Archive for March, 2011

Further Reading: The Free World by David Bezmozgis

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The Free World by David Bezmozgis is an impressive, sweeping first novel about three generations of Russian Jews and all the different places that life takes them. The Krasnasky family must stay in Italy for a time with other Jewish Russian refugees to receive their visas to move to Canada, the US or Australia. Samuil, Polina and their two sons Alec and Karl and their story are moving and complex.

For today’s Further Reading we want to feature other books that have a similar sweeping family saga.

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich - Louise Erdrich has become famous for her Native American family sagas, but her 2009 Pulitzer Prize nominated novel The Plague of Doves is just a stunning example of how wonderful Erdrich’s eye is for the interactions of families. This drama doubles as a mystery, but solving the mystery is not at the core of this story, instead is the way family, race and culture all intertwine to impact our lives.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – Like The Free World, Middlesex is a story of immigration and exile, but extends that theme to include the feeling of being a foreigner in your own body. Calliope, later known as Cal, has always felt like there was something different and wrong about his body. Middlesex is Cal telling his story, of his personal transformation from woman to man, but also of his family’s transition from Greek to American.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali – Brick Lane examines the cultural transition from small, Bangladeshi village to fast-moving London through the eyes of Nazneen, a young woman who has just married a man twenty years her senior.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - Cutting for Stone is another family epic that crosses time and country. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers who grow up in Ethiopia among rumors of revolution.

Further Reading – Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Recently released, Started Early, Took My Dog comes from acclaimed author Kate Atkinson, who wrote When Will There Be Good News. This novel follows the star of many her other novels, detective Jackson Brodie, but also follows the story of Tracy Waterhouse, who suddenly becomes the mother to a young girl after a surprising event.

Kate Atkinson is known for her mysteries with a strong sense of place. Atkinson herself is from Edinburgh and all of her novels take place in the UK. This week for Further Reading, you can find other mysteries that have a similar strong relationship with their UK setting.

Faithful Place by Tana FrenchFaithful Place, the highly anticipated new “Dublin murder squad” novel by Tana French was released last summer. French’s novels often follow different characters for each novel, which makes them seem like stand-alone stories, but the characters are often interconnected. They take place across the UK, but generally with a focus on Dublin and Irish citizens.

Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina – Paddy Meehan, the heroine of Slip of the Knife is woken up by the police one night to tell her that her exboyfriend has been murdered one of her s. My favorite quote about Denise Mina: “if you don’t read crime novels, Mina is your reason to change” (Rocky Mountain News, quoted at indiebound.org).

The Complaints by Ian RankinWe’re cheating a little by recommending The Complaints by Ian Rankin as further reading because it isn’t out yet, but Ian Rankin is one of the best mystery writers in the UK today and we couldn’t pass up recommending him and his newest novel. “The complaints” are essentially officers who investigate other cops; needless to say, they aren’t very popular. When Malcolm Fox, an officer who investigates dirty cops, is assigned a particularly difficult case, he will go deeper into the corruption of the police force than ever before.

TGILinks – March 18, 2011

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll post a collection of links to amuse you through this last work day! For explanations of the categories, please see our original TGILinks post!

Made By Words – Found in Books at AbeBooks – What’s the weirdest thing you ever found in a library book or used book? AbeBooks has an article that lists some bizarre objects that previous owners left behind, from thousands of dollars to a baby tooth.

Book Technology – The Future of Textbooks in a Digitized World at Law, Technology and Arts Blog – With more and more schools moving to digitized textbooks, what is the future of the textbook industry? How are

ebooks limited when it comes to textbooks? Will there be separate devices for reading textbooks? The Law, Technology and Arts blog takes a look at a lot of these questions in this article.

Literary Tangents – Wookie the Pooh by James Hance via The Jailbreak – Such a clever mash-up! These adorable drawings take the characters of Star Wars, Han Solo and Chewbaca, and turn them into Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh.

Image credit: James Hance.

Nuts and Bolts – Jo Shapcott: the book of life at The Guardian – Jo Shapcott’s book Of Mutability recently won the Costa book award and in this article, she discusses how being diagnosed with breast cancer is at the center of her new poetry.

For Every Book Lover – I Love Books Zipper Pouch by kukubee on Etsy – This adorable zipper pouch will appeal to any book lover! At only $12.00, it’s a steal.

Photo credit: kukubee

Further Reading – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness was released last month to an exciting amount of praise. The novel follows a young Oxford scholar named Diana Bishop who, while she is doing research, finds an alchemy manuscript. Diana happens to come from a long line of witches, but she’s not necessarily willing to go down the same path, so she returns the manuscript to the stacks without another thought. Except it’s never that simple, is it? Something about the manuscript is attracting the very underworld that Diana wants to avoid.

Harkness, a history professor at the University of Southern California, brings all of her knowledge and understanding to the table, creating a one of a kind book that combines our modern world and the occult.

So you’ve just finished A Discovery of Witches or your itching to get your hands on a copy, but want something to read right now? Check out these other titles that remind us of all that is amazing about A Discovery of Witches.

The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent – While Harkness’s book is focused on the occult and the magical, Kathleen Kent’s novels are focused on the history of “witches” in the US. Kent herself is a descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the first women executed for being a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. The Heretic’s Daughter tells the story of the events that took place in Salem through the eyes of Martha’s daughter. The Wolves of Andover is another historical tale that follows another generation of Carrier men and women.

The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – The Witch’s Daughter combines the best of both The Heretic’s Daughter and A Discovery of Witches. The novel takes place both in 17th century and modern England. In 1628, the witchfinder of Wessex manages to hang a real witch. In modern England, Elizabeth begins teaching a teenager what it means to be a Hedge Witch. Interested in finding out what that is? You’ll have to read the book!

The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow – Part murder mystery, part exploration of divination, The Diviner’s Tale is sure to keep you on your toes. Cassandra Brooks is walking through the woods one day when she discovers a woman hanging by a tree. She returns to town and tells the police, but when they go back to search for the girl, she is no where to be found. The next day, a young girl who has been missing turns up in the exact location, alive. She also happens to look just like the girl Cassandra saw.

TGILinks – March 11, 2011

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll post a collection of links to amuse you through this last work day! For explanations of the categories, please see our original TGILinks post!

Made By Words – Cool Book Video: Flip Book Parkour by The Huffington Post – The Huffington Post recently linked to this amazing video that isn’t technically made by words, but it is made with paper. According to the artist, the project was for a class.

Book Technology – Rainbow in Your HandDoes this count as book technology? It’s innovative and it’s in the form of the book, so I have to go with yes. This clever little flip book is beautiful and available for purchase here.

Photo credit: Masashi Kawamura

Literary Tangents – Hideous fonts may boost reading comprehension at Salon.com – All of us can poke a little fun at Comic Sans, but there are some serious font purists out there who take your selection of font very seriously. Ease of reading and aesthetic quality have always been the most important elements of a good font, but what if it’s not necessarily the best for reading comprehension? According to the studies cited in this article, bad fonts make us better readers, because the harder we work to read something, the more we will remember.

Nuts and Bolts - A History of Famous Literary Mentorships at Flavorwire – It’s not uncommon to hear of one author mentoring and supporting a younger author. This Flavorwire article outlines some of the most famous mentorships in literature, from Henry James and Edith Wharton to Alan Moore and Niel Gaiman. Did you know that Joyce Carol Oates was Jonathan Safran Foer’s mentor? Interesting stuff!

For Every Book Lover – Keep Calm and Read On Calendar by Keep Calm Shop on Etsy – Reimagined Keep Calm and Carry On posters have been everywhere lately, but this Keep Calm and Read On poster is too adorable to miss! You can even pick your colors!

Photo credit: Keep Calm Shop.

TGILinks – March 4, 2011

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll post a collection of links to amuse you through this last work day! For explanations of the categories, please see our original TGILinks post!

Made by Words – “Brow Beat: Stanley Fish’s Top Five Sentences” in Slate Magazine What’s your favorite sentence? Stanley Fish’s new book How to Write a Sentence explores what makes your favorite sentences great. In this Slate article, he lists his favorite sentences and asks for suggestions by Slate readers.

Book Technology – Secret Belgian Binding Instructions - Have you ever wondered how to make your own books? This technique is beautiful and sturdy.

Literary Tangents – 10 Best Bookshops in the World by Independent.ie – Has winter given you the travel bug? Indpendent. ie has a list of the best bookstores in the world, including a slideshow of pictures. There are definitely a few on this list that are must-sees! See Amsterdam’s American Book Center pictured left. (Photo credit: Independent.ie)

Nuts and Bolts – 2011 Best Translated Book Awards: Fiction Longlist at Three Percent – The long list for the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards was announced back in January. You can read the entire list at Three Percent, but you can also search for the tag BTBA 2011 to find all the recent posts on the subject. Three Percent predicts and suggests winners for the award, with general commentary on translated fiction.

For Every Book Lover – Love is a Book 5×7 print by NanLawson on EtsyLook at this print! Don’t you want it to hang on the wall right by your favorite reading spot or your favorite bookshelf? I thought so.

(Image credit: NanLawson)

Further Reading – Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

When putting together the Further Reading, it was difficult to decide where to put Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. While one of the main characters in this book is a talking dog, the most important part of this book is not the dog himself, but what he represents:  depression. Affecting the lives of both Winston Churchill and librarian Esther Hammerhaus, depression and suicide take the form of a black dog, just as Churchill described figuratively in his writing.

This collection of  memoirs and essays look at the beast that is depression and how it affects those who suffer from the illness and those who are close to its victims.

Darkness Visible by William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice, is a pioneer in memoirs and non-fiction about depression by so clearly and painfully describing the details of depression.

Half in Love by Linda Gray Sexton  is a memoir in the tradition of Darkness Visible, but with the additional element of Sexton’s role as mother and as a daughter to poet Anne Sexton, who succeeded in committing suicide after many attempts. The legacy of suicide, the fact that you are much more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, is very real and Linda writes beautifully and honestly about what it is like to be under the spell of depression.

Unholy Ghosts, edited by Nell Casey, is a collection of essays by authors about depression that offers perspectives similar to that of Sexton’s and Styron’s, but also from family members of those who are depressed, including Styron’s wife.

The Reserve Shelf: “Late for Tea at the Deer Palace” versus “My Father at 100″

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

When I received Tamara Chalabi’s Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family, I knew I wanted to at least dip into it simply from its lush, colorful cover and overall heft ( it’s a substantial tome).

However, the same might be said for My Father At 100 by Ron Reagan, Jr. I’m no Reagan fan, but what an arresting image to go with an arresting title. I hoped that Reagan, Jr.’s memoir might be similarly arresting.

Unfortunately, while My Father at 100 holds a few tidbits of information — we’ve all heard by now that the son believes his father suffered from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease even before his 1980 inauguration — it’s mainly a son’s tribute and reminiscence. It’s tender and warm and honest, but ultimately adds very little to our cultural dialogue.

Chalabi’s book, on the other hand, offers a window into a world few of us know well, that of how modern Iraq was formed. Her surname may be as familiar as Reagan’s to modern Americans, because her father Ahmed Chalabi was the leader of the Saddam Hussein oppositionist Iraqi National Congress in exile.

But Ahmed Chalabi isn’t the focus of his daughter’s book; her great-grandfather, Abdul Hussein Chalabi, is, along with his vibrant wife Bibi. Chalabi’s grandparents were key figures in the nationhood of Iraq and in Baghdad’s mid-twentieth-century cosmopolitan tone. Unfortunately, the family lost its power and fortune in the late 1950s and was forced to flee; Tamara Chalabi grew up in Beirut, and did not visit  her paternal family’s homeland until 2003.

However, Tamara Chalabi is more than your average family diarist. She has a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, and she uses her formidable research skills to interweave primary accounts from letters and journals with contemporary analysis. The pre-exile years are clearly most riveting for Chalabi, who is also fascinated by her great-grandmother Bibi’s perspective — Bibi’s story would make another excelent book, and who knows? Perhaps Chalabi is planning to write it.