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Mind Openers: Reading Between The Lines

This year's Festival of Books


By Ajay Singh

Published Apr 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Every April, 130,000 men, women and children flock to one of the nation's largest and most carnival-like literary events in the heart of the UCLA campus: the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Among the plethora of titles on display this April will be books by UCLA faculty, many of whom are expected to be on hand to sign copies. Some recommendations:

12th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., and Sunday, April 29, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. UCLA campus. Entrance is free. For more information, log on to

Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture, by H. Samy Alim, assistant professor of anthropology at UCLA, is an instructive insider's view of the ways in which hip-hop culture has become a complex but powerful global language. Born out of the politically abandoned streets of black and Latino inner-city hoods, hip-hop, the author tells us, is so successful because it speaks both to and through youth, not only fashioning identities, styles and attitudes, but also political stances in ways that often challenge dominant cultures.

Confessions of an American Media Man: What They Don't Tell You at Journalism School, by Tom Plate, adjunct professor of communication studies at UCLA, is a must-read for any youngster pondering a career in the news media — or anyone interested in the fourth estate's inner workings. Plate, an award-winning syndicated columnist, takes us behind the scenes at some of the leading media institutions for whom he has written over the decades: Time, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine and CBS.

Readers interested in further exploring memoirs should line up early for cost-free tickets to a panel discussion with the celebrated writer, politician and gay icon Gore Vidal. His latest book, Point to Point Navigation, is an entertaining recollection of his life from 1964 through 2006, replete with lamentations on the decline of literary values and, at 81 years old, wry anticipations of his own demise.

Books about the search for greater meaning in modern society are a big chunk of the publishing industry these days, and one requisite read in this genre is Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. In this 2006 New York Times bestseller, author Elizabeth Gilbert, young, newly divorced and suffering from depression, embarks on a journey to three disparate countries to explore three very different aspects of herself.

In Italy, she studies the Romans' seemingly effortless relationship with pleasures; in India, she sequesters herself in an ashram and devotes herself to prayer and communion with a higher being; in Indonesia, she seeks balance and ultimately falls in love again. This unusual travelogue has not only touched the average woman, but the extraordinary as well: Actress Julia Roberts recently bought the book's film rights and plans to star in the movie.