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About Dave Callanan

Dave Callanan is a full-contact reader. A quick glance at him immersed in a book will always reveal the title's genre. He grins broadly with comedies, furrows his brow at dramas, and nervously bites his lip during thrillers. It's no surprise that even on a crowded bus, the seat next to Dave is rarely taken.

Posts by Dave

Matt Warshaw and The History of Surfing

If David McCullough surfed, he'd likely be Matt Warshaw.

As the author of bestselling titles like The Encyclopedia of Surfing and Maverick's, Warshaw has secured a devoted following thanks to in-depth explorations of surfing's past and present. He approaches topics with a ferocity that leaves no stone unturned and a narrative that draws readers in from the opening page. And much like the fact that most Krakauer fans have yet to climb Everest, you don't need to surf in order to appreciate Matt's work.

With his latest book, The History of Surfing, hitting shelves this month, I caught up with Matt for a quick Q&A on the past, present, and future of his beloved sport.

You've already tackled The Encyclopedia of Surfing, and now you're releasing The History of Surfing. You don't shy away from the big projects, do you?

Warshaw: Getting started on a project is hard. Continuing a project that you like working on is pretty easy. Sure, there were afternoons where I ended up in a fetal ball, rocking back and forth under my desk, crying. But mostly I enjoyed working on both the Encyclopedia and History.

The evolution of surf technology is well documented, but how has the approach to surfing changed over the years?

Warshaw: Surfing was the sport of quiet bronzed heroes during the first half of the 20th century, when it was aligned with lifeguarding. Then it was the sport of suburban rebels, as the Boomers took it over in the late '50s and '60s.

Now, along the coast at least, it's just another choice on the sports and rec menu, along with baseball, soccer, snowboarding, and the rest. In 1950, you had to be a little weird to be a full-time surfers. Today, in places like Manhattan Beach, where I grew up, you're a little weird if you DON'T surf.

In your opinion, what was the most influential event - good or bad - in surfing's history?

Warshaw: Mickey Dora mooning the judges during the '67 Malibu Invitational. (Editor's note: try as I might, I have yet to find this clip on YouTube.)

If you could surf any break from the pre-Gidget era, which would it be?

Warshaw: Nothing in the entire world of sports and leisure sounds better to me than surfing Malibu, just after the war, on a new Joe Quigg balsa.

What is surfing's next frontier?

Warshaw: Beachfront senior living facilities at all the choice surf breaks for rich Boomer retirees.

--Dave Callanan

What's Next for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind?

With the paperback edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (one of our top 10 books of 2009) hitting shelves today, we checked in with author/inventor/dynamo William Kamkwamba to see where his inspiring journey has taken him over the last eight months.

Not surprisingly, he provided a staggering list of accomplishments.

Dear friends at Amazon,

So many great things have happened since the last time we spoke. Our book tour took us all across the United States, into so many wonderful places and back out again that I remember it almost like a dream. Along this great journey, I got to meet Jon Stewart, speak with Diane Sawyer, and tell my story at such great institutions as Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and the Seattle Public Library. But what stands out the most were the crowds of young people who came to each event saying how my book inspired them to learn science and encouraged them to think big. To me, that was as great an achievement as building my very first windmill.

Another thing: over the spring and summer, I also achieved one of my biggest dreams and rebuilt my village primary school. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friends at buildOn, a group who organizes community service projects for young people in American cities, while even recruiting them for their other mission: building schools in poor countries. So far, they’ve built 364 schools in five countries, including Malawi. In Wimbe, we added classrooms to accommodate 1,540 students, supplied them proper desks and chairs, and installed over a dozen computers donated by my friends at One Laptop Per Child. And of course, I built a hybrid system to produce the school’s electricity: two giant solar panels and a windmill powered by a 1500-watt generator that I built myself from big magnets and lots of wire.

Amidst all of this, another dream of mine was fulfilled: I finally graduated high school and was accepted into a university. After two fantastic years at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, I’ll be studying engineering in the fall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. While on our book tour, Bryan Mealer (my co-author) and I visited several colleges who were kind enough to invite me to see their engineering programs. I visited Harvey Mudd in California, Virginia Tech, and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and was amazed at the beautiful campuses and equipment available to students. But after seeing Dartmouth and meeting its president Dr. Jim Kim – who I admired for his previous work treating people with AIDS and tuberculosis in Africa and Haiti – I knew it was the place for me. In addition to having a cool project-based curriculum (meaning I can get my hands dirty the first week there), the Thayer School of Engineering even has a lending library for power tools! Seeing this, I couldn’t stop smiling.

So if you’re ever in Hanover and see me walking around with my stack of books and looking stressed and sleepy, say hello. But I assure you, I won’t be there long. After I graduate college, I’ll be going back to Africa. As I’ve always said, my heart belongs to Malawi, and so does my work.

--William (and Bryan Mealer)

To keep up with the always-moving William, visit his blog at

Omni Daily News

Talkin' Vampires: Eschewing appearances on mainstream outlets, Stephenie Meyer is opting for a grassroots approach to promote the upcoming film adaptation of Eclipse.  The mega-bestselling author literally picked the names of four Twilight fan sites out of a hat and invited them to a "fan-centric mini-junket."

"I feel like all of the basic questions have been answered, and for Eclipse I want to focus on the more specific questions of the readers. To accomplish that, I'm hosting my own mini-junket with a few fansites. It will be held on Friday, June 18th, the week before the L.A. premiere."

E-Politics:  Diplomat-turned-author Mitchell Reiss has announced that his upcoming book, Negotiating With Evil, will be published as an original e-book through Open Road Integrated Media, a year-old digital publishing house.

"This is the way of the future," says Reiss, 52, who served as director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State from 2003-2005 and was special envoy to Northern Ireland from 2003-2007. "I think working with Open Road brings two immediate advantages -- the book gets out very quickly and it's a great way to reach a global audience."

Moving and Shaking: Honey, I Wrecked the Kids, a parenting guide by expert Alyson Schafer, occupies the top spot of our Movers and Shakers list this morning.

Omni Daily News

California's Dreaming:  A federal court will once again review the case against Swedish author Fredrik Colting (a.k.a. J. D. California) and his purported "sequel" to J.D. Salinger's classic, The Catcher in the Rye.

Friday, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the federal court to determine whether Salinger's trust will suffer irreparable harm from the publication of Colting's book.

But in its ruling, the appeals court made clear it expected Salinger's trust to prevail.

"Most of the matters relevant to Salinger's likelihood of success on the merits are either undisputed or readily established in his favor," the court ruled.

Poetic Comedy:  Bill Murray stopped by the construction site for Poet's House in Manhattan to wax poetic for a group of workers (via GalleyCat).

Moving and Shaking: Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists--one of my favorite reads of 2010 (and our Best of April spotlight pick)--is rocketing up our Movers and Shakers list this afternoon.

Omni Daily News

History on Display:  In honor of their 50th anniversary, Amsterdam's Anne Frank House museum has announced that a nearly-complete collection of Anne Frank's famous diary is now available for public viewing.

Now on display are the three parts of the diary, a book of short stories she wrote called "Tales from the Secret Annex," and a notebook of her favorite quotations.

Anne also wrote 360 loose pages written on flimsy paper, mostly revising earlier diary entries with the intention of publishing it after the war. Because of the papers' fragile state, the museum said it will display 40 sheets at a time and rotate them.

Get Ready for Another Book, NationGalleyCat is reporting that comedian/author/defender of liberty Stephen Colbert has just sold a yet-to-be-named follow-up to I Am America (And So Can You!).  Not surprisingly, the book is slated for an election-year release in 2012.

Free Comics This Saturday: provides a great checklist for the comics agnostic in anticipation of Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, May 1. 

Moving and Shaking:  Thanks to a great article yesterday from Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin, Norman Mailer: MoonFire ranks among the top titles in our Movers and Shakers list this morning.

Omni Daily News

That's Some Serious Kronor:  Belgian children's author and illustrator Kitty Crowther has won the 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial award.

"She's a traditional storyteller," said Larry Lempert, who heads the jury, adding "it's her way of telling that takes people between imagination and reality." Lempert described Crowther as first and foremost an illustrator and then an author, praising her use of simple materials and tools to illustrate books.

Crowther will receive her prize and a check for five million kronor at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 1.

The Return of the Rainbow?: LaVar Burton is making noise about a possible return of the beloved children's show, Reading Rainbow.  But there's a twist:  Reading Rainbow 2.0 may be for adults.

Moving & Shaking:  Fresh off his PEN/Faulkner award, Sherman Alexie's War Dances is enjoying a meteoric rise on our Movers and Shakers list this morning.

Omni Daily News

Note:  Today's Daily News is going all-Irish in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Grisham Goes Digital: John Grisham isn't Irish, but did you know his last name is derived from a French word meaning "the green?" He also chose St. Patrick's Day Eve to announce his e-book holdout is over. That's good enough for me. Slainte, John!

Pint-Sized Fun: The Los Angeles Times sits down with author Steve Rushin to discuss his deliciously-adorned book, The Pint Man. No word if proper readers should put the book down after the first three chapters in order to let it settle.

I'm Not Sure I Agree: Now I'm a fan of James Joyce, but The Christian Science Monitor's selection of Ulysses as the #1 Irish-inspired read that's "most likely to please" shocks me.  Not discounting its literary importance or significance, but "pleasing" is not how I'd describe the 700 page epic.

For Wee Folks: Mother Nature Network has a nice group of children's books for lads and lassies.

Moving and Shaking: I see a Doyle, a Collins, and a Boyle on our Movers and Shakers list, but no Irish-themed books. What gives?

Omni Daily Crush: Discussing "Citizens of London" with Lynne Olson

I'll show some restraint and avoid a Best of 2010 discussion less than 90 days into the year, but Lynne Olson's Citizens of London still has me buzzing weeks after finishing it.  Admittedly, the subject matter is right in my wheelhouse (I'm a big fan of World War II histories), but Olson's exploration of the toil and sacrifice faced by those who refused to capitulate to the Nazis will appeal to a wide range of readers outside the WWII genre (which is why I made it my Best of February pick).

I was fortunate to catch up with Lynne recently to discuss the origins of Citizens of London, as well as the politicians and leaders who acted as beacons during England's darkest days. Your last three books (Citizens of London, Troublesome Young Men, and A Question of Honor) have focused on England during the late 1930's/early 1940's. As a historian, what draws you to this period?

Olson: I’ve been fascinated with the place and the period ever since my husband, Stan Cloud, and I wrote our first book, The Murrow Boys, about Edward R. Murrow and the correspondents he hired to create CBS News before and during World War II. Several scenes in the book take place in London during the Battle of Britain and the 1940-41 Blitz. In doing research for The Murrow Boys, I got caught up in the story of Britain’s struggle for survival in those early years of the war – and the extraordinary leadership of Winston Churchill and courage of ordinary Britons in waging that fight. I discovered that there were still a number of stories about the period that remained largely unknown and untold, so I decided to tell them myself. Had Pearl Harbor not forced America's hand, how much longer could England have lasted against Germany?

Olson: That’s an excellent “what if” question. Churchill, for one, was desperately worried that Britain would be defeated by Germany in 1942 if the United States didn’t enter the war. In the days immediately before Pearl Harbor, he knew that the Japanese were also on the move, and he was afraid they were going to strike at British territory in Asia. If that had happened, his country would have been forced into a two-front war, with no lifeline from the United States – which almost assuredly would have meant the end for Britain. So it’s no wonder than when he heard the news of Pearl Harbor on the night of Dec. 7, 1941, he was euphoric. It meant, as he later wrote, that no matter how many military setbacks lay ahead, “England would live.” In contrast to Winant and Murrow, Harriman was a bit of a bourgeois playboy. What made you include him in this book?

Olson: There’s no question that Harriman’s social life was considerably more hectic in London than that of Winant and Murrow. At the same time, however, he was a dogged, extremely hard-working administrator of Lend Lease aid for Britain, who did what he could to speed up the flow of American help to the British and who pressed the Roosevelt administration hard for more vigorous action and more direct involvement in the war. He also carved out for himself quite an influential role as conduit and buffer between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.

I also wanted to include Harriman for another reason – to point up the contrast between his tough-minded pragmatism and the idealism of Winant and Murrow. These three men, I think, reflected the complexity of America and its attitude to the rest of the world at that time. Winant and Murrow, who championed economic and social reform as well as international cooperation, reflected America’s idealistic side. Harriman, who was intent on broadening his own power and influence, as well as that of his country, became an exemplar of U.S. exceptionalism. In the postwar era, it was his world view that, for the most part, dominated American foreign policy. You note an almost apathetic Churchill response to American dalliances within his family. Was this a diplomatic necessity or was he simply too focused on the larger picture?

Olson: I’m not sure I would call him “apathetic.” I think that “pragmatic” would be a better word. I should also point out that it’s not an absolute certainty he knew about the affair that occurred between Averell Harriman and Pamela Churchill, the wife of his son, Randolph, which began in 1941. When Randolph later accused his father of condoning adultery under his own roof, Churchill denied any knowledge of what was going on. That being said, I do believe, as did Pamela, that he was aware of what she and Harriman were up to. Churchill loved Randolph, and while I’m sure he was not thrilled about the Pamela/Harriman affair, he knew how important Harriman and the other Americans were to the survival of Britain, and he had no intention of letting personal matters interfere with the national interest. Besides, Pamela proved to be a useful conduit for him and Harriman, passing on to each man information and insights she had found out from the other.

When Pamela took up with Edward R. Murrow later in the war, she was already separated from Randolph, and I doubt that Churchill cared one way or the other. As for the affair between his daughter, Sarah, and John Gilbert Winant, the couple kept their involvement exceptionally discreet. Sarah believed her father knew about it, but he never said anything, and I don’t think he would have minded. Talk about the lower-profile "Citizens of London" -- the brave Americans who violated their own country's laws to volunteer for the RAF.

Olson: In the late 1930s, as part of its desperate effort to keep the United States out of war, the American government did, as you note, make it illegal for any U.S. citizen to join the military service of a warring power. But, after Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, thousands of young Americans disregarded that law and traveled to England to join the British or Canadian armed forces. Unlike the hordes of Yanks who descended on Britain just prior to D-Day, the early U.S. volunteers became an integral part of Britain’s military and society.

The best-known volunteers were those who joined the Royal Air Force. Seven U.S. citizens were counted among “The Few” – the celebrated band of RAF pilots who, in their Hurricanes and Spitfires, successfully beat back the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in the summer and fall of 1940. Over the next several months, an additional 300-plus Americans enlisted in the RAF -- so many that they were soon given their own units, called the Eagle Squadrons. Churchill, who instantly saw what a powerful propaganda tool the American squadrons could be, enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

When the U.S. finally entered the conflict, virtually all the Americans serving in the RAF transferred to the U.S Army Air Forces. Of the 244 pilots who flew in the Eagle Squadrons, more than 40 per cent did not survive the war.

Omni Daily News

The Real Doc Ford:  Author Randy Wayne White broke bread with the Boston Globe this week at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille, a real-life restaurant crafted in the spirit of his bestselling Doc Ford series. 

"While White describes himself as a silent partner, his evident, from the flavors of South and Central America, which he used to write about as a columnist for Outside magazine, to the menu items named for characters in the Doc Ford mysteries."

White's latest book, Deep Shadow, published this week.

The Book on Brown: New Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has signed a deal with HarperCollins to publish his memoir in early 2011.  The book will focus on Brown's "family background, his early career, and his ascent to the office of Massachusetts senator."  And, as USA Today points out, readers should "expect a lot of talk about the now-famous pickup Brown drove during his campaign to replace the late Ted Kennedy."

Tuscan Dreams: Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes sits down with CNN to talk about her newest book, Every Day in Tuscany, and love for Italian life.

Moving and ShakingDr. Jennifer Trachtenberg's The Smart Parent's Guide: To Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents may not publish until next week (March 16), but that hasn't stopped it from ranking among the top titles on our Movers & Shakers list this afternoon.

Omni Daily News

Spy Games: Mosab Yousef, the son of a Hamas founder, reveals in an upcoming memoir that he served as a top Israeli informant for over ten years and helped prevent dozens of terror attacks against Israel.

Yousef, dubbed "the Green Prince" by his handlers, told [Israel's] Haaretz daily that he was one of Israeli intelligence's most valuable sources in Gaza. His reports led to the arrests of several high-ranking Palestinian figures during the violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule that began in 2000, the newspaper said.

Son of Hamas is also currently #1 on our Movers & Shakers list.

$0.10 to $1M:  The sale of a 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1--the first comic to introduce us to Superman--fetched a record $1M on Monday and is considered to be the "official public record" for a comic book sale.  Omni blogger and comics fan Alex Carr has been unavailable for comment due to prolonged fainting spells.

Sci-Frey:  New York Magazine speculates that novelist James Frey might also be the mysterious John Twelve Hawks, the never-been-seen science-fiction author of the Fourth Realm Trilogy.  Frey, who is already penning six-part sci-fi series under the pen name Pittacus Lore, had this to say in response: 

“I will neither confirm nor deny that I am John Twelve Hawks, Pittacus Lore, or anyone else ... I will say that I have done, and I am continuing to do, projects that will come out anonymously or with invented names on them.”

Thanks for clearing that up, James.

Omni Daily Crush: The World of Skippyjon Jones

When it comes down to it, a great children's book is determined by two factors:  (a) how much kids love it, and (b) how many consecutive times an adult can read it aloud before going insane.  The first criteria is obviously the most important, but considering how many other ways parents can be driven crazy (I submit The Wiggles as Exhibit A), it's extremely special to find books both parties will love.

With that, I give you the adventures of Skippyjon Jones, an imaginative Siamese cat who fancies himself a brave, sword-fighting Chihuahua.  Author Judy Schachner's mischievous feline day-dreamer is tops in our household, as my son greets me after work with a hug that usually grips Lost in Spice or Mummy Trouble. Schachner's engaging style keep even an exhausted parent from mailing in a bedtime read.  Her tongue-twisting stories force accents, sound effects, and sing-a-longs that will have listeners and readers cracking wide grins by the final page

One word of caution, however:  since picking up our first Skippyjon book, I haven't figured out how to get my son to stop "bouncing on his big boy bed."  *sigh*


Recommended for active imaginations and weary parents.

Omni Crush of the Decade: Exploring WWII, Part II

After the great response to last week's Omni Crush of the Decade: Exploring WWII, I wanted to follow-up with more of my favorite World War II reads from the last decade, as well a compilation of the insightful recommendations submitted by Omni readers.  In the interest of honesty, I've starred the books on my list that were influenced by a recommendation, as even though I'm shocked I neglected to include The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors earlier, I'm not going to take credit for your work, Omni fans.

However, not all reader suggestions are listed below, as I'm keeping the criteria to books that debuted between 2000 and 2009.  This means I've had to omit classics such as 1990's With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinowa by E. B. Sledge as well as Churchill's The Second World War. It pains me to do so, but rules are rules.  Even in the blogosphere.

My List of Additional WWII Reads that Shouldn't Be Missed

Churchill by Roy Jenkins

Armageddon by Max Hastings

The Longest Winter by Alex Kershaw*

The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation by Frederic Spotts

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer*

A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight by Robert J. Mrazek*

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor

Omni Reader Recommendations

Retribution by Max Hastings

Armageddon by Max Hastings

Ivan's War by Catherine Merridale

A War to Be Won by Williamson Murray and Allan Millett

A Dawn Like Thunder, The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight by Robert J. Mrazek

Beyond Band of Brothers by Dick Winters

The Longest Winter by Alex Kershaw

Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser

Wages of Destruction by  J. Adam Tooze

When Men Lost Faith in Reason by H P Willmott

A Genius for Deception by Nicholas Rankin

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailorsby James D. Hornfischer

In Deadly Combat by Gottlob Herbert Bidermann

All American All the Way by Phil Nordyke

Beyond the Rhine: A Screaming Eagle in Germany by Donald R. Burgett

Omni Yearly News: 2008

In the News: Perhaps the dismal reports from Wall Street had something to do with it, but readers in 2008 strayed from the headlines and dove into the worlds of J.K Rowling (Beedle the Bard), Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn), and Christopher Paolini (Brisingr).  Fans of David Foster Wallace were shaken by news of his suicide in September, while Randy Pausch battled terminal cancer long enough to see his inspiring story, The Last Lecture, become one of the bestselling books of the year.

Dragon Storm: Already a bestseller in Europe, the first book in the late Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Series" made its U.S. debut in September. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an immediate hit with American readers, and continues to rank among the top bestselling fiction paperbacks today.

Love for Edgar: Another debut with a considerable following, David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, was embraced by thousands - including the very influential Ms. Winfrey - and described by my colleague Mari as a story that "takes you to the extremes of what humans must endure, and when you're finally released, you will come back to yourself feeling wiser, and flush with gratitude." 

Great Debuts of 2008: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Forever War, Atmospheric Disturbances, Telex from Cuba

Top Five 2008 Amazon Editors' Picks
: The Northern Clemency, Hurry Down Sunshine, Nixonland, The Forever War, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Top Five 2008 Amazon Bestsellers: Breaking Dawn, The Last Lecture, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Brisingr, Outliers

In Memoriam: David Foster Wallace, Randy Pausch, Michael Crichton, Arthur C. Clarke, William F. Buckley, Studs Terkel

Omni Crush of the Decade: Exploring WWII

Although I attempted to read a wide range of books during the 21st century's first decade, no single topic occupied more of my time than World War II.  Characters on both sides of the conflict burn with complex intensities that few fiction writers can match, and the innumerable make-or-break moments never cease to amaze me.  Heroism and tragedy locked arms during WWII, as the very best (and worst) of humankind was displayed on a global stage.  

Yet after nearly two decades of devouring WWII titles, I'm not even close to a saturation point thanks to recent work from authors like Rick Atkinson, Jon Meacham, and Antony Beevor.  With some difficulty, I was able to narrow my favorite WWII nonfiction of the last 10 years to a tidy list of 10.  (I refuse to rank them, however, as any ordering would be heavily influenced by my current mood.)  I know I'm leaving some great books out, so feel free to chime in with your own favorites in the comments section.

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

If you haven't read either of these installments from Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy, stop reading this post and go pick them up. You'll thank me.

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
An honest account of the mistakes and gains made during the largest amphibious invasion in human history.

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission
The story of a daring rescue deep behind enemy lines that Hollywood inexplicably flubbed with 2005's The Great Raid.

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington
Before penning such children's classics as James and the Giant Peach, author Roald Dahl made a name for himself as a WWII British spy.

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship
Meacham received significant praise for his 2008 portrait of Andrew Jackson, but this look at the complex relationship between Churchill and FDR is his finest work.

The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler
John Lukacs examines the fragility of a stand-off that helped preserve Allied hopes during 1940.

Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
Few battles can rival the drama of Midway, and Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully own the definitive look at this pivotal clash.

Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima

A powerful tale of honor, loss, and the iconic flag-raising of Iwo Jima.

Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends
Thanks in large part to the stunning HBO series, a handful biographies have been published on the soliders of Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers.  However, none stayed with me as long as this tale of the friendship between Easy Company's Edward "Babe" Heffron and William "Wild Bill" Guarnere.

Omni Daily News

Hands Off the Electric Sheep:  The family of author Philip K. Dick is up in arms over the latest Google smartphone, Nexus One.  The device's name and OS (Android) both raise red flags, as Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, believes they were taken directly from her father's sci-fi work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?   "Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later," she said. "In my mind, there is a very obvious connection to my father’s novel. People don’t get it. It’s the principle of it. It would be nice to have a dialogue. We are open to it. That’s a way to start."

Yoko on Ono:  Yoko Ono revealed this week that she is planning on releasing her memoirs by 2015. Rolling Stone claims the autobiography will focus on her "intense relationship" with John Lennon, as well as "the myths surrounding her role in the Beatles' break-up, the bed-in for peace, [and] Lennon's infamous 'Lost Weekend.'"

Not Recommended for Long Hikes: CNN is reporting that the estranged wife of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford will weigh in on her husband's head-scratching scandal in an autobiography due out next month.  According to a synopsis of the book, Jenny Sanford's memoir "reveals the private ordeal behind her very public betrayal -- and offers inspiration for anyone struggling to keep faith during life's most trying times."

Moving and Shaking:  Thanks to an appearance on today's Rachel Ray Show, Ian K. Smith's The 4-Day Diet is dominating the top three spots of our Movers and Shakers list.

Omni Daily Crush: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"

I've got good news and I've got bad news.

The bad news is that Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millennium Trilogy comes to a close this year, as the kick-to-the-throat suspense of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire wraps up with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (available May 25). I received my galley with an ounce of regret last fall, as saying goodbye to Lisbeth Salander and Co. after just three books is just unfair.  Thankfully, no one else showed up for my pity party, so I cracked open Larsson's final work with eager anticipation.

The good news?  Well, if you liked anything about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Girl Who Played with Fire, you are going to fall hard for the finale.  I had high hopes going in, but never expected that this would be the finest of the trio.  Everything I loved about the first two books was present, along with sharper turns and deadlier twists.  It was tough to turn the final page, but Larsson definitely saved his thrilling best for last.

I’ll avoid posting any spoilers, but readers can count on:
  1. Broken bones.
  2. Sinister forces working covertly.
  3. Political intrigue.
  4. Innumerable servings of espresso. (Seriously – what’s up with the Swedes and their coffee?)
  5. One of the best thrillers in years.

Omni Daily Crush: "The Imperfectionists"

We're a fortnight away from the end of '09, but I've already found my first favorite read of '10:  Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists (available April 6, 2010).  With a narrative that shifts between humor and despair, Rachman's debut novel peers into the world of a once-proud (but increasingly dysfunctional) international newspaper.  The staff is an eclectic bunch (to put it nicely), and each chapter is devoted to the inner workings of a different character.  Yet when the spotlight is not on them, they fade into supporting roles and public personas.  The result is frustratingly brilliant, as no matter how personal the tales get, Rachman only allows us a few dozen pages before moving on to the next subject.  Happily, nothing feels forced or unfinished, as I found myself turning pages at a furious pace in anticipation of where each story was taking me.


Omni Daily News

Rock Out:  GalleyCat wants to know your go-to Pandora playlist for writing.  Me?  I'm a Rage Against the Machine man whenever a deadline looms (which explains the random hostility of my reviews). 

Basketball Jones: I recently sat down with bestselling author and writer, Bill Simmons, to talk about his latest book, The Book of Basketball, and whether or not pro hoops will *ever* return to Seattle. 

Moving and Shaking:  A chilly collection of polar portraits, Polar Obsession by Paul Nicklen, is among the top titles on our Movers & Shakers list.

Omni Personal Shopper: The Godfather

On the heels of Brad's delightfully eclectic picks for the Indie Girlfriend, Omni Personal Shopper is doubling up today in a relentless pursuit of gift-giving clarity. 

Frank is scratching his head over the perfect gift for a talented entrepreneur/writer/bride-to-be and asks us for some holiday help:

I have a goddaughter who has received books from me every birthday and Christmas since she was born. She graduated from college with an excellent liberal arts education and after a brief career as a writer is now designing and selling her own line of jewelry. She has announced her engagement and is planning to marry in March. For her birthday last February, I sent her books on planning her wedding and am now stumped on what to get her this Christmas. Any suggestions?

You've come to the right place, Frank.  Omni Editors: let's do some good today.

  • Seeing how your goddaughter has a lot on her plate, my first recommendation would be a copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  Planning a wedding while launching a small business can’t be easy, but Allen’s tips and tricks will help her calm the chaos and avoid that nasty nervous feeling of “am I forgetting anything?”
  • For business inspiration, T.J. Stiles's The First Tycoon provides an insightful look at the rise of Cornelius Vanderbilt.  She’ll be ready to take down Tiffany & Co. after reading this year’s National Book Award winner in nonfiction.
  • Thinking more about her creative side, Tom suggests Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and The Collaborative Habit. Tharp's a dancer and choreographer, but her ideas about creativity, creating with others, and making your creative work pay are practical and inspiring for whatever you're doing.
  • If the honeymoon has already been booked, how about a travel guide from Lonely Planet?  Thoroughly researched and full of can’t-miss attractions, she and her finance can retreat into the sights and sounds of their upcoming trip.

Omni readers: did we miss anything?  Feel free to add more recommendations (or your own gift-giving quandaries) in the comments section.


Omni Daily Crush: "Pops" (Part II)

For as long as I've loved music, I've been a Louis Armstrong fan.  The combination of his excitable trumpet and deep gravelly voice never fails to make me grin, and his genius is apparent in nearly every note.  So when I learned this spring that Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout had written an extensive profile of Reverend Satchelmouth, I responded with cautious optimism.  Armstrong himself had already penned Satchmo, his 1955 autobiography, and I privately wondered how anyone could improve upon such an engaging first-person narrative. 

Happily, I underestimated Terry Teachout.  His book, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, is a brilliant look at the life, music, and struggles of a 20th Century icon, and explores the emotions at work behind that infectious smile.  With the help of over 650 reels of Armstrong's own personal tape recordings (comprised of everything from everyday exchanges at home to musical performances), Teachout manages to provide an intimate look at a larger-than-life personality.  Although some artists like Miles Davis dismissed Armstrong's sunny and quick-to-laugh disposition as an example of racial subservience, Pops maintains that the emotions were genuine.  "Faced with the terrible realities of the time and place into which he had been born," Teachout explains, "he didn't repine, but returned love for hatred and sought salvation in work." Louis was hardly impervious to the injustices of his era, but in his mind, nothing was more sacred than the music.

Recommended for fans of Satchmo by Louis Armstrong and Jazz: A History of America's Music by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns


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