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Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark The Exile
May 28, 2017 09:28 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Catherine Scott-Clark co-author with Adrian Levy of The Exiles: The Stunning Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda In Flight.

Catherine is an award winning investigative journalist who worked as a staff writer and foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times in London then joined The Guardian as senior correspondent. She and Adrian have published The Amber Room: The Fate of the World’s Greatest Lost Treasure and The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret of Imperial Green Jade.

For ten years Osama Bin Laden avoided capture by all of America’s combined might. Hunter killer squads, drones, Special Forces and all of our intelligence services.

The Exile fills in the gaps of the decade long lacuna. How. Through the voices of those who witnessed the events themselves. Bin Laden’s four wives, his many children, his deputies and military attaches, his religious gurus, the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI and lot of other well-documented sources.

Stunning? Why? Because the stories we were told, as is oft the case wasn’t exactly the case. The fact for example that the Bush White House knew the whereabouts of bin Laden’s family and Al Qaeda’s military and religious leaders, but simply refused the opportunity to capture them. Yes I find it hard to believe as well.

But the book is so copiously researched and convincing that your opinions of Osama, Bush, Seal Team Six and the entire Pakistan Military will be changed dramatically upon a careful reading of this thoroughly researched and well presented work of investigative reporting.

Here I Am Jonathan Safran Foer
May 22, 2017 12:17 PM PDT
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Good Afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Jonathan Safran Foer author of Here I Am, published last year but just being released in paperback tomorrow by Picador.

As most of you know Jonathan’s previous works include Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tree of Codes and his non-fiction work Eating Animals.

The title Here I Am ostensibly refers to Abraham’s response to God when the Lord calls out to him. The Lord tells Abraham--- He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."…

Now what does this have to do with a book about Jacob and Julia Bloch, their foundering marriage and their three sons Sam, Max and Benjy, grandfather (Irv) and great-grandfather (Isaac) as they face the possible destruction of Israel and an upcoming bar mitzvah.

It’s the way Abraham responds and it is a gnomon of the Jewish religion and culture. You don’t respond by saying “Hey”, or What’s up, or what do you need or I’ll be there in a minute.

It’s Here I am. For you. All of me. Whatever it is you ask.

It could also mean that Jonathan is telling the reader, and there is an autobiographical tint to the book. Jonathan could be saying, here I am guys. This is me. Not me like this is everything that happened in my life. But here are my brothers, here is my Mom and Dad. Here is my elementary school. Here is my synagogue.

The key is, and it runs through it is that in Judaism, the Judaism of Jonathan and the way I was brought up. There are certain things you don’t question. The unconditional love of a child, the obedience and loyalty to an ancestor, the belief in the preservation and defense of a homeland. And Primarily and you either have it or not, a rock solid, non-resonating core set of beliefs that might make you a bit irritating or humorous but gives you a piece of bedrock on which to stand.

1Q1A Here I Am Jonathan Safran Foer
May 22, 2017 12:16 PM PDT
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Good Afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Jonathan Safran Foer author of Here I Am, published last year but just being released in paperback tomorrow by Picador.

As most of you know Jonathan’s previous works include Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tree of Codes and his non-fiction work Eating Animals.

The title Here I Am ostensibly refers to Abraham’s response to God when the Lord calls out to him. The Lord tells Abraham--- He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."…

Now what does this have to do with a book about Jacob and Julia Bloch, their foundering marriage and their three sons Sam, Max and Benjy, grandfather (Irv) and great-grandfather (Isaac) as they face the possible destruction of Israel and an upcoming bar mitzvah.

It’s the way Abraham responds and it is a gnomon of the Jewish religion and culture. You don’t respond by saying “Hey”, or What’s up, or what do you need or I’ll be there in a minute.

It’s Here I am. For you. All of me. Whatever it is you ask.

It could also mean that Jonathan is telling the reader, and there is an autobiographical tint to the book. Jonathan could be saying, here I am guys. This is me. Not me like this is everything that happened in my life. But here are my brothers, here is my Mom and Dad. Here is my elementary school. Here is my synagogue.

The key is, and it runs through it is that in Judaism, the Judaism of Jonathan and the way I was brought up. There are certain things you don’t question. The unconditional love of a child, the obedience and loyalty to an ancestor, the belief in the preservation and defense of a homeland. And Primarily and you either have it or not, a rock solid, non-resonating core set of beliefs that might make you a bit irritating or humorous but gives you a piece of bedrock on which to stand.

Joshua Ferris The Dinner Party
May 19, 2017 10:33 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of the Avid Reader. Today our guest is Joshua Ferris author of The Dinner Party and Other Stories, published this month by Little Brown and Company.

This is Joshua’s first collection of short stories. His debut novel was Then We Came To An End, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Next came The Unnamed in 2010 and Joshua’s third novel in 2014 is To Rise Again At A Decent Hour shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

The stories in The Dinner Party have been collected over a period of 10-12 years and represent a collection of work that while distinct and individual weaves together a set of themes that keeps the reader laughing, puzzled, wondering and in awe.

For example, if you have ever really had a bad day, read these stories and you’ll find out what it is to have a REALLY bad day? If you’ve ever been perplexed about why you made a certain dumb dumb decision, you know, the kind where you slam the heel of your hand against your forehead, wait till you see some of the decisions these guys make.

And I say guys, because Joshua is best when he is describing someone like me, a dumb guy, who’s put his foot in his mouth and rather than trying to get it out succeeds only in pushing in the ankle and then a portion of the tibia and fibula.

We all have moments when we realize, in retrospect, oh! That was the moment that my relationship with Susan began to unravel or the moment when you realize if I had just turned that doorknob or have smiled and said hello instead of putting my hands in my pockets or turning away, my life would have been so much different.

Having those moments is one thing. And I don’t really blame you or myself. Well yeah I do blame myself. Pretty much 24/7.

What Joshua does is crystallize those moments, or telegraph them in the opening lines of a story so that you read with bated breath knowing that what is coming is not going to be good but it’s going to resonate.

You find yourself either rooting for a character, hoping against hope that he doesn’t do the dumb-ass thing you think he will, or you resign yourself and say well this is just not going to be good.

What is fascinating about the process is you find yourself constantly either laughing or trying not to as these bumbling foolish guys, some good hearted, some not so much, meander through life not even knowing what they are getting themselves into.

Donald Trump would be a perfect fit as a character in the next collection of short stories that Joshua brings us.

1Q1A Joshua Ferris The Dinner Party
May 19, 2017 10:31 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of the Avid Reader. Today our guest is Joshua Ferris author of The Dinner Party and Other Stories, published this month by Little Brown and Company.

This is Joshua’s first collection of short stories. His debut novel was Then We Came To An End, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Next came The Unnamed in 2010 and Joshua’s third novel in 2014 is To Rise Again At A Decent Hour shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

The stories in The Dinner Party have been collected over a period of 10-12 years and represent a collection of work that while distinct and individual weaves together a set of themes that keeps the reader laughing, puzzled, wondering and in awe.

For example, if you have ever really had a bad day, read these stories and you’ll find out what it is to have a REALLY bad day? If you’ve ever been perplexed about why you made a certain dumb dumb decision, you know, the kind where you slam the heel of your hand against your forehead, wait till you see some of the decisions these guys make.

And I say guys, because Joshua is best when he is describing someone like me, a dumb guy, who’s put his foot in his mouth and rather than trying to get it out succeeds only in pushing in the ankle and then a portion of the tibia and fibula.

We all have moments when we realize, in retrospect, oh! That was the moment that my relationship with Susan began to unravel or the moment when you realize if I had just turned that doorknob or have smiled and said hello instead of putting my hands in my pockets or turning away, my life would have been so much different.

Having those moments is one thing. And I don’t really blame you or myself. Well yeah I do blame myself. Pretty much 24/7.

What Joshua does is crystallize those moments, or telegraph them in the opening lines of a story so that you read with bated breath knowing that what is coming is not going to be good but it’s going to resonate.

You find yourself either rooting for a character, hoping against hope that he doesn’t do the dumb-ass thing you think he will, or you resign yourself and say well this is just not going to be good.

What is fascinating about the process is you find yourself constantly either laughing or trying not to as these bumbling foolish guys, some good hearted, some not so much, meander through life not even knowing what they are getting themselves into.

Donald Trump would be a perfect fit as a character in the next collection of short stories that Joshua brings us.

Lynda Mapes-Witness Tree
May 16, 2017 12:50 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Lynda Mapes, author of Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak, published in April by Bloomsbury.

Lynda has been a reporter with the Seattle Times for nearly 20 years, covering Northwest tribes, nature and the environment. Her previous works include Washington, the Spirit of the Land, Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam and The Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village.

Lynda first encountered the Harvard Forest as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. She then accepted the Bullard Fellowship in 2014 that enabled her to live at Harvard Forest to continue her work there, which ended up giving us this wonderful book. Witness Tree.

So the tale of one year in a small forest with one run of the mill (NPI) 100 year old red oak. What can one learn from that? Well, a lot more than I thought I would.

I learned about the cocktail of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide that starts the engine of photosynthesis and not only keeps a red oak alive and thriving, but sustains the very environment in which we live our lives, so far comfortably.

I learned about the story of carbon itself and its inextricable tie with our own spiral toward drastic climate change.

I learned about the interdisciplinary way that one can approach a tree, as an equal and in so doing learn as much about yourself as you do about the tree.

Some folks say that looking too closely, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Linda belies that old saw and sees both the tree, intimately and up close and sees not only the forest but also our world and what is happening to it.

1Q1A Lynda Mapes-Witness Tree
May 16, 2017 12:49 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Lynda Mapes, author of Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak, published in April by Bloomsbury.

Lynda has been a reporter with the Seattle Times for nearly 20 years, covering Northwest tribes, nature and the environment. Her previous works include Washington, the Spirit of the Land, Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam and The Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village.

Lynda first encountered the Harvard Forest as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. She then accepted the Bullard Fellowship in 2014 that enabled her to live at Harvard Forest to continue her work there, which ended up giving us this wonderful book. Witness Tree.

So the tale of one year in a small forest with one run of the mill (NPI) 100 year old red oak. What can one learn from that? Well, a lot more than I thought I would.

I learned about the cocktail of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide that starts the engine of photosynthesis and not only keeps a red oak alive and thriving, but sustains the very environment in which we live our lives, so far comfortably.

I learned about the story of carbon itself and its inextricable tie with our own spiral toward drastic climate change.

I learned about the interdisciplinary way that one can approach a tree, as an equal and in so doing learn as much about yourself as you do about the tree.

Some folks say that looking too closely, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Linda belies that old saw and sees both the tree, intimately and up close and sees not only the forest but also our world and what is happening to it.

Mother Land Paul Theroux
May 09, 2017 06:24 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader.

Our guest today is Paul Theroux, who to most of you needs no introduction. He is a renowned novelist, short story writer and perhaps is most well known as a travel writer whose The Great Railway Bazaar back in 1975 was a seminal work that influenced pretty much every travel writer since.

He has written over 30 novels and short story collections, many adapted for the screen and about 20 non-fiction works, mostly devoted to travel, with the last being his Deep South in 2015, documenting his travels through the southern states of this country.

Today we will be discussing with him Mother Land, published just last week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

There are two ways that one could begin a discussion of Motherland. You could be a casual reader who happens into my bookstore, sees the book on the front table exhibited prominently and falls in love with the cover, and it is a striking one, not knowing who Paul Theroux is, or just vaguely recognizing the name and pick up the hefty (over 500 pages) book and deciding after reading the blurbs and jacket that the story of a large dysfunctional family over a series of decades, narrated by what may be a slightly unreliable brother is just what suits his fancy on that day.

OR>>>>>>>>

You could come into the bookstore knowing lots about Paul Theroux. How the number and members of his family almost exactly mirror the number and members of the family in Motherland, including his 103 year old mother. How Paul wrote two stories that appeared in the New Yorker, the first The Best Year of My Life in 2005 and the second Upside-Down Cake in 2016 (set 30 years apart). Both of which stories find their way into Mother Land. You might know that Paul is father to British authors and filmmakers Marcel and Louis and is the brother of authors Alexander and Peter. And Uncle of the American Actor and screenwriter Justin Theroux married to Jennifer Anniston.

You would also know that Paul, decades ago, wrote a kind of autobiography My Other Life, that his then wife took umbrage to and wrote a letter to The New Yorker, objecting to certain aspects of the story.

And Paul’s brother Alexander wrote a scathing review of My Other Life, which finds its way, sometimes verbatim into Mother Land. So scathing that it is sometimes held up as an example of the nastiest of all brother/brother diatribes.

Mother Land contains all of Paul’s family, except you can’t really be sure if that is the case or not. For someone who has followed his career, it kind of confusing.

As Paul’s Wikipedia entry states, “By including versions of himself, his family and acquaintances in some of his fiction, Theroux has occasionally disconcerted his readers. Well he certainly has this one. As Paul has said in the past, he thinks of his fiction as “my life, with liberties”.

Bottom line is it is a fascinating hilarious mean-spirited book that keeps you on your toes, intimately involved with the characters and unfortunately if you have to get up early almost requires that you read it in one sitting. At least, to my own dismay, I did.

Matthew James Collecting Evolution Galapagos
May 04, 2017 06:43 AM PDT
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While Darwin in the Beagle charted the Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Matthew James author of the book Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin, published in April by The Oxford University Press.

Matthew is The Professor of Geology and Department Chair at Sonoma State University.

Collecting Evolution gives us the history of the 1905-06 expedition to the Galapagos sponsored by The Museum of The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
most famous course to the islands, Matthew convincingly shows that the specimens and labeling that he accomplished were far surpassed by this modern expedition. Darwin visited four islands over the course of five weeks In 1906 the eight young scientist and three crewman stayed for over a year visited 13 islands and collected an astounding and disconcerting 78,000 specimens including 266 giant tortoises. This is a slaughter of mass proportions yet at the same time it was done in the name of conservation. The idea being back then that if they didn’t bring back a specimen of a dwindling species that species would be lost to science forever.

All of this is fascinatingly set against the backdrop of the great San Francisco Earthquake.

1Q1A Matthew James- Collecting Evolution: Galapagos
May 04, 2017 06:41 AM PDT
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While Darwin in the Beagle charted the Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Matthew James author of the book Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin, published in April by The Oxford University Press.

Matthew is The Professor of Geology and Department Chair at Sonoma State University.

Collecting Evolution gives us the history of the 1905-06 expedition to the Galapagos sponsored by The Museum of The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
most famous course to the islands, Matthew convincingly shows that the specimens and labeling that he accomplished were far surpassed by this modern expedition. Darwin visited four islands over the course of five weeks In 1906 the eight young scientist and three crewman stayed for over a year visited 13 islands and collected an astounding and disconcerting 78,000 specimens including 266 giant tortoises. This is a slaughter of mass proportions yet at the same time it was done in the name of conservation. The idea being back then that if they didn’t bring back a specimen of a dwindling species that species would be lost to science forever.

All of this is fascinatingly set against the backdrop of the great San Francisco Earthquake.

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