Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey: A president has been overthrown by a military coup in a nameless country in an unspecified era. The president's barber, chef, and portraitist are imprisoned, with many others, in a remote palace in the hills high above the city center. Before the coup, these three men worked with unquestioning loyalty, serving the president in seemingly benign jobs. Now, forced to serve the country's new leader, they begin to reconsider their role in the old regime.
I love the idea of following the lives of those closest to a powerful leader. What would the minutia of life be like for a President's portraitist? Especially one that paints a new portrait every two months and is continually changing the details based on the President's mood? Listening to Dovey speak about her novel was incredibly interesting, and I can't help but admire the author herself in addition to her innovative book premise. In addition to writing novels, she's also working toward a PhD in Anthropology.
Cheer!: Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading's Ultimate Prize, by Kate Torgovnik: Meet the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack cheerleaders from Nacogdoches, Texas, whoseem destined to win their fifth National Championship in a row — until they are shaken by the departure of their longtime coach. Fall in love with the Southern University Jaguars from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an African-American team hoping to raise the $17,000 needed to travel to Nationals and transform their near win several years ago into a Cinderella victory. Root for the University of Memphis All-Girl cheerleaders from Tennessee — a team that continually struggles for the same respect Coed teams get — when their quest for a national title is threatened by injuries and dropouts.
Incidentally, Stephen F. Austin University isn't terribly far from where I used to live in Texas. Like any red-blooded Texan girl in a football addicted hometown, I was in love with cheerleading. While I never went out in the little skirts, I was the school mascot in 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. I know, I know. I got to wear a fox costume (full-body...like a carpet), do cheers, tumble, jump, and generally act a'fool in front of large audiences. And we won quite a few cheerleading competitions. I can't resist a book that respects this "activity" for what it really is...a sport.
Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, by Alton Brown: He's on the road again. This time, Alton Brown and his motorcycle-mounted crew are off on a thousand-mile, south-to-north journey that follows America's first "superhighway"—the Mississippi. Starting at the great river's delta on the Gulf of Mexico and ending up near its headwaters in Minnesota, Alton and buddies travel the heartland's byways to scout out the very best of roadside food—and to get to know the people who spend their lives preparing and serving it.
I fell in love with Feasting on Asphalt in its first season on The Food Network, and I'm itching to get hold of this companion book to season two. Alton Brown is hilarious, and one smart cookie. And I can't resist a guy on a motorcycle.
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach: The bestselling author of Stiff and Spook turns her outrageous curiosity and infectious wit on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex. In Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Roach shows how and why sexual arousal and orgasm can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.
I loved Stiff when I read it a number of years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorite non-fiction reads. Well, one of my all-time favorite books in general, actually. I have to admit, I'm more than a little captivated by sex, too (who isn't), so this marriage of Roach's humor and a risque topic is tailor made for my bookshelves.
Now do you see why it doesn't pay for me to listen to NPR? Really, my paycheck is crying, and it just arrived today.