Book Club Pick: Rin Tin Tin

About a week ago, I offhandedly mentioned to my mother that I had just started reading the new paperback Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and, despite the fact that I’d never heard of the dog before, I was really enjoying it. I have never known my mother to be at a loss for words, but for once, she was suddenly and surprisingly silent. When I asked if everything was ok, she simply responded “I loved watching Rin Tin Tin. Your grandfather, my dad, did too. It was something special that we shared.”

Since finishing the book, I have heard dozens of similar stories about Rin Tin Tin and the unique ways that he touched so many different people’s lives. Susan Orlean’s book vividly explores this connection that generations of people have shared, not only with Rin Tin Tin, but with all of the animals that we choose to share our lives with. This is a book that literally bursts with discussion topics, making it the obvious choice for this week’s book club recommendation.

In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend, Susan Orlean masterfully traces the journey of Rin Tin Tin from a puppy on a French battlefield to an international brand, a set of ideals, and a legacy that has passed down from generation to generation. The narrative delves into the history of dogs in the military, obedience training and animal domestication, shifting social mores, film and television history, all while keeping a steady hold on the personal stories of Rinty and the people who loved and trained him.

Lee Duncan, a young American soldier, first stumbled across the newborn Rin Tin Tin in a bombed out animal shelter in the fields of France. Lee took Rinty back to America, and, through a twisting path of luck and devotion, Rin Tin Tin became a Hollywood icon. The idea of Rin Tin Tin grew from the values embodied by a single dog in silent films into something much bigger than Lee had perhaps imagined—into an idea, an emotion, a character residing in national and international consciousness.

Simon & Schuster has prepared a fantastic Reading Group Guide to help focus book club discussion, and here are some of the questions that I now can’t help think about every time I see someone walking their dog or discussing their pets:

  • What do you think of the notion that it is fundamentally strange for human beings to have pets in the first place? What do you think it is that draws us to the animals that we love so much?
  • Since reading the book, has it changed the way you think about: the power of movies? the roles that animals have played in human warfare? your own personal relationship to animals?
  • Do you think that anything or anyone can ever last forever?

Visit Susan Orlean’s website.

Follow Susan on Twitter. (Named one of the top Twitter feeds by Time magazine!)

Explore the Rin Tin Tin feed on YouTube.

Win up to ten copies of Rin Tin Tin for your book club!

Toronto Zombie Walk 2012

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Toronto Zombie Walk.
Last year nearly 7000 corpses writhed, weaved and lurched their way through the streets of Toronto feasting on those unlucky enough to be living.

Toronto Zombie Walk 2012

courtesy of BlogTO

Join the parade and add extra oomph to your costume by mastering your zombie mannerisms. Here are three great reads to get you in the right Zombie mind-set.

1. Warm Bodies 

R is a young man with an existential crisis–he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listening to Frank Sinatra. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Not just another zombie novel, Warm Bodies is funny, scary, and deeply moving story about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.

Read an excerpt.
Watch the book trailer.
Like Warm Bodies on Facebook.
Check out the poster for the upcoming movie.

2. Everything you ever wanted to know about Zombies

The most comprehensive Zombie handbook ever put together covered in four simple categories.

i) Zombie Basics: The history of zombies and their evolution
ii) Zombie Science: How do zombies hunt? How do their minds work?
iii) Zombie Survival: We all know the zombie Apocalypse is coming.
iv) Zombie Pop-culture: Don’t be left out of the loop when fellow zombies crack inside jokes.

3. Zombies vs. Unicorns

When the Apocalypse hits, don’t think the Unicorns will just step aside for Zombies take over. You’ll be faced with the ultimate question of Team Zombie or Team Unicorn.

In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories.  Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and
evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies.  Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan.

Read an excerpt.
Watch the book trailer.
Visit ZombiesvsUnicorns.com.

Simon Likes

With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to reread some of your favourite books. We asked our charming staff at Simon & Schuster Canada to share some of their top picks with you. Next up, Senior Publicist Max suggests Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind.

I love books on film, both criticism and behind-the-scenes stuff. A couple of my favourites are The Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thomson (thousands of great 1000-word-or-so entries; on Keira Knightley: “…about as interesting as a creme brulée where too much refrigeration has killed flavour with ice burn”) and Shock Value by Jason Zinoman about the golden age that was 1970s horror.

The latter is obviously descended from Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind which breaks-down another 1970s golden age: that of the American auteur who made movies for the mainstream. Easy Rider, a strange movie that feels like it sprung ex nihilo from its writer (Peter Fonda) and its director (Dennis Hopper), made so much money that it paved the way for a decade of idiosyncratic film. Some of them, like Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and The Deer Hunter, are masterpieces that also made profit. Others like Personal Best and especially Heaven’s Gate are much lesser movies. The latter, directed by Michael Cimino, with its huge over-budget, Cimino’s on-set fascism, and animal-abuse as special effects, is generally thought to be the film that actually killed the auteur. After Heaven’s Gate, studios stopped giving individual artists so much money and power and they focused on inoffensive, packaged films (though I do love Top Gun as much as the next guy).

Read an excerpt from the book.

Ten Reasons Why Books Make the Best Gifts (well, after puppies and private islands)

1)      Because other than those sparkly pencils and key chains with peoples’ names on them, books are one of the best gifts that you can find a uniquely suited one for every person on your list

2)      Because you don’t need to poke holes in the box so the book can breathe

3)      Because they are easier to wrap than a football or bicycle

4)      Because you can do all of your shopping in one spot

5)      Because you don’t have to feed them, plug them in, or put batteries in them

6)      Because “They have whole worlds inside them, and it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.” –Neil Gaiman

7)      Because you can even find one for the person who has everything

8)      Because they never come in the wrong colour, size or style

9)      Because they don’t need to be assembled

10)   Because it shows the recipient that you took the time to think about who they are and what they are interested in

So what’s the trick? Picking the right book. Luckily for you, I have some suggestions for everyone on your holiday gift list.

For the Hockey Lover

Double Overtime

Double Overtime by Stephen Cole

Full of fun facts, crazy yet true stories, and chalk full pictures, this book is for every hockey fan of every team (even if you the gift-buyer don’t know anything about hockey!)

For the (New) Baker

 Baking with the Cake Boss

Baking with the Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro

Buddy, from TLC’s smash hit Cake Boss, is back with another book. For the novice baker, this book starts with the basics of baking – the simple yet noble sugar cookie – and advances to fantastically intricate themed cakes for home-baking pros.  This is one gift that both the recipient and the giver are bound to benefit from!

For the Extraordinary Women in Your Life

 The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Strong, brave, resourceful, sensuous, caring, and giving – these are just some of the used words to describe the women of The Dovekeepers. A masterpiece that was five years in the making, the author of Practical Magic tells the beautiful and harrowing tale of four Jewish women in 70 C.E. Masada, Israel.

For Lovers of  iAnything

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs – the man who changed the world, whether we like it or not. Walter Isaacson’s biography, the only authorized biography of the Apple co-founder and innovator, tells the story of this intense personality whose drive for perfection can be seen in every one of his products and serves as a rollercoaster tale of ambition, obsessions, compulsion, creativity and innovation.

For Your Daughter, Niece or Little Sister

Dork Diaries Box Set

Dork Diaries Box Set by Rachel Renee Russell

This super popular series chronicles the oh-so-fabulous life of Nikki Maxwell as she navigates the halls of middle school, mean girls, BFF drama and first crushes. These spunky, funny, and relatable books are perfect for tween girl readers (and best of all, they are PG-rated so you don’t have to worry about your 11-year old niece reading vampire/immortal love scenes!).

For Almost Anyone (really, who doesn’t read Stephen King?)

11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

The incredible Stephen King is back in a brand new way. In 11/22/63, King tells the ultimate “What If?” story. What if you could go back in time and change history? King’s suspenseful and riveting tale of time travel to one of America’s most epic periods in history will have readers on the edge of their seats until the last page is turned.

The New YA Must-Have

 Clockwork Prince

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

With so many YA vampire/werewolf/warlock/immortal, etc, etc, etc books out there, it’s hard for the discerning gift-giver to know which one to choose for the teen on their list. Well look no further – Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series left young women begging for another adventure to go on, bad-boy to drool over, and smart, brave girl to read about, and with the second of the Infernal Devices series, Clare delivers.

For the 20-something Student

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides)

 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by Matthew Inman

Perfect for the quirky-humored, google-searching  20-something, 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) offers up 4 Reasons to Carry a Shovel at All Times, 6 Types of Crappy Hugs, 8 Ways to Tell if Your Loved One Plans to Eat You, 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat, and 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer.

Literary Non-Fiction

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean

If you can’t get someone a puppy for Christmas, get this book instead. Rin Tin Tin has been getting rave reviews and for good reason. Whether you love dogs, old Hollywood, the entrepreneurs behind entertainment, biographies, history, or just a wonderfully written story, Rin Tin Tin delivers.

For the Book Club Lover

The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Witchcraft, royalty, betrayal and passion, The Lady of the Rivers delivers it all. This book, to be enjoyed in front of a fireplace and with a cup of tea, is sure to keep your favorite aunt, sister or friend company this holiday season.

Brain Food

Grand Pursuit

Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar

In this epic yet readable narrative modern economics, Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, tells the of how activist thinkers like Marx, Sydney Fisher, Irving Fisher, and Milton Friedman transformed not just the Western world, but the entire planet.

The New Children’s Classic

The Man in the Moon

 The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

“Meet the very first guardian of childhood, MiM, the Man in the Moon.” A beautiful and tender story of love, adventure, and enchantment, The Man in the Moon, will capture hearts both young and old.

Wreck the Halls

When I was given the task of writing on the S&S blog (I’ve never blogged before, apparently I live under a rock), I was a little worried about what I would write about as the new marketing intern. That is, until I got my “assignment” – Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets Festive. So, in the name of research, I spent the afternoon flipping through the book, almost peeing my pants laughing in the process.

What is a Cake Wreck, you ask? According to the hilarious Jen Yates and her equally inappropriately funny husband, John, “a Cake Wreck is any professionally made cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, [or] inappropriate….”

In her first book, Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, (which just so happened to become a New York Times Bestseller), we saw creepy baby cakes, cakes with questionable spelling, anti-sexual harassment cakes, and, my favorite, divorce cakes (nothing says it better than a cake with “I Didn’t Like You That Much Anyway” written on it…except maybe the “Go Die in a Car Fire” cake).

Cake Wrecks

And now, Yates is back with a second helping of Cake Wrecks. With Santa being eaten by an alligator and vampire pilgrim cakes, who needs a Hallmark card?

Watch the trailer

Both Cake Wrecks and Wreck the Halls are actually books, with over two hundred pages of cake wreck photos accompanied by Yates’ special blend of wit and sarcasm. And somehow, they don’t stop being funny, but actually become even funnier because, as you flip through it with friends, you know what is coming. Wreck the Halls is the perfect Christmas gift and offers sweet relief from holiday shopping madness, whether you give it as a gift or, if you are like me, you keep it for yourself.

To win a copy of Wreck the Halls, share your own cake wreck photo and submit it to the Simon & Schuster Facebook page where you can also check out the recent Simon & Schuster Cake Wrecks event with Jen Yates at Indigo in Yorkdale.

For more Cake Wrecks, check out CakeWrecks.com. Be sure to follow @CakeWrecks on Twitter and like Cake Wrecks on Facebook!