Almost from its inception, Bob Edwards was the voice of public
radio. Here he tells the story of his career, and you can hear his
mellow cadences in every line. He started in 1968 at a tiny station
in New Albany, Indiana, across the river from his hometown of
Louisville, Kentucky. WHEL played the sort of music where Frank
Sinatra was considered “up-tempo” and had equipment so old that
“Marconi would have recognized every tube.” Edwards admits that at
first he didn't “get” NPR. A devotee of Edward R. Murrow, he viewed
himself as a serious journalist, and stumbling into “All Things
Considered,” where people “having fun with a radio program,” was
disconcerting. But in 1974 there were no rules. Obtaining a
transcript of Nixon's White House tapes, Edwards, Nina Totenberg,
and others broadcast a multi-hour reading. Edwards had longed to
work at CBS, home of Walter Cronkite, but changed his mind and
decided to stick with NPR when the Vietnam War ended. NPR was doing
an in-depth retrospective, and CBS dealt only in sound bites between
commercials. Like so many things in his life, his stint on “Morning
Edition” was only supposed to be temporary, but lasted 24 years.
Edwards recounts his slightly hardscrabble youth and two failed
marriages. (Getting up at 1 AM to host “Morning Edition” didn't
cause one, but it didn't help.) He has the usual comments about who
makes the worst interviewees (politicians who stick to their talking
points and don't answer the question), and who makes the best
(musicians and writers, because their art is made from their
personal lives and they have nothing to hide). Fans of Edwards will
revel in the last few chapters of the book where he details the
efforts of NPR to fire him. Despite millions of ardent listeners, he
didn't fit management's idea of what NPR should sound like. The
suits' misguided, deceitful, and ultimately very expensive
machinations only resulted in Edwards taking his dream job, for more
money, on satellite radio. Contains a generous assortment of
Steve Jobs was a
legend, and the technological changes he helped oversee and create
changed the world forever. Walter Isaacson had unparalleled access
to his subject, and the numerous interviews with both Jobs as well
as his family, friends, and colleagues have turned what could have
been a simple book to cash in on Jobs’ recent passing into one of
the best non-fiction books of the year.
I was in high
school when that “1984” commercial came on during the Super Bowl.
That instant classic is still considered the best Super Bowl
commercial of all time. From that point on, I had to have a
Macintosh. Twenty-seven-years later, I still work on Macs. (And
yes, I have other Apple products as well). They are intuitive and
never glitch, not like some other products I could name.
The book not only
looks at the life of Jobs, but also covers the beginning of the
computer age when men and women were bold enough to experiment in
garages with circuit boards and other electronic equipment. That
history, along with the beginnings of the Apple Corporation, are
compelling and enlightening. The man himself proves to be a
fascinating blend of charisma and genius. He also could be
cold-hearted and easily piss people off. Isaacson reveals a fully
rounded individual, flaws and all.
Volumes will no
doubt be written about Steve Jobs for years to come, but I can't
imagine one better than this.
“Our words and phrases of acclaim are worn out, all but impotent,”
writes Plotnik. Remember when “awesome” was reserved for God or the
Grand Canyon, not your favorite beer? Since we have become a culture
obsessed with using praise as a way of codifying our enthusiasms, we
need to bolster our vocabularies. When even a lowly mattress can be
called “fantastic,” writers and speakers need to stretch themselves.
Plotnik's mini-thesaurus is arranged in 15 categories, ranging from
such concepts as Sublime (Elysium, heaven-minted), Large
(monumental, strapping), Trendy (dapper, ready for prime time), and
Challenging Belief or Expression (mind-cleaving, sandbags logic).
Each category is loaded with scores of more specific superlatives.
Plotnik also provides lists of “Vintage Gold.” Forget “the bee's
knees;” in the roaring 20s, a real flapper praised that bathtub gin
as “the clam's garters.” Not that Plotnik skips contemporary
references: The Wire gives us “Them joints is wet!”
and in texting, something can be wkewl (way cool). There's red and
then there's Percy Bysshe Shelley's “hectic red” and Diane
Ackerman's “seismically red.” And don't forget turning a name into
an adjective. Writing can be Dickensian, but someone's other skills
might be (Michael) Jordanesque. A fun read even for non-writers.
Christmas came once a month in the Open-Unsolved Unit. That was
when the lieutenant made her way around the squad room like Santa
Claus, parceling out the assignments like presents . . .
Returning to his old unit in The Drop after two years in
homicide presents Michael Connolly’s detective Harry Bosch with a
host of challenges, not the least of which is new DNA evidence from
a 1989 rape case. Add to that a politically charged potential
murder at Hollywood’s famed Chateau Marmont and you’ve got a recipe
for a terrific tale even by Connolly standards, one that ranks with
Roderick Thorpe’s seminal classic The Detective at the very
top of the genre. No stranger to having a lot on his plate, even
Bosch has trouble negotiating the challenges of his dual cases that
may or may not be connected and, in any event, represent a minefield
laid across the dark underbelly of Los Angeles city politics.
Seems like every noirish tale featuring L.A. as a backdrop draws
comparisons and/or allusions to Roman Polanski’s brilliant
Chinatown. But Connolly is one of the few worthy of the
comparison and the crusty Bosch is every bit the equal of private
eye J. J. Gittes as played by Jack Nicholson in the film. Jack’s
too old to play Harry now, but fortunately both Bosch and Connolly
will be around for a long time giving us more of the same.
Pratchett's 39th Discworld novel continues in the same
brilliant vein as the previous entries. As always, Pratchett picks a
topic of satire and spins a funny mystery around it. This time it's
British village life—the country houses, the gentry, and the
constant social warfare—that come in for a ribbing. Snuff
finds City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes, who is also the Duke of
Ankh due to his marriage to Lady Sibyl, on holiday with his family
at his wife's ancestral hall. Borrowing a little from Downton
Abbey, Vimes, a simple “copper,” struggles to find his place
among his supposed inferiors, who behave like his superiors. There
are also the girls right out of Jane Austen looking for husbands,
and, of course, even while vacationing Vimes is destined to find
some dark goings-on. So when a young goblin girl is murdered, Vimes
is delighted to have a case to work on. And, like any other
self-respecting country village, there's a much bigger secret to be
discovered. Simple tobacco smuggling (the titular snuff) turns out
to be a cover for “crystal slam,” a troll drug so deadly and illegal
that selling it is a hanging offense. Even though previous novels
featuring Vimes and his City Watch have dealt with murder, this one
has a more serious feel, and the Commander struggles with several
demons within—one literally. A mix of Jane Austen and Agatha
Christie, Snuff is more somber and less wacky than previous
Discworld books, but there's still plenty to smile about.
“Talking’s done for now. You need to find out for yourself. Go on,
open the door.”
Stephen King’s been opening doors like that for thirty-plus years
now, but the wondrously entertaining 11/22/63 ranks as his
best effort in nearly half that. A perfectly executed throwback
that pitches noble-enough high school teacher Jake Epping into
waters previously tread by the likes of Johnny Smith in The Dead
Turns out there’s a time portal in the pantry of Jake’s favorite
local diner and with current proprietor Al Templeton on, literally,
borrowed time he needs someone to complete the job he now won’t be
able to: prevent the world-changing assassination of President John
F. Kennedy. Now, since this particular portal always goes back to
the same Lewiston, Maine day in 1958, that certainly presents some
challenges, not the least of which is Jake’s ability to fit into a
long-gone world for which cell phones, credit cards, the Internet,
computers, and even color television are nonexistent. And he’s got
to live in the past for five years just to get to that fateful day
in question, something that presents a host of challenges in itself
even though his return to the present, inevitably, will find only
two minutes have expired.
Of course, anyone who’s read time travel tales dating back to H. G.
Wells brilliant The Time Machine knows complications and
consequences inevitably ensue, as the rules keep unfolding and
rewriting themselves. Sure, King has long thrived on fashioning new
worlds in which order is a relative term, but the hefty 11/22/63
may go down as his masterwork, a brilliant treatise on the limits of
love and fate laced with an uncanny level of nuance and subtlety.
The only thing harder than lifting the book up is putting it down.
Rebecca's father is a cop
who leaving behind a dark secret in London. Now, the two of them
are essentially alone together in a tiny town that's in the process
of falling into the sea. Rebecca meets a strange girl called
Ferelith, who seems friendly but may be hiding darker intentions.
Meanwhile, alternating chapters relate pages from the diary of a
local pastor who was a party to some local dark deeds in the late
It's a testament to Sedgwick’s skill as a
writer that though the book is light on action, he maintains a
creepy atmosphere and builds suspense throughout. A good read for
teens looking for light horror.
is the start of an apocalyptic trilogy set after electromagnetic
pulses fry solid-state electronics and computers. Damaged nuclear
plants and storage facilities erupt radiation, and the modern world
is plunged back to nineteenth century technology, although older
cars and vacuum-tube radios still function. The EMPs kill most
middle-aged people, and many children who survive eventually go
insane, turning into bloodthirsty killers.
of the survivors is seventeen-year-old Alex, a young woman suffering
from a brain tumor—or at least she was. Her symptoms disappear after
the EMPs, but there’s no technology left to confirm what has
happened. Stranded in the wilds of Michigan after running away on a
solitary trek to figure out what to do with what remains of her
life, she finds herself caring for eight-year-old Ellie, whose
grandfather died during the EMPs. The pair ends up traveling with
Tom, a young veteran of Afghanistan who has his own dark troubles.
artfully evokes the crumbling civilization that remains after the
EMPs. Desperation and fear drive people to their best, but also to
their worst. The surviving population of elderly need—but
distrust—the youth who may yet turn into murderous brutes, which
adds another layer to the story, as do the almost supernatural
abilities that a few survivors discover they now have, including
Alex. Ostensibly aimed at the young adult/teen market, this grim but
engaging adventure is just as compelling for adults, and the
cliffhanger ending will leave you eager for the next book.
Karou was raised by
devils. She didn’t think of them that way, of course; they were
just her family. And though she was always curious about the secret
doorways that led from our world to theirs—and from theirs to
somewhere beyond—she learned not to ask too many questions. Then
one day, she is attacked by a beautiful angel, and discovers that
she is in the thick of an ancient, brutal war.
paranormal romance is likely to be wildly popular among Twilight
fans, though the romance may be a bit too steamy for some of
that book’s younger readers. Excellent writing, detailed world
building, and lots of suspense make this a stand-out addition to the
burgeoning angel genre.