Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

Welcome to YAWYRYE also known as You Are What You Read Year End.  And as such, we will be looking back and telling you, our loyal YAWYR fans what really stood out for us this year.  What makes this list different from any other list?   We made it.  So it rocks.

This year we had a roadside attraction, an obsession, a love story, an opportunity for conversation, a three way tie, a ditto, witches, end of days and an amazing love story.

Miss Kiera says that “this year I've had so many favorites and certainly too many picture books to count. But one work of children's fiction that sticks out in my memory and has really stayed with me is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's the fictionalized version of a true story. Ivan was a gorilla kept as a neglected roadside attraction for years until finally being brought to a sanctuary. In Applegate's story we learn about Ivan and his fellow animal captives through a first-Gorilla perspective. It's the kind of book that you cannot read in public. It's a four-tissue minimum.”

Erin has all year long spoken quite openly of her obsession with Cheryl Strayed.  She went to another library to hear her speak, she not only read Wild in print but she then drove the back roads of Fairfield County listening to it on her CD player. She is an evangelist for her writing.  So what she has to say is really no surprise at all. “My favorite book this year which will be a surprise to absolutely no one was Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.”  Yes, if I were Ms. Strayed I would be on the lookout for a certain tall blonde. 

Ann says that her favorite read is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phi Sendker. She says that it was very hard to choose.   This sweet love story set in Burma is the one that won the heart of our Sweet Ann so you are sure to know it is as wonderful as she is.

Pat. T’s choice is very telling about Pat T. And without saying a word! “My best book of 2012 is Quiet by Susan Cain because it is informative and the book provides the reader with the opportunity to engage in conversation about the subject of introvert and extrovert personalities.”

Barbara M. cannot pick just one and yet again, week three, you will notice no France and no Nazis.  Discuss amongst yourselves. “My best book of the year is often the one I am reading now and Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity would certainly qualify but I would also have to add Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.”

Stephanie says ditto to Barbara about Far from the Tree.

Miss Elisabeth is in a tussle.  With herself. “I’m really struggling with my favorite book of 2012, but I think I'd have to say Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. The sequel to her bestselling A Discovery of Witches, this book was not quite perfect, but I was so excited to delve into history with these characters that it's hard for me to think about the book with anything other than glowing praise. I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy!”

John does love his end of days fiction! “My favorite book of the year would have to be The Dog Stars. So good.” 

This year I loved The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe’s amazing love letter to not only books but the remarkable woman who was his mother.  She not only raised a lovely family but also worked tirelessly for the International Rescue Committee in dangerous situations.  In what has to be one of my favorite literary thoughts of the year Will’s mother explains to him that she has no time for silly in her reading.  She narrows this down by saying, “I’m talking about those novels where the characters aren’t really interesting and you don’t care about them or anything they care about.  It’s those I won’t read anymore.  There’s too much else to read-books about people and things that matter, books about life and death.”  I hope that this year we brought to you options that saved you from this fate and we wish for you many great reads in 2013.

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a one-legged pigeon (totally a first), a sub-par British accent, a Clementine, some Vietnam, E. coli, some dragons, some differences, Swinging London and the cult of beauty, a Ruby, some truth, another Ruby,and an oldster in the attic.

Miss Kiera reports in with this offering: “This week I'm reading a work of middle-grade fiction: On the Road to Mr. Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor. Told in alternating perspectives of the townsfolk of Meadville, South Carolina, over the course of one long, hot summer, we learn about each character as they try to find a troublesome one-legged pigeon. This is no street pigeon, but a homing pigeon lovingly kept by Mr. Mineo and his fat dog, Ernie. The pigeon goes missing during a routine flight over Meadville and winds up insinuating himself into the lives of almost everyone in town. As a child, my grandfather kept about 200 homing and racing pigeons on our roof. So, for me, pigeons have a special place in my heart. What is so remarkable about this book is the way we come to know and truly care about these sometimes oddball, but often charming cast of characters. Each character's search for the one-legged pigeon comes to represent that individual's search for truth, or power, or respect, or friendship. In a way, aren't we all searching for our own one-legged pigeons?”

 Erin is not at all pleased.  “My review this week is going to be controversial among staff members. I am listening to Tell the Wolves I’m Home on audio and I am not loving it. This book is narrated by 14-year-old June who lives in Westchester in the late 80s. Her uncle and closest friend Finn has just passed away due to complications from the AIDS virus. She finds friendship in an unexpected place: her late uncle’s boyfriend Toby. Our staff was wild about this book but I have to say I find the narrator to be a little too precocious to the point that she annoys me. I also think her relationship with her uncle was weird! I am close with my uncles too but I don’t “want to brush the hair out of their eyes,” which is a feeling she has at one point about Finn. I will also note that there are small parts narrated in a sub-par British accent.”  That’s okay Erin.  We love you just the same!

Gretchen is having a good time with the latest installment of one of her favorite series. “I read Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker this week and laughed out loud! My favorite series of books for young readers (2nd-4th grade), Clementine is like a modern Ramona Quimby. She has a short attention span, but a heart of gold. In this story, Clementine’s perfect family of four is about to become five, the science class pet rat has gone missing and she has to untangle a host of complicated feelings about their expanding family. 'Spunky girl' books (early chapter books) are one of my favorite genres and Clementine has topped the list for years. This addition (the 5th book) is as funny and endearing as the first 4!”

Ann has just begun The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam.  “This story takes place in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  Percival Chen is the headmaster of a highly regarded English school.  He is a proud to be of Chinese descent and does not want to teach Vietnamese at his school.  The repercussions from this decision will affect his son and his life in ways he could not imagine.  So far this book is quite well written and I am enjoying it very much.”

Pat  T. has just finished Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander. “This is about Dr. Alexander's personal experience as a patient, rather than the neurosurgeon that he had been for the past 25 years. When the cortex of his brain shut down due to an attack of E. coli bacteria, he laid in a coma for seven days and  experienced something so profound it made him rethink his beliefs, as a scientist, about consciousness after death. This is a very thought provoking book!”

The Amazing Amanda has just read Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.”I enjoy books with strong heroines who make difficult choices to support their goal. I was unable to put this book down and sped through it in three days. Seraphina is a sixteen year old assistant to the court musician. She unwillingly is forced to leave her desired anonymity behind and gets dragged into courtly intrigue, politics, and trying to solve a royal murder, all while trying to protect her secret. For her secret will surely have her killed not only by humans, but by dragons. As the supreme general dragon arrives to mark the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between themselves and the humans, Seraphina is forced to get involved. The longest night is coming, can she and the royal family survive the night?”

Barbara M. is reading Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.  You will notice this is week two of no France and no Nazis.  Hmmmm.  “This is a very well written and well researched book by Andrew Solomon about people raising children who are ‘different’ – deaf, autistic, severely disabled, etc. Solomon has done an incredible amount of research and raises issues I had never thought about; do deaf people want to ‘hear’ and assimilate into a ‘hearing’ world or do they want to remain in their own culture? The book is long, 702 pages, but well worth the effort of reading it.”

Pat S. is feeling fashionable! She tackled both Grace:A Memoir by Grace Coddington and Empress of Fashion by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.  “Grace is a lively bird's eye view of the fashion world since the late fifties-written by a woman who has been in the center of the fashion world for that long. Beginning as a model in London, she worked and socialized with the likes of David Bailey, Vidal Sassoon, Mary Quant, Jean Shrimpton, the Beatle's and just about everyone who constituted Swinging London. And unlike many of the players of the day, she survived the sex, drugs and rock n' roll sixties fairly unscathed, and went on to establish a thriving career as a fashion editor at Vogue, first in London,  then in America, where she continues on today. In addition to stellar name-dropping, Grace debunks the myths associated with the fashion industry. For those of us of a certain age, this is living history and a lot of fun!
Keeping with the same theme, I then tackled the most recent biography of Diana Vreeland, The Empress of Fashion. It is a fascinating exploration of a woman who reported on and created fashion for over fifty years. Vreeland was a character. Imperious, dramatic, charismatic, histrionic and she brought all of those qualities to her search for beauty. Emerging from a childhood which was materially rich but emotionally lacking, Vreeland embraced the cult of beauty in all things and made it her life's work. Beginning with a single column for "Harper's Bazaar" in the thirties, Vreeland's intuitive grasp of fashion trends led her to  bigger and bigger platforms and ultimately as Editor of Vogue, America. When that came to an end, she found herself a job at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute curating exhibits.  She did this in such a groundbreaking way that it broke all l previous attendance records. Her methods were suspect but the results were thrilling. I hated to see this one end.”

Stephanie read one of my favorites of all time this week. “This week I was captivated by Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Jen can’t stop raving about Atkinson’s new book, so I comforted myself with this one in the meantime. I can’t believe this is a first novel because it is so incredibly well-written and well-paced. I love a British family drama, and this book contains several. It begins with Ruby Lennox narrating her life starting at the exact moment of her conception (the first sentence of the book is “I exist!” That’s got to be one of the best first sentences in the Western canon) and takes off in multiple directions from there, through the generations of her ancestors and the times they lived in. As the book sweeps through and back the twentieth century, Atkinson’s powers of storytelling only grow. What a gem.”

Abby seems tickled.  And with so little vested! “I just started Truth in Advertising by John Kenney being released January 22.  I'm only 8% in, but have laughed out loud (LOL for the tech crowd) 4 times.  Not many books make me do that, so I am optimistic I'll continue to enjoy this book.  At 8%, I can't even tell you what it's about besides the advertising biz and a dysfunctional copywriter.”

Miss Elisabeth is reading Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips. “It's a debut Kidlit book, and I'm really enjoying it. Ruby and Madeline are sisters who go in search of their father, a renowned ornithologist. He's been hired by a new "green" spa deep in the South American jungle to help properly conserve the bird species on the resort's property. It's been several months since they've heard from their father, and then the girls get a strange letter, written in code and covered in what look like children's drawings. What is wrong with their father? What is the resort hiding? And will Madeline and Ruby make it out of the jungle alive? I have no idea, because I haven't finished the story yet, but this is a fantastic, middle-grade, ecological thriller that I would recommend to everyone!”

I have been reading a book coming out in April, The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Troubled teenaged Molly is about to age out of the foster system.  Vivian is in her 90’s and is in need of some help in cleaning out her attic.  As they go through her possessions Vivian tells Molly the story of her life. It is well written, even if it is a tad predictable. You really end up caring about and rooting for these two people who have more in common than they probably realize.  

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a trilogy, a twerp, a love story times 2, another love story, the royal yacht, a Degas (or is it!?), some science and faith and some blues, and some nostalgia. 

Let us begin!

John is ready for the next installment! “I've finally gotten around to starting The Twelve the second installment of Cronin's hit Passage trilogy.  If you haven't read The Passage, I highly recommend it.  It's a blast and Cronin knows how to entertain.  These are long books, but he brings the reader up to cruising speed quickly and before you know it, you're completely absorbed in the story.  He's a great writer, though this installment is not quite as strong as The Passage.  But if you're like me, you finished the first book and were dying to move on to the next.”

Alison our Numbers Woman is reading Wanted Man by Lee Childs and is perplexed by some forthcoming cinematic casting. “This is the new Reacher book and it’s getting better.  I can’t believe that Tom Cruise was cast to play Reacher in the movie. Reacher is a big guy at about 6’4’. Cruise is a little 5’6” twerp.”

Gretchen is reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. “I didn’t want to read this book, I generally shy away from cancer stories, but it is a book being considered for our OBOC as well as a possible Printz contender so I figured it was high time I cracked that spine. I am about halfway through and really enjoying it. Hazel is suffering from cancer and meets Augustus (Gus) who also has cancer. They are perfectly suited in wit and intelligence and though their individual tastes certainly vary from literary novels and violent video games – they fall in love. Cancer stories could be sappy, emotional tales, but Hazel and Gus face the world with an honesty and wit that is refreshing to read. The Fault in Our Stars is a glimpse into what life as a teen with cancer is like and a way to celebrate life as it is, ‘Living our best life today!’”

And here is Stephanie’s take on the same book. “This week I jumped on the bandwagon and finally read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. This YA novel is an unwinding love story between protagonist Hazel and a boy she meets named Augustus. Which is where a lot of YA novels start, but this one has an extra urgency—Hazel has terminal cancer, and she meets Augustus, a survivor of osteosarcoma, at Cancer Kid Support Group. No surprise, I cried like a baby through a lot of this book (and many thanks to the lady across from me on the train, who politely ignored the tears dripping down my face), but it’s not a sappy tearjerker. It’s smart, thoughtful, and genuine. I think even adults who don’t normally read YA would enjoy it. In fact, if you’ve been thinking about trying a YA book, this might be a good one to start with. But it’s also a sterling example of what YA books can do for teens, and I know teens love it, just based on some of the outpouring of writing and art I’ve seen related to this book online. So it would be a great read for teens as well, and maybe even a good holiday gift for the teen in your life (just double-check they haven’t read it yet, since this book has been on bestseller lists all year).”

Miss Kiera has just revisited something I consider to be a masterwork. “I just reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since high school. The movie is coming out this spring and I wanted to refresh my memory before having Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DeCaprio completely obliterate my own imaginings of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. I had forgotten how much I love Fitzgerald's writing. Despite how awful and self-involved almost every single character is throughout the story, you nevertheless fall in love with these flawed, melodramatic people. Fitzgerald's lush descriptions of New York in the 1920's (lights twinkling on Long Island Sound, raucous dance parties dripping with diamonds and champagne thrown in Gatsby's immense garden, Daisy's fabulous, flowing silk gowns... ah!) bring you immediately to the time period. I also rewatched the 1974 film starring Mia Farrow (as Daisy Buchanan) and the delicious Robert Redford (as Gatsby.) Whether the remake will live up to the sumptuous set design and costumes that won the 1974 film two Oscars remains to be seen.” 

Miss Elisabeth has just started Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn. “I'm only about 30 pages in but so far am finding it delightful. Miss Marian recommended it to me, and she hasn't given me a title that I've disliked yet! In this book, Queen Elizabeth II is feeling rather discouraged by the rigors of modern life and the rapidly changing world she finds herself a part of. One day, she decides to take herself on holiday to visit the formal royal yacht. She leaves without telling anyone and is accompanied only by some loyal servants who happened to see her leave and followed her. There's a great Upstairs-Downstairs, Downton Abbey-esque feel to the story, and I love the British monarchy!”

Poor Ann.  Superstorm Sandy is still an intrusion into her world of sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.  Here is what she has to report.  “Sadly to say with the holidays coming and contractors in and out of the house, (from the tree damage), I have only been able to finish Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  This is at first look a light read and fun book but then you realize Bernadette is going through a difficult time.  She has a daughter, Bee, who is her main support and the one who believes in her mother coming back home.  It is also the story of competitive parents, Microsoft and people in general who we can all recognize in our daily lives.  This book made me smile.”  And honestly isn’t that all we can ask for in times of stress and strife?  Ann we wish some normality for you soon!

Barbara M. Not in France.  Not a Nazi in sight.  Discuss.”I’m reading The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, a novel loosely based on the theft in 1990 of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Claire Roth, an artist, supports herself by copying famous paintings for When gallery owner Aiden Markal asks her to make a copy of a stolen Degas in return for a show at his gallery Claire faces a difficult decision. The writing is good but not extraordinary and the plot takes many twists but what makes this book really interesting for me is the information about art forgery.”

Jeanne is, no surprise, doing two things at once.  “I am making my way slowly through Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel of human frailties and foibles. Slowly because for me, anyway, Kingsolver's writing is always beautiful but very dense. Kind of like the roosts of monarch butterflies in this story of man vs. environment and man vs. man. And like the monarchs, Dellarobia Turnbow, the young mother who lives with her family and her husband's family on a farm in rural Appalachia, longs to spread her wings. There's usually the element of teaching from this author and I am enjoying the tests of science and faith as well as the exposure of public opinion as (mis)reported by the media.  I also just finished listening to Laura Lippman's Baltimore Blues: The First Tess Monaghan Novel on audio. Lippman was a reporter for twenty years at the Baltimore Sun and she weaves a great tale of murder, mystery, law and journalism. And of course there is sex (not too much), deceit (plenty) and money (whose?) throughout. Tess Monaghan, our heroine, is an unemployed former reporter who a) wants to be employed, b) wants to find her friend's killer and c) gets up at 5:00 in the morning to do her rowing workouts on the Patapsco River. This is a great story to listen to in the car as you make your way through your week.”

Pat T. is feeling festive! “'Tis the season and I like Pete Hamill, so I picked up his latest book titled The Christmas Kid  which is a collection of short stories first published in the Daily News in the 1980's. Anyone who hails from Brooklyn will enjoy this collection  of stories because they capture a period of time when Brooklyn was a borough filled with lower middle class homes where the immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europeans settled with their families. The stories are nostalgic and poignant!”

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new this week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a Jinxy McDeath sighting, some war, some predicions, an island, the Queen(!), an adventure, a geeky mom in a hurry and some families!

Let us begin!

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is reading a most decidedly un-childlike book and one of my personal favorites! “I’m re-reading Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I picked it up again after I saw Lincoln, the movie. The book is hysterically funny but also a really in-depth look at the people who murdered (and tried to murder) presidents of the United States. I loved this book the first time I read it and gave it as presents to everyone I knew for several years. The author goes on a series of road-trip pilgrimages to the museums, former homes, and sites of Presidents and their assassins and would-be assassins. She calls Robert Todd Lincoln “Jinxy McDeath” because he was present at the assassinations of 3 out of our 4 slain presidents.

John has just started The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.  “This book has been heralded as the Iraq War's The Things They Carried.  My first impression is that the writing is superb and I already care deeply about the two main characters--and I'm only 30 or 40 pages in. I formed very high expectations for this short novel as soon as I read the exquisite opening paragraph: ‘While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.’"

Stephanie is working her way through The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. “I’ve been curious about this book since I heard about it, but had to put it on hold after his predictions for the 2012 elections were almost perfect. And what I’ve found is that rarest of birds in the non-fiction arena: an expert who is willing to admit what he doesn’t know. In fact, as he amply demonstrates, one of the biggest problems the world of predictions has is experts who think they know too much. From baseball to weather to the economy, Silver is precise and thoughtful in his examinations of what we know, what we think we know, and what we still have to learn. He’s good not only at discussing the practical, on-the-ground application of predictions, and how they are used in our daily lives, but also at explaining the hard math in a way that makes sense to this sad mathphobic librarian who had to take a class on Excel to escape her math class requirement in college. Those familiar with Silver’s blog will find this to be a great extension of the thorough, complex work he does regularly already. Those new to his work will be delighted to find at least one person in the media world who is more interested what the facts really say rather than what he wants them to. “

Pat T. just finished reading Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. “I enjoyed this good, but sad book. A couple living on a remote island off the coast of Australia made a moral decision that had life altering consequences for all involved.”

Miss Marion lets us all in on one of her obsessions!  “A book for Anglophiles (like me), Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn imagines what happens if Queen Elizabeth took a day off.  The Queen is starting to feel her age.  Times are changing, the Prime Minister is taking away the royal train, and although Prince Edward set her up with a Twitter account, its way over Lillibet’s (the nickname she calls herself) head and she’s feeling nostalgic for the simpler times of her childhood.  Her spontaneous decision to take a quick trip to the cheese shop for a treat for one of her horses turns into a bigger adventure for her, and potential disaster for her personal staff.  Told from multiple points of view, the Queen, her dresser, a lady-in-waiting, the cheese shop worker, this story is both fantastical and very plausible.  The characters are so well-written, they could be real people.  It’s a great holiday read.”

Ann steps out of her comfort zone this week with Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. “I am just in the middle of this fun quirky book.  It is definitely a different type of book for me and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Bernadette is a married mom of a fifteen year old girl, Bee.  She was a world famous architect who has moved to Seattle and left her career to become a full time mom.  She has great difficulty handling her day to day life and has an assistant who lives in India who keeps her life in order.   Life will get too stressful for Bernadette and she will disappear.  This story is told from Bee's point of view, e-mails of her mom's she discovers and some other creative writing techniques by the author.  So far  this is an adventure to take.”

Gretchen is like working moms everywhere!  She is in a hurry so step aside! “I have something but no time to write big description. Read Geek Mom  which is filled with cool activities and support for moms like me with geek tendencies. Easy read, authors are bloggers for Wired magazine.  I also just picked up Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker. I'm a HUGE fan of her Clementine books and based on recommendation of other children's librarians can't wait to read this as well.”

Abby is devouring Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon.  “The book explores families that include children who are not copies of their parents. So far I have read the chapters dealing with deaf children of both hearing parents and deaf parents, dwarfism, Down Syndrome, and am mid-chapter on autism.  Some of the topics have taken me back to my days as a manager of group homes for developmentally disabled adults so it has been interesting to re-visit some of the clients and families I experienced back when I worked in that field. I must say, I found the chapter on Deaf culture especially fascinating. I have the highlight feature on my e-reader working overtime on this one.  This is a really staggering, fantastic book.

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new this week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week we have some back hair, the need for a restraining order, some quirk, hallucinations, horses, and a language I don’t even pretend to understand.

Let us begin!

Amanda is listening to Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson.  “The narrator awakes in an unfamiliar room. She discovers that next to her is a strange, older man with graying hair and back hair. She cringes and looking around realizes that she must have left the bar with a married man. Out into the hallway she creeps onward to the bathroom. Then she reaches for the bar of soap and notices that something is amiss – the skin on her hand is wrinkled. This can’t be! She’s only in her early twenties! Christine Lucas suffers amnesia brought on by an accident. Each day she wakes up with no recollection of the previous day or of the past 20 some years.   Christine’s life is seemingly straightforward with her mind erasing what she does each day. However, as Christine works with a doctor behind her devoted and doting husband’s back, she realizes that it is her husband she should be wary of. He’s lying to her – but to cover up what?”

Erin is listening to Tiny Beautiful Things as a book on CD. “If Cheryl Strayed knew how much I love her, she would issue me a restraining order. I have already read the paperback of this book but I picked up the audio because it’s read by the author. Audiobooks that are narrated by the author just can’t be beat in my opinion. It’s a collection of advice columns originally published on The Rumpus, a website for literary people. It’s different from your typical advice column though because it includes the author’s own experiences. Cheryl Strayed has had a messed up life! But she’ll make you feel good about yours. I think this would make a really nice gift for the holidays, especially for that person on your list who is going through a life transition. “

Gretchen who is somewhere in America in a car on an Interstate is, “listening to and LOVING Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. Read by the author, it has us laughing out loud in the car! This is a memoir recounting his life as a stand-up comic and is interwoven with personal stories of family and relationships. It is seriously quirky, seriously funny, seriously Steve Martin!”

Barbara M. is reading Oliver Sack’s latest book, Hallucinations.  “He explores different kinds of hallucinations both auditory and visual and not necessarily those caused by psychosis. As is usual in Sack’s books, the subject is fascinating and the scientific writing accessible. “ I am sure that Barbara wishes she could summon a Paris hallucination.

Stephanie has just wrapped up Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan.  “Here is a book that combines the quick pleasures of the magazine with the book-length that justifies a hardcover. Blood Horses reads like a very long magazine article, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It could have kept going for another 100 pages and I wouldn’t have complained, though I doubt Sullivan would have wanted that. Its pacing is about as perfect as I have ever experienced in non-fiction. It was actually relaxing!  It was like a savasana pose, but reading. Sullivan is focused on a few core ideas but keeps wandering away from them and circling back; the circles get bigger, and weirder, but are always on their way back to horses, or Sullivan’s father, or Kentucky, or a combination of the three. My admiration of his curiosity and research borders on idolatrous. It was just joyful to read this book, even though it is not necessarily a happy one. The last twenty pages or so left me stunned.”

John is about a quarter of the way into Alif the Unseen and his geek is showing. “This is an interesting debut novel about Alif (screen name "A1if") a young computer hacker in the Middle East whose true love is betrothed to someone else.  Using his uncanny skills as a programmer, he is able to make himself invisible to her on the internet by using some kind of baysian algorithm (they don't call it that, but that's essentially what's described).  In the process, he triggers a series of unusual events and brings down the harsh hand of censorship.  Wilson is an American author who converted to Islam and it's clear that her interest is in Islamic studies and not computer science.  The 'tech' in this novel doesn't pass muster, but I doubt that would interfere with most people's enjoyment of the story--incorrect usage of the term 'hypervisor' and flawed assumptions about how the TCP/IP protocol works aside, this is a very entertaining read.  It's clear from the beginning that this is an a commentary on Islamic fundamentalism and the story draws on some of the more mystic elements of the Quran.  Wilson blends technology, fantasy, history, current events, and political subversion together in this curried yarn.  The result is a novel that has shades of Snow Crash mixed together with mythologies that seem to come right out of Arabian Nights.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this story leads, but I first had to accept that it is not the best writing in the world--Wilson is better known for her work as a graphic novelist and her transition to prose still needs some work.  Regardless, pick up this book, it's worth it and if you don't believe me, it's also a New York Times 2012 Notable.”

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