Friday, April 27, 2007

The Complete Stories

Author: Franz Kafka

Quote: As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Why you should read this book: Alienation, isolation, paranoia, and death. Kafka had actually requested that the bulk of these tales be burned rather than published, but the industry just doesn't work that way. In this collection, you get the full scope of his work, and the dizzying madness of a world in flux, where ordinary men are presented daily with unresolvable paradoxes and impossible conundrums.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want to exacerbate any previously existing conditions of alienation, isolation, and paranoia.

Michael Rosen's Sad Book

Author: Michael Rosen

Quote: Sometimes because I'm sad I do bad things. I can't tell you what they are. They're too bad. And it's not fair to the cat.

Why you should read this book: An incredibly intelligent and honest picture book discussing the author's depression over the death of his son, as well as other things that make him sad. Rosen helps children understand the depth of his sorrow, while also offering hints for how to cope with loss and move forward in life. A serious and provocative book that honors true emotions and accepts that there are no easy solutions, only persistance and a day-by-day approach.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've never been sad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Second Treatise of Government

Author: John Locke

Quote: To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.

Why you should read this book: Locke, one of the authors of the Enlightenment, set out his ideas about government in a perfectly rational world, according to his understanding of reason, applying scientific principles to the organization of society. Thomas Jefferson and America's founding fathers drew heavily on his ideas about freedom and equality in penning the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Nearly everything in this book makes perfect sense, and it's interesting to see how American democracy developed from these ideas, and where it's deviated.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're not interested in being a member of society.


Author: William Shakespeare

Quote: We are arrant Knaves all; believe none of us.

Why you should read this book: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has to cope with his father's death, his mother's licentiousness, his uncle's villiany, his lover's rejection, and her father's interference, while trying to satisfy a ghost demanding revenge. No wonder he talks like he's out of his mind. But Hamlet is a smart guy, and he has plenty to say on the nature of life and death, love and loss, anger and love, before it all comes crashing down.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want to be conversant with one of the most influential works of English literature ever penned.

King Lear

Author: William Shakespeare

Quote: Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all.

Why you should read this book: One of the most tragic tragedies ever written, as well as a powerful statement on the meaning of familial love. Although she would give her life for her father, Cordelia, smart, faithful, and literal, cannot satisfy his expectations when they require unreasonable embellishment, although those around him are comfortable lying to the old king. Lear's own condition is poignant and powerful, full of rage and illusion along with the simple desire for respect and companionship.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a treacherous bastard with revenge fantasies.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Death of a Salesman

Author: Arthur Miller

Quote: "We've got quite a little streak of self-reliance in our family."

Why you should read this book: A time-tested statement about the frayed edges of the American Dream and the lies that hold families together and blow them apart. Willy Loman, old, tired, and no longer effective as a salesman, must choose between the fantasies he's held close to his heart for his entire adult life, and the bleak reality that's been born of his decisions. Miller writes the truth about human relationships and modern social interations.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You like lying to yourself, you want to alienate your children, and you can resolve any hypocrisy through sheer cantankerousness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Canterbury Tales

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer

First line: Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, And every veyne in swich licour of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth...

Why you should read this book: A definitive classic of Middle English literature. A motley group of pilgrims telling stories as they travel frames this collection, which runs the gamut from moral to bawdy. Chaucer is adept at creating the characters of his storytellers, and allowing each to tell his or her own story in a particular voice, for a particular reason.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Don't worry! You don't have to read it in Middle English. There are plenty of Modern English versions, as well as picture books for kids based on the more appropriate tales.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me

Author: Alice Walker

Quote: There is a pen nestled in my hand writing me.

Why you should read this book: Alice Walker's fourth children's book, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, is a bright, rainbow-hued ode to the universe, as perceived through the eyes of an active and enthralled observer. The "me" of the poem interacts with her environment, evincing joy as she experiences the world with all her senses. A really beautiful book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want to be happy, and you don't want your kids to be happy either.

The Terrible Underpants

Author: Kaz Cooke


Why you should read this book: When Wanda-Linda's dad hangs all her clean, wet undies on the line, her mother makes her wear a pair of ripped, stained, baggy, scratchy underpants. Hilarity ensues, to the chagrin of her pet hairy-nosed wombat, Glenda. Terribly amusing for immature people of all ages.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You see nothing at all funny about underpants.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Life of Alexander

Author: Plutarch

Quote: It is said that his father wept for joy, and, when he dismounted, kissed him, saying, "My son, seek for a kingdom worthy of yourself: for Macedonia will not hold you."

Why you should read this book: High on the list of people who led unbelievably remarkable lives, Alexander the Great long ago transcended history to achieve near-mythological status. Believing it his destiny to rule the world, he acted at all times with fierce determination and belief in himself. Plutarch gives us the details of his campaigns in Greece, Persia, and India as well as the inspiring stories of his dealings with incorrigible horses, stately oracles, and the Gordian knot.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You experience traumatic flashbacks from high school Latin.