Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Brief Bedford Reader 10th Edition

Editors: XJ Kennedy, Dorothy M Kennedy, Jane E Aaron

First line: "A writer," says Saul Bellow, "is a reader moved to emulate."

Why you should read this book: This book, full of essays, stories, and advice from a diverse group of authors--Dave Barry, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Sandra Cisneros, among many, many others--seeks to instruct the college student in how to communicate in print. The collection places great emphasis on achieving purpose, the "why" of writing along with the "how", and provide many exercises and suggestions for understanding the selections and moving forward with ones own writing. A perfectly suitable and useful resource for the freshman composition set, or anyone looking to improve their writing in short lessons.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If your attention span is longer than the average college freshman's, you may prefer to read some of these works in their larger context.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

First line: I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

Why you should read this book: Calliope Stephanides's story is a sweeping epic, germinated by a mild little chromosomal mutation centuries before her birth, muddied by the close relationships of her immediate ancestors, and protecting, as the shell of the bivalve encloses the muscle, Callie's remarkable, ambiguous genitals. From her grandparents' fiery escape from the old country to her upper-middle-class suburban childhood, she recounts in remarkable detail the factors that formed her mind, her body, and her spirit, touching on the finer points of silkworm farming, rum running, and franchising hot dog stands while creeping closer and closer to the heart of gender identity. A completely gripping novel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your own ambiguous genitals were mutilated by the acolytes of Dr. John Money in the 1970s.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself

Author: Judy Blume

First line: "Can I have another jelly sandwich?" Sally asked her grandmother.

Why you should read this book: Imaginative child Sally J. Freedman likes to makes up stories, to amuse herself in her own head, or to be acted out by her friends. When her brother's medical condition sends the family, without her father, to Florida for a year, she has to rely on her imagination to help her make sense of the sometimes frightening world around her. Whether she's dreaming of assassinating Adolph Hitler or meeting her Latin lover, Sally's enthusiasm and burgeoning understanding of her American childhood in the days immediately following the end of WWII make for engaging reading.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You insist that reading the classics and sewing clothes helps children grow up faster than playing make-believe.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural

Author: Howard Schwartz

First line: One day a boy playing hide-and-seek sees a finger in the hollow trunk of a tree.

Why you should read this book: One of several of the author's excellent collections of little-known Jewish folklore, this book offers a wide panorama of tales of the fabulous, with an inimitable helping of Yiddishkeit and a liberal sprinkling of Kabbalistic influence. Demons, witches, werewolves, corpse brides, and wizards run rampant through the stories of pious Jews at the mercy of the hidden world, while wise rabbis administer justice and (usually) save the day. A scholarly introductions and plenty of notes and commentary elevate this from a joyful book of magical fairy tales to an important literary and historical reference.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't stomach the occasional triumph of evil.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Planet of the Dogs

Author: Robert J. McCarty

First line: Our story begins long, long ago, before there were dogs on Planet Earth.

Why you should read this book: When the Stone City warriors overstep their boundaries and decide to make war on the peaceful farmers of Green Valley, the denizens of the Planet of the Dogs decide to lend their paws to the cause of peace. Beginning with two lucky children, they begin to share their message of love and loyalty with the people of earth, eventually even overcoming the Stone City warriors' greed and ambition. A short, simplistic, moral tale, which reads like the serial bedtime story told by an ambitious father to his canine-loving kids.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a cat person.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The $64 Tomato

Author: William Alexander

First line: "Why can't Dad be more like other dads?" Katie asked my wife recently.

Why you should read this book: If you've ever invested hours of backbreaking labor and hundreds of dollars of dirt into a backyard garden with produce yields that represent a fraction of your investment, you've glimpsed the world of William Alexander, Gentleman Farmer. With tragicomic honesty, he relates his odyssey, doing battle with a 2000 square foot kitchen garden, along with a planned meadow, small orchard, other assorted gardens, and the creatures that love to munch on the fruits of his labor. Heirloom brandywine tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, winter herbs, super-intelligent groundhogs, sarcastic teenagers, and wave after wave of insect invader turn an idyllic pastime into a fast-paced amusement park ride through the understanding of man's place in nature and his relationship to food.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Pesticides help you feel safe.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

First line: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Why you should read this book: In a fast-paced, page-turner of a novel, young Nobody Owens escapes death at the hand of the strange man who killed his family by taking refuge in a graveyard, where he is adopted by ghosts and protected by supernatural creatures. There are mysteries and adventures in the land of the dead, there are mysteries and adventures in the land of the living, and there is the ominous specter of the killer who still searches for the boy, desperate to finish the job. A gripping, beautiful journey through the joyful and dangerous realms of the imagination.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You still hold your breath passing the cemetery.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

101 Training Tips for Your Cat

Author: Carina Smith, DVM

First line: My first cat, Charlie, was a gray-and-white tabby that I got at ten years of age--several years after I'd decided to become a veterinarian.

Why you should read this book: It's an easy-to-use reference to understanding, caring for, communicating with, and getting along with your feline companion. Organized alphabetically, with one hundred and one categories, this book allows you to quickly research particular concerns, although it's written in a style that makes reading straight through a pleasant experience as well. Have no fear: despite popular opinion, you can train your cat, and this book offers you plenty of guidance.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a dog person.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fortune's Magic Farm

Author: Suzanne Selfors

First line: Isabelle stood beneath a sky as gray as a pair of filthy socks.

Why you should read this book: In Runny Cove, where it rains all day, every day, orphan Isabelle and everyone else in town toil long hours at the Magnificently Supreme Umbrella Factory and come home to abusive landladies who feed them cabbage soup and force them to wash dishes. That all changes the day Isabelle’s secret errand to gather saltwater for her pet barnacle ends with an elephant seal sneezing a love apple onto her, for Isabelle is the sole heir to Fortune’s Magic Farm, a wonderful, sunny land where all magic is cultivated. Isabelle journeys across the ocean to claim her birthright, but all is not well on the farm, not since Isabelle’s mother left, and unless Isabelle can help her grandfather see the light, the farm and all of Runny Cove, possibly the entire world, is doomed.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t believe slugs, mushrooms, or moss have a right to live.