At a Glance Talk Radio

Book Reviews: September 2011 – December 2011


Ah, the joy of the holidays… the celebration of gratitude and gluttony of Thanksgiving followed immediately by the mass consumerism that keeps our economy truckin’ and inspires a woman to pepper spray fellow shoppers in pursuit of a good deal.   Really, what’s not to like about this magical time of the year.  Thus, I decided to focus on Holiday-themed books tonight.

Since the 1990s, The New York Public library and The Oxford University Press have partnered in a lecture series where prominent wordsmiths are asked to speak at the New York Public Library and the Oxford Press then uses these talks as the basis of a book.  For the 2002 and 2003 lectures, the seven lecturers were given a theme; speakers were asked to create a ‘meditation on temptation’.

Gluttony_CoverGiven my first paragraph, I naturally glommed on to Gluttony by Francine Prose, which is the second book to result from these lectures.  The other six address the rest of the Seven Deadly Sins and include Sloth by Wendy Wasserstein, the brilliant playwright taken from us far too soon, Pride by Michael Eric Dyson and others.

Ironically enough, Gluttony is a slim volume (128 pages) and showcases the best selling author and critic’s stellar style with its review of the cultural and religious history of gluttony.    There are only four chapters in the book, the titles of which say it all about Prose’s rotund examination of the project.  The chapters are: “Is Gluttony a Sin?; “The Wages of Sin”; “The Real Wages of Sin” and “Great Moments in Gluttony”.  I must admit that because I spent so much time preparing Thanksgiving – my husband made an amazing spread of food which would justify and evening of gluttony for even the most abstentious – I have not finished this book but how could I not keep it near and dear to me on top of the nightstand pile when Prose explains the genesis for her lecture and book started was a lunch with a group of gals and the awkward process of ordering food in weight-obsessed, eating-disorder plagued, obese 21st Century America.

But just when my cynicism is about to take over and send me into an anti-consumerism rant I am reminded of two stellar Christmas books: A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel and on the other side of the spiritual Christmas coin, The Greatest Prayer by leading biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan.

Bruel’s Bad Kitty series of picture and chapter books are as much for parents as they are for the tykes for whom they were written. A Bad Kitty Christmas is one of the picture books and is perfect for those who still believe in Santa – and those who are suspect.  “Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the city, not a creature was stirring…Except for BAD KITTY.”  This should give listeners an idea of Bruel’s lyrical language and the exploits of Bad Kitty when this acquisitive animal doesn’t get all of the presents she wants for Christmas.

John Dominic Crossan is a brilliant, and awe-inspiring (just ask the lovely Director of Christian Formation for Children and Youth from our church who was silenced by his presence on a San Francisco street) biblical scholar who has written highly acclaimed books including The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and Who Killed Jesus? on the life of Jesus Christ.  In this work, he analyzes and how revolutionary The Lord’s Prayer was by analyzing what individual words mean within a biblical context.  An enjoyable read for a study group of any age or for those who are just curious about history or religion whatever their faith, if any.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power and the glory,

For ever and ever.


 NOVEMBER 4, 2011 — Amy answers listeners questions:

I understand some listeners wonder how I got this joyous gig and what convoluted logic I use to pick which books to review.  Tonight, I’ll attempt to give something of a cogent explanation – which will hopefully satisfy or at least not disgust you and allow me to keep opining on those magical literary carpets.

Here goes:

Q:         How do you choose your books and subjects?  Larry Williams, Long Beach Ca

A:         I try to tie my book picks to current events or holidays.  In September, there were two major events: the start of a new school year and the anniversary of September 11th.  Thus, my September reviews focused on a terrorism-related novel and non-fiction books and articles about education and childrearing.  Given that I’m self-involved I focused on books about moving and organization when I moved recently [I’m still working on the organization part].

If listeners have any subjects they’d like me to explore, please write in and I’ll do my best to accommodate you.


Q:         How did you get on At A Glance?  Marla Simmis, Dallas, TX

A:          It would be nice to think radio is a meritocracy and that I auditioned repeatedly for this choice gig.  Unfortunately, life again shows us that it is unfair and I was blessed to have a friend, Taylor Van Arsdale, who recommended me to Rodney as a book reviewer.  After several email exchanges and phone conversations, Rodney determined that I was in fact semi-literate and then gave me a shot.  So far, no one has threatened to boycott the show because of me so I am lucky enough to still keep chattering about what I think about books I read.


Q:         How do you find time to read so much?  Megan Kiles, Boston, MA

A:          I think that caffeine and sugar are essential food groups and that sleep is optional.  Thus, I have a fair amount of time between 2:00am – 4:00am during which time I am (sadly) usually awake and reading.   But seriously, I am a so-so sleeper and find it a real treat to escape into another world when the house is quiet and no one is asking anything of me.  Also, thanks to an electronic reader, I am a lot nicer after waiting in line as I can read while doing so.


Q:         What is your background to be a book reviewer and who is your favorite author and your favorite book?  Lind K. Berg, Miami, Fl

A:         My background is as a film and television producer.  I produced several documentaries and got my start working in reality television back in the time of the dinosaurs.  Making television and films requires a ton of reading – that and my graveling to Rodney made me semi-qualified to opine about the written word.

As for my favorite author and book, that is a toughie because there are a lot of good storytellers out there and I think that favorite books change as one goes through different phases of life.

For example, in high school I read “Atlas Shrugged” and decided that the pursuit of excellence was an absolute mandate.  This made me an even more difficult person with whom to live.  The book is no longer my favorite, but I do still remember it fondly and enjoyed listening to it on CD during a road trip a little while back.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Captive” by Megan Lisa Jones because it provides a plausible, human drama set within a topic that is constantly in the news — terrorism.  I’ve also enjoyed “An Object of Beauty” and “The Pleasure of My Company” both by Steve Martin although I find his endings a bit of a disappointment.

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell.  It’s an epic tale of life in 1940s Alexandria, Egypt.  Durrell is a stellar wordsmith and although there is some over-analysis of secondary characters, [I have to admit, I did skim a few pages here and there] the richness of the language transports me every time I read it – which is not often enough.


No matter how carefree you were before breeding, as soon as a little creature comes into your life worry becomes a fact of life.  So last week I told you about new research coming out about how we aren’t teaching our tykes the way that they learn but that we’re working on it.  And it’s likely that somehow our kids will muddle through and learn at least something.  Hopefully.

This week my goal is to lessen your parental load with two books by doctors who are also moms and therefore know the toll panic takes – and that it is usually not necessary or of particular use.  Then, just in case you wanted to start your weekend in a tizzy, I’m including two articles that discuss real worries.

Take_A_Deep_Breatha.            TAKE A DEEP BREATH by Nina Shapiro

Dr. Nina Shapiro is Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology and an Associate Professor UCLA School of Medicine.  After writing lots of articles she decided to do a book. Lucky enough for parents, it reads as if you’re sitting down and having a conversation with a highly trained and regarded pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon.  The book, “Take a Deep Breath” is an A to Z guide on children’s breathing issues.  It includes every airway what it should do when normal, what’s abnormal but nothing too bad and what to freak out about.  Categorized by age, each section also offers up a list of what caregivers can do to prevent some of the most common problems and treatments that can be administered at home to ease the problems that occur.  About 80% to 90% of kids will experience some airway angst during their childhood so this is a worthwhile read.

The book comes out January 5, 2012 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Shapiro’s website is


Worry_Proofb.            WORRY PROOF by Cara Natterson

There is a lot of information – and more dangerously misinformation – out there in a variety of media.  Listening to even just a fraction of it can make any parent or caregiver nuts.  So buy Dr. Cara Natterson’s “Worry Proof” (an updated, paperback version of “Dangerous or Safe”) because it’s cheaper than therapy or the amount of alcohol one would require after surfing the net, reading the paper or watching the news. Natterson’s style is as straight forward as Shapiro’s, which makes this an easy and calming read.  She tells parents what supposedly dangerous products are safe (apple juice anyone?) what kids really should not do or ingest and then she reveals what she does with her two children.  Turns out she practices what she preaches for the most part.

Natterson’s website is:

Now, there are some real things parents should worry about.  Here are two articles about two, valid, concerns.

Real Worry: 1.            Westside Today September 2011 Head Lice article:

Okay, this is a real and reasonable – and vile – worry.  But, it’s a nasty fact of kid existence; kids don’t just bug you they’re bugged too and worse, parents and caregivers can catch lice too. The piece talks about: awareness, prevention, detection and options re; the little buggers.  Enjoy.

The article can be found at:

Real Worry 2: When You’re Too Worried 2.           

Atlantic: How to land your kid in therapy don’t protect your kids too much; they just aren’t Happy

Perfection is an ideal for a reason, people.  Why read Lori Gottlieb’s article from the July/August edition of The Atlantic and you’ll find out why.  Gottlieb is a single mother, writer and in training to become a clinical psychologist.  In the article she discusses the young adult patients she sees who adore their parents had lovely childhoods yet… just aren’t happy. Why?  Because in trying to make their childhoods perfect, parents have robbed their semi-adult kids of their sense of agency and their ability to make things better – for themselves.

So stop it, it’s okay if their knees get scraped, feelings hurt that’s life and they  have to learn how to live it – not have you live it for them.

The article can be found at: