Home / The Early Word: New Books for the Week of April 20, 2009

The Early Word: New Books for the Week of April 20, 2009

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My favorite title this week: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. Quite the alliterative lilt!


Who Is Mark Twain?
By Mark Twain

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.
–Mark Twain (Nov. 30, 1835)

Of course Twain so exaggerated for effect here that when he died in 1910, there was still a lot in the way of personal papers, unpublished letters, and “literary remains” to draw upon, documents that said a great deal. With Who Is Mark Twain? Robert Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley, answers the titular question by collecting 24 pieces designed to spotlight once again Samuel Clemens — the man behind the figure of “Mark Twain” — whose novels and short stories created a voice and a viewpoint synonymous with the American character. "The Privilege of the Grave" offers a commanding statement about the freedom of speech, while in "Jane Austen," Twain wonders if Austen's goal is to "make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters." And any proper disparagement of ye olde tyme dentist, as reflected in "Happy Memories of the Dental Chair," that gets you to appreciate your modern-day super deluxe dentist can't be bad. Furthermore, in "Frank Fuller and My First New York Lecture," Twain encounters two men gazing at one of his ads that promotes his talk at the Cooper Union. One man says to the other: "Who is Mark Twain?" The other responds: "God knows – I don't." Though you thought you knew Twain all along, after reading Who Is Mark Twain?, you’ll get reacquainted and know him a little better.

B Is for Beer
By Tom Robbins

Even kindergartners get the brews. In perhaps the quirkiest entry in Tom Robbins’ quirky oeuvre, B is For Beer is a "children's book for grown-ups"/"grown-up book for children," as Robbins takes readers on a bedtime story where once upon a time and happy ever after there was beer, beer, beer. Interwoven into this story about six-year-old Gracie Perkel, who seeks some time with beer-guzzling Uncle Moe, are info and facts, and this and that, from the manufacturing and making to the number of gallons of beer sold globally each year (36 billion). When Moe thwarts Gracie's expectations, she reaches for a drink and up pops the Beer Fairy, who takes wing with her through the "Seam" and expounds about the philosophy and nature of life and, of course… beer.

First Family
By David Baldacci

Shadows Still Remain
By Peter De Jonge

By Iris Johansen

Fragile Eternity (Wicked Lovely Series #3)
By Melissa Marr

The 8th Confession (Women's Murder Club Series #8)
By James Patterson, Maxine Paetro

The Perfect Poison (Arcane Society Series #6)
By Amanda Quick

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series
By Alexander McCall Smith

Loitering with Intent
By Stuart Woods


How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror
By Reza Aslan

Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting
By Michael Perry

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way
By Ruth Reichl

Getting a Grip
By Monica Seles

Outcasts United: A Story of Hope, Conflict, and Transformation on the Playing Fields of a Small American Town
By Warren St. John

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
By T.J. Stiles

Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger
By Alec Wilkinson

Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress
By Lee Woodruff

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and Friendship
By Jeffrey Zaslow

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch