Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What about the Water: 101 Dervish Tales

Written by: Jami Milan

First line: A dervish in the village customarily told a tale each evening after dinner, wherever he was.

Why you should read this book: Dervishes, or Sufis, are a group of mystics whose philosophy emphasizes living in the moment, releasing that which does not serve, and recognizing the divine in all things. These stories read much like parables, with many levels of meaning, alone with a quiet humor, overt messages, and useful advice. Dervishes talk to inanimate objects, learn powerful life lessons from small happenings, help their neighbors, and seek out simple solutions and simple truths.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You have proprietary feelings toward your anger and discontent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Written by: Max Brooks

First line: it goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War One."

Why you should read this book: It's a highly readable socio-political deconstruction of global culture and military and disaster preparedness, cleverly disguised as a zombie story (cleverly disguised as an oral history). While it does have its gory moments, the story itself is about the human element, how individuals, governments, and armed forces in various countries personally experienced and responded to the walking dead, and it's much more about hope, perseverance, and the indomitability of the human spirit than it is about eating brains or scaring readers. Life persists, says this popular novel (which was made into an apparently unrelated and unwatchable Brad Pitt vehicle) although death pursues it relentlessly, and the question is not how to survive, but how much we want to survive and what we are willing to sacrifice to remain human.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Zombies, death, guns, fire, decapitation, dead animals, walls of bodies, cannibalism, lies, betrayal, abandonment, and it's still not really a horror story.

Lucy and the Anvil

Written by: Adam Kline

First line: The anvil had never made a friend prior to Lucy.

Why you should read this book: Beautifully and whimsically illustrated, this labor-of-love picture book was funded by 560 separate benefactors (or which I was one) on Kickstarter, and was billed as an effort to create a perfect bedtime story. In the unlikely friendship between a little girl name Lucy and an apparently inanimate but sentient anvil, there is no lack of love, but the immobile and limbless anvil soon begins to question its own suitability for friendship due to its inability to play or give hugs. Of course, the anvil finds that it still has something to offer Lucy, and that, sometimes, it is better to receive than to give.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are a colossal grouch and you don't want to cheer up.

This book is not available for purchase on Amazon at this time. Some material may be found at the illustrator's online store.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Written by: Alison Bechdel

First line: Like many fathers, mine could occasionally be prevailed upon for a spot of "airplane."

Why you should read this book: Bechdel, whose name has become synonymous with the act of determining whether a work of cinema treats female characters as actual human beings or set pieces to illustrate a male hero's masculinity, has aptly named this memoir a "tragicomic," as it is written in the graphic novel medium, and has its (wry) comic moments, but ultimately demonstrates the tragedy of life in the closet. As Bechdel matures and discovers that she is a lesbian, she struggles with the new understanding that, throughout his entire marriage to her mother, her father has carried on affairs with much younger men. Through an examination of letters, journal entries, classic literature, the details of her family's house and business, and certain episodes throughout her life, the author comes to terms with her father's reality and his legacy to her.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The tragedy. Also, if you will lose your mind upon witnessing tasteful illustrations of cunnilingus.


Written by: Donna Jo Napoli

First line: "Mel, hurry up!" Brigid calls, splashing through puddles, heedless of the mud that has come up through the wooden-plank paving of the road.

Why you should read this book: Diverging somewhat from her typical novelization of fairy tales format and magical themes, Napoli creates a nearly whole cloth tale and a wide swath of the ancient world from a snippet of an old Norse saga. In Melkorka's world, slaves are simply unprotected people walking in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the young princess and her little sister, escaping a potential war in their own kingdom, find themselves lost to their homeland and destined for servitude. But Melkorka learns there is great strength in silent beauty, and while she cannot recover what has been lost, she can forge a more hopeful existence for herself once she embraces her own power.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Although it is handled with grace and euphemisms, this young adult novel contains several accounts of rape, with the princess eventually developing affection for her rapist.