For the first cigar review of 2009, a product line that's been showing up on a lot of Top 10 lists for 2008 is represented here by the Oliva Serie V Special Figurado Nicaragua, 6"x60.
Thick, creamy smoke on this one, with flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and a little coffee. The perfecto shape is a little unusual but is a traditional style and can be a unique experience.
The book is The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. It's an alternative history novel, in which WWII ended differently and European/Russian Jews settled in Sitka, Alaska instead of Israel. (This was a real proposal at the time.) So you end up with a whole Yiddish-speaking micronation right next to native tribal lands. And despite being a novel about Jews in Alaska, it never repeats themes or jokes from Northern Exposure, though I did guffaw at the nickname "The Frozen Chosen".
At the heart of it all is a murder mystery that has to be solved by our Jewish detective and his half-Tlingit sidekick Berko. It's an interesting read but it really helps to know in advance about the alternative history elements.
Going back in time a bit, an author that seemingly required a cigar in hand to be able to write, breathe, or function as a human was Mark Twain. Starting at the age of 8, he consumed upwards of twenty cigars a day for the rest of his life, only purchasing the cheapest, nastiest cigars possible. For his personal cigar philosphy, read his brief essay "Concerning Tobacco".
If you're interested in reading some modern cigar writing, start at Cigar Inspector and then follow the blogroll links. Denis, a Bordeaux enthusiast, wrote me recently about the overlap between cigar- and wine-blogging, and while there's a lot of participant crossover, it doesn't show up much in the writing. As always, I love to hear from readers, and let me know if you're a fan of both cigars and wine, two true pleasures on God's green earth.