Thursday, September 30, 2010

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Written by: John Perkins

First line: It began innocently enough.

Why you should read this book: Vetted by the NSA and recruited from the Peace Corps by a private corporation, the author spends the majority of his adult years as an economic hit man, his job to convince developing nations to take out massive loans for unnecessary infrastructure development, and pay the money to American firms intent on controlling oil and other resources, after which the small nations would necessarily default on their loans and thus become pawns of the US government, forced to favor US military, industrial, and political interests in exchange for financial leniency. In clear and honest prose, he describes how he accomplished this goal time and again in South America and the Middle East, and how he squashed his conscience time and again, as the financial and personal rewards of his work overwhelmed his moral compass. This chilling and important exposé diffuses the smoke of decades of sinister, secretive American Empire building, beginning with the American coup against Iran's democratically elected leader for the heinous crime of refusing to sell his country out to an oil company, and dramatically details the true forces of history that are relentless in their drive to transform the world into a corporatocracy in which the poorest peoples of the world become slaves to the desires of a small elite class.

Why you shouldn't read this book: On the one hand, if Perkins hadn't gotten quite so dirty, there would be no one to tell this important story, but on the other hand, at times it's hard to swallow his moral equivocation, as he assures the reader over and over than he knew his actions were wrong, but other factors tempted him to continue. But this is an important book, and if you think the war in Iraq is justified, or can't imagine why 9/11 happened, or drive a car that runs on gasoline, you should probably read this book.

When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry...

Written by: Molly Bang

First line: Sophie was busy playing when...her sister grabbed Gorilla.

Why you should read this book: This brightly-colored, high-interest book for small children perfectly captures the emotional intensity of a temper tantrum and its aftermath, and entirely captures the attention of young readers. Denied the right to play with the toy her sister wants, and further enraged by tripping over the toy that remains, Sophie explodes, the violence of her rage represented by giant red words cleverly worked into the pictures. While the aggression of the story gets readers worked up, the author takes her protagonist on a cool-down run through the woods, where Sophie cries out her pain, calms down, and lets the power of nature fill her with comfort.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You never lose your temper.

The Bat Boy and His Violin

Written by: Gavin Curtis

First line: I sashay my bow across the violin strings the way a mosquito skims a summer pond.

Why you should read this book: The year after Jackie Robinson breaks into the major leagues, Negro baseball is on a decline, but Reginald’s papa’s team, the Dukes, is doing worse than anyone else. All Reginald wants to do is practice his violin and get ready for a recital in the church basement, but Papa doesn’t understand his music and thinks he’d be better off working as a bat boy for the Dukes, since he can always practice in the dugout when he’s not working. It turns out that some soothing violin music is all the team needs to inspire them to make their last season the best season ever.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’d never bring your precious instrument onto a dirty baseball field.

Carol from the Country

Written by: Frieda Friedman

First line: Never, not once in her eleven and a half years, had Carol felt as unhappy as she did today, the first day in the new apartment.

Why you should read this book: Relocating from their big, beautiful farmhouse in the country to a loud, cramped New York tenement is definitely the worst thing that’s ever happened to Carol, and to add insult to injury, the twins think city living is great, and keep sending new kids upstairs to meet their big sister. But Carol doesn’t want to be friends with these overly-familiar children, especially not the janitor’s daughter, or the immigrant girl, or the kid whose dress is too small and too tight because her mom is too poor to buy a new one, and by the time she realizes that having some friends in her new neighborhood might not be such a bad idea, even the doctor’s daughter thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. It would take a major catastrophe to get back into their good graces now.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t associate with the unwashed masses.

Lizzie Lies a Lot

Written by: Elizabeth Levy

First line: Lizzie opened the door.

Why you should read this book: Lizzie’s Nana is the sort of woman who would never compliment a beloved granddaughter, but Lizzie can relieve the pressure of Nana’s constant criticism by making up stories in which she is the prettiest, most popular, most talented girl at school. Nana knows she lies, and so does her best friend, Sarah, but her mom and dad buy some pretty big whoppers, including her tall tale about being selected to dance the lead in the school recital. What happens when all those lies come crashing down around her head?

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Lying is in your job description.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Ringmaster’s Secret: A Nancy Drew Mystery Story

Written by: Carolyn Keene

First line: “Oh, Nancy, I worry so about your doing that trick riding,” remarked Hannah Gruen, looking fondly at the slender, attractive girl in jodhpurs and a tight-fitting coat.

Why you should read this book: Nancy’s immediate proficiency in circus riding leads her father to buy her an exquisite bracelet that features five gold horse charms and one platinum mystery. In her quest to understand what’s become of its former owner, the teenage super sleuth is soon in her element: getting strangled by mysterious strangers; ordering Bess, George, Ned, Hannah, her father, side show attractions, and police chiefs in the city and the suburbs around; and, of course, joining the circus, where she befriends a clown and an aerialist with their own secrets. Every step closer to the truth creates more enemies for the girl whose detective skills are legendary, and whose father is willing to drop everything and fly his kid to England to pursue a sketchy lead on a pro bono case that has already resulted in two attempts on her life.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You're a bad guy, and you would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.

The Missing Mother Goose: Original Stories from Favorite Rhymes

Written by: Stephen Krensky

First line: Old King Cole was a merry old soul. And he had every reason to be.

Why you should read this book: If you’ve ever wondered what made Old King Cole so merry, or inspired a cow to jump over the moon or a boy named Jack to jump over a candlestick, these whimsical stories will answer all your questions and others it would never have occurred to you to ask. Did Little Miss Muffet really suffer from crippling arachnophobia, or did she have ulterior motives, and how do you grow pickled peppers, anyway? Includes a brief section with historical information about each of the included nursery rhymes.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’ve ever been compared to Humpty Dumpty or shot out of a cannon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running

Written by: Danny Dreyer with Katherine Dreyer

First line: Not long ago I was running past a grade school

Why you should read this book: Using the cotton-and-steel principles of Tai Chi to emulate the perfect, unconscious running form of a child, this book promises to increase a runner's speed and stamina while reducing effort and eliminating injury, regardless of the runner's age or experience. With pages of detailed instructions on how to perceive and move each part of the body, checklists, and exercises, this book strives to be a substitute for the author's successful and sought-after running classes. In addition, there is much instruction on maintaining the mind-body connection along with a clear, open mind; training, eating, and choosing and tying your shoes properly; and identifying and overcoming specific complaints often suffered by runners.

Why you shouldn't read this book: In the event of the zombie apocalypse, you're planning on increasing your friends' odds of survival by being the one that's easy to catch.