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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out

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Korea in the 1970s. The United States has 50,000 troops in country, mostly near the Demilitarized Zone, and they don't always behave. In general, the Korean authorities allow the military to police its own — but when a young Korean woman is brutally raped on a train to Seoul, and the assailant appears to be an American, all hell breaks loose. Martin Limon lived in Korea for ten years, and he does a (fairly) good job of presenting a portrait of the Cold War tensions between the two supposed allies. There's a little bit of American bias — the author is former military himself — and his potrayal of Korean society isn't as sensitive or oddly loving as John Burdett's descriptions of Thailand in the Bankok 8 series. Limon's great storytelling and his lively and compelling protagonists, Sergeants George Sureno and Ernie Bascom, pull readers past those issues. Perfect gift for someone who likes international crime thrillers. (Tim Redmond)

 

THE RECIPE PROJECT

By One Ring Zero

Black Balloon Publishing

116 pp., hardcover, $24.95

It's part cookbook, part music journalism, part rock opus, and hell, part coffee table book. The Recipe Project (subhead "A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music") is a concept spearheaded by New York-based gypsy-klezmer act One Ring Zero. The band's co-founders, Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, created songs using the recipes of well-known chefs (Mario Batali, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Chris Cosentino) as the word-for-word lyrics. The meals themselves served as musical influence; each recipe inspired a different sound. While the songs are not likely ones you'd listen to say, on a long lonesome drive, they do have a glint of childlike glee. It's conceptual. The true genius of this project is its overall cohesiveness. It's an all-in-one package. Follow the recipe, listen to the song, get some interesting background factoids. The Recipe Project also includes full recipe playlists, articles by rock journalists, and some pretty interesting interviews with chefs. (Emily Savage)

 

CARY GRANT: DARK ANGEL

By Geoffrey Wansell

Arcade Publishing

192 pp., hardcover, $24.95

Back in print (it was originally released in 1996), this paen to the dapper star of North By Northwest (1959), An Affair to Remember (1957), Notorious (1946), His Girl Friday (1940), and approximately 10 zillion other classic films is somewhere between a biography and a coffee-table book. It's worth picking up for the lavish black-and-white photos alone, illustrating the span of Cary Grant's career with film stills, behind-the-scenes shots, and the occasional almost-candid image (did he ever take a bad picture)? The accompanying text is straightforward, but — as its title suggests — doesn't shy away from Grant's well-documented countercultural experiments. ("Grant became so enthusiastic about the value of LSD that he extolled its virtues during the shooting of his next picture.") Nor does it gloss over Grant's vices (he smoked 30 to 40 cigarettes a day) and sometimes troubled personal life (he was married five times). But the book's chief focus is Grant's brilliant career. As Stanley Donen, who directed him three times, remarks to author Geoffrey Wansell, "He's thought of as a man who achieved a certain elegance and savoir faire. But in truth he was a fantastic actor." (Cheryl Eddy)

 

NATURAL HISTORY OF SAN FRANCISCO BAY

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto and Kathleen M. Wong

University of California Press

352 pp., paperback, $24.95