Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Well of Loneliness

Written by: Radclyffe Hall

First line: Not very far from Upton-on-Severn--between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills--stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well-timbered, well-cottaged, well-fenced and well-watered, having, in this latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly the right position to feed two large lakes in the grounds.

Why you should read this book: Heart breaking and achingly human, this book is widely considered the first lesbian novel, although today it's more likely that its protagonist, Stephen Gordon, would probably be considered a trans man, and the word "lesbian" never appears in the book ("invert" being the proper term of the day). Raised in a rough and tumble way by a father who wanted a son, Stephen desires the life of a boy, and then of a man, but is always made to feel an outcast and ridiculed for her mode of dress and action. Despite these trials and the prejudice she faces in her own family and community, Stephen grows up kind, thoughtful, and generally successful, and eventually finds her way to places where her "inversion" is better understood and accepted, although owing to the fact that this book was written almost 90 years ago, it remains tragic in nature and Stephen never truly accepts herself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're scared to come out.

A Glance Backwards

Written by: Pierre Paquet and Tony Sandoval

First line: They say there's nothing nicer than reaching the streets of paradise.

Why you should read this book: Eleven year old Joey enjoys letting his mind wander through all the stupid things that a kid can imagine, until the day he decides to buy some bottle rockets he knows he mother doesn't want him to have. Upon returned home, his entire world shifts and he finds himself lost and wandering through some other place he can't quite understanding. Visually arresting and provocative, this book was recently translated from the French.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't wait until the end to find out what's going on.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Written by: Carlo Rovelli

First line: In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly.

Why you should read this book: Written for "those who know little or nothing about science," this simple-to-grasp volume offers up a basic understanding of physics, devoid of mathematics, and constructed of comprehensible anecdotes and metaphors for those who wish to understand the world in which they live. The two basic theories of physics, the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics, are made plain, then further illustrated with details on the movement of the large bodies of the cosmos and the smallest particles within. The author introduces loop quantum gravity, current work seeking to combine the two basic theories of physics, and then goes on to make further observations about black holes, heat, probability, and what it means to be alive in such an interesting universe.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe in a flat earth orbited by an eternal sun, and probably stacked on the back of a turtle or something. Or you'd rather read seven long lessons on physics.

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend

Written by: Linda Addison

First line: Songs from their open mouth make you sleep,/upon waking you feel empty and sad,/there is a mark of ash on your chest/where your heart should be.

Why you should read this book: Four-time Bram Stoker-award winning horror author Linda Addison offers up a slim, gripping collection of poetry and prose, featuring full-bodied meditations on love, magic, life, death, and yes, friendly demons. Past, present, and future crumble together in stories of strong women, emotional zombies, and incredibly annoying computer systems, a thoroughly modern trek through worlds old and new. Fast paced and fun to read, with a delicious and conscious sense of balance.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You suspect your grandmother may be possessed.

The Hidden Life of Dogs

Written by: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

First line: I began observing dogs by accident.

Why you should read this book: Even if you're not a dog person, this foray into the subject of canine consciousness is a fascinating read, setting aside the concept of anthropomorphism and settling deeply into the examination of what dogs want once they've fulfilled all their needs. The author brings her anthropological training to the observation of dozens of animals over the space of three decades to draw back the curtain on what our best friends are really thinking as they move through the world. Detailed and accurate, this illuminating non-fiction book is often cited as one of the best modern discussions of animal intelligence.

Why you shouldn't read this book: There's a cat on your lap.