An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches is a blog about the best the library has to offer. From audio books to movies, from novels to zines, library staff and guest bloggers will tell you about their latest library discoveries. Read. Watch. Listen. Chat.

As I write this, my coworkers and I are all a little excited. Our boss, who we really like, will any minute now become a father for the first time. The parents who work here are especially delighted because we’ll be reminded of our own experiences of becoming parents, and maybe we'll get to share some hard-won wisdom with the new dad.

One thing I’ll definitely share, when the time comes, is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

Feeding babies and children can be really fun. I remember the summer that my first child was able to eat real food; the parade of summer fruits she got to experience for the first time--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches. We got marionberries that were as big as her fists, and she ate them with concentration and joy, purple juice dripping down her chin.

But feeding small children can also be hugely frustrating. One day they love scrambled eggs. The next, they are affronted that you would even suggest they eat such a thing. Many parents react by feeding their children only the tried and true favorites, which can lead to a pretty limited diet, and there’s frequently a lot of stress and discord around feeding issues. Child of Mine can really help. The main thing I got from this book was a firm grasp on what should be my responsibility and what should be my children’s. My job is to provide a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals -- so I decide “what” and “when”. My kids decide if they’re going to eat and how much. I haven’t followed this perfectly, but it kind of set us on our course, and my kids definitely eat their fruits and veggies. So if you have a small child and feeding is an issue -- which it is for just about everyone at one time or another -- check out Child of Mine.

The Unforgiving Coast book jacketSummer is here and as usual we are inundated with reading lists of the best summer beach reads. They are everywhere. Locally, The Oregonian has a list of 19 Must Read Beach Books and the Portland Mercury tells you How to Pick the Perfect Summer Book.  Nationally, Good Housekeeping has their Best Summer Beach Reads, Entertainment Weekly recommends 10 Big Fat Beach Reads, the New York Times offers Cool Books for Hot Summer Days and the Huffington Post offers a list of “titles to get you started whether you are at the beach or just wish you were.”Jaws book jacket

Well, I for one feel it is time to revolt against the tyranny of summer beach reading. Maybe you don’t like the beach or don’t live near the ocean. What’s wrong with staying inside and enjoying the comfort of your own home? Also, lots of bad things can happen at the beach.  Bad things like tsunamis, sharks, venomous jellyfish, shipwrecks, pollution, and crowds to just name a few. So I say let’s celebrate staying away from the beach with our reading this summer!  Try something from this list of books and enjoy reading in the comfort of your own safe and cozy home.

Summer is here and that means one thing.

What? You don't know? Why it's time to put on Out of Africa of course and indulge in Robert Redford, excuse me, I mean the glory days of the British Empire. Surely I cannot be the only one who opens all the doors and windows on the first properly hot day, puts in the dvd, and sits back with a G&T, fan circling overhead.

Or possibly I am.  

No matter. I'm in the mood for a little British East Africa kind of love. Anyone care to join me?



 

Hold Still book jacketWhen Sally Mann’s new memoir opens, she is sitting in the attic sorting though boxes of photographs. Deciding what to keep and what to throw out is difficult. After a lifetime spent documenting the lives of her children, the landscapes surrounding her Virginia farm and her own and her husband’s aging bodies, Mann recognizes the challenge inherent in relying on photographs to keep and preserve the truth.  For Mann, photographs should never be mistaken for reality. It is this philosophy that infuses Hold Still, a way of thinking that allows readers to get to know her beyond the controversy that has followed her professional career.

It’s hard to think about Sally Mann and not think about that controversy.  In the mid 1980’s, Mann began photographing her children. In many of the photographs the children are nude or partially nude. In the early 1990’s, a show of Mann’s work at a New York gallery resulted in a scathing critique of her work and officially placed her in the category of the controversial.   

Hold Still proves that Mann is also a wonderful storyteller.  Her writing is exquisite – the perfect balance of forward motion prose and past reflection.  The book is also a satisfying visual journey.  Mann has included well-known photographs as well as letters, drawings and other memorabilia. Chapters denote the major relationships in her life. She tells the story of her own youth and early years and her marriage to Larry Mann which endures today despite her mother-in-law’s attempts to sabotage it.  She talks about the brutal murder of her in-laws, a Capote-like story if ever there was one. And she talks about her farm, which she credits with providing her a place from which her work and her life could thrive.  

Mann’s works today sell for thousands of dollars and her photographs are collected by major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. But the days of criticism have dogged her career and, if nothing else, this memoir makes a valiant attempt to set things right –to show Mann the person and the philosophy behind her work.  For Sally Mann, photographs do not preserve the past. Instead they “supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories.” With honesty and a clear eye, Hold Still introduces readers to a Sally Mann who is more than the controversy.

Subversive Cross Stitch book coverAhhh...summer is finally here. For some (lucky) folks that means time to relax, enjoy the sun, read, binge watch Netflix, and maybe take up a new craft. But what new craft should I get into, you ask? This is where Subversive Cross Stitch comes to the rescue. Of course cross stitching isn’t a “new” craft, and maybe you have already dabbled in stitchery, but hear me out on this. When I saw this book sitting on our new book shelf, opened it up and saw beautiful cross stitch patterns with sayings like “Cheer Up, Loser”, “Too Bad So Sad” and “Kiss My Grits” (and these are just some of the more rated-PG patterns), I knew that I had found my new summer craft. That night I found myself in the craft store loading up a basket with embroidery thread, wooden embroidery hoops, needles, canvas and cute little scissors. Over a weekend, while binge watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I proudly finished my first cross stitch. I would post a picture for you, but that might get me fired, so instead you can feast your eyes on the censored piece that I started a few days ago. Half done cross stitch
 
The patterns in this book are fantastically snarky, fun and easy to follow. Plus the author starts the book out with basic cross stitch instructions and techniques. Perfect for the novice cross stitcher, like myself, and the experienced needleworker who wants to explore their “sassy side”.
 

sun shining through trees on forest pathWhen I was a girl of maybe 14, back when e.e. cummings was my favorite poet, I would sometimes think, “Right now, I’m just sitting here on a humdrum day, but somewhere in the world, it’s nighttime and a person is ill and possibly dying with family sitting near; somewhere a baby is being born; somewhere people are dancing at a wedding.  I’m just sitting here, but somewhere this moment is important and big or certainly very different from what I’m experiencing.”

Do you ever think about other somewheres?

With a nod to my young self, I’m sharing with you some books and music that explore many kinds of somewhere, starting with e.e. cummings’ poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond.”

Do you get lonely for friends? I do. Some of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away. Sometimes I start to need the balm of sharing and feeling safe. I like knowing they will laugh with me or have the tissues ready. And I do the same for them. When I start to long to hang out with some friends, that’s where books or movies come in. I have been reading novels with female friendships as the main topic for a while.

Get cozy and have the tissues ready, these ladies will be there for you.

Like most of the global south, Jamaica's history is framed and compelled by imperialist violence and expropriation.  For much of the 17th-18th centuries, the island was accessed for sugar crops and a base for the African slave trade.  First under Spanish - and then British rule - Jamaica eventually acheived national independence in 1962.  Often advertised as a tropical paradise in mainstream US culture industry representations and via an aggressive tourist industry, the truth has been and continues to be anything but luxurious (at least once one departs the protected areas of Kingston and Montego Bay).  Jamaica has struggled post-independence and much of the pain, frustration and hope generated is channeled via Jamaica's home-grown musical export - reggae and its multiple variants and offshoots.

Reggae emerged as an identifiable form in the late 1960s though its roots lie in earlier Afro-caribbean genres like calypso and mento, cross-pollinated by US (especially southern) rhythm & blues - and later incorporating US black pop like Motown and soul. Like so much pop, reggae is both mode of resistance, documenting the axes of loss/rage, and  means for making money - and for many young Jamaican men, a means of escaping the crime-ridden ghettos of Jamaica's cities.  Of course, imperialism continues to frame the realities of Jamaican music and musicians.  By the mid-late 70s, with Bob Marley's meteoric rise to global popstar (really only peaking after his death in 1981 and bankrolled and scripted in many ways by Island Records' mogul Chris Blackwell), reggae and its various offshoots was identified as a potential market/cashcow for an industry still under the dizzying spell of what at the time appeared to be endless expansion/profit.  Reggae never became the global phenomenon many record execs dreamed of  - though later incarnations like dancehall and ragga have definitely claimed space in markets and dance clubs across the hemisphere.

But it is reggae's essential mode as resistance - both socially and musically - that I want this post to hang on.  There's not enough space to go into the role Rastafarianism plays in reggae and it seems critical that the music (and the material realities of its production) be situated in the very violent and turbulent history of Jamaica in the 1970s (see Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings for a superb fictional account of this era) and much of the best roots reggae can't really make sense without a knowledge of Marcus Garvey and the  Black Nationalism/Pan-Africanism movements.  But what seems most compelling to these white US ears is the beautiful confluence of spirituality, sadness, dread, and rage embedded in so much of the best reggae and dub. With that being said, here's a video playlist of some of my favorite reggae/dub tunes:

1) Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey



2) Gregory Isaacs - Mr. Cop


3) Althea & Donna - Uptown Top Ranking


4) Winston Hussey - Where Fat Lies Ant Follow


5) The Mighty Diamonds - Right Time


6) The Congos - Fisherman


7) King Tubby - Dub From The Roots (full album)


8) Bob Marley & The Wailers - Slave Driver


9) Sly & Robbie - Unmetered Taxi


10) Gregory Isaacs - No Speech No Language


11) Big Youth - House Of Dreadlocks

My son, who is eleven, had a hard, hard year at school. He had the kind of teacher who even assigned seats during lunch. When the kids did self-portraits to hang up for Back-to-School Night, she told my son that he should draw some eyelashes on his picture of himself, and when he refused, she drew them on herself. (I am not even kidding.) He’s wildly relieved that summer vacation is here, and I know he envisions himself playing Minecraft twelve hours a day.

Not so fast, pal. I love the lazy days of summer, but I’m still mean enough to limit screen time and insist on fresh air, exercise, and reading. He likes to read, so this won’t be too hard for him, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at finding books for him. While I'm all in favor of books that are just plain entertaining, I’m especially happy when I can find books that are full of facts about history and science that are so much fun, he won’t mind that he’s learning as he reads. Check out this list I made of books that meet this criteria and find some treasures-- a hilarious graphic novel about the Presidents of the United States-- a book about dolphins who use tools-- and a book that takes crazy questions ("What would happen to the Earth if the Sun didn't exist?" or ""How much space does the Internet take up?"), then answers them with rigorous science.

A friend told me a few years ago that his son-- who is right around my son’s age-- acted like he had to learn, immediately, exactly how the world and everything in it works. One of the things that I love about kids is this kind of endless curiosity, and one of the things I love about my job at the library is that I get to help satisfy it.

I've always felt I belonged to another era. As a child I would stay up late Friday nights to watch old serials. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Terry and the Pirates became my heroes. This led to scouring the local library for similar books. I discovered the pulps, with their fantastic cover art and stories of danger and adventure. As a scrawny and awkward kid I was often bullied at school, and books were my refuge, a place to which I could retreat and explore different worlds and times. Books, history, art, and my ideation of tough guy heroes led me into the very real world of tattooing. I've been a tattooist for nearly 25 years, and I am an expert in both the artistry and history of my craft.

As the father of four homeschooled children, books still play an active role in my life. As a family, we have traveled to Reichenbach Falls to visit Sherlock Holmes' place of death, to King's Cross Station where Harry Potter boarded the train, and followed the pioneer trail of Laura Ingalls Wilder. My family continues to plan trips based on our favorite characters, historical or fictional. 

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont

This book is a veritable who’s who of pulp fiction, early science fiction and horror. It’s such fun while reading to see cameo appearances of other authors and artists: Walter Gibson, Heinlein, Lovecraft and more become characters in the story.  This book has it all — daring heroes, heroines, military intrigue, cliff hangers, and even a Chinese warlord anti-hero. This book takes me back to a time that never was. (Best read on the floor with a crème soda.)

Falcons of France by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

This book follows a young airman’s journey though the war, from learning to fly, to fighting, and becoming a prisoner of war, to shortly after the armistice. While the book is fictional, the events described are true and are derived from the author's experiences. Hall himself had a career that reads like a pulp novel come to life. He fought in the trenches for the British in the early days of WWI, before joining the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of Americans flying for France. The 2006 movie Flyboys was based on this squadron. After fighting under three different flags he began a writing career with Charles Nordhoff, another American who flew for France. Together they wrote The Lafayette Flying Corps, then went on to write The Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. This book gives us a snapshot into the time and experience of young fliers in WWI as only they could tell it.

The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah HallSome of Mav's art

This story about an English tattooist working in Coney Island takes place during tattooing’s pre-golden age of the 20s and 30s. A good story with a great tattooing backdrop to give you a glimpse into its history as a sideshow attraction.

The Tattooed Lady: A history, by Amelia Klem Osterud

A lovely book, profusely illustrated and well researched. This book tells the stories of some of the lesser-known female tattooed attractions, as well as the bigger names and chronicles the changing times in which they worked. I love that most of these tattooed ladies, some tattooers themselves, were able to rise above discrimination and objectification to empower themselves on their own terms. These tough and independent ladies really blazed trails and paved the way for future generations.

For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.

The Sculptor bookjacketI just finished The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and I want to tell everyone I know (even complete strangers!) about it. I loved it as soon as I saw the cover - a stunning facade that incorporates the main character and the woman he loves as a sculpture. 

And then the story. It's that age-old tale of selling your soul for your art, but it's told in a brilliantly fresh way. Did I mention the drawings? This is a graphic novel and even if you've never been interested in reading one before, please take a chance on this one. This picture story tackles all of the important issues - destiny, art, love, one's legacy, loss, death. It's all here in the most beautiful wrapping imaginable and I want everyone to read it now.

Cool Japan Guide book jacketLots of Americans are way into manga and anime, but Abby Denson loves both so much that she tries to go to Japan every year.  She’s pretty much a fan of all Japanese pop culture and now she’s written and illustrated a fun travel guide to help others navigate the land of manga, lucky cats and ramen.  She’ll tell you about the best times to go, how to deal with the weird toilets, where to find the most awesome souvenirs, what to eat (the ramen is WAY better than the stuff you find in the U.S. and the sweets are to die for), along with interesting things to see and do. You’ll also learn a few Japanese words from Abby’s cat, Kitty Sweet Tooth.

Comics conventions! Maid and butler cafes! Vending machines with funky food and drink! Abby throws you right into the middle of it all.  After reading the Cool Japan Guide, you’ll want to hop the next flight to Tokyo and start your search for the perfect omamori and Taiyaki.

For another fun illustrated guide to Japan, check out Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet.

Photo of Gustav HolstOne hundred years ago, English composer Gustav Holst began work on what would become his most famous work -- The Planets -- which he would complete in 1916. The work is a suite for orchestra, with each movement being named after a planet in the Solar System. At the time of its writing, the existence of Pluto was unknown; and so Neptune was the most remote planet to be included in the work.Image of Solar System

Holst died in 1934, not long after Pluto's discovery in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. With the official count of planets expanded to nine, I always thought it was unfortunate -- maybe even a little sad -- that Holst was not able to "complete" his suite by adding in a movement named after the planet Pluto. But fast-forwarding about 75 years, Pluto's status was reduced to that of a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union.

So maybe Holst didn't just run out of time after all. Perhaps he just didn't consider the tiny newcomer to be worthy of sitting alongside such lofty celestial bodies as Mars and Jupiter!

Years ago I had the opportunity to work as an English teacher in a Montessori school. It was then when I had my first experience working with bilingual books. Listen to the Desert by the Mexican American writer Pat Mora kept my attention because of its simplicity and content. Inspired by the book, I developed a project with the 1st grade children studying the desert. The project ended with a class open to the children’s parents -- it was a total success. You can have experiences like this at home, too! Libraries are a fantastic resource for parents who want to explore a variety of topics and reading levels with bilingual books.

 

Who could imagine that years later Pat Mora would visit our libraries during the Children’s Day, Book Day celebration, where she autographed her book Yum! MmMm! Qué Rico! I even got a chance to share with her my experience of using Listen to the desert as part of my teaching project.

 

Here's a list of my favorite bilingual books. Enjoy!

 

Años atrás tuve la oportunidad de trabajar como maestra de inglés en una escuela Montessori y fue entonces cuando tuve mi primera experiencia trabajando con libros bilingües. 

Oye el desierto de la escritora México americana Pat Mora llamó mi atención por su simplicidad y contenido e inspirada por tal contexto desarrollé un proyecto con los niños de 1er grado sobre el  desierto como tema principal. El proyecto finalizó con una clase abierta a los padres de familia la cual fue un éxito total. Experiencias como esta pueden ser repetidas en casa y las bibliotecas son un recurso fantástico para aquellos padres de familia que quieran explorar diversos contenidos y niveles de lectura con sus hijos interactuando con libros bilingües.

 

Años después Pat Mora visitaría varias de nuestras bibliotecas durante la celebración del Día de los niños, El día de los libros y al autografiarme su libro Yum! MmMm! Qué Rico! pude compartir mi experiencia con aquel proyecto cuando siendo maestra.

 

Te invito a que utilices nuestros recursos y espero que disfrutes esta colección de mis libros favoritos.

 

 

 

His readers know suspense writer Andrew J. Rush as a successful mild-mannered author of high profile suspense mysteries and thrillers. His publisher is happy because Andrew’s books sell thousands of copies and he is in high demand as a speaker in bookstores across the U.S.  He has a beautiful house, a lovely submissive wife and is able to send his children to the best and most exclusive schools.  Enthusiastic reviewers hint that he may be compared to Stephen King, although Andrew himself can’t see it.  

But Andrew holds his cards close to his chest because on the side where it is dark and unkempt and cold, is the Jack of Spades.  The  books written by the Jack of Spades are cruel and twisted and violent.  They are so secret that even Andrew’s publisher doesn’t know his real name; he has a locked room in the basement where he writes his Jack of Spades books.

The manuscripts are unsigned and all the profits  go to a private bank account.  His family live in complete ignorance of these secrets.

Then two things happen:

First a woman accuses him of breaking into her house and stealing her ‘words’- ideas, sentences and whole paragraphs that appear in his published titles.

Second- his daughter accidently picks up and reads one of the books written by the Jack of Spades.  She is disgusted and horrified to find some events described there are taken from her own family.

As Andrew desperately tries to hang on to his ‘normal’ life he begins to hear a black, ugly voice buzzing in the back of his mind. ‘Do it, Do it Do it’.                                                                          Wondering who ends up holding all the aces? Read Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates

                                                                      

                                                                       

In the 1970’s, if you lived in a small southwestern desert town near the Mexico border, you didn’t expect to hear much soul music on the radio. So, when Diane Mays ran down 2nd Street hollering “there’s Negroes on the radio!” ; nobody paid attention. Then Gary, her brother, put a radio on the front porch and turned it up. That brought all the Saturday clean-up to a screeching halt. Radios switched on from the gambling man's house all the way down to the preacher's.

The piano was striding, the bass was bumping and the drums thumping. So the words caught us all by surprise.

"Did they say Jesus?"

 "Naw, they must be thinking that's how you say Hay-zeus (spelled "Jesus" in Spanish)."

"Hush now, let's us listen."

And yes, that was gospel on the radio.

For a sample of what we heard go to Hoopla, sign in and type this: "Oh Happy Day". Click on the one by Edwin Hawkins-2004. It's short 'cause church mothers was falling out all over and couldn't take much.

Citing Emma Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer; Wed July 14, 2010:

Edwin Hawkins & Family won a Grammy for "Oh, Happy Day" in 1970. It was the 1st gospel song to climb mainstream charts. In 1968, a (Berkeley, Calif., choir) under the direction of Hawkins recorded an album. They expected to sell a few hundred as a fundraiser for an upcoming trip to Washington, D. C. But one of their songs--"Oh Happy Day"--caught the eye of a local Dj, who played it on the radio. It became an international hit, selling an estimated 7 million copies.  It was the first gospel song to climb the mainstream charts.

Folks started talking about modern vs traditional gospel.

"What is tradition, anyway?" Bishop (Walter) Hawkins once said. "Gospel music doesn't have a particular style. Gospel's got to progress."

In our little dried up town, far from the centers of black culture, even we knew 'thangs' had changed!

 

 

Death and Mr. Pickwick: A Novel

by Stephen Jarvis

Jarvis recreates the writing of Charles Dickens'  first novel "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club" giving us a flavor of 19th century London and the publishing industry of the time. For Dickens fans everywhere.

The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family's Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis

by Simon Goodman

A dramatic story about a seventy year detective hunt for stolen family treasures which included works by Degas, Renoir, Botticelli and many more. A heartfelt tale of loss and redemption.

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs --  A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal and Murder

by Ben Mezrich

The bestselling author of "Bringing Down the House" brings us a tale of wealth and rivalry among the super-wealthy oligarchs who amassed great riches and power after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time

by Jonathan Kozol

Kozol, who has written award winning books on vulnerable children and education, tells the story of his father's life, a specialist in brain disorders, and his descent into dementia. A tender portrait of love and understanding.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

by Robert Kurson

An extraordinary tale of the search for the 17th century pirate ship Golden Fleece lost somewhere near the Dominican Republic. In thrilling detail, Kurson relates the excitement of the search for gold and the research involved looking at documents and maps in libraries around the world.

 

 

Leviathan Wakes book jacketLeviathan Wakes is the first book in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (a pen name for for co-writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham).  If you prefer to watch instead, it is currently being produced as a 10 episode series for the SyFy channel. My husband wanted to read the book before seeing the show so he started in on it.  After about a third of the book, he insisted I also had to read it before watching the show. He wasn't too far into the second book when he asked for the third.

In this universe, set a few hundred years in the future, humanity has managed to colonize the solar system but hasn't yet reached the stars. The crew of a small ice hauler responds to a distress signal, and it all goes horribly, horribly wrong from there. Earth groans under the weight of 30 billion hungry mouths and doesn't get along with Mars or Luna.  Those three all look down on the 50 to 100 million Belters living on asteroids in the outer solar system. The Belters live a hardscrabble life taxed into poverty by the inner system and resent the folks born into a gravity well. When the ice haulers point the finger at Mars for the death of the ship, they find that things get ugly very, very fast.  The more sensible scramble to keep systemwide war from breaking out but the rest just add to the chaos. Remember, you don't need bombs if you can just push a big rock down a gravity well, so the wiser heads are terrified of humanity wiping itself out.

Once I got my turn with book one, I found this to be an action-packed title that alternates between two main characters who feel like believable men.  You see a great deal of the life in the "Belt" and it's a rough place.  Mistakes very quickly equal dead and the justice is quite frontier in style. Pretty much any consensual vice you can imagine appears to be legal but nobody bats an eye that an engineer that neglected some life support systems fell out of an airlock with some pretty terrible injuries. The science part of the science fiction does have a great deal of "handwavium", but it feels real.  The reader is given little details like how many years it took to put a stable spin on a larger asteroid so it would have some gravity for the inhabitants.Firefly dvd cover

I think that the setting and flavor of Leviathan Wakes would appeal to anyone who has the good taste to have loved Firefly.  It’s nice to see a new set of “big damn heroes”! I don't know that I hold out the greatest of hopes for the tv. show being as good as the books, but if they stick to the exciting story and interesting characters there's hope!  Even the tv show turns out to be awful, the books are well worth reading if you like space-set science fiction at all.

Books are for chumps drawingAbout a year ago this picture landed on my desk. Drawn on the back of a library survey that had been given out to hundreds of middle and high school students. A hastily drawn angry face with a speech bubble that says “Books are for CHUMPS!” When I first saw the drawing I couldn’t help but laugh. Then I wondered, who was it who drew this? Do they really think that books are for chumps? What even is a chump? Since the creator of this drawing is an anonymous student, I will respond to their cry for bookish help in the form of an advice column.
 
Dear Books Are For Chumps,
 
I understand that you do not think that books are fun or interesting to read. I sympathize with your struggle. I was once like you until I realized that it wasn’t that books were boring, it was just that I hadn’t yet met the right book. I know very little about you other than that you do not like to read, you do like to express yourself, and you have a great sense of humor. So with those three things in mind, here are some titles that I think will change your opinion about books.
 
Ready Player One book coverLet’s start with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Imagine that it is 2044 and the world has become a bleak place. Most people escape their extremely grim reality by immersing themselves in a virtual reality called the OASIS. The deceased creator of OASIS, James Halliday, leaves his inheritance to any gamer who can solve three puzzles that he has left within the OASIS. After years of isolation Wade Watts finds himself juggling real world danger, romance, friendship and 80’s nostalgia in a fast paced cyber quest.
 
Why read this: You love video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and 80s movies.
 
Grasshopper Jungle book coverIf you are in the mood for dystopian fiction with more of a  comical bend I recommend giving Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith a try. This is a book that is hard to explain and impossible to forget. Grasshopper Jungle is a first person chronicle of the end of the world told from the perspective of 16-year old Austin Szerba. Austin is a normal teen living in a small Midwest town, hanging out, having fun and struggling with his affection for his best friend, Robby and his girlfriend, Shann. Meanwhile there are 6-foot tall praying mantis-like alien Unstoppable Soldiers (that Austin and Robby accidently let loose) poised to take over the world. 
 
Why read this: 6-foot tall praying mantis-like aliens. Need I say more?
 
Dorothy Must Die book coverDorothy Must Die is the first book in a  new series  by Danielle Paige (the second book The Wicked Will Rise came out earlier this year). This is a “what happens after” story and a twisted take on the Land of Oz. Amy Gumm is another girl from Kansas who gets swept away to Oz. But the land that she visits is not the same Technicolor fantasy from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. Oz is a gray, sad place ruled by a powerful and horrible tyrant, Dorothy. This series is an awesome spin on a classic tale. 
 
Why read this: You want to know what happens after the movie ends.
 
The Shadow Hero book coverMaybe a graphic novel is what you need. If so check out the Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang. The Shadow Hero revives the 1940s comic book story of the Green Turtle, the  first Asian American superhero. 19-year old Hank Chu is the son of Chinese immigrants living in a fictional 1930s Chinatown. After his mother is rescued by a superhero, she decides that it is her son's destiny to become a superhero. This is a comical take on the traditional superhero origin story.
 
Why read this: You have (and maybe stiil do) fantasized about being a cape wearing superhero.
 
So my challenge to you, B. A. F. C. , is to read at least two of these books over the summer, then get back to me and let me know if you still think that books are for chumps.
 

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