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Marathon, Noah’s Compass, Recipes from an Italian Summer, Be Prepared, Lords of Finance

By WE WELCOME YOUR REVIEW. IF WE PUBLISH IT, WE WILL SEND YOU A GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR DINNER. E-MAIL TO EDITORIAL@CHICAGOLIFE.NET OR MAIL TO CHICAGO LIFE REVIEWS, P.O. BOX 11131, CHICAGO IL 60611-0311.
Marathon: A Novel by Hal Higdon. (Roadrunner Press, $19.95). After writing dozens of articles and running manuals (Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide) and competing in marathons throughout the world, Hal Higdon was bound to write a book entitled simply Marathon. What's surprising is that it's a novel that has more drama, action and thrills than a Tom Cruise movie as it describes the 72 hours leading up to a major marathon.  Higdon, a contributing editor for Runner's World, tells the story in the grand tradition of fact/fiction books by James Michener and Arthur Hailey. This means his book also has plenty of training tips to help marathoners prepare for their next big race. Peter McDonald is director of the annual marathon of Lake City (fictional name of Chicago), and he has his hands full during those 72 hours. In addition to praying for good race-day weather, he must deal with a recalcitrant sponsor, grumbling city officials, athletes with giant-size egos, pushy media people and ensure the safe arrival of a mysterious race participant known only as "Celebrity X" (described as "more famous than Oprah"). McDonald does all this while pursuing a romance with Christina Ferrara, a television news reporter. Marathon sets a fast pace, and at the end, readers—unlike the runners who struggle across the finish line—will feel exhilarated instead of exhausted.
—Hosea L. Martin

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler. (Knopf, $25.95). “It’s as if I’ve never been entirely present in my own life,” 60-year-old Liam Pennywell sighs.  Nothing is easy for Liam.  The recent victim of a home burglary that left him with temporary amnesia, he struggles to cope with demands from his daughters and his ex-wife, his recent job loss and a new apartment. When he attempts to pursue a romantic relationship, his life becomes even more complicated. These women swoop in and out of his life, commenting on decisions made like a Greek chorus. Manipulating Liam’s world from above, Anne Tyler, master at capturing the joys and challenges of daily life in her beloved Baltimore, reveals the sacred inherent in the quotidian. The title, a reference to the apparent lack of direction of Noah’s watery trip, acknowledges our lack of control in our ordinary lives and the grace that we find along the way.—Susan E. Zinner

Recipes from an Italian Summer by the Editors of Phaidon Press. (Phaidon, $39.95). For fans of The Silver Spoon and The Silver Spoon Pasta comes this book of newly collected recipes. Full of quick-to-prepare dishes made with seasonal fruits and vegetables, this tome is a must-have for summer to fall cooking. The 380 recipes are light and warm weather-ready. There are delightful salad recipes with simple dressings, striking and delicious appetizers, an excellent barbeque section and wonderfully easy but elegant desserts, like sliced fresh figs with whipped cream.—J.B.

Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. (Simon & Schuster, $15). Given the reality that a new baby doesn’t come with a handbook—three cheers for Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. If it isn’t the best modestly priced gift for new parents—I don’t know what is. With a pregnancy, the limelight is traditionally on the new mom-to-be as she blossoms from a run-of-the-mill girl next door into a woman—who looks like she may have swallowed a basketball that is being inflated by an alien from within. With Greenberg and Hayden’s book, the father-to-be will be brought up to speed on it all. Everything from what a baby actually looks like—as opposed to the “baby advertising sketch version,” questions about the mysteries of “coping with crying”, whether breast or bottle and after the feed how to burp the kid and the always exciting question of babies and sleep—theirs and yours. With a great deal of straightforward information including a small chapter entitled “Reading Sports Illustrated to Your Baby”, the book covers lots of turf—with honesty and a large dollop of humor. Although it only covers the first twelve months, the book will easily grease the wheels of any novice father who has ever wondered, what the hell do I do now? The cover alone, evoking those Boy Scout manual days of yore, makes it easy to read on CTA without em-
barrassment.—Candace Drimmer

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahmed (The Penguin Press, $32.95). This bestselling history of the world’s economic meltdown in the 1920’s is very relevant today. Ahmed is both a biographer and economist, telling the immensely readable story of four eccentric and mysterious bankers who feared that inflation was the biggest threat to capitalism. They were wrong. Unfortunately, their actions eventually led to the Great Depression and World War II. A must-read!—K.B.

Published: June 07, 2010
Issue: Summer 2010 Urban Living