Monday, February 28, 2011

Life of Pi

Written by: Yann Martel

First line: My suffering left me sad and gloomy.

Why you should read this book: Piscine Molitor Patel, who has cleverly shortened his name to "Pi" to prevent teasing, is a thoughtful boy, growing up in the friendly confines of his father's zoo in the Indian state of Pondicherry, cheerfully embracing Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam in equal measure because he loves god so much. When the political situation at home becomes difficult, Pi's parents decide to relocate to Canada, loading the family and most of the zoological collection onto a cargo ship, which, shortly thereafter and with little explanation, sinks, leaving Pi, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a large Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker, which Pi has accidentally saved, to survive on a lifeboat. After the hyena kills the zebra and the ape, and the tiger kills the hyena, Pi and Richard Parker float across the Pacific Ocean together in one of the most stirring and richly detailed adventure stories of our age.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're cranky due to a terrible, chilling dampness or a terrible, dehydrating heat.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dragon in Real Life

If you're not already reading my microfiction at Raincoat Flashers, my short-short fiction blog, you are missing out on all kinds of insanity.

If you are reading Raincoat Flashers, perhaps you'd like a deeper draught of Dragon.

You could, for instance, order a copy of Bards and Sages Quarterly, where my first published fiction, Spin Free, appears, along with lots of other great fiction.

You could also visit, where you'll find an entire YA novel, which I wrote all by myself! If enough people read and enjoy my book online, it will be sent to the editorial board at HarperCollins, and I might have a shot at publishing a novel. You'll get the pleasure of reading a far-out speculative fiction novel chock full of sex, lies, betrayal, food, cheerleaders, and mad scientists coupled with the pleasure of helping a dragon spread her wings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Girl on the Fridge

Written by: Etgar Keret

First line: When you have an asthma attack, you can't breathe.

Why you should read this book: Keret's microfictions might be described as gritty, urban magical realism, or else as a series of disjointed, disquieting dreams, confronting materialism, racism, love, and loss with a casual disregard that illuminates its subject while glossing it over. Here, you'll find subatomic particles desperate for humans to understand them, a creature that eats the best part of your dreams, soldiers protecting themselves with a plastic vacuum seal. Life is horror-movie cheap, except when it is the most precious thing imaginable, and the world moves on, even when the impetus to move with it vanishes.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've succeeded in getting yourself hopelessly lost in Thailand.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 1: The Capture

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: The world spiraled, the needles of the old fir tree blurred against the night sky and then there was a sickening sensation as the forest floor raced toward him.

Why you should read this book: Like all the barn owls in the Forest Kingdom of Tyto, little Soren is growing up under the care of two loving parents and a doting blind nurse snake, his life filled with wonderful ceremonies, comfort, safety, and adoration of his baby sister, Eglantine, until the day that his sociopath older brother pushes him out of the nest, leaving him vulnerable to the rash of kidnapping that's been going around. Captive of the moon blinked owls at St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, Soren struggles to maintain his sanity in a world where asking questions is a punishable offense and bizarre and un-owl-like practices like sleeping at night while staring at the moon are designed to hypnotize every kidnapped owlet into complacent servitude. With his new friend, the tiny elf owl Gylphie, Soren is determined to learn the secrets of St. Aggies, escape his imprisonment, and return home to his family before similar disaster strikes his darling Eglantine.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't let your minions ask questions, either.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hide and Sneak

Written by: Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak

First line: On fine summer day, Allashua said, "I am going out to play hide-and-seek, Mom."

Why you should read this book: Allashua, easily distracted by butterflies, bugs, and birds, is not very good at playing hide and seek. Her mother has already warned her about Ijiraqs, creatures that hide children where no one can ever find them again, so when Allashua meets an Ijiraq, she hopes he can help her succeed at hide and seek. Of course, the little girl is hidden very well, but with the help of her own skills and observation and the inuksugaq, a giant stone statue in the shape of a man, she finds her way home again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You never let your children out of your sight.

The Loathsome Dragon

Written by: David Weisner and Kim Khang

First line: In Bamborough Castle there lives a King and Queen who had two children, a son named Childe Wynd and a daughter named Margaret.

Why you should read this book: In classic fairy tale tradition, the good queen dies, leaving the king open to the tender ministrations of a wicked sorceress who soon becomes a stereotypical wicked stepmother, jealous of the princess and determined to destroy her youthful beauty. Drawing on her magical powers, the wicked stepmother transforms Princess Margaret into the loathsome dragon, destined to remain in her monstrous form unless her brother can somehow be convinced to kiss her three times. Of course, all transformations are, in the end, undone, evil is defeated, and the faithful children take their rightful places once again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want to reinforce the stereotype of the wicked stepmother.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Is the What

Written by Dave Eggers

First line: I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door.

Why you should read this book: Valentino Achak Deng was seven years old when war came to his southern Sudanese village of Marial Bai, when he watched his world set ablaze and the people he knew kidnapped or murdered by government-sponsored marauders from a foreign land, when he began a long walk, along with hundreds of other boys, in search of sanctuary in Ethiopia. Through almost unbearable horror, Achak and thousands of other refugees, including thousands of Lost Boys in his age group, persevere, and while they watch their numbers dwindle through starvation, predatory animals, and continual attacks, eventually they find a kind of shelter in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and many of them, Achak included, make their way, at last to America. Even in America, Achak's troubles continue, his trusting nature leading to more heartache than it would seem conceivable for one man to suffer, but through it all, he always rebounds and regains his optimism that somehow, a brighter future awaits.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Almost unbearable horror.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Written by: Nicholas Carr

First line: In 1964, just as the Beatles were launching their invasion of America's airwaves, Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and transformed himself from an obscure academic into a star.

Why you should read this book: Dependence on computer technologies is changing the way humans think, perceive, and respond, and while some of these changes do seem to enrich our lives, not all of them are beneficial to mankind. The author begins by explaining how the brain works and how earlier advances in technology have changed our thought processes before sharing page after page of scientific research demonstrating that hyperlinks cause us to retain less information, Google is actively working to increase our page clicks, and that excessive dependence on the Internet is not making anyone smarter. A smart overview of a subject that is on many people's minds these days, this book neatly encapsulates the current research and distills it to its logical conclusion: that humans are not making machines more like themselves, but rather, that we are becoming more like the machines, and in doing so, losing some element of our humanity.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Too busy blogging, Skyping, checking your social networks, web surfing, and buying stuff off of Amazon.