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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of May 11, 2009

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Let someone else cover the waterfront – I'm seeking out a Puget Sound salmon feast or even an Arkansas possum-eating club.  

The Food of a Younger Land: A portrait of American food – before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional – from the lost WPA files
By Mark Kurlansky

PhotobucketBefore the days of the 24-hour drive-thru lane and the Grand-Slam-Thank-You-Ma’am, American regional cuisine was at once diverse and distinctive. During the 1930s, the WPA-funded Federal Writers’ Project under the New Deal — a make-work program that included such artists and authors as Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston and Nelson Algren — documented local foods, preparation, and eating habits — before research was abandoned due to the commencement of World War II. Best-selling author Mark Kurlansky (Cod; Salt) draws on the WPA files to present local recipes, essays, poetry, and lists of slang. With American regional cuisine now homogenized by franchising, globalization, and frozen foods, the modern reader of today’s fast-food nation will be startled and fascinated by what Kurlansky chronicles in The Food of a Younger Land, from New York automats to Georgia Coca-Cola parties, from Choctaw funerals to South Carolina barbecues, from Arkansas possum-eating clubs to Puget Sound salmon feasts, among other regional curiosities and commonalities. Through it all this promising thumb-through or delve-into compendium is simultaneously  history, anthropology, cookbook, almanac and family album, providing a restorative sense of the American rural and regional qualities and distinctions that we've lost but can yet find once again here.

Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes
By David Helvarg

Chronicling the history of a crucial but undeservedly neglected service agency, David Helvarg begins Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While there seemed to be much confusion at the federal, state, and especially local government level, the Coast Guard leaders had no doubt that a disaster was in the works. Assembling men and equipment, they waited for the storm to pass and then sprang into action, rescuing thousands. Every day, the Coast Guard's men, women, ships, and aircraft respond to 123 distress calls and rescue an average of 14 people; this translates into more than 1.1 million lives saved since its founding as a few lighthouse keepers in the 1790s. Yet despite having more than 50,000 active-duty and reserve members on every ocean and on our nation’s coasts, great lakes, and rivers, the "Coasties" remain the forgotten heroes carrying out anti-terrorism duties, saving sinking vessels, guarding Iraqi oil terminals, intercepting drug and illegal-immigrant smugglers. For spending two years with the men and women of the Coast Guard, from their academy in New London, Connecticut, to the stormy waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea, to the northern Persian Gulf, Helvarg has put in his own active duty to capably cover the waterfront.

NON-FICTION

Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition
By John Delucie

Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance
By Wendy Leigh

The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire
By Linda Himelstein

Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda
By Gretchen Peters

To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan
By Nicholas Schmidle

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History
By Danzy Senna

Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself
By Michael Shapiro

Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography
By Huston Smith

Unfinished Business: What the Dead Can Teach Us about Life
By James Van Praagh

Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream
By Leonard Zeskind

FICTION

Alexandria (Marcus Didius Falco Series #19)
By Lindsey Davis

The Last Child
By John Hart

Love and Obstacles
By Aleksandar Hemon

Marine One
By James Huston

Road Dogs
By Elmore Leonard

The Soldiers of Halla (Pendragon Series #10)
By D. J. MacHale

Cemetery Dance
By Douglas Preston

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #19)
By John Sandford

Kiss of Life
By Daniel Waters

Chosen One
By Carol Lynch Williams

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    I’m curious to meet someone who spends good money on the book about Patrick Swayze.