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Remembering Jack, and other new books worth a look

Detail from the cover of “Love, Hope, Optimism”

The Jazz Standards
A Guide to the Repertoire
By Ted Gioia, Oxford, 527 pages, $39.95

One man's repertoire may be another man's B-list, but when the man is Ted Gioia, one tends to listen – in both senses. Gioia, among the most lauded of jazz writers, has chosen more than 250 songs. He tells the story behind each – from After You've Gone to You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To – and then recommends a variety of the best recorded versions. Take, for insatnce, the Gershwins' IGot Rhythm, a standard if there ever was one. Or is it? Gioia shows how the original has been desconstructed and reassembled in different ways by the likes of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Or how the Rodgers and Hammerstein show hit My Favorite Things would never have become a jazz standard without the inspirational interpretation by John Coltrane. The book, full of similar aperçus, is compulsively readable, and belongs on the shelves of every jazz lover, or jazz-lover wannabe.

Love, Hope, Optimism
An Informal Portrait of Jack Layton By Those Who Knew Him
Edited by James L. Turk and Charis Wahl, Lorimer, 240 pages, $22.95

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When Jack Layton died a year ago, it left his many friends and supporters, and indeed the whole country, bereft. James L. Turk and Charis Wahl have gathered anecdotes and stories about Layton from dozens of his family, friends and colleagues, and divided them into five roughly chronilogical chapters, or categories: In the Beginning, The Heart of the City, Walking the Walk, A Man for the Country and Jack's Legacy. Contributors are both luminaries and ordinary citizens, including Ed Broadbent, Sarah Layton, Bill Blaikie, Svend Robinson, Tim Flannery, Peggy Nash, Marilyn Churley, Jean Charest, Brian Topp, Cathy Crowe, Libby Davies, Joe Mihevc, Brad Lavigne, Anne McGrath, Shawn Atleo and Adam Vaughan.

Just Sent Me Word
A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
By Orlando Figes, Metropolitan Books, 334 pages, $32

Lev Mishchenko had been a prisoner for five years in 1946, first as a PoW in a Nazi then as a falsely accused traitor deported to the Pechora camp in the Arctic Gulag. But then he unexpectedly received a ltter from Svetlana, or Sveta, his sweetheart from before the war, whom he didn't know for sure was even alive. Over the next eight years, the two exchanged more than 1,500 letters, smuggled into and out of the camp by officials and other workers, and even arranged secret meetings in Pechora. This recently discovered correspondence is the only known contemporary first-hand record of life in Stalin's Gulag, as well as Sveta's life in postwar Moscow, as she struggled to survive and establish a life for Lev to come home to.

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