W., who has had 19 placements in six years.

He’s having pretty much the worst year of his miserable life. Or so he thinks. Is it possible that becoming an orphan is not the worst thing that could have happened to him? Try Strays by Ron Koertge. (taken from the Booklist review by Krista Hutley)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #81

If you don’t read another mystery this summer, you must read The Tenderness of Wolves* by Stef Penney

The winner of the 2006 Costa Book of the Year (formerly known as the Whitbread Awards), this debut novel by a former filmmaker is set in Dove River, an isolated settlement in the Canadian tundra of 1876. Mrs. Ross, our primary narrator, stumbled onto the brutal murder of her neighbor Laurent Jammett, a reclusive fur trapper, the same night her teenaged son Francis, went missing, along with a mysterious ancient bone tablet of great value.

Penney seamlessly weaves multiple plotlines, (including the disappearance of two young girls 17 years ago) as the search parties trek northward on the trail of the killer, bracing brutal elements and the threat of predatory wolves, towards an explosive conclusion.

Tenderness is much more than a mystery - it is a psychological thriller, an adventure tale, a well-research period piece that captures the cultural and social history of the Canadian north, and most of all, a probing exploration of the unfathomable topography of the human heart.

* = Starred Reviews

I was a teenage ninja...

Have you ever wondered what life for an undercover teenage ninja in high school would be like? Join Amazing Agent Luna as she battle Count Von Brucken to find out. The stories are American originals, but are drawn and published in manga style, (right to left instead of left to right). We currently have vol 1, vol 2, and vol 3. Volume 4 comes out next month.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #80

Well, I wasn’t going to read it. Another Chicklit. I thought, and a bit too cute, judging from the cover. But I was stuck in an airport and it was there. Soon I was turning pages, surprised to be hooked by this engaging debut about a wounded healer and her African elephants.

In Still Life with Elephant by Judy Reene Singer, horse-trainer Neelie Sterling is not a good listener. She knows that and she tries hard. But when her cheating husband, veterinarian Matt tells her his partner is having his baby, Neelie can’t deny that she is dense and blind as well.

As a last-ditch effort to save her marriage, she volunteers to join Matt's rescue mission to save injured elephants in Zimbabwe. The trip is dangerous, exhilarating and the nursing of the elephants back home is grueling and frustrating. However, Neelie soon learns that healing could be mutual and there is “still” life (pretty marvelous at that) worth living, especially when the charming millionaire who sponsored the rescue comes knocking.

Nicely paced and sparkled with humor, a debut novel to wrap up the summer. The elephants will steal your heart and the romantic in you will cheer. For fans of Jennifer Weiner and Jenny Colgan.

Joey's Back!

If you have already met Joey Pigza then you will jump up and down even faster than he can when I tell you he is back in I Am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. He has already swallowed a Key, lost control and asked himself what would Joey do? Now he has dropped out of school to triple flip turkey burgers and try to keep up with his crazy dad’s crazy scheme. Hang in there Joey!

Adopt a Black Dog

Are you considering adopting a dog? Think black. My family adopted a black Labrador Retriever from the local humane society in June, and although we noticed quite a few black dogs, we didn’t adopt her for that reason. Then, the June 11th People magazine had an article about a woman who rescues black dogs and finds adoptive parents for them because they are sometimes seen as menacing and therefore harder to find a permanent home while staying at shelters. Finally, the Humane Society of Huron Valley declared August “Black Dog Adoption Month”. Celebrate with $25 off the adoption fee, and check out a list of reasons why you should adopt a black dog. Personal experience tells me number 7 is too true.

New Fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers List (8/19/07)

Annie Dillard has a devoted following for her meticulous and brilliant observations of our natural world. In The Maytrees she turns her keen and sympathetic eye on a family and the love story at the heart of it. This is only her second novel but it seems guaranteed to win her new fans. It is a family saga unlike anything else you will read this summer.

The other two new entries are Beyond Reach by Slaughter and Settling Accounts: In at the Death by Turtledove.

You can check the rest of the List online.

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