Reviews - e-books and audiobooks: on Joan Rivers, inventors, a dog of war
Books with dogs in starring roles seem to be on the rise, pointing, perhaps, to a new generation of people preferring pets to children. War Hero falls into the historical section of that category. A Kindle single by Stephan Talty, it is about a mixed-breed terrier who became a legend during the first world war. Talty tells how an American doughboy, Private John Donovan, found the dog in Paris (hiding under a pile of rags) after a Bastille Day parade; he claimed Rags was the First Infantry Division’s mascot. That and a hero, having saved the lives of innumerable soldiers: in place of runners, Rags would deliver messages speedily and reliably. The dog also learned to mimic the soldiers around him who would drop to the ground before a bomb hit. Having better hearing, however, allowed the dog to take cover several seconds earlier, which is why he became an early warning system to the soldiers around him. His loyalty, fearlessness and ability to ease the stress on battlefields endeared him to so many that, upon his death in 1936, he was buried with military honours.
War Hero by Stephan Talty, Amazon (Digital Services) (e-book)
She said things everyone else was thinking. That oft-heard tribute to comedian Joan Rivers, who died last year aged 81, is underscored in this book, by daughter Melissa. One reason Rivers loved making fat jokes (after Elizabeth Taylor died, she turned her attention to Kirstie Alley and later, Adele), Melissa writes, is that her mother had been a fat child and thought that if she beat the other kids to the joke, it wouldn't hurt as much. That said, there's little about the darker side of life in this book, so that when readers learn Melissa's father had committed suicide, they find out only that he was a meticulous man and that her mother was at a loss after he died. But perhaps that's to be expected in a book written so quickly after Rivers' death, barely a year ago. She is portrayed as likeable, quirky and fearless. She was also a "looksist", who judged people on their appearance and would say things "factually adjacent" simply to avoid being boring. To her, if the public had an interest in the subject matter, it was news - not gossip. This book falls between those two stools.
The Book of Joan by Melissa Rivers, Crown Archetype (e-book)
The focus of Who Built That is on American inventors, but the book should appeal to any "tinkerpreneur" looking for inspiration. Written by "tinkerer wannabe" Michelle Malkin, Who Built That is a collection of chapters about US makers and creators who "got rich, made other people richer, and made the world a safer … and happier place to live". Her focus, however, is on makers of everyday items such as toilet paper, bottle caps, wire rope and air conditioning. Malkin, who narrates her book passionately, spotlights, among others, Michael Owens and Edward Libbey, who modernised glass manufacturing, taking the centuries-old craft to full machine-automated production. They faced union obstructionism and financial difficulties, a common thread linking many of the stories. Malkin urges the repeal of the America Invents Act enacted by US President Barack Obama in 2011, which, she says, will stifle start-ups because patent laws now reward the "first to file" paper pushers instead of those who were the "first to invent". Her argument is convincing.
Who Built That by Michelle Malkin, Mercury Ink (audiobook)