Novel Destinations by Shannon Schmidt and Joni Rendon

Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon is for the person who likes to plan destination vacations and loves the classic authors. Themed lists in dozens of categories offer fascinating insights and behind-the-scenes stories about author houses and museums, literary places to drink and dine, and literary walks and festivals spanning the globe. Included are 10 in-depth “Journeys between the Pages” for those who want to experience literature come to life, from Franz Kafka’s Prague to the small-town South of Harper Lee.

I was particularly interested in the Key West section about the haunts of Ernest Hemingway. Having visited several Hemingway sites in Key West I was surprised how much I had missed. The other sections on Hemingway cover Oak Park Illinois, Idaho, Paris, France and Havana, Cuba. The description of these places makes me want to plan some vacations!

For further information on Novel Destinations, you can visit their website.

The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis

The romance of the open road (and our corresponding love affair with the car) has always been a part of America’s history and character. Maybe it’s the vast distances of the country, or it’s unending variety, or part of our make-up as a nation of immigrants but nothing says America like a road trip. How many of you remember childhood trips, packed into the family car, driving to see tourist destinations like Mt Rushmore or the Grand Canyon or the Great Smokey Mountains? Squabbling with your siblings, counting license plates, swimming in the motel pools – as American as apple pie.

The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis is a celebration of the heyday of car travel from the 20s to the 50s. Spanning the country from New York City to San Fransisco, covering more than 3000 miles through thirteen states, the Lincoln Highway was once a popular route for travelers. The modern interstate highway system, with it’s direct routes and smooth multi-lanes, has taken over most of the traffic, and in many places superseded the Lincoln Highway, but it’s still possible to follow it across the country. Wallis takes us along on his adventure; part travelogue, part nostalgia trip, this book is filled with pictures of vintage postcards, historical images and modern photographs. This book celebrates the iconic architecture of “motor lodges”, gas stations and diners, the stunning scenery of the countryside, the funky roadside attractions and most of all, the characters that still live along it.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger

The road trip as a metaphor for discovery has long been a classic theme in American literature. So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger takes you along on a road trip that is both physical, fraught with danger and intrigue, and emotional, full of regret and redemption.

Monte Becket, unable to follow-up his bestseller first book, is slipping back into an ordinary life when he meets Glendon Hale, a former train robber. When Glendon decides to return to California to ask forgiveness from the wife he abandoned, Monte finds himself drawn himself into the adventure. Pursued by ruthless ex-Pinkerton detective and meeting a vivid cast of characters along the way, this beautifully written novel will bring you right into the heart of 1915 America, in a West that has since vanished, about people we wish we had been able to meet.

The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost

With Tiger Woods winning the 2008 U.S. Open and the John Deere Classic nearing, I was reminded of my favorite book and movie about golf, The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost. It is the story of the 1913 U.S. Open held at the Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. Frost has interwoven the biographies of Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet, slowly building to the dramatic finish. Born on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1870, Vardon had won five British Open titles by 1913. On this side of the Atlantic, 20-year-old Ouimet was the Massachusetts state amateur champion and had been a caddie at the Country Club; his invitation to the Open was unexpected. The long, wonderful second portion of the story dramatizes the exciting week in September when Vardon, Ouimet, and others battled for the coveted title. Frost paints a lively supporting cast. Ouimet’s mother, brother, and sister were supportive, but his father had no truck with the silly game. Englishman Bernard Darwin, the scientist’s grandson, found his niche as a first-generation golf journalist. Ted Ray, a big bear of a man, punched out a fellow English golfer before joining friend Varner and Ouimet in a three-man playoff. Ten-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery almost stole the show with his pugnacious confidence and sage advice for Francis. It is a wonderful book about the beginning of the sport of golf in the United States.

The book was published in 2002; in 2005 the movie of the same name was released. Starring Stephen Dillane and Shia Labeouf as Harry Verdon and Francis Ouimet were wonderful. The best minor character was Eddie Lowery played by Josh Flitter. The movie puts pictures to Mark Frost’s words. It is a beautiful film.

Be sure to catch exciting professional golf action at our own golf tournament, the John Deere Classic, July 7-13. Because you never know when the next sports hero will emerge.

The Moneypenny Diaries by Kate Westbrook

“The name’s Moneypenny. Jane Moneypenny.”

Doesn’t quite have the same ring as James Bond, does it? But what if Miss Moneypenny, M’s personal assistant who is usually portrayed in the Ian Fleming books and the movies as subserviant and madly-in-love with Bond, was actually much more influential? What if she was the one who saved Bond on more than one occasion and went on missions that were critical to the security of the free world? Set mostly during the Cuban Missile Crisis and cleverly tied to real, historical events as well as incidents from the Fleming novels, The Moneypenny Diaries are written as if they are actual diaries recently discovered by Moneypenny’s niece. This is alternative history with a twist – alternative fictional history if you will. This is the first of a trilogy of the adventures of Moneypenny, already published in England.

Consumption by Kevin Patterson

Here’s just the read to cool you down during hot summer nights! Consumption takes place primarily in northern Canada, near the Arctic Ocean. The main character, Victoria, suffers from consumption (TB) and at the tender age of ten she is sent away from her Inuit home to spend several years in a sanitarium “down South” in Manitoba. When she finally returns as a young, educated woman, she has trouble adjusting. She shudders at the thought of eating seal or half-rotted walrus meat. The community has also changed, with most of the natives who once lived off the land now living in town in government housing. After getting pregnant by a white man, Victoria marries him, but his ambitious nature is not well-received, especially when he connives with a mining company to dig for diamonds in the frozen tundra.

Interspersed throughout the novel are fascinating chapters full of medical insight, written through the voice of Dr. Balthazar, the town doctor. In this first novel by Kevin Patterson, the author intertwines sex, love, murder, loss and isolation into an all-consuming read.

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive by Sandra Aamodt

Welcome to Your Brain is a fascinating look at the mysteries of the human brain and how it functions. It’s also lots of fun to read. Find out the answers to puzzles like why yawns are contagious, why you can’t tickle yourself and yes, why you remember how to drive even though you’re always losing your keys. Included are practical tips such as how to hear a conversation on your cell phone in a noisy room, how to protect your brain as it ages and how to recover from jet lag. Along the way several myths are shattered – that we only use 10% of our brain, that women are moodier than men, that listening to Mozart can make your baby smarter. All of this and more is presented in a highly entertaining manner with stories and examples – and you don’t have to have a medical degree to understand it!

Asian Vegetarian Feast by Ken Hom

written by Samantha

Asian Vegetarian FeastIf you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, you will definitely want to check out Ken Hom’s delightful cookbook Asian Vegetarian Feast: Tempting Vegetable and Pasta Recipes from the East. Hom is the author of more than 25 Asian cookbooks, and Asian Vegetarian Feast is one of his greats. While not strictly vegetarian (he frequently uses oyster sauce, chicken stock, and fish sauce in his recipes), the cookbook offers up an assortment of utterly delicious recipes which can generally be adapted for either a strict vegetarian diet or a meat-eater’s palate. Some favorties include Vietnamese-Style Vegetarian Spring Rolls (easier than you might think!), Corn and Ginger Soup, Cantonese-Style Bean Curd with Chinese Greens, and his Hot and Sour Noodles recipe, a nod to the beginning of his career when he taught people to make homemade pasta while studying art history at Berkeley. For the most part, the recipes are simple and clear, though a few may require a special trip to your local Asian grocery store. It’s well worth the trip, though, as the end results are fantastic. And don’t miss his incredibly informative sections on ingredients and techniques, as they are filled with advice on topics such as picking out good soy sauce and properly stir-frying vegetables. Great Asian recipes from one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine.

Liquid lunch

Okay, it’s not the best for the ol’ waistline, but it sure helps get the lawn mowed. Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione is a useful tool for novice zymurgists. Pssst…that’s geek speak for folks that make their own beer.

While The Complete Joy of Homebewing by Charlie Papazian is considered the de facto standard for homebrew instruction, I find Calagione’s book a much more pleasurable read. It is practical, gives hints for cutting corners, and suggests ways to kick recipes up a notch.

Unlike most homebrew books, this guide is loaded with attractive full color photos which makes it especially useful. Also, Mr. Calagione is the owner and founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, so you know he knows what he’s talking about.

And if you screw up, you’ve got 5 gallons of bratwurst marinade.

The Armchair Traveler Goes to Russia

Russia, that great giant that straddles both the West and the East, has a long and often bloody history, a unique culture and a diverse people. Many great classics have been written by Russians but what to read after War and Peace? (You have read War and Peace, right?!) Try these for more insight (and a decidedly quicker read) into the Russian soul.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman by Stuart Kaminsky

Twelfth in the series, this follows one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Rostnikov in a post-Soviet Russia that is rife with corruption. Among other things, Porfiry deals with an illegal dogfighting ring, the Moscow Mafia, murders, and various personal problems. This is engrossing storytelling at its best.

Russka by Edward Rutherford

Presenting a sweeping historical overview of Russia in the style of James Michener, Rutherford delivers an epic story focusing on how historical events affect the common person through the generations.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

A fictional retelling of the final days of Czar Nicholas II and his family as witnessed by a young kitchen boy who has kept what he saw secret. Now an old man and about to die, he’s ready to tell the truth. Filled with historically accurate details, this is a beautifully written novel with a surprise ending.

The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth

Mistaken for a spy, British citizen Alexander Bayliss spends 25 years in a Soviet gulag and the next 20 in a Russian village. When his family discovers he is still alive, he must decide whether to stay or return to England. This amazing novel reveals the human side of gulag life, how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected her people and the strength of the common man.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Introducing Inspector Arkady Renko, this modern classic is the must read novel of Soviet Russia. Cynical, honest, brilliant, Renko investigates a triple murder where the victims fingers and faces are missing. Intelligent writing, complex mysteries, dark humor and real tension combine to make this one of the best mysteries ever written. Future installments, which follow Renko thru post-Soviet Union turmoil, are also highly recommended.