Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Author: Elie Wiesel

First line: They called him Moshe the Beadle, as though he had never had a surname in his life.

Why you should read this book: Among the first and best-known of the Holocaust narratives, Night is a short, fast-paced voyage that will submerge you in the infinite darkness of the author's experience. The teenage Wiesel watches the Nazis invade and evacuate his city, and he survives the hell that is Auschwitz despite his dwindling will to live. An important book, which should be required reading for all human beings.

Why you shouldn't read the book: Nightmares.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Tragedy of Othello

Author: William Shakespeare

Quote: "My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of kisses. She swore in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange; 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful. She wished she had not heard it; yet she wished That heaven had made her such a man. She thanked me, And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story, and that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake."

Why you should read this book: Lies! Passion! Betrayal! Disaster! Romance! Murder! Excessive drunkenness! Swordplay! The drowning of the entire Turkish fleet! The honeyed words of the immortal Bard! What more can you really ask from a story?

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your only daughter has recently eloped with a man you consider a noble savage.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Author: Edgar Allen Poe

First line: True!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?

Why you should read this book: This classic collection of macabre tales, untimely death, and revenge, deserved and undeserved, ages with more dignity than an Egyptian mummy in a hidden tomb. Poe's language, descriptive and intelligent, stimulates the reader's mind, while his subject matter chills the soul. Another book you can read over and over.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Like the author, you've spent your life grappling with the deep-seated fear that someone might entomb you before you're quite dead.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Author: Coleen Salley

First line: Epossumondas was his mama's and his auntie's sweet little patootie.

Why you should read this book: A sharp, southern-fried riff off the Grimm Brothers' "Clever Hans," this is the story of a diapered opposum who takes instructions literally without adapting concepts to situations. Good fun for kids who will enjoy feeling smarter than the title character while laughing at his mistakes.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't suffer fools gladly, no matter how adorable.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Raven Steals the Light

Author: Bill Reid

First line: Before there was anything, before the great flood had covered the earth and receded, before the animals walked the earth or the trees covered the land or the birds flew between the trees, even before the fish and whales and seals swam in the sea, an old man lived in a house on the bank of a river with his only child, a daughter.

Why you should read the book: A slim, perfect collection of Haida legends from the Pacific Northwest illustrated with original drawings in the traditional style. Reid retells the stories of his people, maintaining the poetic mythic voice while shaping the stories in such a way as to be completely understandable, meaningful, and entertaining to a modern, non-indigenous audience. The writing is both deep and humorous, and the reader will come to adore the wise, foolish, powerful, weak and otherwise completely contradictory trickster figure of the sacred Raven, along with the other characters that move through his world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're hung up on one particular set of myths and feel threatened by others.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Book of Beasts

Author: E. Nesbit

First line: Lionel happened to be building a Palace when the news came.

Why you should read this book: Edith Nesbit's The Book of Dragons was first published over a century ago, but with the exception of a very few cultural references, the stories are just as delightful and relevant today as they were in 1900. This picture book excerpts one of Nesbit's stories and brings it to life with lovely, warm illustrations showing the hero, Lionel, becoming king, messing with magic he ought not to touch, and setting all to rights using his own clever thinking.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You might want to read the larger collection instead.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Author: Dave Eggers

First line: Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic.

Why you should read this book: To write that, in the author's senior year of college, both his parents died, of cancer, within five weeks of one another, and that the author subsequently became the guardian of his seven-year-old brother, and moved to the Bay area, started a magazine, and strove to experience joy while witnessing tragedy, camoflaging his own desire for success, beauty, and fame with a thin veneer of hip indifference, in no way describes the content of this frenetic, manic-depressive, post-modern memoir.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you think the title is pretentious...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Bisexuality in the Ancient World

Author: Eve Cantarella

First line: No sooner had it emerged from the so-called dark centuries of its history, beyond the period that once used to be called the Greek Dark Age, than Greece began to speak of love: "Once again limb-loosening Love makes me tremble, teh bitter-sweet irresistible creature," wrote Sappho.

Why you should read this book: Sexuality in ancient Athens and Rome was not a cut-and-dry matter, and these peoples left us ample evidence to demonstrate that, for them, bisexuality was a normal state of being. This book presents poetry, graffiti, legal, and medical documents as historical proof of acceptance of sexuality along a continuum. Also implicit in the argument are the details of ancient perceptions of men and women.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're convinced that any sexual activity occurring outside of a sacred, heterosexual marriage earns you a first class ticket to hell.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Amphigorey Again

Author: Edward Gorey

First line: Frivolity, at the edge of a Moral Swamp, hears Hymn-Singing in the Distance and dons the Galoshes of Remorse.

Why you should read this book: Published posthumously, this volume brings together several of Gorey's delightful alphabets, along with his other signature themes: freakishly illustrated escapades of obscure murders, pseudo-Victorian morality tales, and strangely-shaped creatures who take unsuspecting victims on meaningless adventures. It also contains work from the very end of his life, including the unfinished "The Izzard Book," a whimsical tribute to the letter Z.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think pictures are for kids and you demand that everything you read make sense and come to a satisfying and understandable conclusion.

Did You Say Ghosts?

Author: Richard Michelson

Quote: There's no such thing as sppoks or ghosts. I guarantee it...well, almost

Why you should read this book: For the macabre among our youth, this is a tongue-in-cheek anti-bedtime book, written primarily in heroic couplets as a dialog between a frightened child and an adult clearly doing his best to further drive the child crazy. Kids who love Halloween will love this book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You still check under your bed for monsters every night.