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Books for Grownups: December 2007

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.



By Ronan Bennett (Bloomsbury, $24.95)

Roiling with class tensions and rife with danger, St. Petersburg during the twilight of the last czar is the setting for this heady historical thriller.

Reasonable Doubts

By Gianrico Carofiglio (Bitter Lemon, $14.95)

In this philosophical, quirky legal thriller, Italian attorney Guido Guerrieri, who’s in the throes of midlife malaise, muses on life and the law as he reluctantly takes on a client appealing a drug-smuggling conviction.

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam

By Chris Ewan (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $23.95)

This impressive debut, a comic whodunit, owes much of its charm to its compelling antihero, Charles Howard, the established author of mysteries featuring a detective who is himself a successful burglar.

Rhett Butler’s People

By Donald McCaig (St. Martin’s, $27.95)

What would Rhett Butler do? It’s all revealed in McCaig’s authorized sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s classic, which reimagines Gone With the Wind from Rhett’s perspective.

Signed, Mata Hari

By Yannick Murphy (Little, Brown, $23.99)

International intrigue and sultry atmosphere abound in Murphy’s eloquent revisiting of the life and death-by-firing-squad of the suspected spy we all grew up hearing about, the quintessential femme fatale, Mata Hari.


The Tenth Muse

By Judith Jones (Knopf, $24.95)

For nearly half a century, Jones, an editor of literary fiction and a senior vice-president at Knopf, has served as midwife to some of the most culturally significant cookbooks of our time, introducing readers to newly discovered talents such as Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, and Claudia Roden, to name but a few. In this quiet, spare memoir, set against the shifting landscape of modern cookery in America, Jones reveals herself to be every bit as evangelical about good food and honest cooking as her authors, locating the points where her relationships with these writer-gastronomes and her own gustatory education converged.

Doo Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era

By Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow (Sterling, $24.95)

While the music history is the driving force behind this coffee-table tome, it's the cultural asides on topics as diverse as the era's people (Marilyn Monroe, Edward R. Murrow), places (diners, the automat), sports (Jackie Robinson), politics (the Red scare, JFK), kitsch (T-Birds, TV dinners), and entertainment (I Love Lucy, The Wild Ones) that will take readers back to America's golden age.

The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

By Ronald Brownstein (Penguin Press, $27.95)

With this intelligent and expansive book, Los Angeles Times political correspondent and columnist Brownstein dissects the hyperpartisanship that he believes “has unnecessarily inflamed our differences and impeded progress against our most pressing challenges.”

Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of "On the Road"

By Paul Maher Jr. (Thunder’s Mouth, $16)

In this, the 50th year of the publication of On the Road, Maher uncovers little gems that illuminate the Beat writer’s best-known work and explores lesser-known aspects of Kerouac’s life, such as his Catholicism and attraction to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

By David Michaelis (Harper, $34.95)

In a smart, probing biography that reprints 240 Peanuts strips, Michaelis shows how Charles Schulz poured his own often unhappy life story into iconic characters like Charlie Brown and Snoopy—and changed the world of cartoon strips forever.

Tune in to AARP Radio's interview with David Michaelis.


The Art of Simple Food

By Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, $35)

Waters taps an almost endless supply of ideas for appealing yet low-stress dishes. From the recipe for zucchini ragout to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, she continues to prove herself one of our best modern-day food writers.

Living Your Unlived Life: Coping with Unrealized Dreams and Fulfilling Your Purpose in the Second Half of Life

By Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl (Tarcher, $25.95)

Everyone has regrets, but in this insightful book two Jungian psychologists show how “active imagination”—a disciplined, spiritual form of inner dialogue—can convert those missed chances into life-fulfilling opportunities.

The Elder Wisdom Circle Guide for a Meaningful Life: Advice from One Generation to the Next

By Doug Meckelson and Diane Haithman (Plume, $14)

Young people do want advice from their elders. They do—really. And they seek it out at the Elder Wisdom Circle website, where without preaching, people over 60 riff, with empathy, on work, family, life, and death.

Read more about the Elder Wisdom Circle in our "Virtual Volunteering Resource Guide."

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

By Gary Taubes (Knopf, $27.95)

Veteran science writer Taubes, the author of the much-debated 2001 New York Times Magazine article “What If It’s All a Big Fat Lie?”, offers an equally controversial book arguing that carbohydrates are indeed the biggest dietary danger, responsible for the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

The Secret Wisdom of a Woman's Body: Freeing Yourself to Live Passionately and Age Fearlessly

By Pat Samples (Llewellyn, $15.95)

In this guide to health through self-awareness, author, speaker, and “transformational educator,” Samples parses a dynamic range of advice, exercises, and personal stories that will help readers tap “the emotional brilliance” of the aging body. Suitable for open-minded men as well.

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