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Books for Grownups October 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 to you. Once you've checked out the selections below, visit Publishers Weekly's fiction and nonfiction pages for reviews, author Q&As, and more.


Rhino Ranch

By Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster, $26)

McMurtry wraps up his Duane Moore saga, which kicked off in 1966 withThe Last Picture Show. Duane's curtain call finds him working with his old buddies on a rhino preservation ranch. Mixed in with the humor and snappy dialogue are tender and poignant scenes as the women in Duane’s life die or drift away, and Duane evaluates his life.

Hemingway Deadlights

By Michael Atkinson (Minotaur/Dunne, $24.95)

Boomers who are Hemingway fans—and who among us isn't?—will embrace this mystery debut, set in 1956. It imagines Papa on a quest to solve the murder of a fisherman friend in Key West. The hunt takes him to Batista's Cuba, where—you saw this coming, right?—he meets a young revolutionary named Fidel.

Inherent Vice

By Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press, $27.95)

A drugged-out private eye stars in Pynchon's latest, a neo-surf noir set in southern California in the early 1970s. Wild. Funny. Atmospheric. (And knowledgeable boomers may sustain a contact high.)

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women

By Kris Radish (Bantam, paperback, $15)

A trademark Radish estrogen fest, this is a tale of four middle-aged sisters at their yearly get-together with their mother. Radish displays an intimate understanding of boisterous families. She's also a veteran at portraying female relationships, and her affection for her characters shines through.

The Anthologist

By Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster, $25)

Poet-of-a-certain-age Paul Chowder has reached a dark time in his life. The specters in the shadows include deadlines, writer's block, and loneliness, yet Paul never loses his sense of humor or his love of verse. Funny and humane, this novel conveys an enlightening lesson for all.


Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War

By Michael J. Allen (Univ. of North Carolina Press, $30)

Though relatively few American soldiers remain unaccounted for in Vietnam, a powerful movement evolved to recover their remains and bring them home. Allen, a historian at Northwestern University, presents a perceptive analysis of the Vietnam War's POW/MIA issue—and its political impact.

The Sixties

By Jenny Diski (Picador, paperback, $14)

Hide this book from your grandchildren! British journalist Diski drifted through the 1960s taking drugs, having sex, and spending time in mental institutions in her attempts to subvert the Establishment. She paints a counterculture whose intense self-absorption ushered in the corruption of the 1980s. Diski's clever, meaningful arguments expose a self-mythologizing generation and its ultimate failures of fore- and hindsight.

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide

By Nancy Rappaport (Basic, $25.95)

In 1963, when Rappaport was four years old, her mother, a Boston socialite, died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Retrieving her mother's words from long ago via newspaper clippings, notes, and a novel she was writing at the time of her death, Rappaport pushes through her parents' turbulent marriage and troubled family history to weave this stunning narrative. An inspiring model for anyone hoping to understand the past—and, finally, to accept it.

The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office

By David Blumenthal and James A. Morone (Univ. of California Press, $27)

Blumenthal and Morone plumb presidential biographies from FDR onward to divine the forces and factors (including heart attacks, abusive parents, and deceased siblings) that shaped their attitudes toward crafting national health policy. More than an excellent primer on American health policy, this is a thorough look at the presidency as an institution and the men who have stamped their personalities on the office. Read an interview with author James A. Morone.

Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining Our Future

By Barbara L. Berg (Lawrence Hill Books/IPG, $24.95)

Sexism hasn't gone away, argues journalist-activist Berg, it has simply adapted to our changing culture. In a smart analysis of popular mores, Berg contends that young women today are being encouraged to imitate Girls Gone Wild rather than to focus on activism, careers, and the reproductive rights their mothers fought so hard to achieve.


Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend

By Irene S. Levine (Overlook, $21.95)

Though popular culture pays lip service to the power of women's friendships, rarely does it acknowledge the great pain felt when such a bond is broken. Psychologist Levine surveys the grieving process that women experience when a close alliance collapses. She also counsels us how to revive a troubled friendship—and how to know when it's time to let it go.

Gourmet Today: More Than 1,000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen

Edited by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40)

In this follow-up toThe Gourmet Cookbook, editor Reichl compiles one of the most comprehensive cooking resources available. She offers a diverse range of recipes that reflect the ever-changing American palate. Appetizing, and thoroughly tested, this mammoth collection is the book no kitchen should be without (especially at this stage of life—when, theoretically, we finally have time to cook!).

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

By Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf, $35)

Bastianich—acclaimed restaurateur, PBS cooking-show star, author of Lidia's Italy and other cookbooks—teams with her daughter to offer a stellar array of regional Italian recipes in this tantalizing, lavishly photographed collection. They serve up authentic, hearty fare, including such favorites as wedding soup, braised veal shanks, and spaghetti with clam sauce. And if you've cooked enough meals to last a lifetime, use the book as a vicarious travel experience, flipping the pages to soak up culture and cuisine.

The Cancer Prevention Diet: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer

By Michio Kushi and Alex Jack (St. Martin's/Griffin, paperback, $22.99)

First published 25 years ago, this guidebook has been revised and updated with current statistics and research, yet it still presents the core traditions of the macrobiotic way of life. The art of balancing yin and yang carries more weight than ever in the 21st century—a time when it has become much easier to combine alternative and mainstream approaches to healthy living.

Love Soup: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes from the Author ofThe Vegetarian Epicure

By Anna Thomas (Norton, $22.95)

That title… that kitschy cover, with its hand-drawn lettering… and all those vegetarian recipes! These elements make it hard to fend off the blandly healthy vibe of the 1970s, but Thomas (ofVegetarian Epicure cookbooks fame) presents new and enticing recipes that may win over even die-hard carnivores. If nothing else, they'll evoke the days when steak was not in your budget.