Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Book Lusting

It doesn't pay for me to listen to NPR's book podcast. In fact, I mean that literally since my bank account shrinks after every listen. I haven't listened to the podcast in a while because I've been on more of a music kick on my daily commute, but today the prodigal listener returned. Now my wishlist is several books larger.

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.


  1. You know, I saw that cheerleading book at B&N and as another Texan, I really wanted to take it (I never did cheerleading-my high school was very big and very competitive and I thought I was way too ugly back then to have a chance). (I will admit that one weekend, when I was under the weather, I watched a marathon of an entire season of that Dallas Cowboys Cheerleading Camp show, andI loved it) However, since I don't have much a paycheck these days or for the forseeable future, hardcover is a no-no unless it's deeply discounted! I hope you read the new Roach so I can hear your thoughts on it: I really liked Stiff, but I hated Spook, so I'm fifty-fifty about Roach herself.

  2. I never thought a cheerleading book would be interesting to me, or at least I never thought I'd admit that a cheerleading book looked interesting - that old nerds verses cheerleader thing from high schools dies hard.
    But here I am, thinking I"ll get this book. My cousin who runs a cheer school (with her husband who used to be a rodeo bronc rider) would be so proud. the world is an odd place.

  3. Eva, cheerleading is freakin' addicting. Especially that Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader show. OH! And Cheerleader Nation on ESPN. They followed the Kentucky Wildcats (awesome) one season on the road to Nationals, and it was amazing. THOSE cheerleaders are pure athletes.

    I will definitely read the new Roach. Apparently Powell's has autographed copies available (or will soon, actually), so I might splurge and buy one. She spoke at a writing conference in Dallas last year, and I was so irked that I didn't get to go. Joyce Carol Oates was there, too. SQUEEE!

    Sorry to hear you didn't like Spook. I haven't read it yet, but I bought it for my mom a while back. I will probably give it a go the next time I'm in TX (summer), but I have a feeling I won't dig it much either. We'll see.

    Can't wait for Bonk. :)

  4. Evil Twin Andi,

    It's OK, I won't tell anyone about your admission. lol It's hard for me to admit it out loud, but I might as well. It was a big part of my growing up, and I was in an unusual position of being stuck somewhere between popular and nerd. I cheered with all the froofy popular girls, and was friends with some of them, but on the whole I would've much rather spent time with the band.

  5. Bonk looks fascinating. Stiff and Spook have been on my wishlist for a while, but I haven't read them yet. Now I wonder if I'll get to Bonk before the others!

  6. Ohh, Bonk sounds good. I have yet to read Stiff, but it's been on my wishlist for a while. Gotta get my hands on both.

  7. I love NPR anything and yea, the book podcast is a dangerous thing :)
    I was a bit meh on Spook but still want to read more by Roach so I'll be adding Bonk to my list. What a great title too.
    By the way, I think we need a pic of you in your mascot outfit!

  8. Dewey, I know for sure I can recommend Stiff very highly. I'm holding out high hopes for Bonk!

    Nymeth, read Stiff first...definitely!

    Iliana, watch what you wish for! I have plenty of mascot pics in an album on my shelves at home. Watch out. One might appear on this very blog this evening.


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