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September 8, 2010 / schulerbooks

The temp is dropping fast, so pick a book to curl up with!

It is a super exciting time of year – when a season full of great titles come out pre-Christmas, and last year’s fantastic hardcovers start to appear in paperback!  Here’s a few recently-released books I enjoyed:

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton & Co.)

I was lucky enough to attend Book Expo America in NYC in May, and even luckier to have been witness to a fantastic author breakfast hosted by Jon Stewart with speakers Condoleeza Rice, John Grisham and Mary Roach. I guarantee you’ve heard of the first three, but you’re probably wondering “Who the Hell is Mary Roach?!” It’s a fair question. Let me first point out that she was invited to speak with these famous faces, and she completely held her own, even against the inimitable Jon Stewart!

Mary Roach is a top-class investigative journalist who has devoted her unerringly hilarious books to the study of bizarre sciences, from cadaver science (2003’s Stiff) to paranormal science (2005’s Spook) to the science of sex (2008’s Bonk). Her newest book is an absolutely fascinating humorous look at the strange world of space travel. Think about it – how does a toilet work when there’s no gravity? Or, as she delicately put it, ‘Does dandruff in space make you look like a snow globe?’ I guarantee you’ll be completely absorbed into this and even more mind-boggling topics of concern for astronauts and the people who work to make them safe, even from skin floaties.

I Drink For a Reason by David Cross
(Grand Central)

I have been a huge David Cross fan since the days of Mr. Show on HBO in the mid-‘90s, through every awesome cameo and small role (my faves are his appearances on “Wonder Showzen”), up to his wider recognition as Tobias on “Arrested Development.” I’ve loaned out and played to destruction multiple copies of his stand-up double album “Shut Up You F*#@ing Baby,” including a recommendation given to Jeff Daniels before I realized what was coming out of my mouth.

His first book — with another  utterly fabulous title, now out in paperback — is most comparable to his stand-up routines as a well-read, witty and brutally caustic rant comic. While I admit that the book didn’t live up to every hope I had – at times his rants sound a little more self-defensive than self-deprecating — it’s still very much worth a read and will elicit more than one audible laughter outburst. And any true Michigander won’t want to miss the chapter “Scrapbooking in Michigan”!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)

Regular readers might remember my recommendations of the previous two novels in this powerful  young adult trilogy (Hunger Games and Catching Fire).  Both books were #1 New York Times bestsellers, highly critically acclaimed and multiple award-winners, and I expect the series’ popularity to grow even bigger with the release of final book Mockingjay.

Main character Katniss Everdeen has accomplished the unheard of by surviving two Hunger Games competitions, but will she be able to survive becoming the iconic face of the rebellion attempting to overthrow the cruel Capitol government?

I am obviously a huge fan of the previous books, so I am incredibly pleased that the third book manages to maintain the emotionally-charged, fast-paced plotting of the others. Adults and teens alike will be ripping through the story’s conclusion in one or two sleepless nights.

Ellie McDoodle: Best Friends Fur Ever by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

(Who’s visiting our Lansing store next Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.!)

This new release is the third in the utterly charming Ellie McDoodle intermediate reader series, written and illustrated by Lansing’s own multi-talented Ruth McNally Barshaw.

The series is comparable to the uber-popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, with Ellie McDoodle narrating the action in her journal of doodles which she carries with her everywhere (much like Ruth, who always can be spotted in a crowd jotting quick drawings of the people and places around her).

Despite the similar Diary format, these books and Ellie’s voice are original and adorable. The first book – Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel—follows the very Michigan ordeal of a family camping trip that had me flashing back to my own time as a kid on Lake Michigan, while the second book – Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School – was similarly relatable. The newest addition features Ellie in a “petscapade,” trying to track down the parrot she lost while bird-sitting.

Filled with fun facts about animals and Ruth’s whimsical sketches, this book is a winner from start to finish!



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