Friday, December 4, 2009

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War or Culinaria Spain

Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War: Authentic Accounts of the Strange and Unexplained

Author: Christopher K Coleman

In the many strange stories of the American Civil War that don't appear in any history books, ghost soldiers haunt long-forgotten battlefields, phantom drummer boys rap out audible rhythms on invisible drums, and the spirits of executed abolitionists still pursue their righteous crusade.

You'll find these and other accounts of the shadowy side of the War Between the States in Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, a compilation of unexplained phenomena rooted in history and as real as the numerous witnesses who have reported them. Like the war itself, these eerie descriptions of spirit sightings and ghostly reenactments involve people from all walks of life: soldiers and civilians, slaves and owners, celebrities and ordinary people.

Read about the disembodied voice that goaded Nat Turner to lead the slave uprising that some consider the first supernatural shot in the war. In the account of southern senator John C. Calhoun's abrupt decision to support the Union, you'll find out about a midnight visitation from the specter of George Washington and Calhoun's escape from the taint of treason in the afterlife. And the spirit of Abraham Lincoln looms large in reports of his premonition of his won death and in tales of the ghosts of his assassin, who still have not been laid to rest.

Even the most skeptical reader will agree that the past is not dead when it provides the lively accounts of uncanny experience that make up Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

New interesting textbook: Helping Students Overcome Depression and Anxiety or Sun Protection for Life

Culinaria Spain

Author: Marion Trutter

This book in the Culinaria series awakens the desire to discover Spain with all the senses. In 488 pages and over 1200 illustrations, it depicts the way that landscape, climate and diversity of cultures have shaped the cuisine of this richly varied country—from Alboraya in the Levante of eastern Spain to the northern city of Zaragoza, and from the ever-present garlic sauce aioli to the zamburiсa mussel. Features and information, and ideas from the brilliant to the bizarre reveal an extensive panorama of cultural and culinary traditions. A total of 202 recipes from every region promises pleasure for the tastebuds to accompany the food for thought of an inspiring read. Last but not least, Culinaria Spain contains a survey of all the important wine-regions of the country

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ireland or Fodors Northern California 2009

Ireland: History and Landscape

Author: Brian Solomon

Ireland is a country with a long history and a strong identity. It is much loved around the globe not only because of the large number of nineteenth and twentieth century economic migrants who remember the homeland they left behind, but because anyone who has visited this enchanted island is captivated by the serene green beauty of much of the countryside.

From the harsh Atlantic breakers of the craggy West Coast to the less obviously turbulent Irish Sea in the east; the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast a stone’s throw from Scotland, to the famous Blarney Castle in the south, Ireland is one of the few major European countries largely unspoiled by technological progress; a land where the atmosphere of history is redolent around every corner—Celtic, Viking, Norman, English, Scottish, and Irish sites can be found all over the Emerald Isle. Time, it seems, almost stands still around the misty lakes and mountains of Ireland, where ruined castles sit next to prehistoric sites, and somnolent market towns. Rooted in the past, twenty years ago Ireland could be a difficult country to travel around.

In recent years, however, this atmosphere has changed subtly. Today, with a more stable political future seemingly assured, and thanks to the “Celtic Tiger” economic revival spurred on by close ties with the European Economic Community, Ireland is a vibrant country that cleverly mixes the ancient and the modern to be a wonderful destination popular with all its visitors. From the Newgrange passage tomb—5,000 years old, built before the pyramids, one of the most remarkable prehistoric sites in the world—to Ian RitchieArchitects’ spectacular Monument of Light on O’Connell Street in Dublin—the world’s largest sculpture—today’s Ireland has a complex variety of sights for the traveler.

Ireland: History and Landscape shows off this variety of Irish heritage and lush landscape within a stunning 400-page book based on over 350 beautiful large-format photographs—many of them double-page spreads or full pages—that sum up the cultural history, atmosphere, and unforgettable landscape of Ireland.

Read also Childhood Emergencies or Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy

Fodor's Northern California 2009: With Napa, Sonoma, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe

Author: Fodors Travel Publications Inc Staff

Fodor’s. For Choice Travel Experiences.

Fodor’s helps you unleash the possibilities of travel by providing the insightful tools you need to experience the trips you want. Although you’re at the helm, Fodor’s offers the assurance of our expertise, the guarantee of selectivity, and the choice details that truly define a destination. It’s like having a friend in Northern California!

•Updated annually, Fodor’s Northern California provides the most accurate and up-to-date information available in a guidebook.

Fodor’s Northern California features options for a variety of budgets, interests, and tastes, so you make the choices to plan your trip of a lifetime.

•If it’s not worth your time, it’s not in this book. Fodor’s discriminating ratings, including our top tier Fodor’s Choice designations, ensure that you’ll know about the most interesting and enjoyable places in Northern California.

•Experience Northern California like a local! Fodor’s Northern California includes choices for every traveler, from skiing the Southern Sierra and hiking the North Coast to vineyard hopping in Sonoma and relaxing in San Francisco’s trendy cafés, and much more!

•Indispensable, customized trip planning tools include “Top Reasons to Go,” “Word of Mouth” advice from other travelers, and tips to help save money, bypass lines, and avoid common travel pitfalls.

Fodor’s Northern California includes a pulloutmap!

Visit for more ideas and information, travel deals, vacation planning tips, reviews and to exchange travel advice with other travelers.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Experience Northern California ............ 7
What’s New in Northern California ............ 8
When to Go ............ 9
What’s Where ............ 10
Northern California Planner ............ 12
FAQ ............ 13
California Today ............ 14
Quintessential Northern California ............ 16
Top Northern California Attractions ............ 18
Northern California’s Top Experiences ............ 20
Great Itineraries ............ 21

Chapter 2: San Francisco ............ 25
Welcome to San Francisco ............ 26
San Francisco Planner ............ 28
Exploring San Francisco ............ 29
Where to Eat ............ 61
Where to Stay ............ 75
Nightlife & the Arts ............ 85
Sports & the Outdoors ............ 90
Shopping ............ 91

Chapter 3: The Wine Country ............ 97
Welcome to Wine Country ............ 98
Wine Country Planner ............ 100
The Napa Valley ............ 102
The Sonoma Valley ............ 137
Elsewhere in Sonoma County ............ 150

Chapter 4: The Bay Area ............ 163
Welcome to the Bay Area ............ 164
The Bay Area Planner ............ 166
Marin County ............ 167
The East Bay ............ 176
The Coastal Peninsula ............ 186
The Inland Peninsula ............ 191
South Bay ............ 193
San Jose ............ 196

Chapter 5: The North Coast ............ 203
Welcome to the North Coast ............ 204
The North Coast Planner ............ 206
Point Reyes National Seashore ............ 207
TheSonoma Coast ............ 211
The Mendocino Coast ............ 215
Redwood Country ............ 226

Chapter 6: The Monterey Bay Area ............ 235
Welcome to the Monterey Bay Area ............ 236
The Monterey Bay Area Planner ............ 238
Carmel & Pacific Grove ............ 239
Monterey ............ 255
Around the Bay ............ 264
Santa Cruz ............ 269

Chapter 7: The Central Coast ............ 279
Welcome to the Central Coast ............ 280
The Central Coast Planner ............ 282
Ventura County ............ 283
Santa Barbara ............ 288
Santa Barbara County ............ 301
San Luis Obispo County ............ 306
Big Sur Coastline ............ 323

Chapter 8: The Southern Sierra ............ 331
Welcome to the Southern Sierra ............ 332
The Southern Sierra Planner ............ 334
South of Yosemite ............ 336
Mammoth Area ............ 338
East of Yosemite National Park ............ 345

Chapter 9: Yosemite National Park ............ 349
Welcome to Yosemite ............ 350
Yosemite Planner ............ 352
Where to Stay & Eat ............ 370

Chapter 10: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks ............ 379
Welcome to Sequoia & Kings Canyon ............ 380
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Planner ............ 382
Exploring Sequoia National Park ............ 385
Exploring Kings Canyon National Park ............ 391
Where to Stay & Eat ............ 395

Chapter 11: The Gold Country ............ 403
Welcome to the Gold Country ............ 404
The Gold Country Planner ............ 406
Sacramento & Vicinity ............ 407
The Gold Country–South ............ 414
The Gold Country–North ............ 423

Chapter 12: Lake Tahoe ............ 429
Welcome to Lake Tahoe ............ 430
Lake Tahoe Planner ............ 432
California Side ............ 434
Nevada Side ............ 459

Chapter 13: Redwood National Park ............ 473
Welcome to Redwood ............ 474
Redwood National Park Planner ............ 476
Where to Stay & Eat ............ 484

Chapter 14: The Far North ............ 487
Welcome to the Far North ............ 488
The Far North Planner ............ 490
From Chico to Mt. Shasta ............ 491
The Backcountry ............ 501

Northern California Essentials ............ 511

Index ............ 525

About Our Writers ............ 544

Union Square & Chinatown ............ 31
SoMa & Civic Center ............ 35
Nob Hill & Russian Hill ............ 39
North Beach & On the Waterfront ............ 42
The Marina & the Presidio ............ 48
Golden Gate Park & the Western Shoreline ............ 52
The Haight, the Castro, Noe Valley & the Mission District ............ 56
Pacific Heights & Japantown ............ 59
Where to Eat In & Around Downtown San Francisco ............ 62—63
Where to Stay In & Around Downtown San Francisco ............ 76—77
Napa Valley ............ 113
Where to Stay & Eat in Napa Valley ............ 116
Sonoma Valley ............ 140—141
Where to Stay & Eat in Sonoma Valley ............ 144—145
Marin County ............ 168
The East Bay, the Inland Peninsula & the South Bay ............ 177
Oakland ............ 179
Berkeley ............ 182
Downtown San Jose ............ 198
Point Reyes to Fort Bragg ............ 209
Redwood Country ............ 227
The Monterey Bay Area ............ 240
Monterey ............ 255
Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties ............ 284
Santa Barbara ............ 290
San Luis Obispo County & Big Sur ............ 308
Yosemite’s Valley Floor ............ 357
Western Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks ............ 388
Kings Canyon’s Cedar Grove Area ............ 392
The Gold Country ............ 408
Sacramento ............ 410
Redwood NP Northern Areas ............ 480
Redwood NP Southern Areas ............ 481
Lassen Volcanic National Park ............ 505

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Inside the Apple or The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City

Author: Michelle Nevius

How much do you actually know about New York City? Did you know they tried to anchor Zeppelins at the top of the Empire State Building? Or that the high-rent district of Park Avenue was once so dangerous it was called "Death Avenue"? Lively and comprehensive, Inside the Apple brings to life New York's fascinating past.

This narrative history of New York City is the first to offer practical walking tour know-how. Fast-paced but thorough, its bite-size chapters each focus on an event, person, or place of historical significance. Rich in anecdotes and illustrations, it whisks readers from colonial New Amsterdam through Manhattan's past, right up to post-9/11 New York. The book also works as a historical walking-tour guide, with 14 self-guided tours, maps, and step-by-step directions. Easy to carry with you as you explore the city, Inside the Apple allows you to visit the site of every story it tells. This energetic, wide-ranging, and often humorous book covers New York's most important historical moments, but is always anchored in the city of today.

Publishers Weekly

Most of this guide book is devoted to an exhaustive catalog of New York City history, beginning with glaciers' impact on the geography of Central Park and ending (161 chapters later) with the aftermath of 9/11. Not for cover-to-cover reading, this guide from a tour-guide/entrepreneur husband-and-wife team is best approached from behind, with the 14 walking tours that cap the volume; each highlighted site references the relevant chapters preceding. Considering New York's dense history, these tours offer something for everyone: the Greenwich Village tour alone encompasses the Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of gay rights; Jefferson Market Courthouse, the nation's first night court; and the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. Not even natives know this much; even if they do recall the late-19th and early-20th century tenement laws meant to improve living conditions (chapter 84), they'll probably be surprised to learn where the city's first tenement is located (chapter 32). From the 1765 Bowling Green Park protest of the Stamp Act to the 1980 murder of John Lennon outside the Dakota Apartments, this extremely thorough sidewalk-level guide is rich with 20 years of combined tour experience. Photos and maps.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

Author: J Maarten Troost

The laugh-out-loud true story of a harrowing and hilarious two-year odyssey in the distant South Pacific island nation of Kiribati—possibly The Worst Place on Earth.

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.” He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including “Half-Dead Fred” and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).

With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples ofAmerican civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.

Publishers Weekly

At 26, Troost followed his wife to Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. Virtually ignored by the rest of humanity (its erstwhile colonial owners, the Brits, left in 1979), Kiribati is the kind of place where dolphins frolic in lagoons, days end with glorious sunsets and airplanes might have to circle overhead because pigs occupy the island's sole runway. Troost's wife was working for an international nonprofit; the author himself planned to hang out and maybe write a literary masterpiece. But Kiribati wasn't quite paradise. It was polluted, overpopulated and scorchingly sunny (Troost could almost feel his freckles mutating into something "interesting and tumorous"). The villages overflowed with scavengers and recently introduced, nonbiodegradable trash. And the Kiribati people seemed excessively hedonistic. Yet after two years, Troost and his wife felt so comfortable, they were reluctant to return home. Troost is a sharp, funny writer, richly evoking the strange, day-by-day wonder that became his life in the islands. One night, he's doing his best funky chicken with dancing Kiribati; the next morning, he's on the high seas contemplating a toilet extending off the boat's stern (when the ocean was rough, he learns, it was like using a bidet). Troost's chronicle of his sojourn in a forgotten world is a comic masterwork of travel writing and a revealing look at a culture clash. (June 8)

Kirkus Reviews

Newcomer Troost nests on a tiny island in the vast Pacific, finding it strange and unappealing, though not utterly without its pleasures. The beer, for instance: one of the few ingestibles the island of Tarawa possesses that is neither odious nor toxic. A part of the Republic of Kiribati (known to the British colonial community as the Gilberts), Tarawa is a sliver of coral that pretty much defines the idea of remoteness. This spot at the end of the world was the center of Troost's world for two years after he followed his girlfriend to her posting on the island. No, he wasn't emulating Thoreau or Gauguin, just taking the kind of whimsical step a recent, reticent graduate student would consider when "flummoxed by what career to pursue." Well, Troost has found his calling in broadly humorous travel writing. He's a natural: he likes tumbling into the ditches of digression; he can evoke a place (Prague, in a digression from the Tarawa saga) with an ardor that will have you wanting to jump on the first plane; he's read his history (there is a sharp background chapter on the rancorous influence of missionaries, traders, and chiefly wars fueled by drink); he's no chump when it comes to the ironies and iniquities of politics; he can write an entire engaging chapter on the day the beer ran out in Tarawa; and he is capable of saying things like, "I was under the impression that only occurred in places like tribal Pakistan," or, "there have been occasions when toilet bowls have spoken to me. Don't do shots, they said." He can also laugh at himself, almost as often as the islanders do. Okay, so Tarawa is less paradise than purgatory, but hang in there-Troost will lead you to paradise, too. Lives upto the billing as "a travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book"-and a really good one, at that. Agent: B.J. Robbins

Monday, November 30, 2009

Italy or The Partly Cloudy Patriot


Author: Ettore Pettinaroli

Italy: Landscape and History looks at the natural and architectural delights of one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country, it seems as if around every corner in Italy lies a beautiful Roman ruin, a wonderful Renaissance church, or a breathtaking timeless village view. But it is not just the buildings that are beautiful: Italy's landscapes—high mountains, rolling hills and valleys, and sun-washed coasts have inspired generations. Italians seem to have an innate feeling for color and design, and when you study their countryside it comes as no surprise that so many of the world's greatest artists, poets, and musicians came from this wonderful land.

After a short introduction, Italy: Landscape and History divides the country into sections on:

  • Rome and Lazio
  • Venice and the Northeast
  • Florence and Tuscany
  • Milan, Lombardy, and the Alps
  • Bolzano and the Dolomites
  • Perugia and Umbria
  • Le Marche, the Apennines, and the Adriatic Coast
  • Turin and Piedmont
  • Genoa and the Italian Riviera
  • Naples and the Amalfi Coast
  • Bari and the South
  • Palermo and Sicily
  • Cagliari and Sardinia

Each section gives a flavor of the area, its countryside and historic buildings, from the snowy Alps of the north, through the magical atmosphere of Venice and the Veneto, romantic Tuscany, and central Italy—Perugia and Umbria, Lazio and Emilia Romagna—to the hot Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Author Eugene Beer lives in Italy and loves its people, culture, language, and landscape—this allows him to present a view of the country with an insider's knowledge and eye. For anyone planning a holiday here or even just dreaming of vineyards or olive groves under blue skies, this is the book for you.

Eugen Beer has long been an admirer of Italian culture and history as well as being extremely enthusiastic about its food and wine. After living in London for 20 years he bought and restored a run down farmhouse overlooking the Etruscan city of Orvietoin Umbria. He now lives there full time with his wife, dog and two hens.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Author: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell — widely hailed for her inimitable stories on public radio's This American Life — ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles like Salem or Gettysburg? Why do people always inappropriately compare themselves to Rosa Parks? Why is a bad life in sunny California so much worse than a bad life anywhere else? What is it about the Zen of foul shots? And, in the title piece, why must doubt and internal arguments haunt the sleepless nights of the true patriot?

Her essays confront a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments: Ike, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton; Canadian Mounties and German filmmakers; Tom Cruise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; twins and nerds; the Gettysburg Address, the State of the Union, and George W. Bush's inauguration.

The result is a teeming and engrossing book, capturing Vowell's memorable wit and her keen social commentary.

The New Yorker

Sarah Vowell, a contributing editor to "This American Life," on National Public Radio, knows that she's not a fair-weather patriot -- at least not the kind Thomas Paine disparaged in the first installment of the "American Crisis" papers, which was written in the fall of 1776, when Washington's troops were retreating. But she can't get behind the idea of citizenship as sing-along that has been prevalent since September 11th. The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Simon & Schuster), her latest book, is a collection of radio segments and magazine pieces. Vowell, a charismatic misanthrope, repeats the mantra "We the people, we the people" to keep from freaking out on the humid, overstuffed subway. She also thinks about the Civil War "all the time, every day," vacations in Salem, and takes walking tours of Thomas Jefferson's Paris years. Fashioning herself as Clinton's "crabby little cheerleader," she admits a guilty pleasure in voting. Of the booth: "I love it in there. I drag it out, leisurely punching the names I want as if sipping whiskey in front of a fire."

Book Magazine

Neurotic and witty, this book collects fragments of Vowell's experience as an American. The author has a unique perspective on some of the nation's most celebrated events and the places where they occurred, all filtered through the prism of her occasionally weird upbringing in a family of "homebody claustrophobes" enveloped in an "Impenetrable Shield of Melancholy." The book presents a varied and engaging portrait of the author as a product of more than 200 years of American history. Though she portrays herself as a "crabby cheerleader," Vowell is a great lover of her homeland. Refreshingly devoid of pretense, these pieces will likely provide solace to those fellow citizens who are both proud and deeply embarrassed to be living in America.

Publishers Weekly

Few narrators could sound complimentary when calling Al Gore a "big honking nerd," but Vowell (Take the Cannoli), a self-proclaimed nerd, succeeds in doing just that while reading her collection of thoughtful, humorous essays on politics, patriotism and Tom Cruise (among other topics). Vowell's thin, reedy voice and halting delivery take some getting used to, but she settles into a comfortable groove by the end of the first tape, when she relates what she's learned from visiting places like Gettysburg and Witch City (otherwise known as Salem): no matter what your troubles are, "it could be worse." This is followed by an upbeat tune by They Might Be Giants, who composed the music for this audio. It's hard to resist a catchy, comical verse like, "You asked for baked potato/and they gave you fries/but that's not as sad now/is it/as the day the music died," but it's even more difficult to resist Vowell's obvious passion for history, for Al Gore and for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The full plate of special guests-including Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and Michael Chabon-make token contributions: Colbert does an admirable impersonation of Gore and the oddly chosen O'Brien attempts to fill Abraham Lincoln's shoes. In the end, however, it is Vowell's self-deprecating wit and earnest delivery that will win over listeners. Based on the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, June 24, 2002). (Oct.)

Library Journal

Part social commentary and part standup comedy routine for the intellectually inclined, this collection of essays from Vowell, a contributing editor to NPR's This American Life, mines history and current events for insights into American life. Topics range from the quirky like an exploration of the value of pointless arcade games and Tom Cruise's "breakthrough" in Magnolia to a revealing example of how Al Gore's "Pinocchio problem" may have been manufactured during the 2000 election and the author's personal reflections on patriotism post- September 11. Interspersed are musings on presidential libraries, U.S./Canadian differences, and being a twin, as well as a history buff's view of why the field is significant. Most of these essays have appeared in print or been broadcast on NPR, but this compilation emphasizes a theme and provides an interesting contrast between pre- and post-attack life perspectives. The author's Gen-X frame of reference is clear, but the book should appeal to a wider audience of armchair historians and others who enjoy irreverent social commentary. The author wrote the similarly brash Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World and Radio On: A Listener's Diary. Highly recommended for large public libraries. Antoinette Brinkman, MLS, Evansville, IN

School Library Journal

Adult/High School-These essays and commentaries from Vowell's NPR radio appearances and other sources are curmudgeonly, critical, liberal, and, often, laugh-out-loud funny. The commentator, a self-described history nerd, wanders across the spectrum of American life from the theme-park feeling of Salem, MA, where she purchased a Witch's Crossing shot glass, to the glories of Carlsbad Caverns and the Underground Luncheonette. She belongs to a political listserv that was aghast at the results of the 2000 election, yet, joining several of the members on a road trip to protest the Inauguration, she ended up weeping as she sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." Her commitment to America and her dismay about the current direction of the government, both before and after September 11, are strongly stated, but her wit and slightly quirky outlook make reading her book a pleasure. Teens, regardless of their political leanings, will enjoy the pop-culture connections and even learn some history while smiling at her delivery. This title will work well for assignments on essay writing and even provide material for monologues.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA

Kirkus Reviews

Pop-culture commentator Vowell (Take the Cannoli, 2000) offers an engrossing take on suddenly sexy topic of love of country. Patriotism may be newly palatable to the hip masses who make up her audience on NPR's This American Life, but the author herself is the type of person who happily celebrated her 30th birthday at Grant's Tomb. In this collection of essays, she shares her obsession in a work of humor, nuance, and restrained passion, managing both to discuss America's flaws and restore readers' pride in the nation. Kicking it off with a rousing yet remarkably uncloying paean to Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address, Vowell puts the reader on notice that, sure, she's funny, but supporting the quips is a rock-solid knowledge of history. Addressing topics that range from the optimal designs of presidential libraries past and future (she advises Clinton to take a page from Nixon, whose library squarely confronts Watergate) to our tendency to make light of serious history (at Salem, she purchases a shot glass emblazoned with "Witch XING"), the author wanders through historical sites and touchstones of American culture. Vowell is no rah-rah patriot; one of her lengthiest essays is devoted to her realization during George W. Bush's inauguration that she has developed a soft spot for Bob Dole, because "he symbolizes a simpler, more innocent time in America when you could lose the presidential election and, like, not actually become the president." Not all the pieces are political; Vowell also reports on the challenges of family Thanksgivings, the joys of an arcade game called Pop-a-Shot, the appeal of dining in the underground cafeteria at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and her newfoundappreciation of Tom Cruise. Refreshing, inspiring, enchanting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Assassination Vacation or Disneyland

Assassination Vacation

Author: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other--a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue--it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and--the author's favorite--historical tourism.

Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are lighter diversions into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

The New York Times - Bruce Handy

Having made the commercially courageous decision to avoid the catnip that is the Kennedy name, Vowell restricts her gaze to America's first three presidential murders: those of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield and William McKinley. Mixing travelogue, history, personal essay and social criticism, she follows the loose formula perfected in two previous collections of magazine pieces and adapted versions of her appearances on public radio's ''This American Life,'' where she is a regular.

Library Journal

Vowell visits assassination sites throughout the country to consider how political violence gets manipulated. With a 13-city tour including some of the stops along her way?

School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny. She visits museums, historic sites, statues, libraries, anything remotely relevant to successful presidential assassins, and a few of those not so successful. This is an amusing way to learn history, but it is also an unusual look at the interconnectedness of things. Robert Todd Lincoln, "a.k.a. Jinxy McDeath," was present, or nearly so, at three assassinations-his father's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. To understand Garfield's assassin, the author spends time at the Oneida Colony in upstate New York, a religious commune that preached a combination of free love and the second coming, and connects it with Jonathan Edwards. She tracks the Lincoln conspirators through the process of plot and escape to hanging and imprisonment, even describing Dr. Mudd's enormous contribution when the plague hit the prison island of Dry Tortuga. Garfield's assassin was deeply involved in the redirection of the Republican Party after the Civil War, and McKinley's was an anarchist following, he thought, the tenets of Emma Goldman. There are family anecdotes and real scholarship in this quirky road trip. Teens will get an interesting view of one aspect of American history while picking up odd bits of information about a whole lot more. There is much to enjoy in this discursive yet somehow cohesive book.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Disneyland (Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places)

Author: David Hoffman

Did You Know?

  • When Disneyland opened its gates on July 17, 1955, it had just eighteen rides and attractions. Today there are more than sixty.
  • The inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle came from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany.
  • Walt Disney was afraid of mice. Though certainly well-known, Mickey Mouse is not the most recognizable character in the world; he ranks third, after Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald.
Disneyland… a magic place of dreams and adventure. In this follow-up to the popular Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Stuff, David Hoffman delves into the stories behind the happiest place on earth. Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places goes beyond the obvious to reveal the tidbits that we have yet to discover. Covering every aspect—from the history and personalities to the landscaping and architecture—this collection of offbeat facts and figures, statistics and specifics, is guaranteed to delight a first-time visitor and surprise even the most die-hard fan. Packed with a wealth of revelations, Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places is a must-have for Mouseketeers, information addicts, curious readers, and armchair travelers of all ages.