by Molly Ivins
Christmas procrastinators! You know who you are -- caught again at the Jiffy Mart on Christmas Eve trying to decide if your Aunt Ethel would prefer the Pepto-Bismol or the Cheetos. I've been putting it off, but here's the Procrastinators' Book List -- one-stop shopping for all your friends and family.
I was late finding a love of a novel, "The Bear Comes Home" by Rafi Zabor, which won a Pen/Faulkner Award last year. It's about a bear who plays saxophone, and I promise you, after three pages you forget it's a ridiculous premise -- you are the bear's. It's the best book ever written about jazz, a wonderful love story, and it's funny.
For cyberjunkies and Luddites alike, the best book on the computer industry is "High St@kes, No Prisoners: A Winner's Tale of the Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars" by Charles H. Ferguson. Ferguson is an insider with a wry, detached take on all of it. He also has some valuable insights into public policy on all this -- hope the presidential candidates read it.
(I still say those high-tech stocks are the tulips of our time. For a great read on the history of financial speculation, try "Devil Take the Hindmost" by Edward Chancellor.)
For political junkies, Jack Germond's memoir "Fat Man in a Middle Seat" is a high treat. Germond is a total professional and a decent human who has covered it all for 40 years and can still laugh about it. Also, Adam Clymer's splendid biography "Edward M. Kennedy" is, as I said in my blurb, everything a political biography should be. Dealing as it does with another 40-year player in our public life, this book presents Kennedy's role as a senator with a keen sense of history.
"Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man" by Susan Faludi got some dumb reviews ("Gee, a feminist has something to say for men"), but the brighter reviewers recognized this for the signal service it is. Good for feminists, anti-feminists and the Just Confused -- a superb and entertaining book of social reporting about Where We Are Now.
Most Fun: "Our Dumb Century," a put-on by the Onion, the folks who do the tongue-in-cheek news. Pretty much the way the news would be written if we ever told the truth, and a dandy antidote to all the pompous millennial hoo-ha.
For kids (and grown-ups), the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling really are great. The World's Foremost Authority (Eden Lipson) also recommends "Sector Seven" by David Weisman, a wordless book that's magically clear -- also great for someone uncomfortable in English.
Best coffee-table book: "Building the Book Cathedral" by David Macaulay, on how a medieval French cathedral was built.
Some really good reads for women: "Ahab's Wife: Or, the Star-Gazer" by Sena Jeter Naslund pretty much is the women's version of "Moby Dick." Two books by Indian women that have been out for a while but shouldn't be missed: "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy and "Sister of My Heart" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. So you've never been to India -- all the important stuff is universal.
Murder mystery lovers: I try to avoid "name brands," but I really liked the new Robert B. Parker (Spenser) "Family Honor" with a female detective, and the new Sara Paretsky "Hard Time." Also, David Corn has done a swell Washington potboiler with everything in it: "Deep Background."
Public policy junkies: "The Horizontal Society" by Lawrence M. Friedman takes the macro view of where society is headed; it's a good millennial thumb-sucker. The always excellent Thomas Friedman on global trade, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," is a good read.
Speaking of mass media, I enjoyed Lesley Stahl's lively memoir "Reporting Live," and I again commend the excellent "Rich Media, Poor Democracy" by Robert W. McChesney, a distinctly more disenchanted look at corporate media.
A personal favorite was "Name-Dropping: From FDR On" by John Kenneth Galbraith. For those who think there are no heroes, "Mandela: The Authorized Biography" by Anthony Sampson. And a completely unexpected story, "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel.
And a very merry Christmas to you all.
December 24, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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