Summer Must-Reads

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Let authors Michael Bloomberg, Paris Hilton, John Travolta, and Bob Barker help you through the long dog days of summer with these new, engaging titles.

"At times I despair. Retail shelves and the bestseller lists used to be full of authors. Now they're just full of names." - Caitlin Flanigan, literary critic

Like Ross Perot -- Without the Crazy, by Michael Bloomberg

Jacoby & Sons

112 pages


This strategically-timed release from Jacoby & Sons finds New York mayor Michael Bloomberg testing the waters for a possible 2008 presidential run. When Bloomberg recently announced his intention to discard his G.O.P. affiliation, observers immediately concluded that the billionaire mogul would attempt a third-party campaign, much like H. Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. According to publishers, Like Ross Perot -- Without the Crazy outlines Bloomberg's "outsider" approach to politics. "As an enormously wealthy businessman, politician, and 60-something white male, mine is a unique perspective on the corridors of power," writes the two-term mayor, estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $5.5 billion. "And, unlike certain other billionaire dilettantes in presidential campaign history, I am not conspicuously insane."

Letter from Los Angeles Jail, by Paris Hilton

Page Central Publishing

344 pages


In what is surely the most surprising publishing event of the season, socialite and professional celebrity Paris Hilton pens a collection of "open letters" written while she was imprisoned at an all-women's jail in Los Angeles County. In her preface, released with the book's advance promotional materials, Hilton writes: "I used to act dumb. It was an act … and that act is no longer cute. Now I'm ready to discuss the issues that are important to me. Principally -- civil and human rights, nationally and from a global perspective. Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Zoroastrianism and Persian philosophy with an Indo-Iranian focus. Metallurgy. Optical physics." Publicists are trumpeting that the book will fundamentally change the public's opinion of the famous heiress. Although Hilton apparently retains at least some of her irresistible moxie when she writes: "In the 1950's, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee discovered an unexpected asymmetry in the decay of a subatomic particle. That's hot."

A Simple Man, by John Travolta

Hanson Press Ltd.

550 pages


This weighty, frank, and unadorned autobiography from Hollywood actor John Travolta reveals a man willing to unblinkingly assess his life in public. "I wouldn't trade my career with anybody's. I love my career. I've done 45 movies, and 30 of them you're going to know of." Humble and unassuming to a degree rarely seen in show business, Travolta reminisces with gratitude on a blessed life. "[These] movies I've done are iconic on some level, whether they're from a book or changed society or were the biggest of their day. Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy, Look Who's Talking, Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty ...." The smallest details are telling; asked whether it takes courage to play unorthodox roles, such as the housewife Edna in this month's Hairspray, Travolta replies simply, "My career has been pretty bold. It's courageous if you're not used to doing courageous things." On his relationship with directors, and his audience: "Don't mess with what I got going here with these people, because I have 32 years, plus another ten years of theater before that, and I know how my particular abilities affect an audience." In the book's final chapter, titled Quintessence, Travolta comes to some sobering conclusions: "So far as I've been able to ascertain, I am essentially perfect. Without fault or flaw. Beloved by millions. Hale, handsome, and happy." [[ed. note: All quotes except the last actually taken from this recent Reader's Digest interview, " More Than a Woman", by Meg Grant.]]

Li'l Danny in Funland, by Bob Barker

Imagination Company

32 pages


Joining the recent trend of celebrities penning children's books for their kids and grandkids, game show host and Burbank legend Bob Barker celebrates his recent retirement with his own contribution. Li'l Danny in Funland chronicles the adventures of a 6-year-old boy who wakes up one morning in a magical world of fun, games and retail items. His guide in this land of wonder -- a white-haired angel known as "The Host" who loves to bask in the sun and rescue little animals. Events take a rather odd turn, however, when the Bikini Meanies -- former residents of Funland -- sue the Host for sexual harassment, soiling his sunny image and reputation. The Host rises up in great anger, unleashing the Hounds of Litigation, and … well, you'll just have to read the book! Unexpectedly pushing the envelope for children's literature, Li'l Danny in Funland is sure to be a treasured favorite for the whole family.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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