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January 6, 2006 Edition

The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr


Part detective story, part art history, this is the story of how a graduate student followed a very cold trail from Italy to England to find a painting by Caravaggio that had been missing for over 200 years. Alongside the mystery is the story of Caravaggio himself, who was recognized in his lifetime as a master, but whose violent temper drove him to murder and to ultimately flee Rome. As readable as a novel, and all the more exciting because it is the truth.

The Smart Girl’s Guide to Sports, by Liz Hartman Musiker


What do you do if, like some women, you don’t have a clue about what the sports page is all about but want to learn? Whether you want to hold your own in water cooler discussions or finally truly enjoy a baseball game with your buddies, this excellent book will give you a basic grounding in professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, boxing, and car racing. Musiker includes info on how each game works, lists of players you ought to know (pointing out the hotties along the way), team names, glossaries of terms, and more. A flip, funny, and informative book for sports newbies.

Rereadings, edited by Anne Fadiman


All of us have favorite books we’ve read time and time again, and Fadiman asks: is it the same experience each time? Her seventeen chosen essayists say no, and write about their rereadings of such personally meaningful works such as “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band lyrics,” and H.C. Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen” with humor and insight.

A Man With No Talents, by Oyama Shiro, translated by Edward Fowler


This fascinating memoir goes behind the well-ordered Japanese “salaryman’s” life and into the life of a day laborer in Tokyo. Oyama, university-educated and bound for a life as a businessman, writes detachedly about the eccentricities and depression that made him temperamentally unsuited for corporate life, and the decision to leave it for the uncertain life of an unskilled worker. While he’s not entirely comfortable with that way of life either, he finds it easier than conforming to the greater Japanese society.

Japanland, by Karin Muller


A second outsider’s view of Japan, this is the story of an American woman who’s big on ideals, but whose ideals have led her astray: instead of the happy life she expected, she finds she’s living a soulless existence. So she takes a year off to live in Japan, to perfect her judo and pursue a new ideal: “wa,” or “effortless state of being”. Fitting into Japanese society can be difficult for the Japanese – is it any wonder that, even though she tries to follow all the rules, she has a hard time? In the end, she returns to America, enriched by encounters with sumo wrestlers, swordmakers, and thin plastic judo mats.

Unchosen, by Hella Winston


Every community that maintains a lifestyle different from the society around it has its rebels, but some communities hide them better than others. Among Hasidic Jews, the heavy weight of guilt and threat of ostracism from all they know keeps rebels very well-hidden indeed. Winston explores the compartmentalization that takes place, mentally and physically, in those Hasidim who try to live double lives, giving readers a glimpse into a world rarely seen by outsiders.

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