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Celebrating the Life

Filtered by Material Type: Books

Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World

[Longhorn Review] Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, sociology, tobacco — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:41 pm

By: Gately, Iain

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but this was a fascinating book. I never
would have thought that tobacco growing and selling played such an important part of
our history. One factoid tells the tale: when Benjamin Franklin was sent to London
to negotiate a peace treaty between Great Britain and the future United States he
was also given the task of negotiating the loans George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson owned to merchants in England on their tobacco holdings. This book is
essentially about how drawing smoke from a plant grew from a ceremonial activity in
the new world to a social activity that spread around the world. It is now hard to
find a culture where tobacco smoking is not evident. The subtitle tells it all – “a
cultural history of how an exotic plant seduced civilization.” The story is
fascinating and the book is very well written.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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The Book of Margery Kempe: The Autobiography of the Madwoman of God

[Longhorn Review] The Book of Margery Kempe: The Autobiography of the Madwoman of God

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: autobiography, history, medieval, mysticism, religion, women — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:05 pm

By: Kempe, Margery

Who would have thought that the first known biography in English would be written
by a woman, brewery owner, Christian mystic, and mother of 14 named Margery Kempe.
Margery was illiterate so she dictated her biography to a scribe between 1436 and
1438. Her biography begins with her conversion experience which was heralded by a
vision of Christ in her bedroom one night. The story then follows Margery through
pilgrimages across Europe and the Holy Land. She also tells about her heresy trial
in England and her burgeoning mystical life. After the trial the judge gave her a
piece of paper saying that she was not a heretic. Margery used this piece of paper
many many times when people complained to their local religious leaders about her
loud crying, laughing and preaching. His opinion, like most of her contemporaries
seemed to be that she was she was religiously insane. He was also surprised that she
followed Catholic dogma exactly. She never deviated from the church’s teaching even
when she was ranting and raving.

The book is amazingly lively. You get insight into
the personality of a woman who thought Jesus told her to wear white, live apart from
her husband and give voice to her religious opinions loudly and continually. Her
neighbors, her child and her husband complained regularly about her religious
activities. The book gives dramatic accounts of every day experiences, in Margery’s
home town, in many English regions, and as far away as Brandenburg, Rome and
Jerusalem. Just reading about how she traveled in Europe and how she got to
Jerusalem is illuminating.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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Chinaman’s Chance: A Novel

[Longhorn Review] Chinaman’s Chance: A Novel

Material Type: All, books — Tags: espionage, fiction, mystery, thriller — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:00 pm

By: Thomas, Ross

Lines in the first paragraph pull you into a story that never follows a straight
line: “The pretender to the Emperor’s throne was a fat thirty-seven year old
Chinaman called Artie Wu who always jogged along Malibu beach right after dawn even
in the summer. It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove
Pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell and met the man with six
greyhounds.” This book is about the ultimate con. You’re never sure until the very
end who is actually being conned and why. This is a character driven story and there
are is an amazing list of characters from Otherguy Overby, to the folk singing trio
of Ivory, Lace and Silk, though a former CIA agent who’s gone out on his own, to big
time record producer and the head of a criminal syndicate.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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Shadow of the Silk Road

[Longhorn Review] Shadow of the Silk Road

Material Type: All, books — Tags: international, travel — Posted on November 10, 2008, 10:24 am

By: Thubron, Colin

Thubron has penned a number of entertaining and insightful books over a long
career, and he may be one of the last in the British tradition of "gentleman
travelers." His is an elegant style. He writes with crystalline clarity and his
narratives, and travels, inevitable veer from the beaten track, bringing us vivid
tales from faraway places inhabited by strangers who soon become our familiars. In
this book, he details his journey through modern Asia along the ancient Silk Road
from China to the Mediterranean through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran
and Turkey, revisiting some of the same people and places he detailed in two earlier
books, only twenty years on. His descriptions of history, cultures and people are
vivid and unforgettable.

Reviewer: Tim Strawn

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

[Longhorn Review] The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Material Type: All, books — Tags: bittersweet, native americans — Posted on November 10, 2008, 10:20 am

By: Alexie, Sherman

Alexie's first Young Adult title won him the National Book Award for Young
People's Literature last year. My 11-year old daughter described this book as, "very
funny and sad at the same time," which we adults somtimes call "bittersweet." But
what narrative of Native American life, historical or modern, would not be tinged
with sadness? Alexie, who is of Spokane heritage, writes with humor and poignancy
about his anti-hero, Arnold Spirit, born hydrocephalic who happens to have a great
jump shot, and a number of odd friends and relations. Life on and off the "res," and
the shifting boudaries between modern Native American and Anglo culture are deftly
explored. This book is not preachy at all, but there are lessons here for all of
us.

Reviewer: Tim Strawn

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A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

[Longhorn Review] A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

Material Type: All, books — Tags: America, history, travel — Posted on November 10, 2008, 10:14 am

By: Horwitz, Tony

When it comes to history and the "discovery" of America, Tony Horwitz is a dummy
and he is betting that his readers are as well. During a visit to Plymouth Rock,
Horwitz discovers, much to his priate school educated chagrin, that he knew next to
nothing about the people who traveled the continent (before and after Columbus),
much less the folks who inhabited "America" before European contact commenced.
Horwitz writes a well-paced and humorous travelogue of self-tutoring as he sweats it
out in a lodge with MicMacs in Newfoundland, follows Coronado's trail all the way to
Kansas (who knew?) and tours present-day Roanoke which was briefly settled, not by
fantasized Pilgrim forebears, but by a, "... motley crew of slave traders, tourists,
castaways and Tudor knights...." Horwitz neatly balances historical narrative with
his own present-day travel stories for an engaging and entertaining history
lesson.

Reviewer: Tim Strawn

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Tooth and Claw

[Longhorn Review] Tooth and Claw

Material Type: All, books — Tags: fiction, humor, short stories — Posted on November 7, 2008, 6:00 pm

By: Boyle, T. Coraghessan

This is T.C. Boyle's seventh collection of short stories. Since 1979, Boyle has
published 19 works of fiction all of them fully engaging the human condition with
hilarity and compassion. I am continually drawn to his short stories because his
ruminations on and illuminations of our human plight are so intense. Boyle is what I
would call a lunatic-humanist-surrealist who can elicit laughter and tears
simultaneously. This collection assembles 14 of his darker stories, all gems and not
to be missed. From the story of an unlikely romance between a fetching American
ornithologist and a spinster Scot on the isle of Unst to the tale of a drive-time
radio host's attempt to break the world record for continuous hours without sleep,
Boyle fascinates while enlivening his characters with frailty, humor, compassion and
odd heroics.

Reviewer: Tim Strawn

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Patterns 2: design, art and architecture

[Longhorn Review] Patterns 2: design, art and architecture

Material Type: All, books — Tags: architecture, art, falstaffpicks — Posted on October 2, 2008, 11:29 am

By: Barbara Glasner, Petra Schmidt, Ursula Schöndeling

Part 2 of this wildly successful and satisfying book series, which connects works
art, architecture, and a variety of other disciplines through patterns.

Reviewer: Tommy

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Ornament as art: avant-garde jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

[Longhorn Review] Ornament as art: avant-garde jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Material Type: All, books — Tags: art, falstaffpicks — Posted on October 2, 2008, 11:18 am

By: Cindi Strauss

From the publisher: "Presents 800 jewelry objects and drawings from 1960 through
2006 by more than 170 international jewelry artists in the Helen Williams Drutt
Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Includes essays about Minimalist and
Conceptual influences and the history behind the collection, a chronology, and
artist biographies."

Reviewer: Laura

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Los asensinos de dongo; novela historica, precidida de un prólogo y continuada en dos tomos

[Longhorn Review] Los asensinos de dongo; novela historica, precidida de un prólogo y continuada en dos tomos

Material Type: All, books — Tags: crime, Dongo Joaquin, justice, murder, New Spain, XVIII century — Posted on September 5, 2008, 8:58 pm

By: Manuel Filomeno Rodríguez

Los asesinos del Dongo is a novel about the homicide of Joaquin Dongo and ten
members of his family, occurred in October 23, 1789. Dongo was a wealthy Spanish
merchant who lived in Mexico City. After a very short investigation the three
murderers were discovered and they were condemned to "garrote."  This is a very rare
book, in fact is almost impossible to find it in Mexico.

Reviewer: Odette M. Rojas Sosa

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