Talking About Books . . .

MaxDuring a recent holiday visit my granddaughter, Alden, was reading a book titled Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine. by Jennifer Li Shotz. I read part of it with Alden and found it thoroughly interesting and well written. It was about a boy named Justin whose brother used Max, a Belgian malinois, to sniff-out explosives and munitions in Afghanistan. When his brother is killed, Justin ends up with Max. The trouble is that Max is suffering from PTSD. Justin and his friends Chuy and Carmen get involved in a mystery in which Max plays a pivotal role, and Justin finds out that his brother’s didn’t die the way everyone thought he had.

The book is based on the screenplay for the 2015 movie Max, and both the book and the movie will appeal to both teenagers and adults. I say that with confidence because both Alden and I read the book and watched the movie.

I’ve been told that another book about a dog in a similar situation is also excellent Suspect by Robert Crais is about an explosives-sniffing German shepherd whose handler is killed in Afghanistan. It ends up with a Los Angeles police officer whose partner has recently been killed. Both the dog and the officer are in bad shape until they become a team. Then the healing begins.

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Children's Stories from DickensIn 1893 Mary Angela Dickens, one of Charles Dickens’ granddaughters and an accomplished writer, published a book that contained parts of some of Dickens’ novels. It seems that the book, Children’s Stories from Dickens, was written to introduce children to her grandfather’s stories, and to thereby entice them to read the complete works. She later wrote another book based on his works titled Dickens’ Dream Children (1926). Both books were illustrated by Harold Copping who is best known for his illustrations of scenes from the Bible. Fortunately, both books, though out of print, can be found and bought via the internet.

I recently found an e-book on Amazon titled Charles Dickens’ Children Stories that seems to contain some of Mary Angela Dickens’ stories (minus Copping’s illustrations). Best of all it is a free Kindle e-book. To read it you must have Amazon’s free Kindle app or a Kindle reader.

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Isis Books & Gifts in Englewood, Colorado has been in business for 35 years. The store is named after Isis the ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility. Unfortunately, some not-too-bright members of the local community seem to be confusing Isis with ISIS. The result has been costly damage to the store’s outdoor sign on several occasions in the past year. The store owners have finally given up and have installed a new outdoor sign that reads “Goddess Books & Gifts” in order to deflect the ire of “folks who flunked their 6th grade basic mythology class.” Officially the business will retain its original name.

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MomentsLate last year my wife and I spent a week in Washington D.C. We visited most of the museums and memorials and enjoyed them all. One that we particularly remember is the Newseum (news museum) which had some wonderful exhibits including newspaper front pages from around the country that recalled some of the most memorable events in our history.

Another was an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and the stories behind how they came to be taken. The photos are often raw, but because they exist we have a vivid record of both the humanity and inhumanity of mankind. Some of them make us proud, others make us wonder how people could be so mercilessly brutal. All of them are unforgettable.

Hal Buell’s coffee-table book Moments: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs gives us all of the winning photographs since 1942, the stories behind them, and some other notable photographs for each year. CNN did a story on Buell’s book that you can view here.

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The Last InterviewThe Last Interview and Other Conversations is a series of books that feature interviews of well-known writers and thinkers. Three books were published in December featuring thee writers who, though very different, had similar thoughts on the art of writing. The authors are Ernest Hemingway, Philip K. Dick, and Nora Ephron. Maureen Corrigan did a segment on all three books for Fresh Air.

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The Best American Short StoriesEdward J. O’Brien may be one of the most consequential people you’ve never heard of. If you’ve ever read The Best American Short Stories of _____ (pick a year from 1915 to 2015), then you have Mr. O’Brien to thank. You can also thank him if you’ve ever read other The Best of series such as those on Essays, Travel Writing, Non-Required Reading, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mystery Stories, or Infographics. Vulture recently featured an article about Mr. O’Brien and the rise of the short story.

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In 2015 you read a lot of books, and you read a lot about books, right? But how much did you retain? The Guardian has a 30 question multiple-choice quiz that will test your knowledge of notable books and people from last year. If you enjoy that quiz, click on “More quizzes” near the bottom of the page to further test your knowledge.

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