Tag Archives: recommendation

The Dream

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I urge you to at some point take a break and listen to his most famous speech. It has always given me chills, but never more than today, a time when it is unfortunately, unbelievably, still so relevant.

Credit: Getty Images

Dr. King would have been 88 this month, which is younger than my grandma was when she passed away last summer. Many of the original Freedom Riders and founders of the Civil Rights Movement are still with us. John Lewis is still fighting his ass off for the resistance — most recently protesting this nightmare of an incoming administration by boycotting the inauguration. I’m currently reading his autobiographical graphic novel trilogy March, about his life and the founding of the movement. It’s a visceral history lesson, as horrifying and inspirational as you would expect. The sacrifices these people made — their bravery and dedication — are incredible, and must never be underestimated.

But of course this “history” is current. We’re living in it right now. There is still so much work to be done. Between threats to civil rights and liberties, the dignity of women, non-Christians, and immigrants, international diplomacy, the environment, and the entire freakin’ Earth itself, I sometimes feel like my head and heart are going to explode from disbelief and outrage. But as we continue to fight against and resist this myriad of evil bullshit, let’s also take a minute to acknowledge all the good and necessary work that has come before. Let it feed us.

As King said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. So long as we show up.

The Year in Books

Some years ago — at least a dozen or so, in fact — I began the habit of recording every book I read. Upon finishing one, I write its title and author in a small, hardback journal adorned with a rosy finch  perched on a lavender thistle. As many would agree, 2016 has largely been a real bitch of a year for a myriad of reasons I honestly don’t have the energy to discuss here. Instead, I’ll just leave my Year in Books.

I do recommend most of them with varying levels of enthusiasm, but you can catch up on the best of the best in some of my previous posts here, here, and here, or just look for stars next to choice titles. My top seven are in bold, too.

For the most part, the theme of the year was escapism, so these are mostly fiction with a few non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels in the mix.

2016

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing — Kevin Young
*Lab Girl — Hope Jahren
*Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude — Ross Gay
The Bone Clocks — David Mitchell
*Station Eleven — Emily St. John Mandel
*Behind the Beautiful Forevers — Katherine Boo
*The Magicians — Lev Grossman
*The Magician’s King — Lev Grossman
*The Magician’s Land — Lev Grossman
First Bad Man — Miranda July
Boy, Snow, Bird — Helen Oyeyemi
*Ready Player One — Ernest Cline
The Museum of Extraordinary Things — Alice Hoffman
*The Lowland — Jhumpa Lahiri
*Blankets — Craig Thompson
*Between the World and Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates
*Gold, Fame, Citrus — Claire Vaye Watkins
*Euphoria — Lily King
Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
The Nest — Cynthia Sweeney
*Elfquest (Books 1-8) — Wendy and Richard Pini
*Dune — Frank Herbert
M Train — Patti Smith
*Annihilation — Jeff Vandermeer
*Authority — Jeff Vandermeer
*Acceptance — Jeff Vandermeer
*Dear Mr. You — Mary Louise Parker
Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut
*Fun House — Alison Bechdel
Beautiful Ruins — Jess Walter
Fables (volumes 10-13) — Bill Willingham
*The Girls — Emma Cline
*Fool’s Crow — James Welsh
*Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — Maria Semple
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — JK Rowling, J Tiffany, J Thorne
Girl on the Train — Paula Hawkins
*Six of Crows — Leigh Bardugo
*Crooked Kingdom — Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone — Leigh Bardugo
Siege and Storm — Leigh Bardugo
Ruin and Rising — Leigh Bardugo
Purity — Jonathan Franzen
*Little Terrarium — Hannah Fries
Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert
*The Wet Engine — Brian Doyle
*The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 

Bonus: Notable Netflix shows:
Stranger Things (creepy 80s nostalgia!)
Black Sails (pirates!)
Peaky Blinders (post-WWI English gangsters!)
Catastrophe (Irreverent marriage/parenting)
The Americans (Soviet Spies!)
Vikings (awesome hairdos!)
Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell (Napoleon-era magicians)
Bob’s Burgers (animated family life)
The League (Assholes!)
Frankie and Grace (70-something women reinventing themselves)
Orange is the New Black (life in a women’s prison)
Miss Fisher’s Mysteries (fabulous clothes!)
The Red Road (reservation intrigue and Jason Momoa)
Game of Thrones (basically all of the above)

 

 

The Magician King

“This, now, stopped him, He’d known that adventures were supposed to be hard. He’d understood that he would have to go a long way and solve difficult problems and fight foes and be brave and whatever else. But this was hard in a way he hadn’t counted on. You couldn’t kill it with a sword or fix it with a spell. You couldn’t fight it. You just had to endure it, and you didn’t look good or noble or heroic doing it. You were just the guy people felt sorry for, that was all. It didn’t make a good story — in fact he saw now that the stories had it all wrong, about what you got, and what you gave. It’s not that he wasn’t willing. He just hadn’t understood. He wasn’t ready for it.”

— From the last pages of The Magician King, by Lev Grossman

Recommended Reading

Here’s the best of the latest…

1. Between the World and Me,
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

This is an important book. It’s required, really — something I honestly believe every American would benefit from reading. Most simply, it’s a father’s letter to his teenage son about what it means to be black in America. Riveting, devastating, and eye-opening, it recently won the National Book Award and, yeah… just read it.

2. Gold Fame Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins.
Continuing with my trend of accidentally reading dystopian tales of the near future, I present this gritty, yet ethereal story. Mega droughts and relentless winds have turned the Southwest into a desert wasteland. Most Californians have been evacuated, and the ones who remain are an odd bunch of hippies, survivalists, loners, and  dune-dwelling cult members. Stuff happens, but deep down, I think the story is ultimately about how honesty, or the lack of it, plays out within and between people.

3. Ready Player One, by Ernst Cline.
Although this book is also set in the not-so-distant-but-totally-bleak-post-collapse-future, it’s basically pure nerd fun and nostalgia. The world is crap. Most people spend their time in an expansive virtual reality, and teenage protagonist Wade Watts has dedicated his life to conquering the ultimate video game quest. Though set in the near future, the book is really a love letter to 80’s culture, and it’s full of inside jokes and references to everything from Family Ties to Monty Python. I especially enjoyed the debate on the merits of Ladyhawke. Summer is coming, and this is a delightful summer read.

4. Euphoria, by Lily King.
Set in remote tribal New Guinea in the early 1930’s, King’s beautifully crafted novel pays homage to the great anthropologist Margaret Mead. Steamy (literally–they’re in serious jungle here) and vibrant, the story follows the research, relations, and subsequent love triangle between three anthropologists, and is inspired in part by Mead’s own life. It’s a gorgeous book.

5. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman.
This book is pure mood and ambiance. Set in the gritty and bleak 1910’s of industrial New York City, the story follows a young girl with webbed fingers who works and lives in a sideshow museum, and a young immigrant photographer who walks away from his Jewish Orthodox community and faith. It’s book-ended by two terrible fires, and encompasses thoughts on workers’ rights, deceit, truth, change, and the courage it takes to forgive and value yourself.

6. Blankets, by Craig Thompson.
A dreamy, snow-swept account of falling in love for the first time, Blankets speaks to keeping and losing faith, to being a teenage misfit, brother, and developing artist. It’s meditative, powerful, and full of grace, and it’s on a lot of “best non-superhero graphic novel” lists for a reason.