Like a really lively magazine in book form, and a bargain considering the rich diversity of its contents.

THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2010

Though not required for the classroom, this annual anthology offers a selection that is usually engaging and provocative, even essential.

The first section of this collection edited by Eggers and benefiting the youth literary program of his 826 National emphasizes the playful pleasures of the written word, through quick-hit categories including “Best American Sentences on Page 50 of Books Published in 2009” (“While he slimmed down, I porked up, pregnant with our first child,” Sarah Palin), “Best American Farm Names” (“Merry Dairy,” “Thyme for Goat”) and “Best American Academic Journal Article Titles” (“Humans: The Party Animal,” “Accidental Incest”). Then the anthology proceeds to the comparatively serious business of part two, with its selection (by a committee including high-school members of 826 National) of journalism, fiction, poetry, graphic narrative and contents that challenge category. Among the highlights: David Rohde’s “Seven Months, Ten Days in Captivity” chronicles the journalist’s capture by and escape from the Taliban. Téa Obrecht’s “The Tiger’s Wife” previews what looks to be an astonishing novel. The Whitmanesque exuberance of Andrew Sean Greer’s “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” details a gay couple’s experience at a Michigan NASCAR event, which he attended with his car-nut husband. Evan Ratliff’s “Vanished” shows his attempt to disappear in cyberspace as part of a magazine assignment that invited readers to discover his whereabouts. George Saunders’ “Tent City, U.S.A.” presents a portrait of homelessness in Fresno, and the experiences of a journalist in its midst, in the form of an anthropological study. Amy Waldman’s “Freedom” offers a parable about prisoners confined for terrorism but then released into an uncomfortable accommodation with freedom. Different readers will find different delights and different discoveries.

Like a really lively magazine in book form, and a bargain considering the rich diversity of its contents.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24613-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS

Full-immersion journalist Kidder (Home Town, 1999, etc.) tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere.

The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account—and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d “encountered a miracle.” Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors (especially Boston contractor Tom White), Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos. The doctor has an astonishing rapport with his patients and often travels by foot for hours over difficult terrain to treat them in their dwellings (“houses” would be far too grand a word). Kidder pauses to fill in Farmer’s amazing biography: his childhood in an eccentric family sounds like something from The Mosquito Coast; a love affair with Roald Dahl’s daughter ended amicably; his marriage to a Haitian anthropologist produced a daughter whom he sees infrequently thanks to his frenetic schedule. While studying at Duke and Harvard, Kidder writes, Farmer became obsessed with public health issues; even before he’d finished his degrees he was spending much of his time in Haiti establishing the clinic that would give him both immense personal satisfaction and unsurpassed credibility in the medical worlds he hopes to influence.

Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50616-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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JAM!

THE STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC

A busy page design—artily superimposed text and photos, tinted portraits, and break-out boxes—and occasionally infelicitous writing (“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie became . . . bandleader of the quintet at the Onyx Club, from which bebop got its name”) give this quick history of jazz a slapdash air, but Lee delves relatively deeply into the music’s direct and indirect African roots, then goes beyond the usual tedious tally of names to present a coherent picture of specific influences and innovations associated with the biggest names in jazz. A highly selective discography will give readers who want to become listeners a jump start; those seeking more background will want to follow this up with James Lincoln Collier’s Jazz (1997). (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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