Thursday, December 27, 2012

Humor: The Best Nonexistent Books of 2012

by Hannah E. Sternberg

Soft as a Petal: A History of the World, Told through Handkerchiefs
Jason Smithson
Hannah Sterberg
This elegant little history is an excellent primer for anyone fascinated with the role of textiles in law, love, and literature. Many authors of popular history have hunted for the perfect "frame story" that would inspire general readers to make sense of the long and tangled threads of world civilization. Smithson's Soft as a Petal puts it in your back pocket. From the hankie's humble beginnings as an all-purpose rag and surrender flag for meek craftsmen on ancient trade routes, to its heyday in Victorian parlors, its near-extinction after the disposable tissue revolution, and its triumphant renaissance alongside the return of the handlebar mustache in the 21st century, the common pocket handkerchief has seen virtually every major turning point of history. Smithson weaves the hankie's story in a humorous, readable style that will make this book one to reach for for years to come.

Eating Will Kill You: The definitive diet book of 2012. Don't miss 2013's The "Eating Will Kill You" Cookbook: 415 Recipes That Will Leave You Hungry for Less.

Guiscard's Lists: Famous People Who Aren't Dead Yet: Perhaps the most useful Guiscard list book this year, it will save you from embarrassing mishaps. Sadly, this one only made our runners-up because of our doubts about its enduring relevance.

Continue reading this humorous post at Hannah's own site here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Memories: The Gift

by Ellen Holzman

It’s not unusual for Meredith to get up before me, get the dog out, start the coffee and turn on the heat in our home office. What I didn’t know was that she was also checking emails on my computer to make sure I didn’t see any of the order confirmations or shipment notifications that were coming through for a gift. And I was bringing home so many presents for nieces and nephews from the post office, that I didn’t notice an extra one. I just handed them all over to her for repackaging and reshipping. I had no reason to be suspicious. 
This year, we had agreed not to buy each other gifts. Since we’re both too close for comfort to age 60, and we generally buy what we want for ourselves anyway, it seemed practical to me. I should have known when she agreed so readily and calmly that something was up. And, looking back on it, there were the questions about where the Menorah was, did we have enough candles for all eight nights of the Festival of Lights, where exactly in the house they should be lit. 

But I was completely surprised when, on the first night of Chanukah this year, Dec. 8, she said, “I can’t wait anymore!” And she handed me a gift-wrapped box. It had odd angles and some soft spots. “Go ahead, feel it,” she said, and the light in her eyes was just as bright as any that would be on the Menorah. “What do you think it is?” 

I rubbed and squeezed and shook it up and down. A nightgown? No. A pair of hiking boots? No. A Scrabble game? No. 

“Open it!” If she had had a tail, it would have been wagging ferociously. So I opened it. 

And we spent hours that night enjoying it. She guided me through starting it up, and trying it out. I will long remember the gift she gave me this year. Not because of what it is — an iPad — but because of how much she enjoyed giving it to me. That’s the gift that will keep on giving.

Ellen Holzman is the talented author of the short story "Call of the Riled," a hilarious and complex mystery told entirely in letters to the editor of a small-town newspaper. It appears in volume three of Istoria's Lunch Reads series--short stories you can devour on a lunch hour.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Memory: Lost in the Forest

by Mary Fisherov

When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and it was still the Soviet Union, and the winters in Russia were very cold, I went to stay with my grandmother in a village for the school winter break. The village was surrounded by dense forests stretching far and wide, its spruces and pine trees covered by a thick layer of snow. If, with your ski pole, you hit a branch of a spruce (branches so thick we called them "paws"), you would be covered by a waterfall of snow descending from it – a pastime that gave a lot of pleasure to us children.

One morning, on January 6th, I could not find any companions willing to go cross-country skiing with me, so I went alone. I was confident that I knew the nearby part of the forest quite well and that I could never lose sight of the tracks. A small blizzard started blowing, and at first I did not pay much attention to it. Then I noticed that the tracks were now covered with a layer of snow. I still thought I knew my way around, but then it started dawning on me that one clearing in the woods looked exactly like another clearing in the woods. Suddenly I had no idea in what direction my house was anymore. I realized that I was lost.

Panic seized me. I was running in one direction, then in another. It was getting darker, and the pine trees in the wind made a noise that resembled the howling of wolves. I started crying and thought that maybe I should try to spend the night in the forest and then start searching for my way again in the morning once the sun came up. But the fear kept me going.

Several hours later I finally stumbled on a highway. The highway at that time of night was empty, but after a while, to my great luck, a truck was passing. To my even greater luck, the driver stopped at my frantic waving and agreed to take me to the village I came from, although he was very much puzzled how I'd ended up so far away from it. When we arrived at the village, we were greeted by everybody and the local police who were, in turns, congratulating me on my miraculous return or seriously scolding me for taking off alone into the forest.

A week or two later, when I was back in Moscow, I received a letter. It was written by somebody in the village, yet it was unsigned and I never learned the name of the sender. The letter told me that, unbeknownst to me, I had gotten lost on the Eve of the Orthodox Christmas (January 7th). And that my calamitous disappearance and my miraculous return turned out  to be a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s strenuous and exhausting journey to Bethlehem and the miracle that happened in a manger. 
Istoria Books is proud to publish in print and digitally Mary Fisherov's historical romance, Love's Destiny Foretold, the sweeping tale of a Russian countess on the run in fin de siecle New York. It is her first work of fiction in English. Enter a Goodreads contest to win a free print copy!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Love's Destiny Foretold by Mary Fisherov

Love's Destiny Foretold

by Mary Fisherov

Giveaway ends December 31, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win