Archive for April, 2011

Further Reading – Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman is one of the most highly anticipated Young Adult publications this year. The sequel to the acclaimed If I Stay was never supposed to happen, but author Gayle Forman couldn’t get the characters Mia and Adam out of her head. The first book, narrated by Mia after she is in a fatal car accident with her family, deals with the emotional and psychological trauma of losing her family. In Where She Went, Adam must come to terms with his own grief.

When Forman writes, she perfectly embodies her characters. Their voices are wholly unique and so well-written you feel as if you know them personally. The best part is, they act and sound just like real teenagers and young adults do. There are a lot of YA books published recently that also feature narrators that will remind you of the teenagers you know in the real world.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – It would be impossible to write a list about well-written teenage protagonists without including the prequel to Where She Went, If I Stay. Mia’s story is tragic, but Mia herself is never a tragic character. The story is really about Mia and her relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King – Has there ever been a teen narrator as candid and realistic as Vera Dietz? What I loved best about this novel though was the relationship between Vera and her father. Parents often get a bad rap in Young Adult relationships, or they’re perfect, or they’re disturbingly absent. The father-daughter relationship in Please Ignore Vera Dietz is the most realistic one I’ve come across recently.

All You Get is Me by Yvonne Printz – Young Adult novels often tackle “Issues”, but not all of them do it well. All You Get is Me is one that succeeds, by tackling young love and undocumented workers in the same breath.

Further Reading – The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little  House on the Prairie by Wendly McClure, McClure tries to find what is left of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in the modern world. What results is a trip through butter churning, road trips and various Laura Ingalls Wilder memorials, museums and festivals across the Midwest.

The Wilder Life is part memoir, part biography, part history, part review of all Ingalls-Wilder historical sites, McClure gives a fresh perspective (and extensive bibliography) on the life of the Ingalls Wilder families and what they have left behind in our modern world.

The Wilder Life is not about rejecting the modern world, but finding some remnants of the past in our fast-paced life. The following memoirs all do a variation of just that, some to different extremes and different ends, but all with the same goal: to slow down life and recapture the simplicity, real or imagined, of the past.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach – When Margaret Roach leaves her position at Martha Stewart Living and decides to move out to her vacation home in the country permanently, it’s not exactly as peaceful as she thought. And I Shall Have Some Peace There is a candid memoir about what country living is actually like.

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende – This is probably the most extreme book on this list. Eric Brende, after attending MIT and becoming increasingly frustrated with his reliance on technology, decides to live an entire year without any electronics at all. He and his wife join a Mennonite-like community that relies on the most basic forms of technology to thrive.

Confessions of a Counterfeit Country Girl by Susan McCorkindale – Like Margaret Roach, Susan McCorkindale leaves her stressful Manhattan job to move to the Virginia countryside and become cattle farmers. Though McCorkindale seems to spend a lot of time bemoaning the lack of Starbucks, her memoir is an exploration of culture shock.

Further Reading – Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Sarah Vowell has long been making us think about history and how we learn it. Often there are opposing perspectives that don’t always put the winners in such a positive light. In her latest, Unfamiliar Fishes, Vowell tackles the topic of the year of 1898, when the United States “acquired” much of its territory that lasted into the 20th century, such as Cuba, Guam, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Suddenly, the US was a super power, taking that role, many would argue, from Spain. Vowell focuses on “the Americanization of Hawaii”.

We love Sarah Vowell for her perspective and you should definitely be reading her back list, but what other books show history from a new and exciting perspective that you hadn’t thought of before? This Further Reading explores the history books that you wished you had read in high school.

The Basque History of the World by Mark KurlanskyMuch of the world knows of the Basque people because of ETA, the terrorist organization that has been committing terrorist attacks in Spain since after WWII. However, that is a very small number of extremists speaking for a very rich and beautiful culture in northern Spain and southern France.  Mark Kurlansky takes a look at the Basque people and how their history relates to world history. The Basque culture is one of the oldest remaining cultures in the world. Their language is an anomaly. This book takes parts of world history and puts a very plausible Basque spin on them.

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon WinchesterIf The Basque History of the World takes world history and defines it through the eyes of the Basque culture, Winchester does the same thing but with the Atlantic Ocean. Described as a “biography” of the Atlantic Ocean, this book posits that the Atlantic Ocean is the new Mediterranean Sea, or the new center of civilization.

Wicked River: The Mississippi When it Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin – The Mississippi River is a tamed river, for now. But, as Sandlin’s book shows, the great river was once wild and its history is thoroughly intertwined with the United States’s.

Palestine by Joe SaccoFinally, we have a comic to add to the list. Joe Sacco is an international journalist who, rather than write articles for newspapers, collects his findings in non-fiction comics, often with himself as a character. Part memoir, part wartime journalism, Sacco’s comics are unique. In Palestine, Sacco finds himself facing his own beliefs and prejudices when he interviews and interacts with Palestinian people and ends up rethinking what he knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.