Quick picks in books

Maurice Sendak's picture book "Where the Wild Things Are," first published in 1963, has a deceptively simple story, expressed in just 10 spare lines, full of anger and climaxed with forgiveness. It has been a favorite of children and parents for decades, even though protagonist Max's rage is perplexing and the message seems mixed.

In the new film version of "Where the Wild Things Are," San Francisco writer Dave Eggers and director Spike Jonze, who co-wrote the screenplay, provide a backstory to Max's rage and give distinct personalities and neuroses to the individual wild creatures Max finds on the island to which he magically sails.

After Sendak himself asked Eggers to write a novelization of the story, Eggers was able to go even deeper into Max's world at home, his new furry friends and what a therapist might call his issues. That book, "The Wild Things," is targeted to tweens, but adults will enjoy it as well. In the acknowledgments, Eggers explains the differences among the three interpretations: "The children's book Max is, after all, a version of Maurice, and the movie Max is a version of Spike. The Max of this book, then, is some combination of Maurice's Max, Spike's Max and the Max of my own boyhood."

- San Francisco Chronicle

Taylor Branch says he has been surprised by at least one thing since the publication of his latest book, "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President."

"I didn't expect so much interest in Boris Yeltsin in his underpants."

The anecdote about the underdressed Russian premier making a tipsy midnight foray onto Pennsylvania Avenue in search of pizza during a visit to the White House is just one of the behind-the-scenes stories Branch tells in the book. It's a unique work, what Branch calls "raw evidence, not judgment" about the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Clinton, Branch says, was eager to have a detailed record of his experiences for his presidential library and as a source for his memoirs.

"I was interested in presidential history, and he was interested in being president."

- St. Petersburg Times