Saturday, June 23, 2007

Three Books You Should Read

This is going to sound really odd, but I just finished three books that should never be read back to back to back and came away surprised by all three in different, pleasant ways.

1. "Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker." The world's most successful female poker star writes a memoir accessible not just to poker fans but to anyone intrigued by how a pioneering woman navigates through a very tough male-dominated profession. What's more, Annie Duke isn't afraid to discuss her personal travails, namely an in-depth chronicle of her life of panic attacks. Catch my interview with her and her famous brother, Howard Lederer, on "The Strip" this upcoming week.

2. "Drop Dead Beautiful." Bestselling author Jackie Collins' next potboiler is being launched this weekend in Vegas, where it's largely set as a tale involving an effort to halt the opening of the heroine's new megaresort. It was campy, silly, utterly addictive and so full of sex that there's a blowjob on, I think, the fifth page -- and Ms. Collins reveals on this week's episode of "The Strip" that her publisher wanted that scene to open the book but she demurred. What restraint! My aunt tells me we don't call this "trash" anymore; it's now known as "beach reading." Mmhmm. Hear the Jackie Collins interview here or right-click to save it to your computer to hear at your leisure.

3. "The Year of Magical Thinking." So then I moved on, naturally, to Joan Didion's National Book Award Winner. I had hesitated to read what seemed likely to be an unrelentingly depressing memoir of the year in which her husband died and her daughter lay deathly ill, but it turned out to be a lovely, sensitive and remarkably thoughtful meditation on the experience of grief and the strange things it does to normal, sane people. Didion forced me to ponder who the great relationships of my life are whose death would launch me into that kind of mourning; in other words, a book on death and loss succeeded in prompting me to take stock and feel grateful for life, mine and those around me. That said, the book did drag a bit near the end, even at 226 pages, and became a little redundant. Well worth it, but mercifully succinct.

So now I'm low on books. Any suggestions?