bookFour years ago in November, a schoolteacher in Knoxville asked her English class to write a composition on family dinner together. With two exceptions, the class — a racially mixed, lower income group of students — hooted at her in derision.

bookIn Voyage To Alpha Centauri (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-1-58617-832-1), Michael O’Brien, Canadian writer and painter, gives us a grand tale of a space voyage to Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our own solar system. Voyage puts us on board the Kosmos, an enormous space vessel carrying more than 600 people: scientists, technicians, pilots, workers in the ship’s restaurants, janitors. 

op frEach new year brings out the list-makers, pundits and critics who catalogue everything from the year’s best movies, books, and music to predictions regarding politics and the economy for the next 12 months. With the exception of composing my own personal lists from the past year — “Ten Things I Would Have Done Differently” would be easily written — I lack the qualifications to compose any sort of compendium, including one for books, for 2013.

Yet I do find myself compelled to make a list of favorite books. Several readers of this column, and many of my students, have over the last years asked for such a list, and I would send them three or four recommendations, selections often plunked down without any real effort or thought. Having pondered the matter this week before the new year, I found myself wondering what I would put on such a list if I was, say, limited to a small shelf of favorite books.

bookThe new year is a time when many people, dissatisfied with some condition of their lives, resolve to make changes. Often these attempted transformations involve shedding weight or unwanted habits like smoking or drinking. Depending on all sorts of variables — the will power of the individual, support given or denied, circumstances beyond our control — we either keep the resolution and make an adjustment to our style of living, or we fail in our attempts and fall flat on our faces.

bookThe times in which we live may someday be celebrated for our advancements in medicine, technology and education, but surely some future historian will designate our voluble times as the Age of Revelation.

bookI was never a fan of drone missiles. Until now, I had always regarded drones as killing machines or mechanical spies. Their deployment by the military to eradicate enemies associated with terrorism does reduce our own casualties to zero, but during these same strikes drones too often murder innocent people, including women and children.

bookBy Joe Ecclesia

My name is Joe Ecclesia, and I have a bone the size of an elephant’s thigh to pick with one of your reviewers, Jeff Minick.

For 12 years or so, I have known Mr. Minick. We’ve shared many meals, spilled some wine together, had some laughs.

bookIn What I Came To Tell You (Egmont Publishers, ISBN 9781606844335, $16.99), local author Tommy Hayes brings us the story of 12-year-old Grover Johnston, his family and his friends. 

bookBook reviews shouldn’t begin with dedications. But with Strings Attached (ISBN 978-1-4013-2466-7, $24.99) being the book under review, I feel compelled to commence by issuing a few long-overdue honorifics:

bookGoogle books on parenting, and you will find thousands — tens of thousands — of titles. There are books on parenting boys, books on parenting girls, books on parenting toddlers, adolescents, and teens, books on parenting the chubby and the thin, books on parenting every sort of child under the sun. 

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