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The Early Word – Non-Fiction: New Books for the Week of October 14, 2007

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Sure, variety is the spice of life, but it can also be the embellisher in the bestsellers — especially considering wide-scale subject area in this week’s nonfiction works:

From a book about a beloved cartoonist (Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography) to a murderous psychopathic leader (Young Stalin); from one of those edifying thumb-through volumes of inspiring thoughts (The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently About Our Nation's Past) designed to beef up your party chatter, to a collection of thought-provoking philosophies (The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer) that might undercut and contradict the spirit of some of them); and, if you know your authors and rock, from books by Sacks and Slash, a gamut that runs from the academically absorbing (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) to a visceral appetite for destruction (Slash).

The range and array of topics doesn‘t mean you can‘t borrow a title or two, though. The immediate impression — and I am one who feels no real need to flip past the Table of whatever Contents that exist within the Donald’s tomes — conveyed by Donald Trump’s Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life, is a comical one. But nevertheless, there is a sinking suspicion that his chosen title is in part a stolen one, appropriated from the famous saying of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose daughter’s biography just happens to be being released this week, too. And had the spirited, charismatic, and rebellious Alice Roosevelt Longworth — despite her defiance toward her Daddy-in-Chief — been alive today, I have a feeling she would not have objected too much to calling her bio “Walk Softly but Carry a Big Stick, and Kick Ass in Life.”

Speaking of walking softly… Ralph Lauren: The Inspiration of Four Decades is an $135.00 biography about a guy who (now correct me if I'm wrong), started off going door to door selling glow-in-the-dark neckties with topless hula gals who would sway just so when… well, never mind. Point is, even though Lauren may have invented these "exotic" ties, his book may not be worth $135.00. But the toothpick or toothpick-like stalk of wheat or whatever in his mouth on the cover photo — now that’s worth reading about, as long as the book is regular price. And as luck would have it, The Toothpick: Technology and Culture is also hitting the bookstore shelves now, the book undertaking a comprehensive study of what is surely "among the simplest of manufactured things."

Getting toothpick savvy and inspired sounds like a topic that should also be covered in The Intellectual Devotional. I'm thinking, however, that if any readings about glow-in-the-dark hula-girl neckties makes an appearance in any of the aforementioned or following books, it would have to be The Portable Atheist, or The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things. My wicked, wicked ways…

NONFICTION:

Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker by Stacy A. Cordery

Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons by David Cote, Joan Marcus (Illustrator)

Rock and Roll Heaven: A Fascinating Guide to 200 Musical Icons Who Have Joined the Great Gig in the Sky by Robert Dimery

Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship by Martin Gilbert

Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, Edited by Christopher Hitchens

A Man's Life: Dispatches From Dangerous Places by Mark Jenkins

The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently About Our Nation's Past by David S. Kidder, Noah D. Oppenheim

Ralph Lauren: The Inspiration of Four Decades by Ralph Lauren

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis

Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Toothpick: Technology and Culture by Henry Petroski

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal

Slash by Slash and Anthony Bozza

Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life by Donald J. Trump and Bill Zanker

American Idea: The Best of the Atlantic Monthly, Edited by Robert Vare

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