Thursday, September 30, 2010

Helms tells it like it was in 'The Proud Bastards'

Yesterday, I finished reading “The Proud Bastards: One Marine’s Journey from Parris Island through the Hell of Vietnam” by E. Michael Helms.

This book is the best first-hand account I’ve read about the Vietnam War, and I highly recommend it if you have an interest in the Marine Corps or the Vietnam War.

Here’s how the book’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, describes the book.

“In 1967, a young E. Michael Helms boarded a bus to the legendary grounds of Parris Island, where mere boys were forged into hardened Marines -- and sent to the jungles of Vietnam. It was the first stop on a journey that would forever change him -- and by its end, he would be awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

“From the brutality and endurance-straining ordeals of boot camp to the endless horror of combat, Helms paints a vivid, unflinchingly realistic depiction of the lives of Marines in training and under fire. As powerful and compelling a battlefield memoir as any ever written, Helms's ‘grunt's-eye’ view of the Vietnam War, the men who fought it, and the mindless chaos that surrounded it, is truly a modern military classic.”

In my mind, the thing that Helms does best is write battlefield action scenes. He writes these in a stream-of-consciousness style that whips up the pace and casts punctuation to the four winds. You can almost feel the hot rounds sizzling through the air and mortars shaking the earth.

Decorated Marine and Vietnam veteran, Sid Lambert of Evergreen, recommended the book to me, saying that Helms’s book tells it like it was in those days. He said that Helms especially nailed down the way that Marines talked back then and said that the book was a very accurate depiction of how things were during that time in Vietnam.

In the end, I enjoyed “The Proud Bastards.” Have any of you had a chance to read this book? What did you think about it? What other Vietnam era books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My pick this week is 'The Social Network,' aka, 'Facebook: The Movie'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:
- The Social Network (Drama, Comedy, PG-13): Directed by David Fincher and starring Justin Timberlake.
- Let Me In (Drama, R): Stars Elias Koteas.
- Case 39 (Horror, R): Stars Renee Zellweger.
- Freakonomics (Documentary, PG-13)
- Barry Munday (Comedy, R): Stars Cybill Shepherd.
- Hatchet II (Horror, Thriller, Not Rated)
- Chain Letter (Horror, Thriller, R)

New DVD releases for the week of Sept. 28 include:
- Iron Man 2 (Action, PG-13): Stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson.
- Babies (Documentary, PG)
- Frozen (Thriller, R)
- Get Him to the Greek (Comedy, R): Stars Sean Combs.
- The Killer Inside Me (Crime and Mystery, Thriller, R): Stars Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba and Ned Beatty.
- Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (Drama, R)
- Legendary (Drama, PG-13): Stars Danny Glover and John Cena.
- Mercy (Drama, R)
- Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema (Crime and Mystery, Thriller, R)

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Social Network,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Iron Man 2.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best-selling horror writer is an Alabama grad

I enjoy reading Alabama Alumni Magazine, and one of my favorite regular features in the publication is “Bookshelf,” which tells readers about authors and new books with Alabama connections.

The Fall 2010 issue’s “Bookshelf” feature included a story by Detroit-based freelance writer Kurt Anthony Krug called “The Power of the Word,” which discussed the career of horror writer Robert McCammon.

I have to admit that I’ve never read any of McCammon’s best-sellers, but I plan to change that very soon. McCammon’s not only a native of Birmingham, but as it turns out, he’s also a University of Alabama graduate.

McCammon, now 58, attended Alabama and received a B.A. in journalism in 1974 from the Capstone. Since then, he’s gone on to publish 16 novels with two more in the works for 2011 and 2012.

Tonight, I want to provide you with a list of McCammon’s novels. Without further ado, here they are, in order of publication:

1978 – Baal
1980 – Bethany’s Sin
1980 – The Night Boat
1981 – They Thirst
1984 – Usher’s Passing
1987 – Swan Song
1988 – Stinger
1989 – The Wolf’s Hour
1990 – Blue World
1990 – Mine
1991 – Boy’s Life
1992 – Gone South
2002 – Speaks the Nightbird
2007 – The Queen of Bedlam
2010 – Mister Slaughter

“The Five” is due out in early 2011 and “The Providence Rider” is set for release in 2012.

In the end, how many of these books have you had a chance to read? What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? How many of you are fans of McCammon’s? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about McCammon, visit his Web site at www.robertmccammon.com.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Irvine Welsh...

I saw on Writer’s Almanac earlier that today is the birthday of Scottish writer, Irvine Welsh. He was born in 1958 in Leith, Edinburgh.

Welsh is best known for his 1993 novel, “Trainspotting,” which was adapted to film in 1996 and starred Ewan McGregor.

I read “Trainspotting” in 1997, and it’s one of the most awesome books I’ve ever read. This one of a kind book is written in phonetic Scottish dialect and is written mostly in the stream-of-consciousness style.

As you might imagine, Welsh has written a number of other books, and tonight I give you a list of all the novels and short story collections he’s published over the years. Here they are:

Novels:
1993 – Trainspotting
1995 – Marabou Stork Nightmares
1998 – Filth
2001 – Glue
2002 – Porno
2006 – The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs
2008 – Crime
2012 – Skagboys (upcoming)

Short Story Collections:
1994 – The Acid House
1996 – Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance
2007 – If You Liked School You’ll Love Work
2009 – Reheated Cabbage

In the end, I’d like to know if you’ve had the chance to read any of Welsh’s books. What did you think of them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2011 records book appears on this week's nonfiction bestseller list

It’s Sunday, so that mean’s that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got one new book at the top of the four major best-seller lists.

“Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks replaced “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction list.

“The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow retained the top spot on the hardcover nonfiction list. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson remained in the No. 1 spots on the mass market paperback and trade paperback lists.

There are six books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (1), "Wicked Appetite" by Janet Evanovich (3), "Warlord: An Alex hawke Novel" by Ted Ball (9), "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue (10), "Her Daughter's Dream" by Francine Rivers (12) and "A Secret Kept" by Tatiana de Rosnay (14).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama" by Bill O'Reilly (2), "Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer (7), "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean" by Susan Casey (9), "Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breat Cancer" by Nancy Brinker and Joni Rodgers (10) and "Guinness World Records 2011" by Guinness World Records (12).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel" by Charlaine Harris (14) and "Angel Time" by Anne Rice (15).

There are only two books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They are "The Corrections: A Novel" by Jonathan Franzen (11) and "A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick (14).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
2. "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
3. "Wicked Appetite" by Janet Evanovich
4. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
5. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
6. "Getting to Happy" by Terry McMillan
7. "The Postcard Killers" by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
8. "No Mercy" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
9. "Warlord: An Alex hawke Novel" by Ted Ball
10. "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue
11. "Lost Empire" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
12. "Her Daughter's Dream" by Francine Rivers
13. "Ape House: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
14. "A Secret Kept" by Tatiana de Rosnay
15. "Zero History" by William Gibson

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
2. "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama" by Bill O'Reilly
3. "The Power" by Rhonda Byrne
4. "Sh t My Dad Says" by Justin Alpern
5. "Crimes Against Liberty" by David Limbaugh
6. "A Journey: My Political Life" by Tony Blair
7. "Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer
8. "Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Lessons for Making It Work" by Tim Gunn and Ada Calhoun
9. "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean" by Susan Casey
10. "Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breat Cancer" by Nancy Brinker and Joni Rodgers
11. "Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne
12. "Guinness World Records 2011" by Guinness World Records
13. "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth
14. "True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World" by Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd
15. "This is Why You're Fat: Eat More, Cheat More, Lose More--and Keep the Weight Off" by Jackie Warner

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
3. "True Blue" by David Baldacci
4. "The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell
5. "1022 Evergreen Place" by Debbie Macomber
6. "Spartan Gold" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
7. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
8. "Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn
9. "The Professional" by Robert B. Parker
10. "Renegade" by Lora Leigh
11. "Kisser" by Stuart Woods
12. "Chains of Fire: The Chosen Ones" by Christina Dodd
13. "Midnight Crystal" by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
14. "Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel" by Charlaine Harris
15. "Angel Time" by Anne Rice

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
5. "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
6. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
7. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
8. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
9. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
10. "The Thorn" by Beverly Lewis
11. "The Corrections: A Novel" by Jonathan Franzen
12. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
13. "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro
14. "A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick
15. "The Lacuna: A Novel" by Barbara Kingsolver

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

AP Literature recommended reading list

I went to a very small high school (the now-closed Frisco City High School in Alabama), and we didn’t have any advanced placement classes, except for maybe AP Biology.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with advanced placement classes, they were college preperatory classes in which you could actually earn college credit, that is, if you passed a standardized test at the end of the school year.

I think that I would have liked to have taken AP English or AP Literature, but like I said, it wasn’t offered at my school.

With that in mind, I ran across an interesting recommended reading list earlier this week - a list of all the works of literature that have been referred to on AP Literature exams since 1971.

Without further ado, here’s the list, which is rather lengthy, in alphabetical order:

A:
Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
Adam Bede by George Eliot
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Aeneid by Virgil
Agnes of God by John Pielmeier
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
The American by Henry James
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Another Country by James Baldwin
Antigone by Sophocles
Anthony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

B
The Bear by William Faulkner
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul
Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
Billy Budd by Herman Melville
The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Bone: A Novel by Fae M. Ng
The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevski

C
Candida by George Bernard Shaw
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
The Centaur by John Updike
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
"Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevski
"The Crisis" by Thomas Paine
The Crucible by Arthur Miller

D
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
"The Dead" by James Joyce
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
Desire under the Elms by Eugene O'Neill
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
The Dollmaker by Harriet Arnot
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia
Dutchman by Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones

E
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Emma by Jane Austen
An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
Equus by Peter Shaffer
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
The Eumenides by Aeschylus (in The Orestia)

F
The Fall by Albert Camus
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Father by August Strindberg
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Faust by Johann Goethe
The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton
Fences by August Wilson
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Fifth Business by Robertson Davis
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

G
A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines
A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee
Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

H
The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
Henry IV, Parts I and II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
House Made of Dawn by N Scott Momaday
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I
The Iliad by Homer
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

J
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee
J.B. by Archibald MacLeish
Joe Turner's Come and Gone by AugustWilson
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

K
King Lear by William Shakespeare

L
A Lesson before Dying by Ernest Gaines
Letters from an American Farmer by de Crevecoeur
Light in August by William Faulkner
The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
"Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot
Lysistrata by Aristophanes

M
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw
Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Master Harold...and the Boys by Athol Fugard
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
M. Butterfly by David Henry Wang
Medea by Euripides
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Middle Passage by V. S. Naipaul
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao
Mother Courage and Her Children by Berthold Brecht
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning
My Antonia by Willa Cather
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

N
Native Son by Richard Wright
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
1984 by George Orwell
No Exit by John Paul Sartre
No-No Boy by John Okada
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevski

O
Obasan by Joy Kogawa
The Odyssey by Homer
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
The Optimist's Daughter by D. H. Lawrence
The Orestia by Aeschylus
Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
Othello by William Shakespeare
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
Out of Africa by Isaak Dinesen

P
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Pamela by Samuel Richardson
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen
Père Goriot by Honore de Balzac
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Phaedre by Jean Racine
The Piano Lesson by August Wilson
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Plague by Albert Camus
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Pocho by Jose Antonio Villarreal
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

R
Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
Redburn by Herman Melville
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

S
Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw
The Sandbox by Edward Albee
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sent for You Yesterday by John Edgar Wideman
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
The Stranger by Albert Camus
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Sula by Toni Morrison
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

T
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tarftuffe by Moliere
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zorah Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Trifles by Susan Glaspell
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Typical American by Gish Jen

U
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

V
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
Victory by Joseph Conrad
Volpone by Ben Jonson

W
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
Washington Square by Henry James
The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot
Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman
The Way of the World by William Congreve
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen
Winter in the Blood by James Welch
Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Z
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee
Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez

As you can see, this is a lengthy list, but it includes many famous works of literature. (If you’d like to see the original source for the list, visit www.fortbend.k12.tx.us/campuses/documents/Teacher/2008%5Cteacher_20081023_0845.pdf.) How many of these works have you had a chance to read? What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

'TKAM' expert Wayne Flynt has written 12 books

Noted historian Wayne Flynt wrote an excellent article about Harper Lee’s book, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and Monroeville for the Summer 2010 issue of Alabama Heritage magazine. For those of you who missed it, I highly recommend that you check it out.

Flynt is arguably the state’s stop historian. Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University, his research focuses on Southern culture, Alabama politics, Southern religion, education reform and poverty, according to Wikipedia.

At the back of the Summer issue of Alabama Heritage, a brief biographical blurb mentioned that Flynt has written 12 books. “Of his twelve books, two discuss Florida politics, three discuss white poverty, and two religion; eight discuss Alabama,” according to the magazine.

A number of years ago, my parents gave me a copy of Flynt’s book, “Alabama: The History of a Deep South State.” First published in 1994 by the University of Alabama Press, this book is a highly detailed, very readable history of the state.

With that said, I was surprised to learn that Flynt had written 11 other books, and I set out earlier this week to come up with a list of his other books. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Alabama in the Twentieth Century (2006)
2. Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie (2005)
3. Dixie’s Forgotten People: The South’s Poor Whites (2004)
4. Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (2001)
5. Taking Christianity to China: Alabama Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom, 1850-1950 (1997)
6. Ban, Burn and Ignore: Writing and Publishing Books in the South (1989)
7. Mine, Mill and Microchip: A Chronical of Alabama Enterprise (1987)
8. Up Before Daylight: Life Histories from the Alabama Writers’ Project, 1938-1939 (1982)
9. Montgomery: An Illustrated History (1980)
10. Cracker Messiah: Governor Sidney J. Catts of Florida (1977)
11. Duncan Upshaw Fletcher: Dixie’s Reluctant Progressive (1971)

Some of the above books are widely available in most large book stores in the state, but some of them are also out of print. How many of these have you had a chance to read? What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

'The Ring' is still as creepy as ever - even eight years later

Yesterday afternoon, I scratched another Saturn Award winner for Best Horror Movie off of my list when I rewatched the 2002 winner, “The Ring.”

Many of you will remember this movie, which sold more than two million DVD copies in the United States alone in its first 24 hours of video release.

Directed by Gore Verbinski, the movie is actually an American remake of a 1998 Japanese film by the same name. Both movies are based on the novel by Japanese writer Koji Suzuki. The American version, which received a Saturn Award, stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox. Daveigh Chase played the creepy little girl, Samara Morgan.

For those of you who have never seen this relatively new classic horror film, it’s about a cursed videotape that contains what seem to be a random series of mysterious and disturbing images. After you watch this weird tape, you get a phone call in which a girl’s voice tells you that you will die in seven days.

The movie begins when a teenage girl mysteriously dies after watching the movie and her aunt, who happens to be a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, goes on a quest to find out what happened to her niece. This reporter, played by Watts, follows a trail of clues and slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind the killer video tape. Unfortunately, her young son and ex-husband are exposed to the tape along the way, which only compounds her problems.

And, I’ll stop right there so as not to spoil the movie for anyone out there who hasn’t seen the movie.

Not only did “The Ring” win a Saturn Award for Best Horror Movie, but it was also ranked No. 20 on Bravo’s list of 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The movie was also a giant commercial success. It was shot under a budget of $48 million, and went on to post gross revenues of $248,348,933.

In the end, I enjoyed rewatching this movie. I actually own a copy of it and hadn’t watched it in several years, and it’s still as creepy as it was the first time I saw it.

From here, it’s on to the 2003 winner, “28 Days Later,” another movie that I happen to own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ever wonder what would happen if you buried Van Wilder in a box?

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

- Buried (Thriller, R): Ryan Reynolds.
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf and Susan Sarandon.
- You Again (Comedy, PG): Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver.
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Animated Fantasy, PG): Voices by Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.
- Waiting for “Superman” (Documentary, PG)
- Howl (Drama, Not Rated)
- Enter the Void (Drama, Not Rated)
- Friction (Thriller, Not Rated)
- Like Dandelion Dust (Drama, PG-13): Mira Sorvino.

New DVD releases for the week of Sept. 21 include:
- Robin Hood (Action, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.
- Untitled (Comedy, R):
- Ondine (Drama, Fantasy, PG-13): Colin Farrell

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Buried,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Robin Hood.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kendall's B-B-Q in Georgiana is mighty fine

As my wife and many of my friends can attest, I love barbecue, and I’m always on the look out for good barbecue restaurants, especially those that I’ve never tried before.

Yesterday, I found a barbecue “restaurant” that I will definitely return to – Kendall’s B-B-Q in Georgiana. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating at Kendall’s, it’s located next door to the BP convenience store at the intersection of State Highway 106 and Interstate 65. For those of you traveling on I-65, that’s Exit 106, i.e., the Georgiana-Starlington exit.

Many of you have probably heard of Georgiana. Located in Butler County, it’s best known as the hometown of country music legend Hank Williams. It’s a small town between Montgomery and Mobile with a population of less than 2,000 residents.

Kendall’s B-B-Q is housed in a little shed and there is no indoor seating. You just walk up to the window, tell the girl what you want and wait. There are a few benches around, but mostly you just stand and watch the cars get on and off the intestate.

The shed does have a character all its own. It’s decorated with a number of color photos of men deep sea fishing in the Gulf, all holding up huge fish that make you want to drive a few more hours south and charter a boat. Most of the photos prominently feature the same guy. I’m guessing this is Kendall, the proprietor of the barbecue stand.

Kendall’s offers a full menu of barbecue items as well as a wide variety of hamburgers. The menu is displayed beside the cashier window, so all you have to do is make up your mind and tell the girl what you’d like.

I ordered the large barbecue pork sandwich and a large (32 ounce) sweet tea, and I wasn’t disappointed. The sandwich was awesome. Between two nice, big hamburger buns, the sandwich included big smoked cubes of pork as well as pulled pork. The meat was also covered in a rich barbecue sauce that was quite tasty.

I don’t know if it was the best barbecue sandwich I ever had, but it’s high in the running. The restaurant’s motto is “Howling Good Taste,” and you’ll get no argument from me about the taste and flavor of their outstanding barbecue.

The sweet tea was also really good. It tasted fresh, and it wasn’t so sweet that it left you with that syrupy taste in your mouth. Also, refills are free.

In the end, I really enjoyed my experience at Kendall’s, and I’ll definitely try it again if I’m ever in the area. Have any of you had a chance to try Kendall’s? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers

Writer’s Digest published its annual list of 101 Best Websites for Writers in its May/June 2010 issue, and I wanted to pass it along today for the writers in the reading audience who may have missed it.

This is a list that I look forward to each year, and this year marks the twelfth year that the magazine has put this list together. This year’s list is divided into nine sections – creativity, writing advice, general resources, jobs and markets, online writing communities, everything agents, publishing/marketing resources, genres/niches and just for fun. (You’ll also see where I’ve tossed in a list of the Writer’s Digest family of sites too.)

Below you’ll find the entire list, but I’ve only listed the name of the site and its Web address. The original story in the May/June issue contains a lot more information about each site, so if you’d like to read more about the sites on this list, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine or visit www.writersdigest.com.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

Creativity (1-5):
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest: bulwer-lytton.com
Creative Writing Prompts: creativewritingprompts.com
Easy Street Prompts: easystreetprompts.blogspot.com
Six Sentences: sixsentences.blogspot.com
Six-Word Memoirs: smithmag.net/sixwords

Writing Advice (6-21):
A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: jakonrath.blogspot.com
Ask Allison: allisonwinn.com/ask-allison
Chris Guillebeau: chrisguillebeau.com
Editorial Anonymous: editorialanonymous.blogspot.com
Editorial Ass: editorialass.blogspot.com
Evil Editor: evileditor.blogspot.com
Grammar Blog: grammarblog.co.uk
Grammar Girl: grammar.quickanddirtytips.com
InkyGirl.com: inkygirl.com
Long Story Short: An E-Zine for Writers: alongstoryshort.net
Novel Journey: noveljourney.blogspot.com
Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers: plotwhisperer.blogspot.com
Preditors and Editors: invirtuo.cc/prededitors
Writer Beware Blog: accrispin.blogspot.com
Writer Unboxed: writerunboxed.com
Writing Tips Today: writing-tipstoday.com

General Resources (22-28):
Book Cover Archive: bookcoverarchive.com
Bookreporter.com: bookreporter.com
The Chicago Manual of Style Online: chicagomanualofstyle/CMS_FAQ/new/new_questions01.html
Gawker: gawker.com
Twitter: twitter.com
United States Copyright Office: copyright.gov
Wikipedia: wikipedia.org

Jobs and Markets (29-35):
Duotrope’s Digest: duotrope.com
Ed (2010): ed2010.com
The Freelance Writing Jobs Network: freelancewritinggigs.com
Funds for Writers: fundsforwriters.com
JournalismJobs.com: journalismjobs.com
MediaBistro: mediabistro.com
Writer Gazette: writergazette.com

Online Writing Communities (36-47):
Absolute Writer: absolutewrite.com
Authonomy: authonomy.com
Backspace: bksp.org
Critique Circle: critiquecircle.com
Critters Workshop: critters.org
The Internet Writing Workshop: internetwritingworkshop.org
Mike’s Writing Workshop: groups.yahoo.com/group/mikeswritingworkshop
My Writers Circle: mywriterscircle.com
National Novel Writing Month: nanowrimo.org
Writer’s BBS: writersbbs.com
The Writer’s Chatroom: writerschatroom.com
Writing.com: writing.com

Everything Agents (48-56):
Agent Query: agentquery.com
Association of Authors’ Representatives: aaronline.org
Chip MacGregor: chipmacgregor.typepad.com
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management: dglm.blogspot.com
Kidlit.com: kidlit.com
Nathan Bransford: blog.nathanbransford.com
Query Shark: queryshark.blogspot.com
Query Tracker: querytracker.net
Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent: cba-ramblings.blogspot.com

Publishing/Marketing Resources (57-68):
A Book Inside: How to Write and Publish a Book: abookinside.blogspot.com
Author Tech Tips: authortechtips.com
BoSacks: bosacks.com
Holt Uncensored: holtuncensored.com
The Intern: internspills.blogspot.com
Michael Hyatt: michaelhyatt.com
OnceWritten.com: oncewritten.com
Open Publishing Lab: opl.rit.edu
O’Reilly TOC: toc.oreilly.com
Publetariat: publetariat.com
Seth Godin’s Blog: sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog
Winning Writers: winningwriters.com

Genres/Niches (69-96):
Children’s/Young Adult:
Cheryl Klein: cherylklein.com
Cynsations: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com
The Purple Crayon: underdown.org
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: scbwi.org

Fantasy/Science Fiction:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: sfwa.org

Freelance:
The Copywriter Underground: copywriterunderground.com
Freelance-Zone.com: freelance-zone.com
The Renegade Writer Blog: therenegadewriter.com

Horror:
Horror Writers Association: horror.org/writetips.htm

Mystery:
Mystery Writers of America: mysterywriters.org
Mystery Writing is Murder: mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com

Poetry:
JPiC Forum for Writers: jpicforum.info
MoonTown: moontowncafe.com
Poetry Out Loud: poetryoutloud.org
Poets.org: poets.org
Wild Poetry Forum: wildpoetryforum.com

Romance:
Romance Divas: romancedivas.com
Romance Junkies: romancejunkies.com
Romance Writers of America: rwanational.org

Scriptwriting:
Drew’s Script-O-Rama: script-o-rama.com
John August: johnaugust.com
Scriptwriters Network: scriptwritersnetwork.org

Spiritual:
Christian Story Teller: christianstoryteller.com
Resources for Muslim Writers: muslimwriters.blogspot.com

Thriller:
International Thriller Writers: thrillerwriters.org
Murder*By*4: murderby4.blogspot.com

Women’s Writing:
Literary Mama: literarymama.com
WOW! Women on Writing: wow-womenonwriting.com

Just For Fun (97-101):
BookMooch: bookmooch.com
Cool Stuff 4 Writers: coolstuff4writers.com
DailyLit: dailylit.com
LibraryThing: librarything.com
Wordsmith: wordsmith.org

The Writers Digest Family of Sites:
Writersdigest.com
Writersmarket.com
WritersDigestUniversity.com
Community.WritersDigest.com
WritersDigest.com/blogs

In the end, let me know if you like any of these sites or if you know of any other helpful writing sites that aren’t on the list.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Stephen Hawking book takes top spot on nonfiction best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that mean’s that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got one new book at the top of the four major best-seller lists.

"The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow replaced “The Power” by Rhonda Byrne as the No. 1 book on the hardcover nonfiction list.

"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen retained the top spot on the hardcover fiction list. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson remained in the No. 1 spots on the mass market paperback and trade paperback list.

There are five books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include "No Mercy" by Sherrilyn Kenyon (3), "Getting to Happy" by Terry McMillan (4), "Ape House: A Novel" by Sara Gruen (8), "Zero History" by William Gibson (10) and "The High King of Montival: A Novel of the Change" by S. M. Stirling (13).

There are six books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (1), "True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World" by Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd (6), "This is Why You're Fat: Eat More, Cheat More, Lose More--and Keep the Weight Off" by Jackie Warner (8), "Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Lessons for Making It Work" by Tim Gunn and Ada Calhoun (9), "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson (10) and "Bob Dylan In America" by Sean Wilentz (15).

There are three books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Chains of Fire: The Chosen Ones" by Christina Dodd (9), "The Professional" by Robert B. Parker (14) and "Kisser" by Stuart Woods (15).

There are only three books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They are "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls (5), "The Thorn" by Beverly Lewis (9) and "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro (15).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
2. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
3. "No Mercy" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
4. "Getting to Happy" by Terry McMillan
5. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
6. "The Postcard Killers" by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
7. "Lost Empire" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
8. "Ape House: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
9. "Dark Peril" by Christine Feehan
10. "Zero History" by William Gibson
11. "The Way of Kings" by Brian Sanderson
12. "Spider Bones" by Kathy Reichs
13. "The High King of Montival: A Novel of the Change" by S. M. Stirling
14. "Star Island" by Carl Hiaasen
15. "The Red Queen: A Novel" by Phillipa Gregory

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
2. "The Power" by Rhonda Byrne
3. "Crimes Against Liberty" by David Limbaugh
4. "Sh t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern
5. "A Journey" by Tony Blair
6. "True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World" by Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd
7. "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth
8. "This is Why You're Fat: Eat More, Cheat More, Lose More--and Keep the Weight Off" by Jackie Warner
9. "Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Lessons for Making It Work" by Tim Gunn and Ada Calhoun
10. "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson
11. "Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne
12. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
13. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis
14. "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" by Elizabeth Gilbert
15. "Bob Dylan In America" by Sean Wilentz

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "1022 Evergreen Place" by Debbie Macomber
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "True Blue" by David Baldacci
5. "Spartan Gold" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
6. "The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell
7. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
8. "Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn
9. "Chains of Fire: The Chosen Ones" by Christina Dodd
10. "Born to Bite" by Lynsay Sands
11. "Midnight Crystal" by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
12. "Finding Perfect" by Susan Mallery
13. "Renegade" by Lora Leigh
14. "The Professional" by Robert B. Parker
15. "Kisser" by Stuart Woods

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
5. "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
6. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
7. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
8. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
9. "The Thorn" by Beverly Lewis
10. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
11. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
12. "A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore
13. "The Lacuna: A Novel" by Barbara Kingsolver
14. "My Horizontal Life" by Chelsea Handler
15. "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

'Southern Spice' Ginger Ale will put hair on your chest

I like old-timey, Southern stuff and with that in mind yesterday, I sampled a can of Buffalo Rock “Southern Spice” Ginger Ale.

I can safely say that it is the strongest soft drink that I’ve ever had. (Make no mistake. This is not an alcoholic beverage. It’s a caffeine-free soft drink like Sprite.)

It definitely is not your regular, run-of-the mill ginger ale. The first can I popped was unrefrigerated, and the hot drink took my breath away. I gave it the good, old college try, but ultimately could not finish the first can. The spicy, ginger taste was too overwhelming.

I put the rest of the half-case in the refrigerator to see if it tasted different cold. Several hours later, I tried a cold one, and it went down a lot easier.

The taste of this drink is hard to describe, but I’ll give it a shot. The drink is extremely spicy and made me think of something you might have bought in a turn of the century drug store. The taste hits you hard in the back of the throat, and it’s so strong that it actually made me choke up a couple of times.

This is not to say that the drink is bad, but be warned, it’s just a very strong soft drink. When cold, it definitely qualifies as a thirst quencher.

This drink does have an interesting history. According to Wikipedia, the drink is a “strongly flavored golden ginger ale” that was “first created in 1901 by grocer Sidney Lee as a non-carbonated tonic for stomach ailments. Lee worked with Selma chemist Ashby Coleman to create a carbonated soft drink from the tonic which he sold through his Alabama Grocery Company. The name was first used in commerce in 1906, and a trade mark was applied for in 1917. By 1927, Lee dropped all of his wholesale products to focus on making and bottling Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale.

“In the modern context of ‘dry’ ginger ales, Buffalo Rock is notable for its strong ginger ‘bite,’ but in an earlier era, the drink could be advertised for its ‘mild, mellow bouquet’ relative to the ‘hot, fiery, biting taste’ of other ginger ales. Both a ‘standard’ and a ‘pale-dry’ version were offered for sale by licensed bottlers in 1930.

“Buffalo Rock celebrated the 100th anniversary of its flagship product in 2001 with a commemorative 6 1/2 oz. glass bottle. Currently the drink is only available in 12 oz. cans, which are sold mainly in the Birmingham area or shipped by the case from the company's website.”

In the end, I’d be interested to know if any of you have had a chance to try this soft drink. If so, what did you think? Did you like it? Would you recommend it to others? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The one and only newspaper insert that I've read cover to cover - even the ads!

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Go Build Alabama newspaper insert that was published in the Sept. 5 edition of The Mobile Press-Register is the only newspaper insert that I’ve ever read, word-for-word, completely from cover to cover.

From someone who’s worked in newspapers for over ten years, that ought to tell you something.

The insert was a special publication of the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute in partnership with The Birmingham News, The Montgomery Advertiser, The Huntsville Times and The Press-Register.

To coincide with Labor Day (Sept. 6), the insert was meant to launch the Go Build Alabama campaign, an effort to encourage Alabama residents to learn a trade.

According to the insert, a workforce crisis is looming in Alabama. As more and more baby boomers, that is, those born between 1946 and 1964, retire from the construction trades, a critical shortage in skilled workers will arise in Alabama within the next five to 10 years. One study showed that for every four people who retire from the construction trades, only one person enters the workforce to replace those workers. As a result, a decade or so from now, there won’t be enough workers around to do all of the work that will need to be done.

The poster child for the campaign is a familiar face to many – Mike Rowe, the host of the popular Discovery Channel show, “Dirty Jobs.”

In addition to a feature story about Rowe, the insert included information about a number of trades and skilled occupations. They included carpenter, millwright, electrician, pipefitter, plumber, boilermaker, mason, sheetmetal tech, HVAC tech, road builder, equipment operator, painter, welder and insulation installer and asbestos remover.

The insert also included a letter from ACRI’s executive director, Tim Alford and feature stories about a man who started out in an entry-level job and worked his way to the top, a father and son team that learned a trade together, women in the workplace and the SkillsUSA program for young people.

I was especially interested in the information the insert had about apprenticeships, which are designed to provide on the job training while connecting apprentices with potential employers. Unfortunately, there was little information in the insert about how to land an apprenticeship.

For more information about the Go Build Alabama effort, visit www.gobuildalabama.com.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Five Guys 'All the Way' Bacon Cheeseburger does not disappoint

I’ve heard my sister, who lives in the Huntsville area, often talk about Five Guys, a “fast casual” hamburger restaurant that she really likes.

I finally got to sample Five Guys during a trip to Mobile earlier this week, and I left with mixed feelings about the restaurant.

First, the positives.

I ordered an “All the Way” Bacon Cheeseburger, and it was awesome. Was it the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten? I don’t know, but it’s definitely in the top ten. The thing was huge and literally fell apart in my hands as I consumed it.

The staff was also reasonably clean cut and polite, and they seem a little older, mostly college age, than your run-of-the-mill fast food restaurant workers. The restaurant I visited is located at 4663 Airport Blvd. in Mobile, which is very close to the campus of the University of South Alabama, so the make up of the staff should come as no surprise.

There were also barrels of peanuts all around the restaurant, and you could scoop as many as you’d want into one of those boat-shaped French fry containers to take back to your table. It was very similar to the free peanut type experience you’ve probably had at Outback or Lone Star.

I also thought the restaurant was clean, and I liked how they decorated the place with signs that detailed the many “Best Burger” awards they’ve received from around the country.

One of the signs was especially cool in that it told you that you could visit the restaurant’s Web site and order your food there for pick up at the restaurant. I’m sure there are other restaurants do this, but I can’t name any with any certainty.

Now, the negatives, and there are a few.

First, the price. I ordered one hamburger ($5.99) and a regular drink ($1.99), and my total was $8.78 after taxes. The hamburger was good, but I don’t know if it was that good. In their defense, refills were free and unlimited, and I did take advantage of this.

Second, the place didn’t appear to be very busy, but it took them a long time to prepare my food. Again, in their defense, I was in the place during the lunchtime rush, so I’ll cut them some slack. I’m not usually one to nit-pick about this sort of thing anyway.

Last, but not least, they had the music up way too loud. At the risk of sounding like an old fogy, it was just a little too much. They played a mix of music, mostly 80’s pop, which I like as much as the next fellow, but I could hardly hear myself think.

In the end, the food was as good as my sister claimed, and I in no way left there hungry. Will I go back? You bet. I just hope they don’t have the music up so loud next time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My movie pick this week is Ben Affleck's 'The Town'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

- The Town (R): Directed by and starring Ben Affleck.
- Alpha and Omega (PG): Animated feature with voices provided by Christina Ricci, Danny Glover and the late Dennis Hopper.
- Jack Goes Boating (R): Directed by and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
- The Freebie (R): Dax Shepard and Katie Aselton.
- Devil (PG-13)
- Easy A (PG-13)
- Catfish (PG-13)

New DVD releases for the week of Sept. 14 include:

- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PG-13): Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley
- Letters to Juliet (PG)
- Paper Man (R): Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds and Lisa Kudrow.
- Princess Kaiulani (PG)
- Casino Jack and the United States of Money (R)
- Just Wright (PG): Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad and Pam Grier.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Town,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Please don't confuse a sestina with a siesta...

Writers Digest is a magazine that I enjoy reading, and one of my favorite regular features is the magazine’s “Poetic Forms” item.

This item describes an unusual form of poetry, and encourages readers to try these forms for themselves. In the May/June issue, the featured poetic form was the “sestina.”

According to the magazine, “the sestina is a seven-stanza poem that rotates the same six words at the end of each line, except for the final tercet, which fits two end words into each line. Here is the end word pattern for each stanza:

1: A, B, C, D, E, F
2: F, A, E, B, D, C
3: C, F, D, A, B, E
4: E, C, B, F, A, D
5: D, E, A, C, F, B
6: B, D, F, E, C, A
7: AB, CD, EF

“Don’t think before you write this one. Instead of getting intimidated by the structure, just pick your six end words and have fun seeing what develops.”

I’ve never written a sestina before, so I’ll experiment with a few here now. Here goes.

My six words are book, map, light, glass, truck, watch.

Book, map, light, glass, truck, watch
Watch, book, truck, map, glass, light
Light, watch, glass, book, map, truck
Truck, light, map, watch, book, glass
Glass, truck, book, light, truck, map
Map, glass, watch, truck, light, book
Bookmap, Lightglass, truckwatch

OK, I’m on the tail end of this thing now, and I have to admit that my first attempt looks somewhat weird. However, I suspect with a little more thought, I could make better word choices, instead of just picking six random words out of the air.

In the end, I wonder if any of you have ever tried to write a sestina before. Have you ever heard of these types of poems before? Let us know in the comments section below, and if you’re really adventurous, write your own sestina and post them for the rest of us to read.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Outside Magazine's 'Life List 2010'

Outside Magazine is my favorite magazine, and the September issue contained a cool feature story/list that I want to pass on to you tonight.

It’s called “Life List 2010: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Bucket.”

The intro to the list reads as follows: Presenting 51 dream trips, daring quests, essential skills and exalted states of body and mind. Because you really can do it all.

Without further ado, here’s Outside Magazine’s 2010 Life List:
1. Get a passport.
2. Self-guide the Grand Canyon.
3. Start a group ride.
4. Chase down your hero.
5. Become a bush pilot.
6. Learn a constellation other than the Big Dipper.
7. Get tubed.
8. Master a second language.
9. Overachieve.
10. Catch a steelhead on a spey rod.
11. Take a risk.
12. Talk to a wild panda.
13. Get 100,000 hits on YouTube – without a kitten.
14. Take two weeks off.
15. Build a cabin in the mountains.
16. Have me a man cave.
17. Trek in the Himalayas.
18. See a tornado.
19. Win your age group in a race.
20. Ski powder on some ridiculously fat skis.
21. Master a surprising cocktail.
22. Swim naked.
23. Coin a phrase.
24. Join the circus.
25. Learn to kayak.
26. Watch the World Cup.
27. Become an expert hatchet thrower.
28. Read right.
29. Get in the best shape of your life.
30. Trek Torres del Paine. Alone.
31. Go to New Zealand.
32. Ski-bum for a winter.
33. Beat the train.
34. Wing it.
35. Lasso a steer.
36. Get bent.
37. Sail across an ocean.
38. Travel the world on a teacher’s salary.
39. Live abroad for a year.
40. Raise $2,500 for a cause.
41. Ride l’Alpe d’Huez.
42. Step on Antarctica.
43. Follow up.
44. Give something up.
45. Learn a magic trick.
46. Go on a walking safari.
47. Volunteer after a disaster.
48. Build a school in a foreign country.
49. Climb the Grand Teton.
50. Learn an instrument.
51. Never stop.

Some of the above are self-explanatory, but for brevity’s sake, I didn’t go into detail about any of those that might have left you scratching your head, so if you’re interested in reading the entire story, go to http://outsideonline.com/adventure/travel-ta-people-and-personalities-sidwcmdev_151277.html.

Take a close look at the list and ask yourself how many of these things have you done. How many of these things would you like to do? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Cussler book appears on HC best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that mean’s that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got three new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists.

“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen replaced “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Stieg Larsson as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction list.

“1022 Evergreen Place” by Debbie Macomber replaced “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson as the No. 1 book on the mass market paperbacks list.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” replaced “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert as the top book on the trade paperbacks list.

"The Power" by Rhonda Byrne retained the top spot on the hardcover nonfiction list.

There are five books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen (1), "Dark Peril" by Christine Feehan (3), "Lost Empire" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood (5), "The Way of Kings" by Brian Sanderson (7) and "Body Work" by Sara Paretsky (9).

There are three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "A Journey" by Tony Blair (4), "The Perfection Point" by John Brenkus (5) and "The One Minute Negotiator" by Don Hutson & George Lucas (7).

There are 10 books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "1022 Evergreen Place" by Debbie Macomber (1), "Midnight Crystal" by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle (5), "Born to Bite" by Lynsay Sands (6), "Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn (7), "Renegade" by Lora Leigh (8), "Finding Perfect" by Susan Mallery (9), "The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell (11), "Spartan Gold" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood (12), "Ghost Moon" by Heather Graham (13) and "Burning Up" by Susan Andersen (15).

There are only two books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They are "A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore (9) and "My Horizontal Life" by Chelsea Handler (10).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
2. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
3. "Dark Peril" by Christine Feehan
4. "The Postcard Killers" by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
5. "Lost Empire" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood (pictured at right)
6. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
7. "The Way of Kings" by Brian Sanderson
8. "Spider Bones" by Kathy Reichs
9. "Body Work" by Sara Paretsky
10. "Star Island" by Carl Hiaasen
11. "The Cobra" by Frederick Forsyth
12. "The Red Queen: A Novel" by Phillipa Gregory
13. "Tough Customer: A Novel: by Sandra Brown
14. "Bearers of the Black Staff" by Terry Brooks
15. "I'd Know You Anywhere" by Laura Lippman

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "The Power" by Rhonda Byrne
2. "Crimes Against Liberty" by David Limbaugh
3. "Sh t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern
4. "A Journey" by Tony Blair
5. "The Perfection Point" by John Brenkus
6. "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth
7. "The One Minute Negotiator" by Don Hutson & George Lucas
8. "Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne
9. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
10. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis
11. "The Obama Diaries" by Laura Ingraham
12. "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler
13. "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh
14. "Let's Take the Long Way Home" by Gail Caldwell
15. "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" by Elizabeth Gilbert

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "1022 Evergreen Place" by Debbie Macomber
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "True Blue" by David Baldacci
5. "Midnight Crystal" by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
6. "Born to Bite" by Lynsay Sands
7. "Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn
8. "Renegade" by Lora Leigh
9. "Finding Perfect" by Susan Mallery
10. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
11. "The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell
12. "Spartan Gold" by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
13. "Ghost Moon" by Heather Graham
14. "Demon from the Dark" by Kresley Cole
15. "Burning Up" by Susan Andersen

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
5. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
6. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
7. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham
8. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
9. "A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore
10. "My Horizontal Life" by Chelsea Handler
11. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
12. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
13. "Under the Dome" by Stephen King
14. "Best Friends Forever" by Jennifer Weiner
15. "The Lacuna: A Novel" by Barbara Kingsolver

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend?

Here's another reason to like Jimmy Buffett


(This post was originally intended for yesterday, but an internet outage in our community caused me to post it late.)

A friend of mine in Butler County recommended a while back that I sample a bottle of Land Shark Lager, an “island style” beer that is produced by the Margaritaville Brewing Co. in St. Louis, Missouri.

This was a pretty decent beer, and it comes in a cool bottle. The 12-ounce glass bottle features a raised shark fin logo around the bottle’s neck and proudly displays the products motto: Fins Up!

According to Wikipedia, Land Shark Lager is a pale lager that’s brewed in Jacksonville, Fla. and was released in 2006 as the house lager for “Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville” restaurant chain. Many of you are probably fans of Buffett’s music and are well aware of his strong ties to Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama.

It’s said that the beer gets its name from Buffett’s song “Fins,” which is about men in a beach town that spend much of their time trying to woo women who are on vacation.

For more information about Land Shark Lager, visit www.landsharklager.com.

Nicole Kidman can be one scary lady

(This post was originally meant for Friday, but an internet outage in our neck of the woods kept me from posting it until today.)

I scratched another Saturn Award winner for Best Horror Movie off of my list of movies to watch yesterday, and this time around, it was the 2001 winner, “The Others.”

Many of you will remember this creepy movie. It starred Nicole Kidman and Eric Sykes.

This movie is about a mother and her two children who live in a large English manor house on the island of Jersey, a British Crown Dependency. The film takes place just after World War II.

The mother, played by Nicole Kidman, spends much of her time taking care of her two children, who have an uncommon disease that makes them allergic to sunlight. Her husband is absent from the house and is believed to have been killed in action during the war.

One day, three servants come to the house, they say in response to a newspaper ad, looking for work. And that’s when things start to get really weird. (I’ll stop right there, so as not to spoil the rest of the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it.)

Most people don’t know that this movie, while in English, is actually a Spanish movie. The script was written by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar in Spanish and was later translated into English. Released in September 2001, the film went on to become Spain’s highest grossing domestic movie ever ($209,700,000) and is the highest grossing Spanish film in the all-time worldwide box office history. This was also the first movie to ever receive a Best Film Award at the Goyas (Spain’s national film awards) with not a single word of Spanish spoken in the entire movie.

This movie is also notable because Tom Cruise, who was then married to leading lady Nicole Kidman, was the movie’s executive producer. This movie marked their last collaboration together prior to their much publicized divorce. In fact, their divorce was finalized the same week that “The Others” was released to theatres.

In the end, it was a lot of fun rewatching this creepy movie. From here, it’s on to the 2002 winner, “The Ring.” I actually have a copy of “The Ring” at home, so I won’t have to wait on NetFlix to deliver it to the house.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

'Pacific Vortex!' billed as 'Dirk Pitt's First Adventure'

A couple of days ago, I finished reading “Pacific Vortex!” by Clive Cussler and found the book to be enjoyable if maybe not as good as some of Cussler’s later books.

Published in 1983 and billed as “Dirk Pitt’s First Adventure,” this book was the sixth book published in Cussler’s famous Dirk Pitt series of novels. However, chronologically, it’s the first Dirk Pitt novel, with the events in the book having taken place before the events in “The Mediterranean Caper,” which was Cussler’s first novel, published in 1973.

“Pacific Vortex!” is classic Cussler and includes all of the ingredients that make his novels so successful: high adventure, cool characters, exotic locales, beautiful women and lots of action.

In this novel, Pitt becomes entangled in the search for a missing Navy submarine that’s disappeared in an uncharted part of the Pacific Ocean, where ships go missing much as they do in the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Pitt travels to this mysterious spot – the Pacific Vortex – and not only finds the missing sub, but much, much more. I’ll stop right there so as not to spoil the book for those of you who haven’t read it.

In the end, this book was fun to read, and I enjoyed scratching another of Cussler’s books off my reading list. So far, I’ve read four of his books: Pacific Vortex! (1983), Inca Gold (1994), Flood Tide (1997) and Sacred Stone (2004).

I have a long way to go if I’m going to read all of Cussler’s book. By my count, he’s published over 40 novels, not counting the two books that he’s got due out later this year and next year.

How many of Cussler’s books have you had a chance to read? What did you think about them? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My pick this week is 'Resident Evil: Afterlife'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

- Resident Evil: Afterlife (R): Milla Jovovich,
- The Romantics (PG-13): Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Candice Bergen
- Legendary (PG-13): Danny Glover, John Cena
- Bran Nue Dae (PG-13): Geoffrey Rush
- Heartbreaker (Not Rated)
- Hideaway (Not Rated)

New DVD releases for the week of Sept. 7 include:

- Killers (PG-13): Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck
- MacGruber (R): Will Forte, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe
- Solitary Man (R): Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito
- American Cowslip
- The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (PG-13)
- That Evening Sun (PG-13)
- Woodshop (Not Yet Rated)

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “MacGruber.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The moral of the story is "When it's your time to go, it's your time to go."

I scratched another Saturn Award winner for Best Horror Movie off of my list a couple of days ago when I rewatched the 2000 winner, “Final Destination.”

Based on an abandoned 1993 “The X-Files” script, this movie stars Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Amanda Detmer and Sean William Scott.

For those of you who’ve never seen this movie, it’s about a group of high school students who manage to cheat their own deaths. As they board an international flight to Paris as part of a French class field trip, one of them has a premonition of their deaths and some of the students and a teacher end up getting off the plane for one reason or another. The plane explodes, but soon thereafter, they start to die one by one from a series of unusual accidents.

This movie was released on St. Patrick’s Day 2000 and was shot for a budget of $23 million. Gross revenues from the film would eventually top $112 million. So far, the original movie has spawned three sequels.

This movie is full of “in-jokes” and references to other motion picture and historical figures. Many of the film’s characters are named after directors or actors from old black and white horror movies and many of the props used contain references to assassinated U.S. presidents. Throughout the movie, you’ll hear music by musician John Denver, who was killed in a tragic plane accident.

In the end, I enjoyed rewatching “Final Destination” and from here, it’s on to the 2001 Saturn Award winner, “The Others,” which starred Nicole Kidman.


Monday, September 6, 2010

San Jose's Tied House is 'Simply the Best'

On Saturday, I blogged about two of the four beers that were included in this month’s Beer-of-the-Month Club shipment, and today I’m going to tell you about the other two.

These two beers are produced by the Tied House Brewery in San Jose, Calif. and are called Tied House’s Coastal Fog India Pale Ale and Tied House’s Coastal Fog Amber Ale.

Here’s what this month’s issue of “Beer Expeditions” had to say about the Tied House Brewery and each of these two quality beers.

“Tied House Brewery is one of the first original brewpubs in America, named in honor of a system of tied and free houses that emerged during England’s Industrial Revolution. A free house was privately owned, selling any type of beer. A tied house was a pub owned by a brewery and allowed to sell only that brewery’s beer, which ‘tied’ them to that brewery.

“The brewery opened in 1988 in downtown Mountain View, Calif., the headquarters of Google, but more importantly the headquarters of Tied House, where the great Coastal Fog beers are now made. Over two decades after they poured their first pint, they continue to perfect their award winning beer. So far just in 2010, they have acquired six awards, including a first place gold. Quite impressive, as this is their first year producing Coastal Fog, and the awards are spread among several brews!

If you visit, don’t miss the Clubhouse Wall at the Tied House. More than 155 regulars have a numbered mug that hangs there, among the treasured multiple brew awards they’ve earned. Paying a small annual fee for their own mug, members get a bit more beer for their money, and Tied House logo gear and special invitations to local events. But perhaps the best feature is that the other side of the wall is their brewery, and famous kitchen!

“They have proudly served five presidents, astronauts and the revelers of 22 World Series.

“Coastal Fog IPA is brewed with copious amounts of Pacific Northwest hops. It’s a classic IPA with a balanced and substantial malt backbone.

“There is a long hoppy finish to this top fermented ale family of ‘beers of antiquity.’ Medium bodied and heavily hopped with initial malt character, serve it at 13 degrees C/55 degrees F with hearty main courses of red meats, Cheddar cheese or sharp salad dressing. (Goes well with nachos and wings too.)

“Coastal Fog Amber Ale is rich and malty, with a light, hoppy finish, boasting flavors of roasted caramel and fresh hops.

“This honey-colored brew is full-flavored, boasting roasted caramel nuances and great body. It’s a top notch top-fermented ale with perfect balance between hop flavor and malt character. It’s assertive, but not highly bitter. This Amber deserves to be paired with the best cuts of pork, bacon or ham.”

For more information about this brewery and these beers, visit www.tiedhouse.com.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' returns to top of HC fiction list

It’s Sunday, so that mean’s that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got one new book at the top of the four major best-seller lists.

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson replaced "The Postcard Killers” by James Patterson and Liza Marklund as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction list.

"The Power" by Rhonda Byrne retained the top spot on the hardcover nonfiction list. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" also kept the No. 1 spot on the mass market paperback list, and "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert retained the No. 1 spot on the trade paperbacks best seller list.

There are four books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include "Spider Bones: A Novel" by Kathy Reichs (3), "Bearers of the Black Staff: Legends of Shannara" by Terry Brooks (5, pictured at right), "I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel" by Laura Lippman (12) and "Juliet" by Anne fortner (14).

There are four books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama" by David Limbaugh (2), "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship" by Gail Caldwell (11), "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose" by Tony Hsieh (12) and "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot (14).

There are three books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "True Blue" by David Baldacci (4), "Demon from the Dark" by Kresley Cole (5) and "Sin Undone" by Larissa Ione (6).

"The Death of the Adversary: A Novel" by Hans Keilson and Ivo Jarosy is No. 15 on this week’s new trade paperbacks list, and it’s the only book that wasn’t on that list last week.

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
2. "The Postcard Killers" by James Patterson and Liza Marklund (Little, Brown)
3. "Spider Bones: A Novel" by Kathy Reichs (Scribner)
4. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett (Putnam/Amy Einhorn)
5. "Bearers of the Black Staff: Legends of Shannara" by Terry Brooks (Del Rey)
6. "Star Island" by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
7. "Tough Customer: A Novel: by Sandra Brown (Simon & Schuster)
8. "The Red Queen: A Novel" by Phillipa Gregory (Touchstone)
9. "The Cobra" by Frederick Forsyth (Putnam Adult)
10. "Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel" by Martin Cruz Smith (Simon & Schuster)
11. "The Rembrandt Affair" by Daniel Silva (Putnam Adult)
12. "I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel" by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
13. "Last Night at Chateau Moarmont: A Novel" by Lauren Weisberger (Atria)
14. "Juliet" by Anne fortner (Ballantine)
15. "The Vigilantes" by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV (Putnam)

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "The Power" by Rhonda Byrne (Atria)
2. "Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama" by David Limbaugh (Ragnery Publishing)
3. "Sh t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern (It Books)
4. "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth (Scribner)
5. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown)
6. "Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner)
7. "The Obama Diaries" by Laura Ingraham (Threshold Editions)
8. "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler (Grand Central Publishing)
9. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis (Norton)
10. "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking)
11. "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship" by Gail Caldwell (Random House)
12. "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose" by Tony Hsieh (Business Plus)
13. "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne (Atria/Beyond Words)
14. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot (Crown)
15. "Through a Dog's Eyes" by Jennifer Arnold (Spiegel & Grau)

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
2. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
3. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham (Dell)
4. "True Blue" by David Baldacci (Vision)
5. "Demon from the Dark" by Kresley Cole (Pocket)
6. "Sin Undone" by Larissa Ione (Grand Central Publishing)
7. "Charlie St. Cloud" by Ben Sherwood (Bantam)
8. "The 8th Confession" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Grand Central Publishing)
9. "Running Scared" by Lisa Jackson (Zebra)
10. "Smash Cut: A Novel" by Sandra Brown (Pocket)
11. "Don't Cry" by Beverly Barton (Zebra)
12. "Nine Dragons" by Michael Connelly (Vision)
13. "World Without End" by Ken Follett (Signet)
14. "Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel" by Charlaine Harris (Ace)
15. "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett (Signet)

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin)
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
4. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster)
5. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein (Harper)
6. "Ford County: Stories" by John Grisham (Dell)
7. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese (Vintage)
8. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin (Penguin)
9. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho (Harper)
10. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin's Griffin)
11. "Under the Dome" by Stephen King (Pocket)
12. "The Lacuna: A Novel" by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper Perennial)
13. "Best Friends Forever" by Jennifer Weiner (Washington Square Press)
14. "Are You Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" by Chelsea Handler (Gallery)
15. "The Death of the Adversary: A Novel" by Hans Keilson and Ivo Jarosy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend?


Saturday, September 4, 2010

BankTrust First Light Marathon training begins

I began training for a marathon earlier this week.

I have a long row to hoe, but I’m going to do my best to stick with a training plan that I found and get ready to complete the BankTrust First Light Marathon in Mobile on Sun., Jan. 9.

I’ve run in a number of organized foot races over the years, but the longest I’ve ever run was the Escape from Arifjan Half-Marathon (13.1 miles). That race took place in the Kuwaiti desert in 2004, and I ran it with my good buddy, Al Webb.

I’ve always wanted to cross the marathon off of my life list, and I figured that I’d better do it before I get too old. I’m 34, and I don’t know how long this 6-3, 217-pound body will hold up to the kind of abuse that I put it through.

I really committed to this after reading a recent issue of Outside Magazine, which included “The Plan,” a week-by-week routine to get you ready for a marathon. The plan was designed by Hal Higdon, a 111-time marathoner and writer who has contributed to Runner’s World magazine more than any one else. He’s the author of 34 books, including the best selling “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.”

Higdon’s plan in Outside Magazine is a 30-week plan that’s “designed to fit into your already busy life and allow for cross-training (hiking, cycling or swimming). The first 12 weeks condition you for training and culminate with a 10K race to test your fitness. The next 18 put more emphasis on running as you build toward the big day.”

I started at the beginning of the last 18 weeks since I knew that I could already run a 10K comfortably. I wrapped up my first week of the program earlier today with a 6-mile run. Of course, I would have liked to have run it faster than 1:02:46, but I tried to take it easy and enjoy the unseasonably cool morning. Plus, I didn’t want to risk injury since injuries caused by overtraining stop more marathoners than any other obstacle.

I see this as an exercise in “see-what-you’re made of,” and I doubt that I’ll run more than one marathon after the first of the year. But who knows, maybe I’ll run a few more after I see that I can complete a 26.2-mile run without collapsing into a quivering mound of chewed bubble gum.

In the end, I’d like to know how many of you have completed a marathon. Was the first the hardest? How’d you get ready for it? Any suggestions for me as I begin to train for my first marathon? Let me know in the comments section below.

For more information about the upcoming BankTrust First Light Marathon in Mobile, visit www.firstlightmarathon.com. For more information about Hal Higdon and his training plans, visit his Web site at www.halhigdon.com.

Whale's Tale not only tastes good, but it's also got a cool logo

The “Beer-of-the-Month Club” fairy dropped off another package at my back door during the past week, and this time it included four tasty varieties of microbrewed beers.

This month’s shipment included two beers that are produced by the Cisco Brewery of Nantucket, Mass. and two that are produced by the Tied House Brewery in San Jose, Calif.

Today, I’ll focus on the two from the Cisco Brewery – Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and Bailey’s Blonde Ale. (More on the Tied House Brewery beers in a couple of days.)

Here’s what this month’s edition of Beer Expeditions has to say about the Cisco Brewery, Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and Bailey’s Blonde Ale.

“Born out of a passion for producing quality beverages, in 1997 Nantucket Vineyard and Cisco Brewery joined forces. Nantucket Vineyard was founded by Dean and Melissa Long in 1981, who tried for years to grow grapes on the island, but Mother Nature refused to cooperate. Today, they import the finest grapes from California, Washington state and New York, allowing them to focus on the fermentation and production side of winemaking. They produce some of the region’s best wines.

“Cisco Brewers was founded by Randy and Wendy Hudson. Wendy started homebrewing, met Randy, bought him a homebrewing hit, and two love affairs began – Randy and Wendy; and Randy and Wendy and beer! Randy and Wendy took jobs at (and rented the loft over) the winery in 1992. They all enjoyed both wine and beer, and everybody blossomed and prospered. Randy and Wendy’s first backyard ‘nano’ (smaller than a micro) brewery was America’s Only Outdoor Brewery!

“A lot has changed: Jay Harman hired on in 1996 and now runs the operation; the new Brew Shack opened in September of that year; In 2000, they were licensed to make distilled spirits under the name of Triple Eight Distillery; and Matt Lambo and his 1975 8-ball-bedecked VW camper van were put in charge of distribution, public relations, events and promotions. Today, the brewery, winery and distillery share location, fame and success, featured in the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, on CNBC and more!”

Bailey’s Blonde Ale “is a light golden-colored blonde ale, medium-bodied, with a floral nose and crisp citrus finish.

“A soft, easy-drinking, top-fermented ale that has a remarkably clean, crisp finish. This one, still expressive and complex, has the perfect personality to pair with tropical foods, grilled chicken and seafood. (We’re not sure who Bailey is, but sure like his choice of beverage!)”

Whale’s Tale Pale Ale “is an amber English-style pale ale with balanced hops and malt. Cisco’s most popular and versatile beer.

“Top-fermented, they (pale ales) are medium-bodied, crisp, complex, and usually dry; rich, bright and cleanly textured. Assertive, this English-style American pale ale partners well with all cheeses, veggies and breads. Serve at cellar temperature (55 degrees F).”

In the end, both of these beers were pretty good, but if I had to pick one as a favorite, it would be Whale’s Tale Pale Ale. Not only does it taste good, but it’s also got a cool logo.