Text by Diane Slocum

For all those laborers who have a “week-end” (whether it falls on Saturday and Sunday or any other days of the week), the concept of having days off may seem a given, but it wasn’t always so. A new edition of “From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States” (The New Press) was released just in time for Labor Day last year. Authors Priscilla Murolo and A.B. Chitty and illustrator Joe Sacco view American history through workers as diverse as servants and slaves in the 1600s to modern high-tech workers. New material includes the global justice movement, immigrants’ rights and the movement of jobs offshore.

“Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know” (Center Street, 2012) by Jill Geisler offers practical steps to help managers improve their skills in collaboration, communication, conflict resolution and more. Her lessons seek to give bosses the skills to help employees do their best work and create a happy workplace.

“Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Gordon H. Chang was fittingly published in May this year, the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad. Chang gives substance to the lives of the largely unsung Chinese laborers whose lives, dreams and travails have remained on the shadowy fringes of the stories chronicling this monumental task.


Valley writer Michael Bowler has three books available through Amazon. “Gardening and the $7 Tomato: Plus Other Stories by OldGuyMike” uses satirical essays to debunk myths that stereotype all old white guys. On Amazon, it is offered only on Kindle. “Dump Truck, A Public Defender’s Story” is a novella about a lawyer who decides to become a public defender in Fresno and finds himself attacked by everyone. “Trains” is an anthology that includes stories by three other authors.

In case fans of Sharon Lathan’s sagas of Darcy and Elizabeth missed it, she published another installment since the last time we updated her works. “Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future” (Darcy Saga Prequel Duo Book 2) takes Jane Austen’s beloved lovers through the final weeks of their engagement and into the much-anticipated wedding.


A book talk can be designed to get people who don’t choose to read to pick up a book and do it — children who are just learning to read, teenagers who think that it isn’t cool, adults who think that it’s for kids, seniors who need stimulation. Or the book talk may be aimed at getting the audience to read a certain book — an author promoting his book, a library extolling its new acquisitions, a teacher to her class.

There are plenty of sites online to assist any would-be book-talkers. For example, the We Are Teachers website has “What Is a Book Talk? Your Guide to Making Them Work in the Classroom.” The Pikes Peak Library District/teens (ppld.org) site offers “Booktalking Tips.” Teachers Pay Teachers offers books such as “Book Talk” by Runde’s Room, “Digital Book Talk Project for Google Slides” by Debbie Rudtke and “Book Talks for Elementary Students” by The Book Fairy Goddess.


Lord Byron is well-known for his sexual excesses — he was said to have bedded 250 women in one year in Venice. French novelist Honoré de Balzac is known for other appetites. In one meal in a Paris restaurant, he reportedly ate 12 mutton cutlets, a duck, a sole, two partridges, 100 oysters, 12 pears, other fruits, sweets and liqueurs. He also drank 50 cups of coffee a day. He also managed to produce 97 written works in 20 years. These and other quirks can be found in “Secret Lives of Great Authors: What Your Teachers Never Told You about Famous Novelists, Poets, and Playwrights.”


The deadline for the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry is Sept. 30. Details at: levineprize.submittable.com/submit


“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” — Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)