I have been thinking a lot this week on The State of The Book and Print (yes with a capital P) and it’s not a pretty state. It’s rather like the worst stretch of the Jersey Turnpike littered with jack-knifed tractor trailers. Newspapers are struggling and letting their people go at an alarming rate. Magazines are folding without warning and book publishers are scrambling. Most of you know that I read on my Kindle for my commute but I have to tell you that while reading the new Jane Smiley this week (totally tied for first place with All the Light We Cannot See for favorite book of 2014) I loved coming home to the physical copy of the book. I loved holding it in my hand, would get nervous if it wasn’t close by and I didn’t even mind one little bit when I woke up this week with a dent in my forehead from falling asleep on it. Earlier this week, The Traveling Companion shared with me this piece from the New York Times about the joys of slowing down, turning off the gadgets and reading from the actual paper source. Weather willing, this weekend we will be heading for a beach, and there will be the cooler containing the Contraband Beverages and Solo cups (sshhh! Discretion please!), some lunch, the beach chairs and the beach bag containing towels, sunscreen, the most recent issue of the New Yorker, the Weekend Edition of the New York Times and books. This morning on the train I started one that is coming out in January that I first heard about in May at a lunch with some Hachette editors. They were using words like masterpiece, magical, and comparing it to To Kill A Mockingbird. Editors don’t use those words or comparisons lightly. Even more remarkable is that The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton is a first novel. So while on my commute I will be reading it digitally, this weekend will find me holding the ARC at a lovely quiet beach. I hope the same holds true for you too. Slow down; grab a deck chair, a hammock, an Adirondack chair, whatever the seat of preference is and a piece of true print. This week we have some cringing, swirling maelstroms, love for books, princesses, surgery, a survey, four wives, and a diaper bag. Playlist? Of course!
Let us begin!
Thomas is reading an old favorite of mine and Stephanie’s. We have been begging him to do it for a while now and he finally listened. And this is the closest he will ever come to admitting we were right. “I’m eternally late on everything that is ‘decent’ in literature. To continue this theme, I have just started reading May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. The novel tells the story of a middle aged Nixon professor named Harold who is always living in the shadow of his alpha male, short-tempered younger brother, who is an executive at a very prominent news network. When Harold's kid brother snaps and commits a senseless act of violence, Harold suddenly finds himself taking care of his brother's two adolescent children, Nathaniel, an emotionally disturbed twelve year old with a taste for controlled substances, and Ashley, a six year old trapped in the body of an eleven year old. Together, the three of them begin to learn just how much life can make one cringe. I'm cringing as I write this to be totally honest.”
I love how whenever we hear from Miss Elisabeth of the CL she is so enthusiastic about what she has just consumed it just shines through her review. This week is no different. What’s up Miss E? “This week I read, no, devoured, a new release by a debut author. The Queen of the Tearling, by Ericka Johansen, is everything you could possibly ask for in an adult fantasy - there's excellent world building, great character development, a breakneck pace, and most importantly, a strong, confident, intelligent heroine at the center of a swirling maelstrom of political intrigue. It's the best thing I've read in a long, long while. The book begins as our heroine, Kelsea, turns 19 and is escorted by armed guards from her secluded, secret childhood home to the castle of the kingdom she is meant to rule - The Tearling. The story is set on a continent that erupted from the sea after a natural disaster several thousand years in the future, and the world is an intricate blend of acknowledgements of things we have now such as eBooks, and the seven volumes of Rowling, medieval feudal societies, and grim references to the events that caused a modern world to be replaced so thoroughly. Although the character is young, the book is decidedly adult - language and references to sex means this is NOT a good crossover title for 14 year-olds. The author was inspired to create her heroine after hearing then presidential hopeful Barack Obama speak about hope and change in 2008. The movie rights have already been sold, the script is being written, and Emma Watson is set to star. I can't wait for the sequel and the movie!”
Speaking of Steph, here she is! “I read Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country by Louise Erdrich, after it was recommended to me by a good friend. I love Erdrich, and this book is fantastic. For her fans, it offers insight that’s not found in her other books. For those who haven’t read her yet, it’s a fantastic extended essay, and an American memoir of real substance. What I loved best about it is the overarching question: ‘Books. Why?’ Even though she meanders off to explore the geography and history of Ojibwe Country, her family, the language of Ojibwemowin, the resurgence of traditional belief, and her internal life she always returns to this one question. She offers a number of specific answers throughout the book: ‘Because our brains hurt," and ‘Because they are wealth, sobriety, and hope.’ She is always thinking about what books have meant to her and mean to so many of us. What book lover can resist?”
Pat S is reading The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. “As a longtime student of Russian history, I really enjoyed this study of the four Romanov princesses. While frequently grouped together, almost as a collective, Rappaport aims to delineate distinctive personalities for each of the four ,Olga;stalwart, Tatiana;composed and private, Marie;merry and empathetic, and Anastasia;fiery. Using primary source material previously unavailable, Rappaport is able to draw credible portraits not just of the four princesses, but also of their parents in their family roles. And may I say, hemophilia wasn’t the only illness that was passed down in that family. While not a page turner, it is an interesting read for the history buff.”
Pat T enjoyed a medical thriller Doing Harm, by Kelly Parsons to be specific. “Steve Mitchel, a young, confident surgical resident is in line for a good position when he completes his residency. However, he soon discovers that life can change on a dime when one of his patient's dies, and another’s surgery is compromised. With the help of his junior resident, Luis, they try to uncover the person responsible for all these deadly escapades. I suspect this gripping novel will keep you up past your bedtime, as it did me!”
Julie Rae began as a student intern this spring and we thought she was so awesome we asked her to stay for the summer. She will be leaving us all too soon to begin her freshman year at Ursinus College. Here is what has been in her beach bag. “Recently I've read two quick summer books that are perfect for a day at the beach. The first one is The Rosie Project, about a genetics professor who is attempting to find a wife in the only way that makes sense to him: by conducting a survey. But his logical method turns up with nothing but dead ends until he meets Rosie, a woman who meets none of his criteria. The Rosie Project is a wonderful book with tinges of hilarity and depth. The other book worth mentioning for a summer read is Mrs. Hemingway. This book follows the marriages of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives. I left the book with a sense of awe for the author because it was researched meticulously that I felt connected to each of the wives. “
Jeanne. Only one thing. So worrisome. “I read The Objects of her Affection by Sonya Cobb. Cobb’s first novel is interesting, page-turning and describes an all too possible turn of events. Sophie Porter is a bright young woman who is trying to get back into the tech working world after having two children. Having grown up feeling ungrounded, she craves a home of her own. She and her husband, who works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art curating Renaissance pieces, buy what seems the perfect home until the bills start coming in. Sophie is desperate to manage without telling her husband of their predicament. Then she meets Harry, owner of an antique shop in Manhattan. How can one woman, a diaper bag and antiques possibly mix to solve her money woes?”
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here with The Playlist. Hey Patty! What’s good? “Summertime marks the longer, slower days we all enjoy. Extra daytime hours feel like stolen time to be shared with friends and family while sipping freshly squeezed lemonade, eating berries, biking, swimming and lots and lots of beach time reading. This weekend marks the annual Maker Faire Detroit event held at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s a big deal. Seriously, if you don’t know what a Maker Faire is, you’ve been missing out on GREAT innovation and talent steeped in a pool of sweat, commitment and healthy risk-taking. Yes, I will be attending with my kiddos. One can’t help but think about past brilliant makers like Johannes Gutenberg. His invention of the printing press is touted as the most important event of the modern period. Without his invention we’d have no Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Enlightenment, Scientific Revolution or dare I say, LIBRARIES! Librarians and media folk are often asked about the viability of physical print with the suggestion that it’s passé. All the folks I know including makers give a resounding NO! We need a beautiful glossy magazine, a book to be opened and its fresh new goodness inhaled. (yes, there’s even a perfume for that) Print is not dead. Every psychologist will tell you that human beings require, crave and need touch. While I am a huge proponent and consumer of digital media I still love the touch and smell of a book and magazine. This will never change, so Make On, Create and Long Live Print!”