Sunday, December 26, 2010

Next week

Next week: Alexandra Horowitz's Inside of a Dog.

Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?

GARTEN, INA. Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-307-23876-4. Pp. 256. $35.00.

I know next to nothing about Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I've never seen her show or dipped into any of her other bestselling cookbooks. My impression has always been that she's a cuddlier, browner-haired, no-jail-time version of Martha Stewart. Which is fine. Martha Stewart kind of scares me anyway. After reading (as far as that goes with a cookbook) Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?, I realize that, amazingly, I  really am dead-on. "My kitchen," she writes at the beginning of the book, "is like a big sandbox--there's always something interesting to do there and it's filled with my friends". Garten's life is full of "playdates," "fabulous people," "brilliant photographers," and "gorgeous props". Group hug!

Joking aside, the recipes, while not exactly healthful, really are quite simple and delicious. Because I only cook for myself and my partner or my father, I was not able to go through and systematically make every single recipe in the book over the course of one week, nor would I really want to. Instead, I chose a dish from each chapter and prepared it, with varying results. I should mention that I'm a very nervous cook. I find that I'm not terribly good at multitasking, which is what cooking is all about. Still, here's what I made and how it turned out:

From the "Cocktails" chapter I made Garten's "Savory coeur à la crème" for an office holiday potluck. It took about three minutes to prepare and then I stuck it in the fridge to solidify over night. I also spent about ten minutes cleaning up cream cheese splatter from my clothes and the kitchen counter. Because I couldn't find a coeur à la crème mold, unsurprisingly, I followed Garten's advise and lined a strainer with some cheese cloth. Well, it came out looking like a white, cream cheesy brain, which I camouflaged by pouring a jar of chutney on top (don't worry, that was part of the recipe). It was okay. A tad too salty, but Koch liked it.

I admit that I didn't really make the "Watermelon & arugula salad" because I couldn't find watermelon or arugula at the grocery store. So I just tossed some lettuce together and made Garten's dressing to go with it. Someday I'll make it up to her and prepare the salad properly. For now, I'll just say that I tried. (I also didn't make any of the dishes in the "Lunch" chapter.)

For dinner (which I actually served for lunch), I made Garten's delicious "Weeknight bolognese," which would have been a little bit more perfect if I hadn't accidentally put four times the oregano than the recipe actually calls for. Oops. Despite this faux pas, the dish was really quite good, a spicier version of what most of us are used to. Koch's reaction was: "Why don't you cook like this more often?" Seconds all around.

Yesterday I made the "Tuscan white beans" for lunch. It's the first time I've ever cooked or eaten fennel, the root, so it was kind of an exciting and scary moment for us. When we went to the only grocer open on Christmas day, we had to ask if they had it because we had no idea what it looked like. Also, the recipe calls for "stalks, fronds, and core removed," which left me confused, because those seem to be all the parts of the root. We managed, despite this set back. And it was pretty good. Again, a bit too salty. I forgot that store-bought chicken stock is already well salted.

For dessert I made the "Chocolate hazelnut cookies," which calls for sandwiching the cookies with Nutella. Having a jar of Nutella in the house is a dangerous thing, so I forewent this extra step and just made the sugar cookies as is. They came out looking like sad, fat, and unrecognizable Christmas trees. They tasted better in dough form, but I bet they would have tasted even better than that with the Nutella from the original recipe.

Overall, I would say the reason why so many of my recipes failed had less to do with the cookbook than with the cook. Still, this piece could have used more actual vegetable recipes. Polenta does not belong in the vegetable section, but that's where you'll find it here. Probably because it's made of corn. Then again, so is cornbread.

Eat, Pray, Love

GILBERT, ELIZABETH. Eat, Pray, Love. New York: Penguin Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-14-303841-2. Pp. 334. $15.00.

I've always been suspicious of Elizabeth Gilbert's runaway bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love. Having previously worked at a bookstore for three years, from 2006 to 2009, her book was the only one I sold two or three copies of every single day. And I never once sold it to a man. Needless to say, no one who worked at the bookstore read it, myself included. Until now.

As every woman in America already knows, Eat, Pray, Love involves the year following a hard divorce during which Gilbert travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia, looking for happiness and balance (and love) along the way. She gets it all, and not to anyone's surprise.  The whole year is set up to be entirely satisfying, even if her previous misery is still trailing behind her when she first arrives in Italy, where the author replaces antidepressants with gelato and self-satisfaction quickly follows.

Gilbert is obviously an extremely likable writer and person (as she says herself, she can make friends with anyone and everyone). She is also a very privileged person, which I think she appreciates to some extent, but can still unashamedly describe a lone shopping spree she indulged in in Rome, during which she spent a small fortune on lingerie. It can be nice to read about another person's wealth--financial, that is--but it can also be kind of boring. Especially if you're poor.

The book's style is itself quite chatty and warm, which is what makes the book so pleasurable to read. Gilbert also has a sharp sense of humor (describing her affectionate personality as a split between a golden retriever and a barnacle), although frequently her attempts at cleverness not only fall flat, but go on for pages and pages before she finally gives the joke up. Fortunately, the most dreadful of these instances occurs early on in the book, in a passage in which Gilbert personifies Depression and Loneliness, who pay her a visit ten days into her stay in Rome: "Then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity; but he always does that. Then Loneliness starts interrogating me, which I dread because it always goes on for hours". This goes on for a page and a half.

Despite this moment of weakness, the Italy chapter is probably the most interesting in the book, I think because these are the four months Gilbert spends in exclusive pursuit of pleasure. Of course she finds pleasure of a different sort in Bali (his name is Felipe and he's Brazilian), but by the end of the book, I still wasn't sure what the moral of the story was. Perhaps something about meditation and finding God? Personally, I think it had something to do with having a lot of money and time to burn. Without either, this book would never have been written. 

Monday, December 20, 2010


So I didn't deliver this week. Next Sunday I fully intend on posting twice: once on Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, once on Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?  For now, here's a blurry picture of me holding 20 pounds of cats. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Next week

Next week: Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, pray, love.

Decision Points

BUSH, GEORGE W. Decision Points. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-307-59061-9. Pp. 497. $35.00.

I was expecting George W. Bush's book to be a memoir. It's not. It's the justification of a bad former president for making bad decisions. None of which were actually bad, or even erroneous, according to Bush. As long as you surround yourself with the right kind of people, all of whom already agree with you, no decision you make can be bad.

The book is structured strangely. The first hundred pages sum up Bush's life, leaving out anything of significance, like 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina. The biggies all get their own chapters later on. Still, all the personal soul-searching is left to the first chapter, which starts with an alcohol problem, digresses into childhood, college, marriage, and children, and finally returns to the decision to quit drinking and turn to the bible. Because this turns out to be the most personal chapter in the book, its lack of personality stands out the most. Whoever wrote this, assuming it wasn't really Bush, is young. Like, twenty-something year old young. I'm making this guess namely because of the college entrance essay language that poisons this chapter and the rest of the book. Here's Bush's one paragraph on attending business school at Harvard: "I came away with a better understanding of management, particularly the importance of setting clear goals for an organization, delegating tasks, and holding people to account. I also gained the confidence to pursue my entrepreneurial urge." And his college experience at Yale seems to be based off of the course catalog. By the end of the chapter, it really doesn't feel like giving up drinking held all that much at stake after all.

What does become more and more abundantly clear after the hundred-page mark is that not many decisions are actually going to be made, in the sense that the man deliberated over the issue before coming to a conclusion. He came to a conclusion, allowed others to deliberate in favor of that conclusion, and then acted upon said conclusion. In the case of stem cell research, in which his decision is led mainly by faith, the ends does not justify the means. Using available embryos to conduct important scientific research (or, as he puts it, "destroying" embryos), does not balance out morally. In a later chapters, on the other hand, torture is a means justified by the end. And while Bush is opposed to "destroying" embryos, he is in favor of "sacrificing" troops.

I shouldn't have thrown out the word "torture" in that last paragraph, especially since CIA experts said that the interrogation techniques we used do not constitutionally count as torture. In the 1950's, psychologists performed a series of experiments in pursuit of finding out how and why the Nazi regime and its death camps could have happened.  Regular American test subjects showed that if a man with the lab coat and clip board says it's okay to give an electric shock to a guy with heart problems, then it's okay to give an electric shock to a guy with heart problems. I'm not calling Bush a Nazi, but ignoring human decency in favor of the words of "experts" does not make for reassuring reading. Then again, none of Decision Points makes for reassuring reading. So let's just be happy the man's out of the White House.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Keith Richards' "Life"

RICHARDS, KEITH. Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-316-03438-8. Pp. 564. $ 29.99.

In 1967, when my father was fifteen, he confided in his journal that he planned on running away to London to become a rock star with the Rolling Stones. The journal does not survive. What does survive is the letter my grandmother wrote him that summer, in which she mentioned in passing that she'd been cleaning his room, had found his journal and was surprised to read that he wanted to become a English rock star. Needless to say, Dad did not make it to England to fulfill his dream, and after reading Keith Richards' memoir, I guess I'm glad he didn't

Obviously my father's adolescent pipe dream shows to some extent how influential the Rolling Stones were, and still are. As Richards humbly told a fan on the street: "Whatever you're listening to now, they wouldn't have been there without me". So now all the young boys of forty-odd years ago, who all one day dreamed of sporting Mick Jagger's epically wide mouth and Richards' wiry legs, are now bankers and lawyers and professors, and they're all buying up Richards' memoir, Life, to get another taste of what it was they so wanted to be. Dad is no exception.

But even Dad has to admit it's a long hard slog through more than 500 pages of drug-addled experiences. Going into it, and certainly by the 200-page marker, I was slowly overwhelmed with a sense of inevitable doom as life as a Rolling Stone took a backseat to the story, and drugs became the favorite topic. This book is hard to swallow and it's certainly not for everyone. I've been feeling gloomy all week, thanks to this book. Nevertheless, it's actually pretty easy to read, stylistically. It's really an oral history, there's no denying it.  No one actually sat down and wrote Life. Which is fine. At least we know it wasn't ghost written. Unless I'm a huge dupe and it really was. Still, the chattiness of the piece is both its strength and its weakness. Richards' voice is more immediate when you are under the impression that he's regaling you with these tales while sitting in his Connecticut house over tea. The problem is that I don't think anything was edited out. Because this is all Richards' voice, it's all true, it all has to stay in. Including stuff like "I also felt like I was doing it not to be a 'pop star'. There was something I didn't really like about that end of what I was doing, the blah blah blah." Thank you, Keith. Well said.

What I enjoyed most of all in the book were all those moments that clearly inspired the creators of "This Is Spinal Tap". The work is sometimes rife with hilarity, although the bulk of it includes the decade-plus during which Richards became a junky with his former partner Anita Pallenberg while raising two children (a third son died at two months of age, while Richards was on tour). The self-destructive spiral they both were in is artfully captured in the narrative, but that doesn't make it fun to read. Richards may have gone off the stuff thirty years ago, but his fixation remains.

By far my favorite chapter is the first, which is kind of discouraging four hundred pages along when you realize Richards saved the best for first. The chapter is more of an anecdote, describing a bust that took place in Texas in 1975 during one of the Stones' tours in the United States. The cockiness with which he recounts the incident is delightful, although it does lose stamina as the rest of the book progresses. Who doesn't feel a little cocky when they're surrounded by a bunch of Texans? "We were the most dangerous rock-and-roll bank" and it was "Open season on the Stones". The encounter took a comical turn, which, we discover later, was not always the case when Richards would get busted. In this case, toilets were clogged with pot and cocaine in an attempt to be rid of the evidence and the Texas police "suddenly didn't know what to do with these international stars stuck in their custody". 

I doubt many people will make it all the way to the end of Life. It's in need of a good trim, but it's too late for that now. Still, Stones fans like Dad should be able to enjoy the first three hundred pages pretty well. Reading about a poor English kid's rise to super stardom makes for some pretty good reading, despite all the blah blah blah.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Next week

Oh yeah. Coming next week: Keith Richards' Life. Oh boy.

The Confession

GRISHAM, JOHN. The Confession. New York : Doubleday, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-385-52804-7. Pp. 418. $28.95.

Until last week, I was a Grisham virgin. Life was bike rides and kittens and Christmas carols. Life was simple.  I worshiped at the altar of Great Literature. And I was not in the least bit curious to see what an author like Grisham had to offer the likes of me. I was innocent.

Then, on Sunday night, I found myself driving to the bookstore. I had made my decision. I was going to buy Grisham's newest book. I was nervous and I was scared. I tried to act casual as I walked through the door and into the overly lit entrance of the store, but I could tell that I'd been noticed. I walked directly to the shelf lined with copies of "The Confession," and plucked a copy as quickly as I could, but I was sure it was too late. I'd been seen picking up a Grisham novel, with the intention to buy. It was thirty percent off. "Not even a common whore gives discounts," I muttered under my breath, fumes of bourbon on my breath almost knocking me unconscious. And yet I wouldn't let go. I clutched the book to my chest, hiding the already all too familiar cover from prying stares. My heart was pounding as I stumbled over to the girl at the register. She flashed me a pretty smile, her eyes warm and open. Then she glanced at my purchase. The light went out, her eyes were dead. She flatly told me what I owed. I paid.

My face burned with shame as I ran out into the parking lot. I turned around one last time. The girl at the register was pretending to stick her finger down her throat, and then pretend vomiting into the money drawer. Life as I knew it was over. I drove home at a reckless speed, running red lights, leaving a path of destruction behind. When I finally made it to the sanctity of my home, I threw myself onto the bed and wept. Then I started reading. It was... meh.

The author, having just bought "The Confession," finds herself filled with self-loathing.
The author, having just read the first fifty pages of "The Confession," is filled with ennui.

I don't know much about John Grisham and what I do know I gathered from reading his bio on the dust jacket of his newest book. Apart from writing best-sellers, he's also on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project in New York and in Mississippi. Maybe not surprisingly, his newest work is a piece of thinly veiled anti-death penalty propaganda. I don't necessarily feel comfortable calling it "propaganda," since I am myself not in favor of the practice of execution, but the piece is so carefully constructed to fulfill Grisham's agenda, I don't know what else to call it. The novel is obviously meant to entertain as well as instruct, but in terms of driving home a point, it ultimately fails. The whole story the author tells is a fiction, carefully constructed to build up the reader's ire, but one would be better off reading something like David R. Dow's "The Autobiography of an Execution," which was also recently published (Dow is thanked in Grisham's acknowledgments, by the way). I've only had time to read about "Autobiography", but I recognized several cases mentioned in regards to Dow's work that have been woven into Grisham's plot. Naturally, reading about the real execution of an innocent man is more distressing than reading a novel about one.

Apart from all this, I had some other issues with Grisham's book. In many ways the subject-matter is terribly one-sided. The author obviously feels no friendliness towards Texas and its right-wing government. Nevertheless, the writing is almost confusingly conservative. With the exception of the use of the internet and cell phones, this book could have been written thirty or fifty years ago. The men are White Men: governors, lawyers, cops. They drink bourbon, play tennis, and bark out orders. The women are wives, mothers, and daughters. They cook, answer the phones, and cheer lead.  And then there are the black people. They listen to rap and play football. Somehow the only black voices in a book about a black population are that of Donté Drumm, an innocent man condemned to death, and his mother's. Grisham may write for the black population. He just can't seem to write the black population.

I guess the real hero of the story is a Lutheran pastor from Kansas named Keith Schroeder who has to drive Travis Boyette, a serial rapist and the killer of Nicole Yarber, to Texas where they will try to exonerate Donté Drumm, who has twenty-four hours until he is to be executed for Yarber's murder. Schroeder is supposed to be a likable person precisely because he is a man of God, but he falls in line with the Reverend Lovejoys of the world : willing to fulfill his duties to a certain extent, and then retreat. Much of the book is him feeling reluctant about helping out, but helping out anyway. Upon first meeting Boyette in his office, Schroeder quickly "tire[s] of the meeting. Boyette showed no interest in God, and since God was Keith's area of expertise, there seemed little for him to do". There seems to be something innately wrong when an interest in God is the only ticket to a pastor's empathy. Anyway, that's Keith for ya. And he's the book's hero.

Still, there are some scenes that Grisham delivers poignantly. The hour leading up to the execution and the scenes involving Drumm's mother and her grief are genuinely moving.

I should reiterate that this is Grisham's twenty-something book and the only one I've read. It's hard to come to a quick conclusion about a writer's oeuvre when I've only read such a small sliver of it. Let's just hope there are better works out there and maybe better ones to come. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Next week

I forgot to add: Next week I will be reviewing John Grisham's The Confession.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

LARSSON, STIEG. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-307-45454-6. Pp. 590. $14.95.

I know, I know. I've already broken my own rules. But baby, rules were made to be broken. Also, Larsson's "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is the first of the trilogy, which I think makes it okay to review. Besides, I was planning on reading it someday anyway. And this week I did just that. 

The book is about people who live in Sweden, who drink a lot of coffee, have a lot of personal and professional enemies, and print a lot of documents. It's also a tale of murder, libel, rape, torture, gangsterism, and financial journalism. And wending their way through this mess are two unlikely heroes, Mikael Blomkvisk and Lisbeth Salamander. Naturally, they stalk each other, meet up, team up, have some awkward sex, and solve the mystery. Besides this, they're the original odd couple: Mikael, naive, idealistic, middle-age, and a total DILF; Lisbeth, introverted, goth, mopey broody sulky chick and the most annoying fictional character since Bella Swan. Half the characters she runs into also think she is "retarded" (Stieg's word, not mine). You're supposed to not help but like her, but somehow I managed. Fortunately in Sweden, goth kids are considered mentally unstable, and Lisbeth's hellish relationship with a new guardian is one of the most gruesome subplots in the book. Don't plan on eating anything while reading the scenes that involve Bjurman. I myself learned the hard way.

The murder mystery itself is pretty gripping, and Larsson must have been an avid reader of the genre before his death in 2004, and there are many authors, both English and Swedish, that crop up over the course of the novel. There are times when the characters actually refer to other mystery authors and favored mystery tropes to describe the case in which they themselves are involved: "[T]he list of suspects consists of a finite number of people trapped here. A sort of locked-room mystery on an island format?" In many ways this is a meta-murder mystery, with Henrik Vanger, the man who commissions Blomkvist to solve the mystery, acting as the author of a thriller, while Blomkvist reacts to it the way the reader should. As Larsson humbly puts it, "Reluctantly [Blomkvist] had to admit that the old man's story was intriguing". Which it is, when the Larsson sticks to it.

Stylistically, the novel stumbles, but this could be due to a lazy translation (by Reg Keeland). Unfortunately, I can't say who's to blame. What I do know is that the piece is rife with platitudes and clichés, sometimes more than one per sentence: "I have to choose between two evils, and in this case there are no winners". And then twice on the next page: "I don't intend to hang [her] out to dry"; "I would have hung him out to dry". This kind of repetition shows a lack of imagination when it comes to writing dialogue, but it could also be the translator's inability to properly convert snappy Swedish talk into anything remotely natural-sounding in English.

All in all, I found myself half engrossed, half repelled by Larsson's first installation. I will probably read the other two, just not right now. What makes a man turn goth? I don't know. I think the answer lies somewhere in the next book.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Please understand that this project is merely the pass time of one individual who is already fully employed by the state (I won't tell you which). If you see any spelling and/or grammatical errors, please understand that I don't have an editorial team to whom I can turn.
Thank you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Earth (the Book)

STEWART, JON, et al. Earth (the Book). New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-446-57922-3. Pp. 244. $27.99.

Rare is the book that claims to have been written by a television show. In this case, the television show comprises of a group of writers cum editors, and a separate but equal group of twelve just plain old "writers". I think the main difference is that only the former are getting paid and only the latter are going to have to bother putting this work on their new résumés.

Jon Stewart has become a pretty important guy over the past few presidential elections, and maybe the culmination of his influence occurred last week at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear with Stephen Colbert. Like the rest of my demographic, I wanted to go, but couldn't afford to. Still, Stewart is a fantastic person, even if he is not Stephen Colbert, and I was excited and actually willing to part with a twenty to buy his new book, the second he (and "others") have produced in the format of a faux textbook. Right of the bat I should say it was not that much fun to read, much like a real text book.

"Earth (the Book)" was written for the supposed aliens who will supposedly arrive on our planet just after we supposedly technologize ourselves into supposed extinction. It's kind of a cute gimmick, which invites several anal-probe jokes within the first few pages, but it gets old, and fast. Behind this premise is the intention of informing and instructing the (human) readers on the follies of mankind, but the piece is, overall, rife with inconsistencies and misinformation. Fortunately, the only people who will be reading this book cover to cover are Jon Stewart fans, and they basically all know what's what anyway. I still find it irksome that the two-page spread on Advertising laments that "We went from being exposed to one or two ads a day (1900) to 5,000 a day (2000)" while displaying no less than seventeen. Actually, the entire book is dotted with advertisements, rendering the reading experience not unlike watching the Daily Show, except it's not as funny, and there are more advertisements.

Part of the problem may be that this is the product of many minds (like the Daily Show, in fact), all trying to be witty, with some succeeding ("Dora [the Explorer] was a plucky little girl who taught children how to shout instructions at brown people in Spanish"), while most of the others fail. I blame the "writers" of the book for the incredibly lame "Places to See: The Manila Folders". In addition, the book is dotted with grammatical mistakes and spelling errors, leaving me to wonder how this kind of stuff could get past five editors.

Nevertheless, the book is crammed with detail and lots of pictures, which will provide a more engrossed reader with hours of silent chuckles, if not any outright guffaws. Part of the reason for this lack of hilarity might be the authors' compromising humor for inaccurate postulating, such as "This page was itself once part of a temperate forest". It was in fact once part of a temperate tree farm. Let's not get overly dramatic here. It also does not seem fair, or in any way upstanding to the Jon Stewart Code of Sanity, to tell the aliens that the Muslims will "fuck you up". Which this book does, leading me to believe that Jon Stewart may have had less to do with its production than I originally thought.

Coming up next week: Steg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".


Oh, the New York Times Best Seller List. Such a strange, bold, unapologetic categorization of what American readers are absorbing this week, like, right now. Justly segregating Fiction from Non-Fiction, Hardback from Trade from Mass Market Paperback! So concise, and yet so informative! The latest Mitch Rapp installation, he's fighting terrorism! Jon Stewart, he's the guy from the Daily Show! Fuck, he is the Daily Show! And he's written a book!
Which is why I'm a little confused. The New York Times Best Seller List is such a prominent part of the Book Review, with its own three-page spread, within which generally nestles the newest ad for Kindle. Why is it then, that no one will actually review the gems that make their way to the top of the list? Sure, it happens. Like, once every blue moon. So for the poor sap who opens up his Sunday edition to that page somewhere towards the end and sees that Lee Child has a new book, and man is it selling like, I don't know, sliced bread, God forbid Jonathan Lethem condescend to read it, let alone write 500 words on it.
That's where I think I should come in. I propose to give TBR a break and do their dirty work for them. I will read the tomes that reach the number one spot, and I will inform on and, if necessary, critique the work in question. I doubt I'll have much to complain about. Most of the works that make it up there should be pretty great, is my guess. Americans have good taste in literature, from what I've observed at every airport terminal in the country.
I've set up some rules and guidelines. They have been pretty well thought out. It took me all of fifteen minutes.
1. I will review the top item on the Fiction hard cover list unless
a) It's already been on the top spot and I have therefore already reviewed it.
b) It's part of a series. As they say, Fuck that shit.
2. If the item has been disqualified (see above), I move on to the top of the Non-Fiction list.
3. And so on and so forth.
Thus, for the week of October 31st, I read The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's "Earth (the Book)" because Vince Flynn's "American Assassin" is something like the ninth book in his Mitch Rapp series. Nine books! That's like nine years' worth of reading material for the average American!