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2002 Year End Staff Picks

Nearly all of the staff members here at Abebooks are avid readers, with tastes ranging from sci-fi to sports to philosophy to popular fiction and beyond. As the end of the year approaches, we would like to present a selection of favorites from our team.

Haroun and the Sea of StoriesHaroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie
Recommended by Ronald
"Although known for his more controversial writings, Salmon Rushdie proves he can write an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable children's story that readers of any level can appreciate."

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The Power of OneThe Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
Recommended by Suzanne
"Everyone has seen the movie, but you can't fully appreciate this story until you read the book. It is funny, painful, uplifting, and heartbreaking at the same time. This is one of the best fictional stories I have ever read. For those who don't know, it is the story of a white English boy growing up in South Africa and all the joys and sorrows of this experience."

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
Recommended by Suzanne
"This is the longest it has EVER taken me to read a book. This philosophical mind-bender disguised in the form of a story requires at least twice as much time to think as to read. It is not light reading material, but for anyone who's mind is getting spongy and tired, this is the perfect workout. I loved it. I think I will have to read it two more times to fully absorb all the ideas and information presented..."

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Harvey Penick's Little Red BookHarvey Penick's Little Red Book, Harvey Penick w/ Bud Shrake
Recommended by Marci
"Since discovering golf I have also discovered some great books on the subject. My favorite so far is Harvey Penick's Little Red Book. It puts a very unsimple sport into simple terms. There are short chapters which are almost like lessons on such things as "Putting" "The Shank Shot" and "Instant Humility." Penick, who died in 1995, always described himself as a humble caddie. In my opinion he was also a gifted communicator and a fine teacher. Great reading for golfers at any stage in their game."

ALSO SEARCH FOR: Other Titles by Harvey Penick | Golf Improvement | Golf - Collectible

Franny & ZooeyFranny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
Recommended by Beth
"Most people would likely associate the name JD Salinger with his most famous book, The Catcher in the Rye. The Catcher in the Rye has often been praised for its unflinching look at humanity, on a societal scale, as Holden comes to terms with what he sees going on around him, and on a more individual scale, as he struggles to reconcile the disgust he feels for society with his place as part of that same society.

The book I love best of JD Salinger's is Franny and Zooey, because, while it too examines the emotional and mental struggles of being human, it seems to focus more on the similarities of those struggles that exist in everyone. The children of the Glass family are grown now, but as children were in the spotlight as child prodigies, and have grown up feeling isolated and different because of their experiences as children.

The Glass family has grown through difficult things, including the suicide of one of the siblings, Buddy, and the resulting pain and questions that accompany such a loss.

The book focuses mainly on Franny, the youngest Glass, who is suffering something of a mental breakdown as a result of her loneliness, sadness and confusion, and her brother, Zooey, who (slightly reminiscent of Holden Caulfield in Catcher) seems irritated and disappointed by almost everything, but clearly cares about his sister and his family very deeply.

There is a scene near the end of the book that almost feels like an epiphany for Franny. It's a sad realization, but beautiful and comforting, and seems to lift her enough to enable her to move on, and live, and feel some sort of purpose.

Franny and Zooey is beautifully and eloquently written, with dialogue more authentic than is often found in writing. It's a slow, thoughtful, often sad read (but often funny, as well), but well worth it for the thoughts one comes away with after putting it down."

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About a BoyAbout a Boy, Nick Hornby
Recommended by Boris
"I read [About a Boy] in under a day on the beach in Mexico in March this year and it is simply charming, funny and a good story!"

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The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and FiveThe Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, Doris Lessing
Recommended by Doug
"Lessing wrote a number of books classified as science fiction, but in which the SF theme is minor. "Marriages.." reads more like an allegory or fable. For me, the book is about the dynamic tension between our polar opposites, as individuals and as societies. And about the danger of banishing one force in favour of the other.

The story centers around the king of a warlike and aggressive country, who is forced to marry the queen of a peaceful, utopian state. The warlike nation is rapidly killing off its neighbours and its own citizens through battle and starvation. The other country, which on the surface looks like paradise, has lost its vitality: cattle are not breeding, people are bored and have lost their creative energy. Stagnation is taking over.

The stormy and passionate struggle between the two rulers, as they attempt to coexist, is delightful--and aims right at the heart of the tensions and "warfare" in any deep personal relationship. And it reveals how each side is sterile and half-complete without the other. You cannot have a pure utopia. Good without evil eventually dies of boredom. And warfare threatens to kill us all without compassion.

There are three 'zones' in Lessing's title. The reader is welcome to discover what the third zone is!"

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The Wealth and Poverty of NationsThe Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, David Landes
Recommended by Udo
"One of the most entertaining books on world history I ever read. Landes does not shy away from contravening current notions of political correctness and is never short of a good anecdote."

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Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant LifeLouis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, Laurence Bergreen
Recommended by Udo
"This book is not only for dedicated Jazz buffs but for everyone who is interested in the cultural history of Jazz. Very readable."

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Doomsday BookDoomsday Book, Connie Willis
Recommended by Monica
"In this time-travelling story, a 21st century historian travels to the 14th century.

The Doomsday Book is an interesting, well written and sad tale. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in history or science fiction. The passage below is from the time of the Black Death and is quoted in the book; it gives an idea of what the story is about.

"Buried with my own hands five of my children in a single grave . . . No bells. No tears. This is the end of the world." - Agniola Di Tura. Siena 1347.

The Doomsday Book is the winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards."

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Foucault's PendulumFoucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
Recommended by Oliver
"This book depicts a mysterious story founded on the desks, or rather, computer, of a few associates in a small publishing firm. Through their knowledge of fact they concoct an elaborate 'Plan' by combining irrefutable historical events into a believable tapestry. Having done so, one individual discloses this to a group of 'believers' who are convinced these publishers know the secret to control the world. This changes their lives from one of hypothesizing to a devilish reality. It has been a while but I believe this sums it up. A very good read nonetheless."

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Where the Evil DwellsWhere the Evil Dwells and Enchanted Pilgrimage, Clifford D. Simak
Recommended by Angie
"Clifford D. Simak (1902-1976) is one of the representatives of the golden age of Science Fiction writing - and even so a bit forgotten in the readers memory. What I exceptionally love about the two recommended titles is the visionary mixture of science fiction elements like robots or parallel dimensions and the medieval accessoires of classic fantasy such as knights, dragons and goblins."

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CachalotCachalot, Alan Dean Foster
Recommended by Angie
"Foster is quite famous for his "Alien" novels which were the template for the movies with the same name - but his other novels are wonderful, too. My all time favourite is "Cachalot" which I had read at first, when I was 14. I still read it about every three years again. The story about a 25th century ocean planet, which is the new home of extra-terrestrial whale giants with a manlike intelligence still takes me away! It's the best gift for every Sci-Fi Fan who is also a lover of the ocean life!"

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Capitalism and FreedomCapitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman
Recommended by Derek
"Friedman, who is one of the most respected economists of all time, does a comparison of commonplace socialist policies and how they could be greatly improved by adhering to the free market principles of a capitalist society. Friedman also explains how personal freedoms and choice become greatly improved through open market economics. This book is likely the best published argument for capitalism, and is essentail reading for any fan of economics or social policy."

ALSO SEARCH FOR: Other Titles by Milton Friedman | Capitalism | Economics

JingoJingo,Terry Pratchett
Recommended by Matthew
"I had the pleasure to meet my favourite living author earlier this year - I was completely taken aback when I found out that Terry Pratchett was coming to Vancouver Island, and that he was going to actually talk to us Victorians! He was so nice that at the end of his two-and-a-half hour talk, he would not leave the building until every single person there had an autograph or two (from him).

But enough about Terry, this is about me, well, me and one of the books he wrote…. Jingo is my current favourite of the many (and I mean many) titles in the hugely popular Discworld series. In fact, this is the title I buy for friends upon whom I try to impart my absolute joy of reading Terry Pratchett novels (mental osmosis having already failed by this point). In fact I had two copies signed and personalized for my Dad and my sister's boyfriend while Terry was in town… so now they have to read them! If you enjoy the works of Douglas Adams, and you enjoy a good chuckle, then this is the book for you!

But what is Jingo about? Well, it's mainly about crime, er I mean war... "A weathercock has risen from the sea of Discworld. Suddenly you can tell which way the wind is blowing. A new land has surfaced, and so have old feuds. And as two armies march, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morkpork City Watch has got just a few hours to deal with a crime so big that there's no law against it. It's called "war." He's facing unpleasant foes who are out to get him... and that's just the people on *his* side. The enemy might be worse. And his pocket Dis-organiser says he's got "Die" under "Things To Do Today". But he'd better not, because the world's cleverest inventor and its most devious politician are on their way to the battlefield with a little package that's guaranteed to stop a battle...""

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84 Charing Cross Road84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff
Recommended by Kathleen
"The author builds not only her book collection, but also friendships, in this touching and humourous true story of her 20 year correspondence with a London bookseller. What starts out as a transatlantic book order turns into much more."

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Not Wanted on the VoyageNot Wanted on the Voyage, Timothy Findley
Recommended by Hillary
"God is dead, Noah is a tyrant, sheep sing hymns, and the Devil is a 7-foot-tall drag queen. This post-modern retelling of the Biblical tale is horrific and funny and an unforgettable reading experience written by one of Canada's most honoured authors."

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Love is the Killer AppLove is the Killer App, Tim Sanders
Recommended by David
"Tim Sanders is the Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo and drives some of the company's largest partnerships. For idle reading, I am not one to pick up books on Business and I definitely stay away from books even relating to the Technology Industry. But, I attended a presentation by Tim Sanders recently and was blown away by some of his ideas. The main theme of the book is based on Tim Sanders idea that, "The most powerful force in business isn't greed, fear, or even the raw energy of unbridled competition. The most powerful force in business is love." This book is definitely worth reading for anyone that would like to become a "Love Cat" and leave the greedy 90's behind. One point that really stuck for me, is that networking is not getting customers (that's prospecting), it is not expecting money for introducing people (that's brokering). "Networking is sharing your contacts with others to create value without the expectation of compensation. Your network is your net worth." Wow! A great book that I would highly recommend."

ALSO SEARCH FOR: Other Titles by Tim Sanders | Internet Marketing | Business Strategies

The Folk of the Faraway TreeThe Folk of the Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
Recommended by Sarah
"My favourite series of books as a child was the Enchanted Wood series, including The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, and The Wishing Chair Again, by Enid Blyton. These books are now out-of-print, and the editions that I have are a large size with lovely illustrations (almost on every page).

The Faraway Tree books chronicle the adventures of a group of children who find an enchanted forest, with the most remarkable and fun-filled tree imaginable. The Faraway tree is inhabited by many interesting characters, including Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and the Saucepan Man. The best part is that the top of the tree, just where it meets the clouds, is a gateway into various magical lands. Every week is a fantastic new adventure - The Land of Enchantments, The Land of Giants, The Land of Tea-Parties with nothing but white-clothed tables covered in goodies, serviced by well-dressed rabbits.

My mother read these books to my sister and I when we were children, and we loved them. I admit that when I miss my family, I still pull them out and read them. Not only are they lovely books, and lovely stories, but most importantly they remind me of home."

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The Curious SofaThe Curious Sofa, Edward Gorey
Recommended by Michael
"As always Edward Gorey's distinctive illustration style makes this short story a treat to read. In the book Alice meets a man with whom she takes a taxi ride and subsequently does something she's never done before. Sly and suggestive, this book was a delight."

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Red China BluesRed China Blues, Jan Wong
Recommended by Denise
"The author, an idealistic 20-year old goes to Maoist China in the 70s and stays till the 90s, becoming a foreign correspondent for the Globe and Mail and witnessing the Tiananmen Massacre, among other things."

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