Friday, January 13, 2017

Read it right now: Truevine, and other new nonfiction

This week is all about the brand new stuff that readers and critics are loving.

by Beth Macy

In 1899, young albino African American brothers, George and Willie Muse, were taken from the tobacco fields near Roanoke where they worked and made to join the circus as freaks. Convinced their mother was dead they spent decades traveling the world as a popular sideshow attraction: Eko and Iko, the sheep-headed cannibals or Ambassadors from Mars. That, and their mother's fierce fight to get them back, make for an incredible story. Keen and well-researched, Truevine is a fascinating and compelling read.

It looks like Paramount and Leonardo DiCaprio might be trying to acquire the rights to put this story to film. Hmm, I wonder how it will translate to the screen without sensationalizing the Muse brothers' story.

At The Existentialist Cafe
Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
By Sarah Bakewell

Did your New Year's resolution have anything to do with reading more about philosophy? Really? Well, good! You'll love this book then. It's the lively life story of existentialism, starring Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, who was (sort of) inspired by apricot cocktails. Just give it a chance? It's getting rave reviews!

You Can't Touch My Hair
And other things I still have to explain
by Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson, super funny stand-up comedian, host of the Sooo Many White Guys podcast and co-host of 2 Dope Queens, has written this fantastic collection of essays on race, gender and culture in America.

Did I mention she's super funny?

Me, always.

Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, South African comedian and host of The Daily Show, is seriously insightful and funny. This is one of those laugh and cry, cry and laugh kinds of books. Born to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother in apartheid South Africa, he spent much of his childhood hidden away indoors as living proof of their crime. Born a Crime is deeply moving and the audiobook happens to be narrated by none other than Trevor Noah himself--well worth a listen.

...And top it off with a slice of Damn Fine Cherry Pie!

The final episode of Twin Peaks aired 26 years ago but it refuses to go away--and that's just fine by me.

(Ok, I don't know if anyone is raving about this but I'm always looking for any chance to throw in a Log Lady gif.) This unauthorized cookbook has all you need to prepare damn fine pie, damn fine coffee (and FYI, David Lynch has his own line of coffee and it is legit), and host your own (damn) Log Lady tea party. #goals

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resolve to "Read Harder" in 2017

Did you accept Book Riot's challenge to Read harder (with a vengeance, hopefully) in 2017? We're here to help you get to your goal. We have some hand-picked, librarian-endorsed, recommendations to help you achieve your New Year's Resolution. Many of these books satisfy multiple tasks in the challenge--bonus points for figuring out which ones!

All 24 tasks of the challenge posed by the fine folks at Book Riot are listed in bold below. The recommendations are ours. Happy New Year, and happy reading! 

1. Read a book about sports.
Gah! The challenge leads with sports? Dang. Well, even if sports aren't your thing, check out Major Taylor : the inspiring story of a black cyclist and the men who helped him achieve worldwide fame by Conrad Kerber, Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. We just got a copy of Black Gods of the Asphalt by Onaje X.O. Woodbine so I'll add that one to my "read harder" pile.
2. Read a debut novel.
The Nix by Nathan Hill has all the acclaim you're looking for, also check out The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, The Bees by Laline Paull, The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I am looking forward to the Charlotte Holmes series, the first of which is A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro's debut novel.

3. Read a book about books.
Did somebody say "BOOKS"?
Check out Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, Disclaimer by Renée Knight, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, The Novel: A biography by Michael Schmidt, and, if you just saw Nocturnal Animals and also want to read the novel behind the (OMG gorgeous and intense) movie about a novel, check out Tony & Susan by Austin Wright--I know I will be.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman, and Ways of Going Home and My Documents, both by Alejandro Zambra. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende has been on my "to read" list for a long time--maybe this is the year.

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
Check out Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. To my great shame I never finished reading The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart, but I promise I will.

6. Read an all-ages comic.
First I would kindly ask the list-makers here to define "all ages" as I don't see comics serving alcohol but OK, challenges are meant to be...challenging? The March series by John Lewis, Sisters and Smile by Raina Telgemeier, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang are a few I would recommend to pretty much  everyone regardless of age. I also don't differentiate between "graphic novel" and "comic" but perhaps the challenge authors do? IDK, but I'm looking forward to reading March #3 soon.

7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
Just read all of the Evelyn Waugh (Scoop, Vile Bodies, etc.) and be amazed by how well the humor holds up. I like to read all the new books so my "old books to read still" list grows longer every year. This year I check off the Raymond Chandler box with The Big Sleep (1939).

8. Read a travel memoir.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran by Hooman Majd, and check out the audio book version of The Sick Bag Song by Nick Cave. He reads it and it's marrrvelous. I'll be reading Butter Chicken In Ludhiana: Travels In Small Town India by Pankaj Mishra this year.

9. Read a book you’ve read before.
This one depends on what you've read before, but if I were to recommend "read it twice" books, hmmm. The Women's Room by Marilyn French and The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber are some of the very few books I've read twice. With so much to read I typically don't revisit books no matter how beloved. I do want to re-read The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk because I love it so much, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle to see if it is still the book I remember reading as a child.

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
Some places are very author-dense and Richmond is fortunate to be one of those. As a result, loads of books feature Richmond and the surrounding area. Readers will find Richmond in a lot of popular urban fiction like Carl Weber's and Nikki Turner's books, in the books of Patricia Cornwell, and in a whole bunch of Civil War stuff. If you're from around these parts, check out The Shore by Sara Taylor. It's a chilling multi-generational tale set on the islands of the Eastern Shore (sure, sure, I think it's a little more than 100 miles to the eastern shore from Richmond but I want you to read this book so, shhh.) The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero is set in a fictional Virginia town supposedly near Richmond, and Mislaid by Nell Zink is set in or near Richmond.

11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, (Booker Prize-winning) The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Hotel Iris and all of the other books byYoko Ogawa, Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood are on my to-read pile.

12. Read a fantasy novel.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. Everfair, a steampunk strory set in the Belgian Congo written by Nisi Shawl, is on my list.

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder, So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. A free copy of Whiplash: How to survive our faster future by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe just landed on my desk. I hope I can read it in time!

14. Read a book about war.
Add The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Girl at War by Sara Novic, War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut to your list. I'll finally be reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers this year.

15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Check out 'Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out' by Susan Kuklin, and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, and For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu. I'm checking out The Summer Prince by Nebula award winner Alaya Dawn Johnson, and We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson. Check out this handy list on the BN Teen Blog for more.

16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. 
So, so many books to choose from on this list. Read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou for starters. I think I'll check out Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane.

17. Read a classic by an author of color.
Check out Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Sport of the Gods by Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko to name just a few. I'll be reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison this year.

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
Bitch Planet, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Woman, Princeless, and Nimona to name a few, I'm going to read Rat Queens this year.

19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey.
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio, Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan, The Seventh Day by Yu Hua and Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I think I will finally get around to reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.
Ugh, romance? My least favorite genre and my readers advisory kryptonite. These might not be strictly romance novels as much as they are novels containing romance but even this cold-hearted, Nicholas Sparks eschewing reader can recommend books with some touchy-feelies: Try Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx (a cinematic list for sure). I'll be reading Guapa by Saleem Hadad this year.

21. Read a book published by a micropress.
How small is micro? I will be reading Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Leger and The Ugly by Alexander Boldizar, and Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter, a tiny novel written in short essays, has popped up on all kinds of lists, including my "to read" list.

22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
Check out Intimations: Stories by Alexandra Kleeman, Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, and Gutshot by Amelia Gray for the best creepy little stories, and of course, Shirley Jackson's short stories are unrivaled. I'm looking forward to reading Exposure by Richmond author Katy Resch George.

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
Tough one...I don't read a lot of poetry. Challenge, accepted! Check out The Collected Poems, 1952-1990 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam.  I am adding Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems, 1962 - 1972 by Alejandra Pizarnik to my read harder list.

24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, and The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I've got a copy of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey here on my desk that I'm pretty excited about reviewing for book club.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Welcome to the Season of Light!

As the coldest winds begin to blow and the days become shorter, the celebration of light begins with the Winter Solstice on December 21. Cultures worldwide have recognized this day for centuries as it receives the least sun and is the beginning of longer days to come.  

Many winter holidays celebrate with candles and light, beginning with Hanukkah this year starting on December 24, Christmas on December 25, and Kwanzaa beginning on December 26 and lasting until New Year's Day.  
Light celebrations continue in many Asian communities around the world with Chinese New Year beginning on the second new moon of the new year. This year the celebration begins on January 28 and traditionally lasts for two weeks until the full moon. This welcome to spring comes with longer days and dreams of warmer temperatures.

Pick up some books to pass the short, cold days and long nights of winter.  

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket
This "Christmas tale" by the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events combines humor and facts about Hanukkah to tell the story of the latke who ran away from hot oil only to find out "there's no place like home."  Unfortunately, at home there will be someone who wants to eat him!

Lively illustrations and simple haiku fill Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert with celebration and color. After reading this try writing holiday haiku of your own.

Do you have a tablet? Download a copy of The Miracle Jar by Audrey Penn and discover the Hanukkah miracle. You will need to install Overdrive to explore the many eBooks that Richmond Public Library has to offer.

Read together Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse by Caralyn Buehner. The mouse family learns about the meaning of Christmas while staying cozy under the stove. Find the hidden pictures on each page.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry has been adapted as a picture book in Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift by Dara Goldman, who adds a touch of Hanukkah to this story.

Patricia Polacco is a master of autobiographical storytelling in pictures. Her holiday book The Trees of the Dancing Goats remembers a Hanukkah in Michigan with her grandparents where many of their rural neighbors have scarlet fever and are unable to prepare for and celebrate Christmas. Discover how her Jewish grandparents develop a generous solution and bring healing and joy to their neighbors.

For older readers the new, graphic novel Snow White by Matt Phelan is a noir gem. Set in the late 20s and early 30s in New York City this adaptation includes all of the classic characters with a dark twist. In Phelan's characteristic muted tones the images, full of just enough detail, pull the reader into the world of Samantha White, her Wall Street father, her stepmother "the Queen of the Follies" and the seven street urchins who protect her. 
Christmas? Look for the classic, holiday department store windows.

Popular illustrator Shane Evans partnered with author Donna Washington on Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa. Gramma is sick and Li'l Rabbit surprises her with the best gift of all.  Includes the The Nguzo Saba - The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.

My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz introduces younger children to the celebration of this contemporary holiday.

However you celebrate, make sure to include some time for reading during the holidays ahead.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Richmond's a Real Person

This fall the Main Library hosted the Richmond Zine Fest, an exciting frenzy of do-it-yourself printed matter. Richmond in fact has a long history of forward-thinking publishing, stretching as far back as the Southern Literary Messenger, edited by Edgar Allan Poe, and, in the 1920s, the ambitious “little magazine,” The Reviewer

Between the Messenger and The Reviewer the South went through a period that caused H.L. Mencken to refer to it as something of a cultural desert. In 1921 the book section of the Richmond Evening-Journal closed, and its editors decided at a party in the Fan to continue reviewing books and publishing fiction and to prove Mencken wrong. Emily Tapscott Clark, The Reviewer’s first editor (pictured below), remembers someone simply stating: “Let’s start a little magazine.”

That magazine, The Reviewer, sought to be both regional and experimental, to see past the mists of the Old South towards new literary forms. In its first issue Mary Johnson recalled a man who, after visiting Richmond for the first time, said, “‘I shan’t let it be the last time. Richmond’s a Real Person!” Johnson agreed, and extended the sentiment: “A real person always has literary value.” Publishing from and about this real entity meant exploring new approaches to literature, dispelling old myths and finding new ones. 


Credited with prompting the Southern Literary Renaissance, The Reviewer published work by Ellen Glasgow (who lived not far from the Main Library), Gertrude Stein, and English stylist Ronald Firbank, whose eight short novels remain as challenging as they are hilarious. Reviewer editor Hunter Stagg (seen above as painted by Richmond-native Berkeley Williams) went on to spend time with Firbank in Europe, furthering a bridge between The Reviewer and the international avant-garde.

After 35 issues and the departure of editors Clark and Stagg, The Reviewer moved to Chapel Hill in 1925 and from there to Dallas, where it merged with The Southwest Review and continues to publish. The Main Library holds all original issues of the Richmond-based Reviewer as well as Clark’s memoir of her time at The Reviewer, Innocence Abroad.

Pioneering publishing lives on in Richmond ninety years after The Reviewer changed headquarters. Considering the daring nature of their magazine, Clark and Stagg would have been perfectly at home setting up a table at October’s Zine Fest, perhaps talking up the Gertrude Stein piece in the latest issue or handing out button badges that say: “Richmond’s a Real Person.”

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!