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Great reading for chilly winter days

“Marley & Me” by John Grogan. Labrador retrievers are generally considered even-tempered, calm and reliable; then there’s the subject of this wonderful tribute to one lab who doesn’t fit the mold. John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his wife, Jenny, were newly married and living in West Palm Beach when they decided that owning a dog would give them a foretaste of the parenthood they anticipated. Marley, a sweet, affectionate puppy, grew into a lovable, naughty, hyperactive dog. He even failed obedience school and was frantically afraid of lightening storms (a daily occurrence in Florida). Dog lovers will love this endearing account of Grogan’s much loved canine.

“Cell” by Stephen King. What if a pulse sent through cell phones, at a specific time turned every person using one of them into a zombie-like killing machine? That’s what happens in Stephen King’s latest, mini “Stand”-like, technophobic compelling version of the end of civilization. It’s the “normies” against the “phoners” in this gripping, gory novel that doesn’t just ask, ” Can you hear me now?” It answers it with a vengeance.

“Wal-Mart Effect” by Charles Fishman. The story of Wal-Mart is really the story of the transformation of the American economy over the past 20 years. Fishman is careful to present the consumer benefits of Wal-Mart’s staggering growth and price-cutting philosophy, but he also presents the case against Wal-Mart in arresting detail, and his carefully balanced approach makes the downside of Wal-Mart’s dominance more vivid. Through interviews with former Wal-Mart insiders and current suppliers, the reader learns how Wal-Mart’s mania to reduce prices has driven suppliers into bankruptcy and sent factory jobs overseas. Wal-Mart has become a kind of economic ecosystem that has such a profound adverse effect on local businesses that one study has shown the company may actually cause poverty. Anyone who wants to understand the forces shaping our economic world today must understand the hidden reach and transformative power that is the Wal-Mart effect.



“White Ghost Girls” by Alice Greenway. In this impressive literary debut, the author spins a tale of sacrifice and solidarity, as two American sisters tumble into their teenage years in Hong Kong during the summer of 1967 while their father is away photographing the war in Vietnam for Time Magazine. Greenway vividly evokes Hong Kong’s sights, smells and sounds in fine detail, and in a young girl’s narrative, remembers every charged emotion from adolescence and filters them through the sister’s fierce, complex relationship, providing a satisfying plot with a devastating conclusion.

“Saving Fish From Drowning” by Amy Tan. A story of illusion and reality merging. Amy Tan spins a provocative and mesmerizing tale about the mind and the heart of the individual, the actions we choose, the moral questions we might ask ourselves, and above all, the deeply personal answers we seek when happy endings are seemingly impossible. All this is set in a story of 12 tourists who join an art expedition in the Himalayan foothills of China and south into the jungles of Burma, who experience their plans falling apart and the disharmony this provokes. The theme is what is real and what is fiction in everything we see, from cheroot-smoking twin children hailed as divinities to a ragtag tribe hiding in the jungle where the spirits of disaster known as nats lurk. Then on Christmas morning, 11 of the travelers boat across a misty lake for a sunrise cruise – and disappear. Literature Alive! is bringing Tan here in October.




“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. A remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption. A revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. Ms. Walls’ life is a story worth telling with each memory more incredible than the last, from going for days with the only meal of the day dug out of the school bathroom trash can to sleeping in cardboard hammocks. With so many families today one paycheck away from sleeping in the family car, this is a saga of one such family. It is a story sculpted by eccentric parental choices and the resilience of the children, who in the end were able to prosper. For those who enjoyed “Running with Scissors” or “Million Little Pieces.”

“Strapped: Why America’s 20-30 Somethings Can’t Get Ahead” by Tamara Draut. Draut offers a groundbreaking look at the obstacle course facing young adults – under 35 – as they try to build careers, buy homes and start families. Getting ahead is harder and harder with young adults borrowing their way into adulthood and wondering whatever happened to the American dream. But it doesn’t have to be that way, argues the author, whose book is brimming with ideas for a new kind of future where a young person can go to college, buy a home and start a family in America.

“Kafka On the Shore” by Haruki Murakami. A story powered by two remarkable characters, a teenage boy Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home – either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister – and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and is now drawn toward Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, Murakami’s imaginative world takes readers to a place where cats can talk, fish fall from the sky and spirits slip out of the bodies for lovemaking and murder. Murakami shines as a great storyteller with this metaphysical mind-bender.

“Magic of Color,” written and illustrated by Tracy Kane. This is a story about two tribes that exist peacefully on an island in a world of black and white. A dramatic event occurs, creating two colors that transform their lives. When a third color appears on the mountain peak, both tribes set off on an adventure to claim this dazzling new treasure. Their journey guides them to a starling encounter, and they discover a new world more wonderful than they could ever imagine.

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Compiled by owner Stacey Colin at Harmony Books, 231 Broad St. Nevada City, 265-9564. Hours are Mondays through Saturdays 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sundays.


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