Our blog about books, authors and reading

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

ISBN: 
1442408928

Aristotle and Dante is a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of friendship and finding yourself. Both of the main characters are teen boys who feel out of place in the world around them, until they find each other. Together they navigate the ups and downs of teenage life; friends (or lack of them), family, independence, and love. 

An added bonus of this particular book are the complex parent child relationships. Unlike many YA novels, the parents in this book are very present in their sons' lives. Dante is the only child of intellectuals and Aristotle is the youngest child of self made, hard working people. Both of them love their parents, but both of them find different aspects of their lives hard, if not impossible, to share with them.

This is a great realistic fiction for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The world is a big place, just because you haven't found where you belong yet, doesn't mean you won't.

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

ISBN: 
9780385351058

It’s National Poetry Month, and if you want to learn more about the form, pick up this book. Hirshfield writes fine poetry imbued with a Zen calmness and childlike wonder about the natural world. Her prose is intelligent, well-written and informed by a great knowledge of poetry--both modern and classical.

But it’s her descriptions about writing poems that I like best. As she says, “Poetic imagination is muscular, handed, and kinesthetic.” She describes the poet’s reach into the world as “prehensile.”

According to Hirshfield, poets bring the world of the senses to the page, “In poetry’s words, life calls to life with the same inevitability and gladness as bird calls to bird, whale to whale, frog to frog.” Read more »

While You're Waiting...The Liar

The Liar, the new book from Nora Roberts, will be released next week.  While you’re waiting for your copy to reach the hold shelf, why not try these other books about women dealing with the aftermath of their husband’s secret lives?

 

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby only found out her husband married her under a false name after he went missing and was presumed dead.  Devastated, she returns to her hometown with her daughter ready to start over-in life and in love. Shelby discovers a key to a safe deposit box.  What she finds inside convinces her that not only was her marriage a lie, but the stranger she was sharing her life with is a very dangerous man.  Roberts’ expert storytelling leaves the reader on the edge of her (or his!) seat right until the very end.

 

 

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Grace is a successful New York Therapist with a beautiful family and is about to start a PR blitz for her forthcoming self-help book about relationships-and how to identify the signs women tend to ignore that lead to heartbreak.  Active in her son’s school, Grace is shocked when one of her fellow committee members, Malaga, is found murdered.  Grace’s husband, Jonathon, has always been distant emotionally and works long hours, so it took Grace awhile to realize that he was missing, and not in the Midwest for a conference like he claimed.  Tension increases as Grace (and the reader) realizes that Jonathon’s disappearance and Malaga’s death are related.  Korelitz masterfully expresses Grace’s increasing anxiety as she pieces together her husband’s secret life while her own is falling apart.

 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The lives of three seemingly unrelated women collide when one of the women, Cecilia, finds a letter from her husband to be opened only in the event of his death.  Concerned, she reads the letter and everything she thought about her marriage begins unravel.  Meanwhile, Tess is facing her own marriage problems.  Her husband has just confessed that he and Tess’s cousin are in love.  Tess moves her young son back to her hometown to live with her mother and starts a relationship with the local school’s P.E. teacher.  Rachel, the school secretary, believes the P.E. teacher murdered her only daughter thirty years earlier. These three women’s lives collide in unexpected and disturbing turns of events.

 

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreeve

A knock on her door at 3am shatter’s Katherine Lyon’s life.  The plane her husband Jack was piloting exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 103 on board.  The investigation indicates a bomb-and implicates Jack as being complicit in the plot.  Katherine desperately tries to protect her daughter from shock after shock as her husband’s secret life comes to light.  Shreeve is expert at revealing game changing details at just the right moment and will leave reader’s wondering just how much they know about their loved ones.

Flip Flop Flying Our Way into Baseball Season

Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure by Craig Robinson

Written by an Englishman with a great love of America’s favorite pastime, Flip Flop Fly Ball is a book of infographics about all things baseball.  Craig Robinson came to New York for a business trip and went to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play the Twins. He’s been hooked on baseball ever since.  The infographics started as a way to help him remember the rules and oddities of the game.  Now it features portraits of players with animals (Kevin Youkalyptus, anyone?), fun facts about teams and stadiums, and a Venn diagram demonstrating when the wave is appropriate at a baseball game (spoiler alert: Never. It’s never appropriate.) Baseball lovers and non-fans alike will delight in this book.

 

Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Eerie Events by Mickey Bradley

Is there any sport that carries as many supersitions around it as baseball? Sprits, curses, jinxes and ghosts fill this book of tales from players, umps, stadium personel and front office staff.  Each chapter features an unexplainable story from baseball.  Has a Billy Goat’s curse really kept a team out of the World Series for 100+ years?  Did Roberto Clemente predict the plane crash that took his life? And where do those hidden passageways beneath Dodger Stadium lead?  A mix of lore and anecdote, there is something for every baseball lover in this book.

 

Willard Mullin’s Golden Age of Baseball by Willard Mullin

Willard Mullins is an American sports cartoonist, best known for his character the “Brooklyn Bum,” a personification for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  This collection features Mullin’s drawings from 1934-1972- the golden age of baseball.  Depictions of the greats feature heavily-DiMaggio, Williams, Berra, Koufax.  Also included is the poem Mullin’s composed for the occasion of Lou Gehrig’s retirement. This book will appeal to the history buff inside any baseball fan.

 

34 Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball As Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects by Steve Rushin

What says baseball more than cracker jacks and bobble heads? What would the game be without cards, pennents, peanuts and hot dogs-not to mention bats, balls and gloves.  34 Ton Bat is the history of baseball told through ephemera.  This readable history is organized in order of importance-from most to least.  Rushin reveals the evolution of how the objects we most closely associate with baseball came to be as wells as the people and innovators behind those objects. As if that isn’t interesting enough, he includes silly anecdotes as well.  What happened when beer was reintroduced to stadiums after prohibition? You’ll have to read 34 Ton Bat to find out!

Leaving Before the Rains Come

ISBN: 
9781594205866

If you’re read Fuller’s first two memoirs you know that 1. Her family drinks a lot 2. Is a tad dysfunctional 3. But everyone loves each other and also madly loves the people, wildlife, landscape of southern Africa.

In this book, Fuller (whose nickname is Bobo) recounts picking up stakes, giving up her Read more »

While You're Waiting...Pioneer Girl

Pioneer GirlThose of us who read the Little House on the Prairie Series as children have been eagerly awaiting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s posthumous autobiography Pioneer Girl.  The unedited, previously unpublished draft of the autobiography was originally written in 1929 served as the foundation for the Little House series after it was rejected for publication.  A columnist and editor, Wilder wrote about the 16 years her family moved through the mid-West, heavily describing the land and the work.  Unfortunately, the wait for this fantastic annotated autobiography is long, so here are some read alikes the work through while you’re waiting.

 

Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This compilation contains over 140 articles that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote from 1911-1929 and mostly published in Farmers Week.  They describe life on a Missouri Farm and of a much simpler life.  If what drew you to Prairie Girl was the nonfiction writing of Wilder; then Little House in the Ozarks  is sure to please.

 

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Ultra educated but unemployed, Lee Lien returns home to help her Vietnamese immigrant parents run their restaurant.  Fascinated since childhood by her mother’s broach, Lee imagined it once belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder-left in Saigon by Wilder’s daughter, Rose.  One day, Lee’s brother disappears suddenly, with a cryptic message attached to the broach. Lee begins to wonder, and then obsess over if there’s any truth to her fantasy.  Her clues lead her to interesting parallels between Laura and Rose and her and her own mother.  If you’re interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder in a less academic sense, this engaging and character driven novel will delight.

Butterflies in November

ISBN: 
9780802123183

All stories, the saying goes, fit into one of seven basic categories: overcoming the monster, a rebirth, rags to riches, a journey, etc.

This quirky and funny novel combines the last two of these element in an Icelandic travelogue that is utterly delightful. 

A young woman’s husband leaves her for his work colleague, not only that but the two lovers are expecting a child any day, but the soon-to-be ex keeps coming back to his wife for more of their joint property and yet another bedroom tryst.

The narrator (the characters are mostly unnamed) works as a translator of 35 languages. She is fine with these end-of-marriage conjugal visits although she finds them rather odd, and when she runs over a goose, she decides that she must make her departing husband a last grand meal.  Creatively, she concocts a sauce to hide the tread marks. Read more »

Guy in Real Life, Steve Brezenoff

ISBN: 
9780062266835

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff is the story of two wonderfully weird teenagers who (literally) crash into each other's lives. Lana is a quiet, creative Dungeon Master who's entire social calendar revolves around the high school Gaming Club and Lesh is a sullen, metalhead who's recent grounding has led to a newfound love of MMORPG. They probably shouldn't be friends, they definitely shouldn't be together, but they just can't stay apart.

This book was a refreshing YA romance. The characters are real and interesting. Both Lesh and Lana were very sympathetic and I was rooting for both of them throughout the whole book. I definitely want to hang out with Lana and embroider some cool stuff on skirts or tote bags. I don't know if I'd want to hang out with Lesh IRL, but I'd probably go on a quest with him. He is a pretty decent healer. 

If you enjoy realistic fiction, romance, gaming, snark, embroidery, D&D, or heavy metal, you should check out Guy in Real Life.

Happy Reading!

Tales from Gombe

ISBN: 
9781770854680

If you’re fascinated by some of our closest animal relatives, the chimpanzee, this delightful collection of photographs will delight and inspire you.

Gombe National Park in Tanzania is where Richard Leakey and Jane Goodall first studied these fascinating primates over fifty years ago. 

The married photographer pair, Shah and Rogers, made many trips over a period of ten plus years to the park. What makes this book special is to see how individual chimps changed over the years, from babyhood to young adult, to young adult to mature, from mature to old.

The photos show the chimps doing daily activities, hunting, food-gathering eating, grooming, nursing and taking care of their young, even displaying as powerful males and females do to show who is boss and on top of the hierarchy.

What I liked most were the family portraits, a line of chimps in a row, siblings and one or both parents.

For many years, scientists have named all the chimps in one family with names beginning with the same consonants for instance: Frodo, Freud, Fanni, Flossi, Faustino, etc. Representing the G family are Galahad, Gaia, Gizmo, and Google, among others.

It’s amazing how distinct the chimp’s faces are, just as distinct as those of humans.  Also, how intelligent and expressive their eyes are.  The book’s text describes the struggle for power in each community and how certain chimps are loners, while others go off and join other communities.

It also describes how they help each other, how siblings look after their younger family members, how even adults stay close to their parents.

Several photos document tool use by chimps, including the famous termite-foraging with long grasses that Dr. Goodall first discovered in November, 1960 that amazed scientists around the world.

This is a very beautiful book that will also fill you in on some of the latest chimp research in Gombe.  For more on Goodall’s fascinating work and life, try Jane Goodall: a Twentieth Century Life by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.

Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest

ISBN: 
9781771640459

If one area of our continent calls to me more than any other it’s the Northwest, that region of coastal rain forests that extends from northern California to Alaska. 

This magnificent book of photographs covers one of the few unspoiled areas left there, the Great Bear Rainforest.

It’s located on the mainland slightly north of Vancouver and extends past Prince Rupert to the border with Alaska. Talk about wild: salmon, bear, wolves, sea lions, great Douglas firs and hundred-year-old cedars all thrive there.

Ian McAllister, who lives nearby and works as an ecologist, has taken many incredible photographs of the wildlife and the plants.  He also photographed the native people, including a few of the matriarchs of the Gitga’at clan.

The photos are thrilling including some of spirit bears—a bear I was not familiar with. They are white black bears (yes, that’s right) produced by a recessive gene. They are not albinos, so a spirit bear could have black-furred bear mother and siblings. Francis Kermode, a museum curator, first named them.

The chapter on sea wolves shows how tough making a daily living is for the wolves who have bred on this coastal area for centuries.  They must swim between islands to find food, and one young male, ostracized by his family is shown swimming away from all that he has known after his family boots him away because they cannot feed him.

In one charming photo, tens of curious stellar sea lion bob on the Pacific’s surface—only their heads showing. They stare straight at the photographer. McAllister reports that these wonderfully intelligent and agile creatures are making a comeback in the waters off the Great Bear.

If you’ve ever seen the starfish in the Northwest, you know that these echinoderms are huge and often bright orange. McAllister also takes incredible photographs of colorful underwater creatures: purple urchins and striking rose anemones. Some interesting shots focus on both above-water and below-water life in the same shot.

Like many pristine landscapes left in the world, McAllister reports that the area of the Great Bear Rainforest is under threat from oil drilling. Additionally, there are plans to create a large port in seas that are often stormy and dangerous. This motivated McAllister to publish these beautiful photographs. But the text of the book also provides much information about the creatures of the region. Read more »

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