Nonfiction

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel?  If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman.  This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read.  Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's in Black drops you into a smoke-filled club in Hamburg. Despite the German locale, the band on stage is wailing in English about doing the "hippy hippy shake". Everyone's moving except for the bassist, who looks cooler than James Dean.

The band has been playing for hours, and they will continue for several hours more, as per their contract. They pop pills to stay awake for that long. The group is the Beatles. The year is 1960. The bassist is Stu Sutcliffe.

Rip-offs and Tributes: A Look at Derivative Works

picture of copy machine

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin?  We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way.  Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of.  That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable.  On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works. 

The Film Club by David Gilmour

The Film Club by David Gilmour

When David Gilmour's son decided to drop out of high school, his father could have screamed at the top of his lungs about ruining one's future and the misery of being a lifelong freeloader. Instead he created The Film Club.

Fifteen-year-old Jesse could leave school under a couple of conditions. One: he had to avoid getting involved with drugs. Two: he had to watch three movies a week with his father, a former film critic. Dad picked the films, and all Jesse had to do was pay attention. What followed is one of the riskiest experiments in alternative education I have ever seen. Was David 100% sure this was an ideal solution? Heck no, but he thought it was worth a try.

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead

One Perfect Day

In the United States, the word “wedding” tends to evoke certain associations. The mind automatically regurgitates images absorbed from films, commercials, and magazines: a glowing bride ensconced in layers of delicate white fabric gliding among tables festooned with elaborate decorations, decadent food, and thousands of dollars worth of fresh-cut flowers. In this fantasy, money is no object, happiness is guaranteed, and future contentment seems likely. But how did such an extravagant, illogical vision become normative? Why are weddings consuming people's lives and bank accounts to such an extreme degree? These are the questions Rebecca Mead explores in One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.

As Mead describes her excursions to bridal shows, wedding planner conventions, Aruba (a popular locale for destination weddings), and a Chinese factory that mass produces bridal gowns, she both contextualizes and deconstructs the fantastical visions of beauty and perfection which generally dominate our sense of the American wedding. Even if you aren't planning a wedding, it's difficult to avoid the current glut of wedding-themed media. Wedding cake decorators feature prominently on TV shows that compete with Say Yes to the Dress and A Wedding Story. Each year it seems more and more books and magazines are dedicated to offering advice on how to fully enjoy an ice sculpture center piece or perfectly match the flower girl's shoes to the bride's sister's earrings.

Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us about Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz

Zoobiquity

Zoobiquity is a nonfiction book written by a heart specialist for humans.  Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is often called in as a consultant at the Los Angeles Zoo for animals with heart problems.  One day when she was at the zoo, the head veterinarian mentioned a heart condition that vets have known about for decades and yet human doctors only discovered ten years ago. The name was different, but the condition was the same. Zoobiquity is the result of Natterson-Horowitz's efforts to discover what other medical and psychological conditions humans and animal share.

Dr. Natterson-Horowitz begins by explaining that for decades now veterinarians have searched human medical journals for help with their animal patients, but human doctors very seldom consult with veterinarians or read the veterinary medical journals. She began to wonder what else medical doctors have missed by not encouraging an exchange of information. As a heart doctor who is also a psychiatrist, she also began to wonder how many other conditions and psychoses we share with our animal counterparts. 

33 1/3 Series

33 1/3 series

I am an addict...and my addiction is popular music. I adore it. Who doesn't? We all have our favorite songs, artists, genres. The right track at the right moment can hit us emotionally or physically, make us weep or dance. What I like almost as much as music are all of the details and stories that lead up to the making of some of my most cherished albums. That's where the 33 1/3 series comes in.

Started in 2003 by editor David Barker, 33 1/3 is a collection where each volume examines the allure of a particular album as well as the artist who recorded it.  Named after the number of revolutions on an LP record, the series spans rock, hip-hop, folk, metal, pop, country, dance, punk, electronica, and world. There is something here for everyone. 

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag cover

I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.  

The Heaven Answer Book by Billy Graham

The Heaven Answer Book by Billy Graham

Where is Heaven? How do we know there is life after death? What do you say to someone who doesn't believe in Heaven? All good questions, which the inexhaustible evangelist Billy Graham has answered over the course of his long life. In this brand-new, beautifully-packaged little book are gathered--and edited--the answers to these and many other questions on the topic of death and Heaven.

The President’s House, 1800 to the Present: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World's Most Famous Home, by Margaret Truman

The President's House cover

A customer recently called me to tell me that he loved The President’s House, by Margaret Truman, so when I gave a talk in Northern Virginia a few days later, I passed on the recommendation to the group. The next customer who read it just called to tell me that he is really enjoying this book, too. Several of the book reviews said that it is a fun and interesting look at the White House written by a woman who has a deep love for this national icon because she was lucky enough to grow up there.