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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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Stones into Schools

by Greg Mortenson | []



Picking up where Three Cups of Tea ended, Mortenson continues the story of his Central Asia Institute, which in 16 years has built 131 schools in remote reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Stones opens cinematically, with horseback riders thundering up to Mortenson’s camp in the Hindu Kush in ’99. They’re from a region so isolated the only way to get building supplies in is by yak, and they have a request: Will Mortenson build them a school? The author, who has trouble saying no, knows it’s unfeasible—and that’s before the fallout from 9/11 and the ’05 Kashmir earthquake. Convinced the key to peace lies in educating women, he forges ahead anyway, dreaming of “a picket line of girls’ schools … [to] surround the Taliban.” Those inspired by Three Cups will revel in his continuing crusade.

Dangerously Funny

by David Bianculli | []



Before there was Stephen Colbert, there was the incendiary Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which aired between 1967 and ’69. Here TV critic Bianculli chronicles the rise of bass-playing straight man Dick, now 70, and his goofball brother Tom, 72. Together they lampooned racism, promoted antiwar politics and showcased controversial guests like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and comedian Pat Paulsen, whom they launched half-seriously as an opponent to Richard Nixon in the ’68 presidential campaign. Lightning rods for ’60s discontent, the pair increasingly enraged censors until they were finally fired by CBS (they ultimately sued and won). A stunningly alive portrait of the ’60s and of two very different men (“You save the world, I’ll enjoy it,” said Dick) who “refused to shut up” and thereby made TV history.

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog

by Lisa Scottoline | []



Known for her snappy legal thrillers, the irresistible Scottoline is the protagonist in this collection of columns written for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Twice divorced, she’s an unsinkable character who finds the fun in emergency-room visits, holiday shopping and Spanx. Her accomplices: A rogues’ gallery of pets and “extraordinary ordinary” women including her daughter (a promising writer), mom and loyal friends Franca and Laura. (“If I killed somebody, they would show up with shovels and Hefty bags.”) Scottoline savors every last bit of her life, and so will you.