Thursday, December 01, 2016

New York Times' Notable Books of 2016

In which I personally review as many of the Notables as possible*, in Gif form.

*There are still a handful of neglected notables on my to read pile (it's a big pile) so any books  missing from this list do not represent a non-endorsement--there are far too many "NOPE" gifs out there for me to resist including books I didn't like.

With the exception of a couple, themes of home and family really seem to dominate my list. Did any of the books on the list surprise you? Any grabbed your attention?

Without further ado:

Zero K. by Don DeLillo

This one completely lost my interest but I feel like giving it another chance.

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans

Captivating multi-generational tale of fathers and sons, art and war.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Wonderfully, deeply, unsettling.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A little light on the promised steam punk but overall a powerful narrative.

Today Will be Different by Maria Semple


Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Really good, really short. Kudos!

The Nix by Nathan Hill

This book is so right on it's a little scary.

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

That ending, though. :(

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

It's that good.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Seriously, the audiobook version is EVERYthing

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

The use of patois achieves stunning results.

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman

Unexpected, enigmatic, and engrossing.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Love letter to home.

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Kind of surprised this made the notable list over some other books but it was a solidly enjoyable read.

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Featured in our "Books for an Ugly Cry" post earlier this year.
Hug all your loved ones!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Looking to leave town for a while? Why not take a trip to one of these fictional dystopias!

Visit One World!

Take a trip to sunny One World! Surrounded by a Big Green Wall and encased in glass, you won't have to worry about privacy, dreams, agency, or individuality in this beautiful panopticon. Leave your troubles at the door and conform because the state decides, and the state is watching!
Check out We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a classic of early Soviet Science Fiction published in 1921.

Visit London in the 1990s!

Escape the fallout of global nuclear war in an exciting, post-apocalyptic London under the control of fascist government, Norsefire. Frequent attacks by anarchist revolutionaries keep things interesting!
Check out V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, first published in Warrior, in 1982.
Visit Airstrip One!

This province of Oceania is in a state of perpetual war, careful censorship, and government surveillance. And that's just great! Because "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength". Your strictly circumscribed existence will be hassle-free as long as you play by the rules. Enjoy!
Check out 1984 by George Orwell, written in 1949.

Visit the Republic of Gilead! 

Relax within the closed borders of this near-future totalitarian theocracy. Women, take it easy. You will be sorted into one of 6 clearly defined roles making this vacation truly worry-free. The mandatory color-coded robes are on the house! And leave your books at home, ladies. You're not allowed to read. 
Check out A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, written in 1985.

Visit The World State!

Accept your station in life under this benevolent dictatorship. Throw off the shackles of critical thinking and reproduction. It's all taken care of--and try the Soma! According to one Yelp reviewer:"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."

Check out Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, written in 1931.

Visit Panem!

Grab the kids and get right into the action of reality television. You can even win fabulous prizes! Survivors eat free in the Capitol.

Check out The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Happy Trails!

Friday, November 04, 2016

"This book is a gift from the Small Press Expo"

You may have noticed these popping up on Richmond Public Library shelves--bookplates bearing the title of this post appearing inside some of the cleverest and most exciting new graphic novels you've ever seen.

We are thrilled to be recipients of the Small Press Expo's Graphic Novel Gift Program, which aims to:

"Expand the reach of graphic novels to readers of all ages utilizing public and school libraries. Promote learning and literacy through the availability of graphic novels at local libraries. Provide library systems with additional resources by which they can purchase graphic novels and comics."  

Children's graphic novels:

Cave In by Brian Ralph, Korgi by Christian Slade, The Kurdles by Robert Goodin, Maddy Kettle by Eric Orchard, Astrid Lindgren's Pippi: the Strongest in the World! by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, S.F. by Ryan Cecil Smith, Yam: Bite-Size Chunks by Corey Barba

Young Adult:

Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlman, The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio, Incredible Changebots by Jeffrey Brown, Infinite Kung-Fu by Kagan McLeod, The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago


Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, 5,000 km per second by Manuele Fior, Earthling by Aisha Franz
This is only a sample of what's available--check out the collection at every branch! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Horror Stories You Can Read and Watch This Season

Tis the season for frights, freaks and ghouls. Tantalizing tales of terror. Frightening fables of misfortune. Electrifying legends of horror. ...Well, not for everyone exactly. There are many that don't take part in the traditions of Halloween, but for the lot that do, I've compiled a list of books made into movies or T.V. series - some older, some newer - that are sure to make you double check your locks at night (and if that's a little too dramatic, at least entertain you for a bit). So whether you are a searching for a terrifying book or movie (or both!), check these out.

*though some contain graphic content and parental guidance is suggested when permitting minors to read or watch (especially the DVDs that have a R rating)*

1. The Shining - Stephen King
Library - BOOK | DVD 

Sorry to be so predictable. But let's be honest with each other. Stephen King is the most prolific horror/suspense author out there, so it's a genuine no-brainer that this would be here.  It's the unforgettable tale of the Torrence family alone in a secluded resort and all the supernatural happenings that take place there as the father Jack Torrence's mind starts to unfold. If you can't get enough, RPL also has the sequel that was released in 2013: Doctor Sleep.

2. Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin
Availability: Library - BOOK & DVD

Rosemary's Baby was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2014 thanks to some coercion from the Library of Congress. They found it to be historically and culturally significant. Sweet! Its conception would then spawn several woman-gives-birth-to-son-of-devil type movies that seemed 'o so popular in the 70s. It could even be said that along with The Exorcist, this movie helped propel the fad of demonic possession movies that flooded the big screen at the time (one of the most obvious movie series being The Omen (some horror buffs theorize that those two stories are interwoven)). All in all its a creepy tale. One that must be seen and read about. 

3. The Exorcist - William Blatty
Availability: Library - BOOK & DVD

Blatty's book never had quite the success that his screenplay did. Though one considerably exciting thing about the adaptation is that it was written and directed by the author himself, which isn't always the case for successful adaptations. But it's left a lasting legacy on what scary / gross / horrifying really is. Despised and loved by many. It was the first horror film nominated for Best Picture despite its content. During its release, some theaters offered barf-bags (though some parts are admittedly cheesy). And it was even responsible for eliciting a message from the Zodiac Killer in 1974. The killer had been silent for many years, but this movie prompted his last letter sent to The San Francisco Chronicle, praising the movie. He called it, "...the best satirical comedy" he had ever seen. 

4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Jack Finney
Availability: Library - BOOK & DVD

Originally published as a serialized story for Collier's Magazine, it's the tale of an alien seed race coming to earth. These aren't your typical alien race, more microbial and deadly. They make carbon copies (which only have a life span of 5 years) of human hosts while destroying the originals. Not exactly sure why these seeds do this. But they travel through space wreaking this havoc from planet to planet. This sinister story has been adapted four times in the last 60 years. And if you read the book and watch the movies, you'll notice some clear discrepancies. It has to do with the endings, which you'll just have to read to find out, or google it. 

5. I am Legend - Richard Matheson 
Availability: Library - BOOK & DVD

Matheson's book release in 1954 was important landmark for the horror community. It was the first book that set up the zombie genre. Even though the antagonists are called vampires and garlic is a repellent, the disease they carry is transmitted through blood. But in their relation to the tried and true vampire motif that everyone had come to love, it didn't have much in common. George A. Romero (who you should know as one of the masters of horror ((responsible for giving us Night of the Living Dead)) credited this book as one of the main pools of inspiration for his brain-hungry monsters. It was the earliest zombie-apocalypse book to ever happen. If you want to read or see where all the sensation began, look no further than this cult masterpiece. 

6. American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis
Availability: Library - BOOK

I remember this book coming up in my post-modern literature classes, which was surprising to me at the time.  Having little experience with Brett Ellis, I only knew about the movie, which was a classic dark-comedy about a Manhattan businessman. Upon the release of this film, some countries found the content so inappropriate that it was sold encased in shrink-wrap. We could dive into the awesome literary theory around this transgressive novel and talk about postmodernism in some attempt to look at the details of the book in a more theoretical way, but we'll save that for another day. Instead here's a little background on this book. The book was originally  dropped by Simon and Schuster for aesthetic differences. Ellis received death threats for this book and mountains of hate mail. Germany deemed it "harmful to minors." Australian legislation put a rating of R18 on it and most libraries require an age of 18 or more to check it out. Bookstores there still sell it shrink-wrapped. As you can tell, not everyone appreciates the content, but it certainly has a created a frightening legacy that makes it one of the important works of horror. Brett Ellis has commented on the serious amount of censorship his book has / continues to receive: he says, "I think it's cute...".

7. The Walking Dead - Robert Kirkman / Tony Moore
Availability: Library - BOOK & DVD

Once you know about Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, it's awesome to see how he created a theme that is still being explored to this day. It originally started out as a graphic novel series that has been adapted to a public television series. Not exactly the most frightful of stories out there, but it does keep close to the ideas like I Am Legend and Body Snatchers, human isolation and the looming end of humankind. What's not scary about that? This series has enthralled fans of the graphic novel and the show (which has engaged million of viewers continuously over the past several years). It even won the heart of another horror novelist dabbling in the zombie world. Which brings me to the next item on the list...

8. World War Z - Max Brooks
Availability: Library - BOOK AND DVD

Last on the list is Max Brook's most recent release. It manages to pull from the greats while doing something totally unique. That something is its international focus. The story is told through the accounts of people all across the globe. Unlike most zombie-apocalypse stories that have a feeling of human isolation, this one feels much bigger and more connected, exploring the whole global catastrophe by asking real survival questions. The story has been known for its political undertones and its focus on various governments and their response to the outbreak. Its got enough of a new twist on the genre to keep you hooked while having enough of the old tricks to keep it in company with Matheson and the others. All in all, a great story to sink your teeth into this Halloween season.

So there you have it folks. Eight seriously great books and movies that will chill you to the core this season - and even beyond, because it doesn't always need to be Halloween to get your scare on.  Just remember that they're all available in RPL system. So come in and check out (or get a card first if you don't have one already). It doesn't cost a dime to get scared this October when you have a RPL card.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Brand new books we would binge-watch if they were streaming shows

How about this one: Readalikes for TV watchers?

Why not?

Maria Semple's laugh-out-loud Seattle stories, the 2012 epistolary Where'd You Go, Bernadette and her latest (also sort of an epistolary), Today Will Be Different, could easily translate into a series full of quirky, likable but totally unrelatable characters delivering droll zinger after droll zinger. I could see fans of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt diving into a weekend of uninterrupted viewing, with candy (and snark) for dinner. Until it gets optioned for two seasons on Netflix, check it out at the library! I did read it mostly in one sitting--so technically I binge-read it.

Jonathan Safran Foer's latest novel, naughty parts and all, would translate PERFECTLY to the small screen. For readers I highly recommend the audiobook version over the text--the text is great but the audiobook narrator totally nails Foer's jokes with serious comedic skill. I could not stop listening to this while completing a seemingly never-ending bookshelf building project on my porch even though, out of context, the aforementioned naughty bits would be pretty blush-inducing if overheard by my neighbors. This is a story of a family in crisis and everything that came before and will be after, paralleled by a disaster in the middle east after a massive earthquake hits Israel. Not convinced? Give it 100 pages. Fans of Arrested Development will want lock the doors and turn off their phones until this is over.