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March 03, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

New & Recommended New & Recommended (March 03, 2004)

This month's pick's, by Frank Sanchez, head book buyer at Kepler's, include a writer's look at Prague, a re-issue of some poems of the great Pablo Neruda, a book about one of Bob Dylan's best albums, and more.

"Prague Pictures: Portrait of the City" by John Banville is the fourth in the Bloomsbury "Writer and the City" series, which are enjoyable. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Prague has a history that has drawn others to it since the 1500s and has survived wars and communism. Banville writes of the history of the city and the people he has met in his visits.

"On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea," by Pablo Neruda is a collection of some of his sea poems. This is the centenary of Neruda's birth, and the book is lavishly illustrated by Mary Heebner.

"A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks" by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard is an insider's look at the difficulties Dylan had in making one of his most popular albums. At one point, he scrapped earlier recordings of five of the songs and traveled back to his native Minnesota to finish the album. Gill is a British music journalist and Odegard was one of the Minneapolis musicians who played on the re-cut songs.

"Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History" by David Christian and William H. McNeill is an environmental look at the history of the world, including the interaction of people and nature. It's a holistic way of looking at history, instead of just a people-centric one.

"The Epicure's Lament" by Kate Christensen is a novel about a well-to-do man who is dying of a rare disease. Witty and dark.

"The Ticket Out" by Helen Knode is a Los Angeles noir-style whodunit, with echoes of James Ellroy. Well, the author is his wife. Instead of the 1950s, this is set in modern day, peopled by real Hollywood celebrities. The detective is a former journalist who had been bored with her job and now tries to solve a murder of a young film student.

"Gods, Mongrels and Demons: 101 Brief But Essential Lives " by Angus Calder is an eclectic selection of the famous and the not-so-famous, but all memorable in one way or another. Calder is a social historian who has written a lively book.

--Don Kazak

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