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Books for Grownups August 2009

What Our Generation Wants to Read!

AARP The Magazine and Publishers Weekly have teamed up to let you know about the latest fiction, nonfiction, and lifestyle/self-help of interest toyou. Once you've checked out the selections below, visit Publishers Weekly's fiction and nonfiction pages for reviews, author Q&As, and more.


Heroic Measures

By Jill Ciment (Pantheon, $23)

Ciment's spare and smart novel details one long weekend in the life of Ruth and Alex Cohen, a New York couple hoping to sell their apartment of 45 years while dealing with an ailing dog and a gridlocked city. Sound too close to home? The domestic details play out with a thriller-like tension.

Amateur Barbarians

By Robert Cohen (Scribner, $26)

Cohen explores the terrain of male middle age in a novel that keenly observes the dissatisfactions of contemporary life, tracking the missteps of a 53-year-old school principal from New England to Ethiopia.

Black Water Rising

By Attica Locke (Harper, $25.99)

Set in 1981, Locke's compelling debut charts the moral struggles of Jay Porter, a black lawyer in Houston, Texas, who knows far more about a murder than do the local police. Will resonate with the generation that fought for civil rights and follows keenly the challenges successful African-American professionals face in our society today.

American Adulterer

By Jed Mercurio (Simon & Schuster, $25)

Mercurio's third novel is a riveting imagining of the inner life of a satyrlike John F. Kennedy as he beds a steady stream of starlets, interns, and prostitutes. Granted, JFK's life is far from unexamined, but Mercurio's take is fresh, bold and surprising.

My Father's Tears

By John Updike (Knopf, $25)

Updike's final book, a collection of short stories, is heavy with mid- and late-life troubles, from the mundane to the crushing. He’s in fine form here, and reading these might have you reaching for your old copy ofRabbit, Run.


Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery

By Doug Anderson (Norton, $25.95)

Anderson recounts his amazing life—before, during and after serving as a Marine in Vietnam in 1967, which led to his drug abuse, PTSD and, ultimately, his becoming a poet.

The Snake Head: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream

By Patrick Raden Keefe (Doubleday, $26)

Keefe's real-life thriller tells the story of the rise and fall of "Sister" Ping, a notorious smuggler of Chinese into America, using her tale as a lens onto this country's relationship with immigration.

Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon

By Craig Nelson (Viking, $27.95)

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, Nelson vividly recounts the flight of Apollo 11 against the backdrop of the Soviet-American space race, and the personal toll the mission took on its celebrated astronauts.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

By Matthew B. Crawford (Penguin Press, $25.95)

Philosopher and motorcycle repair shop owner Crawford extols the value of "manual competence," or the ability to work with one's hands. Unlike today's "knowledge worker," Crawford claims, whose work is often abstract, the person who works with his hands submits to standards inherent in the work itself: the lights either turn on or they don't, the toilet flushes or it doesn't, the motorcycle roars or sputters.

Read a full review of this book.

Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa

By Mark Seal (Random, $26)

A sweeping and atmospheric biography of the conservationist and wildlife filmmaker, Joan Root, who was brutally murdered in her home on Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Intrigued by Root's suspicious death and cinematic life with husband and nature documentarian Alan Root, journalist Seal mines Joan's diaries to recreate their love story amidst the heyday of British colonialism in Nairobi.


Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America's Most Urgent Health Crisis

By Howard Gleckman (St. Martin's, $24.95)

Longtime Business Week health reporter Gleckman does an impressive job of explaining our current elder-care system—from Medicare to nursing homes and assisted living—and those of other developed nations, proposing possible solutions to an issue of growing importance as boomers move from giving care to getting it.

Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss

By Leeza Gibbons, James Huysman, and Rosemary deAngelis Laird, M.D. (LaChance, IPG dist., $14.95 paper)

Overwhelmed boomers will find this book immensely useful as Gibbons describes learning to deal with her mother's dementia, while also offering excellent advice for family caregivers on how to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally.

What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It—and What You Can Learn from Them

By Michael J. Berland and Douglas E. Schoen (Collins, $24.99)

Berland and Schoen take on a familiar subject—examining the common traits of highly successful people—with a fresh twist, arguing that success is achieved not by remaking your personality but by enhancing the skills you already have. Useful information for those of us seeking re-invention for the next chapter.

The Iraqi Cookbook

By Lamees Ibrahim (Interlink, $35)

Iraqi food is simple, homey and thanks to this sensibly presented cookbook, easy to prepare. Ibrahim—who was born in Baghdad and now lives in London—presents more than 200 recipes in what was initially an attempt to capture for her children in written form the cooking traditions handed down orally through the generations. Illustrated by color photographs.

Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less

By Mark Bittman (Simon & Schuster, $26)

Bittman here offers a sampling of 404 inspiring recipes. But don't expect another How to Cook Everything. This newest is of a different kind—simple and snappy, and rarely calls for measuring spoons. The no-sweat recipes capitalize on the freshest ingredients of each season while whittling down the prep time of ordinarily elaborate dishes, like coq au vin, to 10 minutes or less.