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Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer SurburbiaWho says suburban living has to be dull and unimaginative? Welcome Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, which takes traditional suburban ideal living and turns it on it's head. This book is bursting with imagination as it tells 15 short, illustrated short stories filled with wonder, loss, peace, hope and redemption. Not to make it sound all like butterflies and flowers, there is a slight bizarre and surreal edge to these tales that will leave the reader both wondering and and inspired. Read more »

April Books Plus - National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month"Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." --Thomas Gray

It's National Poetry Month! We'll celebrate poetry in various forms including haiku, villanelles, sonnets, and sestinas. Please bring a poem or two that you really enjoy. Reading poetry out loud is the best way to experience poetry. Join us during April's Books Plus meeting led by Dory Lynch this Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m.

As always we'll have healthy snacks and Amal's delicious cake, and good fellowship. For more details, see below. Hope to see you there.
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Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life

Four HutsHow did people live long ago? What qualities were essential to the idea of home in classical China and Japan? Did people aspire to a simpler life even before the invention of engines, computers, and electricity? Finally, does a life lived simply promote happiness? This slim volume answers all of these questions.
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Cleopatra: A Life

CleopatraForget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history. Read more »

National Book Critics Circle Awards 2010

Goon SquadThe National Book Critics Circle Awards was announced this week. This award is to promote the finest books published in English for the previous year. The winners include:

Fiction:
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Biography:
How To Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
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Me, Myself & Prague: An Unreliable Guide to Bohemia

PragueAt age 39, Australian Rachael Weiss takes a hard look at her life. On the plus side she's published one book; on the negative side, she works temp jobs, has no husband or significant other, and is just scrapping by. Though school counselors deemed Rachel the "gifted" one as a child, her younger sister is a very successful dentist who teaches fitness classes on the side. She's also raising a concert violinist and a miniature Beckham. Her brother achieved partnership in a law firm and has three beautiful, talented kids of his own. What's a gal to do? Rachel decides that a year hanging out in a Paris garret will help her pen the great Australian novel, plus find a handsome foreigner with high cheek bones. But alas, Paris does not fit her budget.
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Repackaging the Classics

Wuthering HeightsHow important is the cover of a book? Will romantic new covers and bonus quizzes like "Are you destined for a love like Catherine and Heathcliff's?" be enough to appeal to young adult readers? HarperTeen thinks so. They have recently rereleased several classic books including Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet with covers no doubt reminding teen girls of the Twilight series.
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Altered Books

Playing With BooksAmazon's blog Omnivoracious is a great read to keep up with not only what is happening at Amazon, but also generally in the publishing world, complete with reviews of reviews, author interviews, and other literary minded topics. Today's post was exceptionally astonishing and beautiful. Profiled is Chicago based artist, Brian Dettmer, who sculpts old books into amazing works of art. Check out both the blog entry and his website to see the images. I don't want to generally advocate cutting up books, but his end result is truly extraordinary.
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Atlas of Remote Islands

Atlas of Remote IslandsJust in time to get us dreaming of summer travel comes this quirky but lovely book about out-of-the-way places. Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany when it was still situated behind the Iron Curtain. Forbidden to travel, she began a lifelong fascination with atlases and maps. The very names of these islands pull you in: Robinson Crusoe, Takuu, Possession Island, Lonely Island, Pagan, and Diego Garcia.

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March 2011 Books Plus Discussion

Let the Great World SpinThe seasons are turning again, and it's almost time for our 2011 One Book One Bloomington selection--Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. Set in 1974, this National Book Award winner chronicles the day Philippe Petit tightroped across the space between the two World Trade Towers. In masterful prose, McCann chronicles how various strangers reacted to this event. It's a book about the interrelationships between the residents of a great city, and how one man's quest for adventure brings hope, fear, and wonder to the people standing below. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times called it "one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years."
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