Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The New Non-Fiction Book Shelf

I try to look over the new book shelves when I have a chance and think about what I would read if I had more time. Here are a few from the new non-fiction shelf that look good.
American Gothic by Steven Biel is the story behind the famous painting by Grant Wood of the dead-pan farmer couple in which the husband holds a pitchfork. One appealing thing, to me at least, is that the book is only 170 pages and the type face is largish, which makes it that perfect size to read between books that take a larger time-commitment. According to the book jacket, 'American Gothic' "painted by a self-proclaimed "bohemian" ... the image was first seen as a critique of Midwestern Puritanism and what H. L. Mencken called "the booboisie." It has been taken seriously as a symbol of strong American values and taken as a parody, and always played an important part in our national identity in some way or another.

The next two books that caught my eye are A Hundred and One Days: a Baghdad Journal by Asne Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul) and The 8:55 to Baghdad, from London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie by Andrew Eames. The first book covers the time just before and during the initial stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq from this journalist's point of view. Eames' book is more of a history of Iraq and a travelog.

Finally, two books with a European slant. Death and the Sun, a Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain by Edward Levine follows one matador and in doing so tries to show how bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and why. Between Salt Water and Holy Water, a History of Southern Italy by Tommaso Astarita is a history of Italy from Naples to Sicily. Quoting the book jacket (and my grandfather!) one has to "see Naples, and then die." I never totally understood that vow as a child; perhaps this book will illuminate that part of Italy known to so many Italian Americans.

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