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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What if Mary had twins? Read about the Good Man and the Scoundrel

If you follow Anne Rice’s “Christ the Lord” series or read Bart Ehrman’s books about the variety of early Christian teachings and writings, then you may want to dive into Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, the latest entry in Canongate’s The Myths series. Pullman tackles the daunting task of transforming the familiar gospels’ descriptions of the life and teachings of Jesus into an engaging novel with a fresh, contemporary voice. However, he adds a bizarre twist: what would have happened if Mary gave birth in Bethlehem to twins, one named Jesus and the other nicknamed Christ?

This is a book for almost everyone: conspiracy theorists, Gnostics, theologians, and individuals with varying degrees of faith (although Biblical purists may cringe at some of the content). While he draws heavily from the gospels, Pullman also peppers his story with tenets, concepts, and stories from traditional religious teachings and legends (mostly from the Catholic Church) handed down for almost two millennia , rediscovered gospels and alternative Biblical texts, recent books and movies about Jesus, and various religious conspiracy rumors and gossip.

While this can be a disquieting read for some, The Good Man Jesus... is an easy read, written in a colloquial, almost pastoral, manner. As Pullman notes on the dust jacket, “... what I do with (the story) is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel ... a history ... a fairy tale ... it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Science Fiction Must Read

Strong recommendation for The Half Made World by Felix Gilman from my 18 year old nephew who raced through it this weekend. Book jacket describes it as: "A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism."

Oh yea, Ursula Le Guin also gave it a great recommendation - "gripping, imaginative store, terrifically inventive setting, a hard-bitten, indestructible hero and an intelligent fully adult heroine - we haven't had a science fiction novel like this for a long time." Released Oct 2010.

I have one more copy of this if anyone wants to read it...

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lost Art of Reading

A review from my much smarter, younger sister on The Lost Art of Reading - due out at the beginning of November.

You might expect a lot of librarians and bibliochretics (“users of books”, what the Naval Research Laboratory called its first librarian) to weigh in on David L. Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. Caveat – I am not a librarian, I just play one at work.

This compact book (153 pages) is a short but in-depth read. Ulin tackles the topic by discussing his son’s assignment to read The Great Gatsby (and the son’s decided lack of enthusiasm for the reading process). He then wends his way through his younger years, finding treasured nuggets of books almost everywhere to escape the mundane real world in which he was forced to participate.

As he grew, Ulin found that while books still occupy his time, they don’t occupy his mind as much as they had previously. He considers not only the impact of this mindset on what we read but how we perceive the process of reading and how we experience the story within the book. With ever-changing technology, a story can be experienced in ways the author never conceived.

As I read, I had visions of the Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last”, with Burgess Meredith as a book lover who is constantly prevented from reading by those in his sphere. After everyone else is wiped out by war, he thinks he can read as much as he wants for the rest of his life. His happiness is short-lived, however, because he drops his glasses, breaking the lenses and his hopes for a book-filled future. Perhaps Ulin and we relate – all the books at our fingertips but just beyond our reach.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And more books

Let me know if you want to read any of these and I'll get it off to you -

How can you not want to read a book with the name Skippy Dies?  Skippy dies early on during a donut eating contest and things take off from there.  Jess Walter laid it out like this in his review in the Washington Post::

If killing your protagonist with more than 600 pages to go sounds audacious, it's nothing compared with the literary feats Murray pulls off in this hilarious, moving and wise book. Recently named to the Man Booker Prize long list, "Skippy Dies" is an epic crafted around, of all things, a pack of 14-year-old boys. It's the "Moby-Dick" of Irish prep schools.

The school in question is Dublin's venerable Seabrook College...a 140-year-old institution whose social dynamics make "Lord of the Flies" seem like "Gilligan's Island." Its halls are a maze of bullying, name-calling, alcohol and drug use, sexual obsession and predation. And that's just the faculty.

And a few more:

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, coming out in January 2011.  "Brilliant suspense debut that will appeal to readers of Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt and Tana French." Highly anticipated.

Half A Life by Darin Strauss. Strauss' memoir of how his life changed when as an 18-year old he struck and killed a 16 year old classmate while driving with friends to play miniature golf. It happened half his life ago. For more, read the NY Times review.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More ARCs, not Arks

All industries have their acronyms and the books industry is no exception.  ARCs are Advanced Reading Copies that publishers put out 3-6 months before general release to get early interest and buzz so bookstores purchase and promote the books,

Let me know if you'd like to read any of the below and give me your feedback:

A book that will definitely will generate heated discussion - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, coming out in January 2011 from Penguin. I met her the other night and was quite taken with her candor and openness. Chua decides to raise her third-generation, half-Jewish daughters in a super-traditional Chinese style: no playdates, no school plays, no sleepovers, no B-pluses, lots of piano and/or violin practice. "It's about a bitter clash of of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old."

You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobahn Fallon, out in January 2011. In a sure sign of interest, there's already a reading guide out for this selection of short stories.
"There is an army of women waiting for their men to return to Fort Hood, Texas...each woman deals with her husband’s absence differently. One wife, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the risks her husband faces in Iraq, develops an unhealthy obsession with the secret life of her neighbor. Another woman’s simple trip to the PX becomes unbearable when she pulls into her Gold Star parking space. And one woman’s loneliness may lead to dire consequences when her husband arrives home...It is a place where men and women cling to the families they have created as the stress of war threatens to pull them apart. "

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, due out in February 2011. "A mesmerizing and additive read" this ARC is getting great reviews on GoodReads.
"When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer."

Caribou Island by David Vann, coming out January 2011.  Vann is the  international bestselling author of Legend of a Suicide.  Set in the "beautiful, treacherous wildness of Alaska...captures the drama of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Be the First to Read

If you're reading this, you have a lot of patience as I have been delinquent in writing.  Here's a little thank you -- if you'd like to read any of the below, let me know and I get it out to you.  These are all advance copies from Penguin Group so you can be ahead of the rest of the world.  I just ask that you let me know whether you liked it or not (since they're all ones I'd like to read someday).

Let's get started with a personal favorite:

1)  Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn, coming out in March 2011.  The cover alone is enough to make you want to read this.  "The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them."

Read the Harpers piece about the spill that occurred in January 2002 from a ship heading from Hong Kong to Tacoma and folks that started finding rubber duckies along the shore.

2)  The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, coming out in April 2011.  "My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie." " pilgrimage, tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession."

3)  Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, due out in March 2011.  Hey, if the subtitle doesn't make you want to read it, look what it did for him: "Foer's unlikely journey from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion."  (I think I saw this was being made into a movie.)

4)  The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker, due out in January 2011.  "Parker has produced a body of work unsurpassed, perhaps unmatched, by any other contemporary writer of crime fiction" Kirkus Reviews.   Read a review of the book.  It sounds intense and action-packed.

5)  The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld, due out in January 2011.  Whoever reads this MUST provide a report back to me.

"Under a clear blue September sky, America's financial center in lower Manhattan became the site of the largest, deadliest terror attack in the nation's history.  It was September 16, 1920.  Four hundred people were killed or injured.  The country was appalled by the magnitude and savagery of the incomprehensible attack which remains unsolved to this day."

This historical mystery book blends fiction and fact. Read a little from the FBI on the 1920 bombing.

...on a totally unrelated note, I  think he's married to Amy Chua, also an author, who I saw last night talking about her new book (but that's for another day).