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Holiday Book Shopping II

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On November 27, 2007 @ 6:30 pm In Books,Digital Media | Comments Disabled

I admit it — I am a book junkie. I own many more books than I could ever possibly read in a given lifetime, and/or leave lying casually strewn about upon coffee tables and other horizontal surfaces.

However, I cannot help myself — when an interesting and/or Intriguing book comes along, I simply must have it. Whenever I come across someone who can develop an original idea and communicate  it in a compelling way, I find myself delighted.

Hence, the fascination with books that intrigue the mind and imagination. If you missed it, our last venture out turned up some interesting book ideas [1]. The same approach here: These are interesting if unrelated titles that most book lovers you know would be delighted to receive as a gift . . .


Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin [2]:

Born_standing_up__2 [2] "Obsession is a substitute for talent." So said Steve Martin, for a certain generation is the epitome of the Stand Up. I am particularly interested in how he lucked into a job writing for The Smothers Brothers Show,
and how he figured out
what worked on stage.

SF Chron [3]: "Martin paints a portrait of a
man with a mission. He learned timing from playing 25 short shows a
week at the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm through his college
years. Studying philosophy at Long Beach State College yielded a
lifetime’s worth of inane material. He kept notes on his performances,
constantly tightening and revising his act, aiming for surreal,
strange, physical, "unbridled nonsense."

His 20s were spent on the road playing bars and coffeehouses in the
days before comedy clubs. It was grueling and lonely. He opened for
Ann-Margret in Las Vegas, where Elvis told him he had "an ob-leek sense
of humor."

My favorite line — typical of
the goofy, existential, absurdist nature of his comedy, its gotta to be his closer: "Well, we’ve
had a good time tonight, considering we’re all going to die someday."


Musicphilia [4] Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain [4] by Oliver Sachs

I loved reading "Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. [5]"

If the oddities of the workings of the human brain intrigue, then you will find Sach’s  narratives both touching and fascinating.

Publishers Weekly: "Sacks is an unparalleled chronicler of modern medicine, and fans of his
work will find much to enjoy when he turns his prodigious talent for
observation to music and its relationship to the brain."

"This book leaves one a little more attuned
to the remarkable complexity of human beings, and a bit more conscious
of the role of music in our lives." 

Several interesting videos by the author can be found here [4]; NYT Review here [6]


Alfred_hitchcock_2 [7] Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film [7]

Was Hitchcock an auteur? An exhibit at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University [8] suggests he was more of a colloborator, presenting more than seventy-five sketches, designs, watercolors, paintings, and storyboards that, together, examine Hitchcock’s very collaborative film-making process.

I saw this over the Thanksgiving weekend, and found it fascinating. Hitchcock fans in the area should definitely attend it, and for those not within a short drive of the Evanston campus [9] just outside of Chicago, this book will provide much of the flavor. Fans will find it fascinating.


Military_power [10] Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle [10]

I have been a fan of Military history and Strategic Warfare, and became intrigued by this book, mostly due to the spectacular reviews:

"Stephen Biddle has written perhaps the best volume on the causes of battlefield victory and defeat in a generation."

"A major achievement. . . . combines a sophisticated formal model with analysis of critical case studies of actual battles."

"Simultaneously makes major contributions in political science, military history, social science methodology, and contemporary policy debates."

"A worthy book on the never-ending debate over why land wars are won and lost . . . well worth reading, owning, and remembering."


Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography [11]   

Schulz_and_peanuts__ [11]
I loved the strip most of my life. Who knew that Charles Schulz was such a tortured artist and profoundly unhappy man? Apparently, he hated the name Peanuts, which was foisted on
the strip by his syndicate.

For all the joy Charlie Brown and the gang gave readers over half a
century, its creator was overwhelmed by depression, and generally an uncomfortable

Nearly 250 Peanuts strips are woven into the biography, demonstrating
just how much of his life story Schulz poured into the cartoon. In one
sequence, Snoopy’s crush on a girl dog is revealed as a barely
disguised retelling of the artist’s extramarital affair.

WSJ book review here [12]; Book excerpt here [13];  Author’s podcast here [11]; Video here [14].


Secret_history [15]
The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption 

Better known for Confessions of an Economic Hit Man [16], Perkins offers an entertainingly disturbing view of how the
American government has wreaked havoc around the world in support of
American business.

The US tendency to distribute foreign aid to corrupt
Third World leaders only hurts our long term interestes, as we have seen in Iraq, Iran, South America, etc. When leaders object, the CIA steps in, to destabilize their government or assassinate him if necessary.

Sure, the book has lots of unconfirmed anonymous sources and a taste for conspiracy theories. Yet few people will argue that the 3rd world loans (and the "expert" advice that comes with it) are as often as not is harmful.

It looks like an interesting follow up to Confessions of an Economic Hit Man [16].


The Curious Art of Jim Flora [17]

Jim_flora_mischievous [17]The first retrospective of one of the defining visual stylists of the 1950s: Ray Olson writes:

Old-LP collectors, in particular, are in for a shock of recognition
when they open this almost-LP-jacket-sized album: "Hey, this is the

Jim Flora (1914-98) is the guy who made
those astonishingly energetic early LP cartoon-art covers, on which,
for instance, jazzmen were playing so hot that their bodies flew apart
like unstrung marionettes or, at the other extreme, melted together. Cubism, Miro, Klee, the great muralists Orozco,
Rivera, and Siqueiros, all influenced Flora.

Flora’s work always
provokes a smile . . . 

Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog

URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2007/11/holiday-book-shopping-ii/

URLs in this post:

[1] interesting book ideas: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/10/holiday-book-sh.html

[2] Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1416553649/thebigpictu09-20

[3] SF Chron: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/23/RV1VT06KB.DTL&type=books

[4] Image: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400040817/thebigpictu09-20

[5] Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0330294911/thebigpictu09-20

[6] here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/books/20kaku.html

[7] Image: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0810124475/thebigpictu09-20

[8] Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University: http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/

[9] Evanston campus: http://www.northwestern.edu/

[10] Image: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691116458/thebigpictu09-20

[11] Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0066213932/thebigpictu09-20

[12] book review here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119214690326956694.html

[13] excerpt here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119211725937056087.html

[14] here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6cwIqekWH0

[15] Image: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/052595015X/thebigpictu09-20

[16] Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452287081/thebigpictu09-20

[17] The Curious Art of Jim Flora: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560976004/thebigpictu09-20

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