Friday, September 16, 2016

Mind: Blown. (Or, The top ten GIF reasons you need to check out Dark Matter immediately)

I can't actually tell you anything about this book except to call it a "literally mind-blowing physics-based romance that sci-fi fans and EVERYONE else in the world will love" without giving away a bunch of spoilers because pretty much everything after the first 20 pages is a mind-blowing thrill ride. I mean it--it could do permanent damage. Consider wearing a helmet because this book is a wild trip through space, time, and love.

1. The best use of Schrodinger's Cat in a book ever?


4. The string!

5. Jason(s)!
6. That feeling when your ebook expires with, like, 50 pages left and IT IS GETTING REALLY REAL

7. #TFW your reading twin texts to tell you her mind was so LITERALLY BLOWN by this book that she can't even use words anymore and just sends you a bunch of emoji only your hold hasn't come in yet so you still haven't finished it

8. That feeling when you're not at work the day she sneaks you her copy through interdepartmental mail and all you can think about all day is that book sitting in an envelope on your desk but you just moved and have so many boxes left to unpack and then you finally get to read it and can't put it down and then THAT SCENE IN WISCONSIN OMG (you'll see)
9. Best use of Reddit in a book ever?

*Thanks TT

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Weekend Rx:Take two and call us in the morning...

...because you're going to need more.

The critically acclaimed debut novel, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is completely, totally, indisputably perfect--a must-read for absolutely EVERYONE. This is a compulsively readable, gorgeously crafted story of two families separated by centuries, oceans, and slavery. It's an epic American story with roots in 18th century Ghana, a sweeping multi-generational family saga that will get into your soul and stay with you forever.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Set in 2007, this must-read is the tale of a young family from Cameroon who find their immigration status tenuous after Lehman Brothers collapses and Jende loses his job. His heart pulled in two directions, back to his home in Limbe or to stay in New York with his wife and children, Jende and Neni must decide where they belong.

When I say prescription, I say it as a professional book-prescriber. Trust me, your heart needs these books.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Long weekend forecast? Rain and lots of reading.

While I grumble and pace, waiting for my copy of Underground Railroad to come in, I decided to give Underground Airlines a go because, themes?  Holy moly you guys, this is one intensely thrilling read. I walked past it a few times at first, intrigued by the cover and the premise but doubtful the author would pull it off. Maybe I found it too disturbing? I know what you're thinking--too disturbing... for me? I finally picked it up to read the first chapter and could barely put it down. Winters takes us into a sort of uncanny valley with his disturbingly plausible landscape of an alternate present day in which the Civil War never happened, and slavery was never abolished.

Slavery still exists in "the hard four"--four southern states with heavily guarded borders and economies supported by slave labor. A government agency now hunts and captures slaves who escape. "Victor", the mysterious and haunted former slave at the center of the novel, is a skilled hunter. This engrossing narrative of a secretive, lonesome man with a despicable job--ostensibly free but still enslaved--will keep readers up late, frantically turning the page to find out what happens.
Fans of science fiction will especially appreciate Winters' skillful world building in this grim alternate history.

Don't be jealous but I got my hands on Nathan Hill's debut novel, The Nix, just in time for the long weekend. If anyone needs me I'll be enjoying the cooler weather and this allegedly wickedly funny political satire the New York Times declared "The love child of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace".

Have a safe and book-filled Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Ridiculous Side of Lists

Anyone who reads knows the value of a list. The personal book list—a list of what you’ve read and of what you want to read—is a map. It can be practical, keeping you from going back to the same place twice (or inspiring you to go back to the same place twice), and helping you on to your next destination. It can also just be fun to make and talk about.

For the past five years an editor at the Observer newspaper has been conducting a giant and provocative experiment in list-making. In 2011 Robert McCrum (author of the fantastic biography Wodehouse) began to list the 100 best novels written in English.

There was no ranking inside the list; it developed chronologically, from 1678—The Pilgrim’s Progress—to a working cut-off point of 2000—True History of the Kelly Gang. The rules were few—only one novel per author—and sometimes vague: what, after all, is a classic? or even a novel? And rather than release the list all at once, each of the 100 selections was announced weekly with a short essay. For two years readers around the world could cheer or balk at the choices, and, when it was all done, wonder how such-and-such a book could possibly be passed over.

The task was, as the Irish Times put it, like “running naked into no-man’s-land with a target painted on your chest and a kick-me sign pinned to your back.” But McCrum embraced all controversy. The Observer invited readers to vent their disagreement with the list, compiled an alternative list based on reader suggestions, and published an essay critiquing the lack of female authors in the list. As McCrum himself wrote, “like all lists, ours is intended to sponsor discussion.”

The list of greatest novels reached it’s 100th novel last year, but in January of this year a new, more Quixotic list began: the 100 best nonfiction books of all time. Some of the rules stayed the same—in English, arranged chronologically—but others only got looser, perhaps to provoke more readers, perhaps to introduce more variety. Instead of restricting itself to one form, like the novel, this list looks at all “essential works of philosophy, drama, history, science and popular culture.” 

So far the Observer has named 30 books on the list, this time working backwards from 2014. Some of them can be a little head-scratching—how is Waiting for Godot nonfiction?—but McCrum isn’t looking for uniformity, nor to mirror your opinions, nor to give an objective view of the literary landscape. “Every thoughtful person must concede that any list is bound to have its ridiculous side,” he writes. 

I think of the word “best” in these lists as a dare and a half-joke. The list serves as an aid for other lists: yours. Already the 30 choices in the nonfiction list have reminded me of things I’ve read and loved (Against Interpretation) and of things I’ve long planned to read (No Logo) and suggested to me fascinating things I’ve never heard of (A Book of Mediterranean Food). So follow along with the Observer with your own book list close-by—on Library Thing or Good Reads or scrawled on a scrap of paper like a recipe. Follow along if you don’t yet have a book list. Follow along only if you want to carpet bomb the Observer with emails about your favorite book. Lists are useful, but they’re also ridiculous and fun.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hot August Reads

I just finished Dave Eggers' latest, Heroes of the Frontier, and I was inspired, both by the book and by the current temperature, to post about other novels featuring fire. That theme swiftly fell apart when I couldn't think of any fiery novels I hadn't already written about (see Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have a Family, Joe Hill's latest, that one by Evie Wyld, etc), except for Jesse Ball's How to Set a Fire and Why (which is super good so far but I haven't finished it yet). Anyway, I still want to tell you about Heroes of the Frontier, so theme-schmeme. The family at the center of the story is on the run from a lot of things, one of which is a wildfire sweeping across Alaska. Not gonna lie--Eggers is one of my top ten favorite authors and I'll read everything he comes out with, ignoring all reviews to the contrary. Josie and her two children, Paul and Ana, are spending the summer fleeing Josie's life--her dental practice, her failed marriage to loser Carl, bad memories of her parents--by driving all over Alaska in a used RV with her kids. They encounter the sort of oddballs one generally encounters in the Alaska of novels (perhaps Alaska is really an oddball magnet, but I've only experienced the state through books), as Josie runs into, and then quickly away from, mostly self-inflicted trouble and also a raging wildfire.

Josie is the best kind of protagonist--and one that Eggers excels at creating: self-effacing, flawed, honest, and my new literary best friend. I really and truly want to join Josie with a bottle (or three) of wine and hang out for hours. When one meets a new LBF, it's hard to part with them at the end of the book. There was a moment there when I got hung up on the last 4 pages, afraid to finish the book and let go.

I'll miss you Josie, you and your weird, funny kids.

Speaking of weirdness and besties...Don't you just love quirky horror novelist Grady Hendrix? Well, you should. If his cheeky, and unusually scary, Horrorstor, done in the style of an Ikea catalog, didn't ring your bell, then the cheeky yearbook-style 80s teen horror parody, My Best Friend's Exorcism, maybe won't be your thing either. If "cheeky, yearbook-style 80s teen horror parody" makes your mouth water, than you are probably me, and you will enjoy the heck out of it. Especially enjoyable: the Teen Magazine style personality quiz snippets. Also, P.S. for you fans of adult coloring books--there are coloring pages to download over at the Quirk Books site. You're welcome, world.

And speaking of "too much fun"--you need The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales in your life. Chock full of awesomely witty, tough, fighting female characters who may or may not have robotic arms, and non-stop action, The Regional Office may not be the best book you've ever read, but I promise you won't regret it*.

*I can't promise that.
"U mad, bro?"