Equally enjoyable and a bit more complex, Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga tells the story of Rudy, an avocado dealer in Chicago. He too is a widower who has lost his bearings after the death of his wife. He should be contemplating retirement, but instead, in a move that stuns his children, he sells everything and buys an avocado farm in Texas. His only road map for this new life is a book - Philosophy Made Simple. As he reads about the great thinkers of history he tries to find meaning in his new life, which now includes the care of a painting elephant named Norma Jean.
I hope I've given you a reasonable excuse to put down the mop and pick up a book. Happy spring and happy reading!
Crapalachia is published by Two Dollar Radio; a family run, independent publisher specializing in subversive, original, and highly creative fiction. It would all be very Portland if they weren't located in Columbus, Ohio. Perhaps best yet, the vast majority of their books published are 200 pages or less. I have a tall stack of books competing for my limited reading time and while I do like subversive and experimental, I like it best kept short.
I’ve since enjoyed another Two Dollar Radio title, How To Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak. She takes the immigrant experience novel in an entirely unexpected direction with a second generation Polish American woman who longs to pass as Russian to gain entry into the mysterious Twin Palms nightclub.
I have a strong preference for character-driven fiction. If I can't bring myself to care about what happens to the characters or the characters fail to act in a fashion consistent with how they've been described, I tend to put the book down long before finishing it. The worst I've read recently was a well-reviewed urban fantasy where the main character, a nurse, expressed concern about bodily fluid borne disease transmission from her intravenous drug using brother. The very next thing the character did was to go unwind at a bar and pick up a random stranger for the night. The author lost me right then and there when the main character couldn't stay consistent in her actions and behaviors for even a single chapter... and I really wanted to like that book too after the good reviews.
In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, a grimmer novel than the fairly gentle Goblin Emperor, the emperor has scattered his three
Having grown up with two brothers, I was sure the author was capturing the chaos, fearfulness and bravado of boyhood. And as a child surrounded by boys and living in a place where we had the autonomy to come up with haphazard schemes that often put us in real danger, I felt a real sense of returning to childhood, a world that many adults have forgotten or idealized into a safe, sweet and carefree world.
From the very beginning, Torres establishes the feral nature of childhood:
"WE WANTED MORE. We knocked the butt ends of our forks against the table, tapped our spoons aginast our empty bowls; we were hungry. We wanted more volume, more riots. We turned up the knob on the TV until our ears ached with the shouts of angry men. We we wanted beats; we wanted rock. We wanted muscles on our skinny arms. We had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight. We were six snatching hands, six stomping fee; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more."
The language in We the Animals is perfect for reading aloud; and it's short - short enough that maybe you won't have to stay up all night reading, but instead will go to sleep and dream of that half-remembered world of childhood.
This is a pic of my most important stack, the stack of honor, the one by the bed. That way these books are always close at hand for those times when I need an Amazonian jungle tale, for example. Or something to coach me through a dishwasher repair.
If a few of my friends aren't too shy--(they're not)--I'll get them to take a picture of their stack by the bed and we'll have little stack peep show. Stay tuned.
I know, I’ve been there. At times basic tasks like getting dressed and eating can seem overwhelming, and reading can fall away completely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t break up with books altogether! If your concentration balks at fiction, try non-fiction, poetry, or even a different format like audiobooks.
My own personal experience was that fiction could not hold my attention, so absorbed was I in my own story, but non-fiction was able to break through and perform a particular brand of magic. Self-help titles helped me! I clung to How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo like it was a life raft (it was) and I was going over some very turbulent water. As I progressed, so did my appreciation for what came out of others’ break ups. Sharon Olds took fifteen years to publish her most recent collection of poetry Stag’s Leap after her divorce, while Josh Ritter knocked his divorce album Beast in the Tracks out in just a year. Both are poignant, intimate glances at the demise of a relationship and prove that good things can come of these trying times.
And for those David Richo fans out there, his new title How to Be an Adult in Love came out in paperback this year and I received my pre-ordered copy. I squealed when I saw it in hardback at the library, but then quickly realized I would be underlining the entirety of the book and I just prefer a paperback for self-help. It can be folded over onto itself and thrown around as needed...sort of like the state one comes to a self-help book in...
Breaking up is hard to do for the broken and the breaker. Find a getting through it guide, break up memoir, or break up art to help you here.
I think it's time to start an I Heart David Richo club. Anyone with me?
Waaaay back in the day, I was a nanny for six months, and I have to admit that I was not a particularly good one. In junior high and high school, I had tons of (mostly) enjoyable babysitting experiences, but living with a family is so much different than going home after a few hours of coloring and playing hide-and-seek. To clarify, though: the family was fine and I had the best bedroom in the house. I didn’t have to clean and, fortunately for the kids, I had only light cooking duties. It’s just that when you aren’t the ultimate authority, things can be a bit tricky. Taking care of other people’s children is not for the faint of heart as Kelly Corrigan relates in her memoir Glitter and Glue.
As she navigated those sorrowful and difficult waters (so many topics of conversation with the children seemed to potentially contain mother references), Kelly gained a new appreciation for her own mother who was not particularly affectionate but kept the family on track - the “glue” in the family as opposed to her father’s role as the “glitter” (read “fun”). She constantly heard her mother’s voice as she was going about her daily routine and making decisions about the kids (“Children, Kelly. Kids are goats. Are Millie and Martin goats?” ). Now that she’s a mother herself, Kelly realizes how much her mother influenced the way she is raising her own daughters and, for Kelly, that’s a really good thing.
Your body is a pretty amazing place to be. Every day things try to make you sneeze, make your nose run, make you cough, or even something worse - throwing up! Lucky for you, your immune system fights them off - most of the time.
So think of your immune system as the Immune Platoon, a bunch of superheroes battling so you can be as healthy as you can be. Using some great online resources you can get an overview of the immune system, find out how your body responds to an attack on your immune system by playing a parasite game or an immune system game, and even quiz yourself to see what you know!
And you can always contact a librarian for even more info!
Do you know this book? It’s about middle-aged, European Humbert Humbert, who has had his eye on certain girls between the ages of nine and fourteen for his entire adult life. Through a mix of strategy and happenstance, Humbert gets 12-year-old Lolita completely in his power and makes her his concubine-- who also poses as his daughter. And yes, it's as deeply disturbing as it sounds. The book was banned for years all over the world after its publication and still carries an air of scandal.
I’d been reading indiscriminately and in volume, heading every couple of weeks to a used bookstore that sold paperbacks and filling a grocery bag with books by Danielle Steele, V.C. Andrews, and Jacqueline Susann (who I still kind of love). Lolita, when I finally picked it up, grabbed me in a different way than those books. For one thing, I thought it was sexy. At 15, I wasn’t completely horrified at what I saw as Humbert’s seduction of a twelve-year-old. I knew I was sexual, and I wasn’t that much older than Lolita. At that age, I was interested in older men. I was also seduced by the novel’s sinuous music and deep romanticism. There’s beautiful poetry in this book. “My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys.”
Recently I found out that Jeremy Irons was the voice actor for the audio book of Lolita, which the library has on CD and in downloadable audio, and I thought, “Sign me up!” Honestly? Sign me up to hear Jeremy Irons read a grocery list or the ingredients in a bottle of shampoo. After years and years, I “read” Lolita again.
At the age I am now, the book was so much more, in every way, than I remembered, both lovelier and more poignant, and more distressing. It’s genius, having Humbert narrate the book in the first person. You’re right there with him, appreciating Lolita’s beauty, remembering the shock of new love, and then he says something so devastatingly cruel and selfish, so perverted, that you’re shocked. You go in and out of sympathy like this again and again and again. He becomes a monster, then someone whose pain we understand perfectly, then a monster again. Walking home, with Jeremy Iron’s voice in my earbuds, I would sometimes have to stop and cry out, bury my head in my hands. "Hi, there, neighbors. It's not mental illness. It's literature."
Jeremy Irons reads the book with verve, showing us Humbert’s charm, his anger, his often very funny sense of humor. But at the end, as I listened on a grey, drizzly morning on my way to work, his voice grew more subdued as he tells of realizing what his love has done to Lolita’s life. “We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.”
I showed up at the library in no kind of shape to help patrons, at least for a little while. But I’m glad I listened to this masterpiece again.
Eric works at Central Library and is reading The Female Man by Joanna Russ. "It reminds me that Sci-Fi can actually warp minds and beg questions that will never be easily answered. Who can resist a radical feminist take on gender destabilization, utopia and forms of resistance? The novel is somewhat demanding in its break with straightforward narration but commitment pays off. It's also very funny."
You know Molly Wizenberg, right? From the Orangette food blog, the Spilled Milk podcast, and articles in magazines like Bon Appetit? She's that nice 30-something friend you hang out in the kitchen with while she tells you stories, and then she shares recipes, many of which celebrate vegetables, but then she's always getting you to make some version of banana bread, too. In her first book, A Homemade Life, she talked about growing up in the kitchen, the loss of her father, and how she found her food-enthusiast husband. In this one, she talks about how she and her husband opened and then operated Delancey, their artisanal pizza restaurant in Seattle. I liked it-- but then, I like her-- and she's a good storyteller. It was interesting to see what goes into a restaurant from someone who is inside that world. Keeping a restaurant running sounds even more high-pressure and difficult than I ever imagined. At one point, diners at Delancey ordered so many salads that Wizenberg started to sob, even while she continued to plate them.
One thing: the recipes do seem a little forced into this book. She admits that she wasn't cooking much during this time except when she was at the restaurant. And that's Orangette’s schtick, the stories with the recipes. But I'm quibbling here, and, really, I’m glad she included the recipes. The recipes are good. I definitely plan to make that slow-roasted pork and the chilled peaches in wine. And I'm approximately twice as glad as I was before I read it that my husband and I never opened the restaurant of our dreams.
Well, it has happened again - I have fallen in love with a fictional character who lives in a time and a place created out of real history.
Sister Pelagia is the main character in a mystery series written by Boris Akunin. She is an inquisitive, bespectacled, red-haired nun living in Imperial Russia, trying to observe her faith in peace and harmony with her fellow sisters and the students at the school for girls where she is a headmistress. But her insatiable curiosity, her stubborn persistence and her penchant for seeing all the details make her a detective without equal. Somehow she always seems to find herself in the middle of a mysterious circumstance: the poisoning of a rare white bulldog, an inexplicable ghost haunting the Hermitage Abbey or a Christ-like prophet who appears to be able to come back from the dead.
Her adventures always begin in Russia but her sleuthing takes her all over the world, from the dark, thick forests of Siberia to the sun drenched land of the Middle East.
With the Sister Pelagia series you get the best of both worlds: the great philosophical questions that Russian authors have always debated: Love, Death, God, Good, Evil; you also plunge into the depths of a world peopled with extraordinary characters, unorthodox situations and exotic places. Not the least of these is the mystery itself that is interwoven into the story as a living breathing creature.
Writing in the style and with the plot complexity of Charles Dickens, Russian author Boris Akunin deals unflinchingly with the attitudes of the time, especially the question of how we treat those who are different, whether by race or class or sexual preference. He doesn't try to softsoap the truth, but tempers it with humor and unusual historical details.
If you like mesmerizing mysteries set in a different time and place with a heroine who won’t give up until she finds the truth, you will love the Sister Pelegia series by Boris Akunin. Start with Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog.
Shandra from Central Library is reading Half-off Ragnarok and has this to say: "Half-off Ragnarok" is the latest by my favorite author Seanan McGuire, combining great characters, mythical creatures that aren't so mythical, lots of action, and excellent humor."
The implications of people colonizing Mars were delved into wonderfully by Kim Stanley Robinson. In Red Mars, he told the story of one hundred people, most Russian or American (this was published 1993, the last gasp of that binary world), who travel to Mars.