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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression - Morris Dickstein - W.W. Norton [$29.95]

Cultural history is one of the abiding passions of PopMatters, and in that spirit we heartily recommend picking up Morris Dickstein’s new study of the music, theatre, film and literature of the ‘30s. This ambitious text is the result of 30 years of research and writing, a work of consummate scholarship that is perfectly timed, given the ongoing economic malaise worldwide and the recent near-return to “depressionary” times. Thoroughly interdisciplinary in scope and focused on the expressions of creative individuals of the time, Dancing in the Dark convinces that these artistic “responses should resonate with us again today as we go through the stresses and anxieties that remind us too much of the Great Depression”.


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past - Ariel Sabar - Algonquin [$14.95]

In a tucked away corner of Iraq, a community of Kurdish Jews live such an isolated existence that they speak the language of Jesus, Aramaic. Ariel Sabar’s father called this place home before moving to Los Angeles as a professor. Sabar travels back to his father’s homeland in search of his own heritage and identity. Part linguistic exploration, part history lesson and part memoir, the Sabars’ tale lends another, oft-overlooked dimension to the story of the Iraqi people.


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - Holt [$14.00]

While Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is true to its title, offering advice for writers for every step of the process, from generating topic ideas to effective proofreading tips, this is not merely a reference book for writers. Most of the information applies equally to our daily conversation, concisely clarifying routine language-related issues and tackling those little bits of linguistic friction that rub us the wrong way, or perhaps should rub us the wrong way.


The book also examines contemporary language concerns, such as the increased use of “woman” in place of “female”: Nancy Pelosi’s election as Speaker of the House had many news agencies reporting that she was “the first woman Speaker of the House”, a phrase that sounded both awkward and incorrect since one would never say, “the first man Speaker of the House”. Fortunately, Fogarty chimed in and settled the matter. (As long as the gender is being used as an adjective, it should be “female”.)


Whether you are buying for a grammar-phobe seeking guidance, or a writer seeking a fun reference manual for frustrating recurring questions, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing will likely satisfy.


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Monday, Dec 14, 2009
Edison's Concrete Piano, Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-on-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors - Judy Wearing - Ecw Press [$14.95]

This book is for the recent grad who can’t find a job, for the artist waiting - sigh - for inspiration, for the person in mid-life who’s contemplating a serious career-change—providing each has some sense of humor when handed this book. This is a tale of failures rather than successes, but failures not without original inspiration from the inventors who dreamed up these crazy ideas. Indeed, their stories manage to inspire with each inventor’s determination to—why not?—give something new a try. As the title suggests, even the greats fell flat their faces before picking themselves up, dusting off, and setting about one’s life, again. Indeed, there’s a ‘forward and onward’ spirit to be found here. So in a way, it’s a pick-me-up for someone who may be feeling a bit blue.


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Friday, Dec 11, 2009
The Secret Wife of Louis XIV Francoise d'Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon - Veronica Buckley - Farrar, Straus and Giroux [$35.00]

The life and times of rich people is not a new phenomenon born of the blogging age. The ruling class have been making sagas out of their personal life for ages. In The Secret Wife, Buckley explores the life and influence of Francoise d’Aubigne, the Sun God’s second and secret wife. Get this book for any addict of US Weekly, OK! Magazine, and other of their kilt. Hopefully, they’ll become hooked on gossip of history rather than yellow journalism. For this secret wife was steady and true; she helped her husband as much as she aided her country.


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