Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In my January 25 post about the books Phil Jackson gave Lakers players I referred to Roberto Bolano as a "Mexican" author. Even though 2666 is set in Mexico, and Bolano spent many years there, he was, in fact, born in Chile. The blog entry has been corrected to reflect that.

Man's Best Reading Audience

Grouch Marx supposedly once said, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." One group, however, is proving that a dog can be a powerful incentive to literacy. For ten years now, Intermountain Therapy Animals has operated a program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), which brings therapy dogs into schools, libraries and other settings so that children can read to them. Dogs, of course, are a wonderful audience for young readers, conferring 100% rapt attention as the child reads aloud.

I urge to go to the organization's website and click on "R.E.A.D. Pictures." It will take to a slide show of children reading to dogs that will make your day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Block out! Hit your free throws! Read!

Phil Jackson has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, having won a record ten titles. (Of course, having Michael Jordan on his Chicago teams and having Kobe Bryant on his current Los Angeles Lakers team hasn't hurt.) He has also earned the nickname of the "Zen master," for his interest in Buddhism and his sometimes unusual approaches to coaching.

For example, at the beginning of each season, he gives each of his players a book to read, and no, these books have nothing to do with the history of basketball or the execution of Jackson's vaunted triangle offense. Rather, they are general fiction or nonfiction titles which Jackson chooses especially for each player. This year, for example, Kobe Bryant received a distinguished work of Western fiction: Montana, 1948, by Larry Watson. Luke Walton, son of NBA hall-of-famer and infamous free spirit Bill Walton, got Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang. Jackson's Spanish center Pau Gasol should be kept busy reading Chilean author Roberto Bolano's massive 2066. Perhaps the most interesting gift was the one given to new Laker Ron Artest, famous not only for his intense playing style but his ferocious temperament: he got a copy of Jackson's own book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. You might want to read that very carefully, Ron.

A complete list of Jackson's bibliographic bestowals can be found at the New Yorker's Book Bench blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spare the Blake, Spoil the Scholar

Undoubtedly there are some people who would consider reading the poetry of William Blake -- especially the "prophetic" poems -- to be a punishing experience. However, the headmaster at West Park School, in Derby, England, has given that idea a somewhat unusual twist: he's come up with a form of detention punishment quite different from anything the Brat Pack had to deal with in The Breakfast Club. Misbehaving students at West Park School are required to transcribe Blake's poem, "Jerusalem" while listening to Mozart's "Requiem" and Verdi's "Aida".

Would such an experience increase a student's appreciation for Romantic poetry and classical music, or increase a hostile attitude towards such things? Hard to say, of course, but evidence indicates the novel -- or poetic -- punishment does have a deterrent effect. Since the headmaster introduced the practice four years ago, the number of students ending up in detention has decreased dramatically.

More here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"In that state between two waters"

Over the past week we have been appalled, saddened and occasionally inspired by the news coming out of Haiti. We have heard frequently of the poverty and despair said to be endemic in that country, and have listened to pundits and crackpots offer reasons for those circumstances.

In Sunday's New York Times, however, Madison Smartt Bell testified to the remarkable riches flowing from that Caribbean island and its extraordinary people. Art, music, literature and -- yes, Pat Robertson -- even Vodou have been a source of pride, courage and resilience in this country born from the determination of slaves throwing off their yoke of tyranny. How does one endure beyond all expectation of endurance? Perhaps part of the answer lies with these riches.

Madison Smartt Bell's article is here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Friday, 1/15, at Accent on Books: Peggy Tabor Millin

Peggy Tabor Millin has been a prominent presence in the Western North Carolina writing community for years, and we are glad that finally we will be formally, officially hosting her for an event. She will be presenting her latest book, Women, Writing & Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine, this coming Friday evening, beginning at 6:00.

Peggy is the creator of a process called, "Centered Writing Practice" which she describes as "a free writing technique that bypasses the linear left brain and opens the path for intuitive creative process." The result is a writing experience that has benefits for personal growth and self-awareness, as well as engendering creativity. It's a process that Peggy has taught at numerous workshops and conferences, as well as through individual consultations, and it is the inspiration for her new book.

We hope you'll join us for light refreshments and fascinating conversations this coming Friday with Peggy Tabor Millin at Accent on Books.

More about Peggy and her work can be found at her website.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

OK, but I draw the line at anything by Ann Coulter

Have you broken all your resolutions yet? Mine are usually in pieces by mid-afternoon New Years Day. However, if you're still soldiering on with your good intentions -- or if you want to start new batch of resolutions after destroying the first group -- Laura Miller at has a suggestion for you: broaden your reading horizons. Her blog entry is provocatively titled, "Read a book you think you'll hate in 2010," but, as she explains, that's not really what she means. "We all have our little biases," she contends, "and far be it from me to suggest that people force themselves to read books they don't like, but sometimes that's all these preferences are -- prejudices." If you automatically reject fiction, or nonfiction, or short stories, or books by men writers, or women writers, or whatever, well, you may want to reconsider.

If, like me, you're a pretty slow reader then obviously you wouldn't want to waste your time plodding through a book you simply don't like. But who knows -- that book of short stories about 12th-century Mongolia written by a transgender Brazilian now living in Kentucky may turn out to be your favorite book of the year.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Books

So, with the holiday season behind us, Accent on Books must be kicking back and relaxing, since there aren't any more new books coming out in the foreseeable future, right?

Wrong! January is turning out to be a month with a number of major new releases. Here is just a sample of some titles we're expecting to arrive over the next couple of weeks:

Unfinished Desires, by Gail Godwin. Gail Godwin's long-awaited new novel is based on her years growing up in Asheville, in particular her experiences at St. Genevieve's Academy.

The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova. Asheville resident Kostova won national praise for her first novel, The Historian. Like that book, her new novel combines past and present, this time dealing with a mystery at the heart of French Impressionism.

Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This sequel to Gilbert's wildly popular Eat, Pray, Love deals with the challenges and complications of the relationship in which she is involved in the latter stages of the earlier book.

Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier. Acclaimed writer Chevalier (The Girl with the Pearl Earring) specializes in historical novels dealing with accomplished women trying to succeed in a world dominated by men. Her latest tale is based on the life of the nineteenth-century paleontologist Mary Anning.

Rediscovering Values, by Jim Wallis. The author of God's Politics suggests that the current economic crisis provides an ideal occasion for redirecting our priorities towards sharing more with others.

Noah's Compass, by Anne Tyler. A new book from this wise, gentle, humorous novelist is always a treat. This one centers on a recently retired, 61-year-old schoolteacher coming to terms with his life.

Hopefully these and other new releases will give you the motivation you need to venture out into the (admittedly bitter) cold, and visit Accent on Books for a cup of hot tea and a world of exciting new reading.