Crucial issues facing America

Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad by Lorenzo Vidino. Prometheus Books, 2005. 403 pages.

The Democrats now own the Congress.

Occupational reading

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers by Amy Stewart. Algonquin Books, 2006. 320 pages.

Beginning a new occupation — whether as a grocery store cashier or a police officer, a teacher or a house painter — exposes us to a different world, a world with its own special codes, techniques, and jargon.

Sifting through the stack

For many people, autumn means more than colorful leaves and blue, crisp days. For them fall is, like spring, a time for cleaning, a time for putting the house in order for the winter. Homeowners clean the dead grass off the mower before storing it; they repair the storm windows; they clean out the gutters; they break out blankets and winter coats — and wistfully put away the swimming suits and shorts until next year.

Evolution in Europe

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within by Bruce Bawer. Doubleday, 2006. 256 pages — $23.95

"If every young European could spend a year living with an American family and attending an American school, all the journalists and politicians in the world wouldn’t be able to twist their awareness of the reality of America — and of American liberal democracy — into an ugly cartoon. And the more America-friendly Europeans are, the more inclined they’ll be to behave like Americans in the ways that count — that is, to eschew appeasement and stand up for freedom. But it may already be too late for such remedies. Europe is steadily committing suicide, and perhaps all we can do is look on in horror."

— Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept

Family ties, past and present

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne. Algonquin Books, 2006.

All of us bring ghosts to our table.

Whether we dine alone in a lovely restaurant or take our supper at home with our spouse and children. Whether we pick over our holiday meal in the solitude of a nursing-home bed or feast in some great familial hall with a ravenous horde of nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles, and aunts.

Frank delivers another fine detective novel

In Marshall Frank’s latest Miami detective novel, The Latent (ISBN 1-4137-9890-X), a serial killer is terrorizing Miami’s gay community. Rockford “Rock” Burgamy, the detective assigned to the case and a stranger to the gay subculture, must not only track down the vicious killer known as J.D., but must also struggle with his own personal problems.

Recommended diversions


Sometimes a movie or a book can rock us like a hook to the jaw. This movie, which tells the stories of a dozen or more people as they crash in and out of one another’s lives in a 36-hour period, whaps us upside the head with a flurry of these hooks.

Captives and Captivations

Narratives of confinement have long held a fascination for readers. From Saint Paul’s account of his imprisonment to modern stories of Turkish prisons, Alcatraz, and the Hanoi Hilton, we find ourselves roused by stories of courage and tenacity shown in the face of punishment and prison.

Hope in a rude world

In the last 40 years, the living waters of American law and politics have flattened into a bog of faction and dissent, of lawsuits and grievance groups, of hatreds both petty and grand.

In need of help

Steve Salerno’s SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (ISBN 1-40005409-5, $24.95) is not only an attack on the self-help movement — SHAM is the acronym for Self-Help and Actualization Movement — but also a very amusing book.

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