Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Among the Dolls

Written by: William Sleator

First line: The poplar trees along the roadside shimmered in a light breeze, and there was hardly a nip in the autumn air.

Why you should read this book: Incensed that her parents bought her a creepy antique dollhouse for her birthday instead of the new ten-speed bike she desires, Vicky begins emotionally abusing the dolls by using them to act out a terrible family life for her own amusement. Vicky's own home life becomes less and less optimal until one day she finds herself magically transported into the world of the dollhouse, whose occupants, well aware that Vicky is the cause of all their misery, intend to take out their revenge on her person. She has very little time to discover the dollhouse's secrets and escape from the terrible world of her own making.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Probably not a good choice for kids who have witnessed domestic violence.

The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories

Written by: Marguerite Dabaie

First line: Being a Palestinian requires so much responsibility.

Why you should read this book: The author packs a lot of ideas into a tiny little volume, painting a pretty detailed picture of growing up as a Palestinian-American girl in black and white strokes. She outlines her understanding of her culture of origin, depicting Arab customs to an audience that may be unfamiliar with the food and culture, while also highlighting her own growing understand of her own place within her family and her desires to move in the larger world. It's introspective, provocative, joyful, and honest.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your designer kaffiyeh is an important fashion statement.

The Beatrice Letters

Written by: Lemony Snicket

First line: I am sorry I embarrassed you in front of your friends.

Why you should read this book: If you can't get enough of a Series of Unfortunate Events, you will enjoy this epistolary supplement, which includes six letters written by Lemony Snicket to his beloved Beatrice Baudelaire prior to the events of the series, and six letters written by Beatrice Snicket to Lemony Snicket a decade or so after the the series. I personally found it more interesting, more readable, more informative, and more intelligible than the Lemony Snicket biography. The book also contains some other images, including a double-sided full-color poster and some perforated letters than can be removed and arranged to form possibly useful anagrams.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have to really be a fan of the series.

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Desert

Written by: Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall

First line: A bit more than three hundred years ago, in an English town called Lyme, a girl and her mother picked wild blackberries.

Why you should read this book: Blackberry fool is a simple, and apparently ancient dessert, and this book uses it as a platform to discuss changes in society and technology along with the constancy of family and sugar. Showing four different parent-child combinations in four different centuries, the book also demonstrates social evolution, depicting black slaves cooking for white plantation owners in the nineteenth century and boys cooking for a diverse group of friends in the twenty-first century. Of course, the book also includes a recipe for making your own blackberry fool, with a grown-up's help.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Some of us are fine spraying Reddi Whip on our fruit.

The Ugly Dumpling

Written by: Stephanie Campisi

First line: Once upon a time, perhaps last week, or even last night, at your local dim sum restaurant...there was an ugly dumpling.

Why you should read this book: The ugly dumpling is sad and lonely and uneaten and unloved, until a helpful and romantic cockroach takes the ugly dumping under its wing, so to speak. Cockroach shows dumpling all the beauty of the world (restaurant) and eventually the ugly dumpling realizes that it's not an dumpling at all; he's a perfectly normal steamed bun. Even the discovery of its cockroach companion and the ensuing disgust cannot dampen the steamed bun's elation or its ardor for the cockroach.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Cockroach.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

Written by: Therese Oneill

First line: Thank you for coming.

Why you should read this book: Despite the title, only about thirty-five percent of this book discusses sex, marriage, and manners for (wealthy, white) Victorian ladies, with the other sixty-five percent of the text comprising the author's snarky remarks about the quotes, advice, morals, and customs of nineteenth century England. Most of the information here concerning hygiene, gender roles, food, and relationships is presented with various degrees of horror from a twenty-first century perspective. Period photos and illustrations with tongue-in-cheek captions complete this comic romp crashing through the putative romance of another time and place.

Why you should not read this book: Well, I wouldn't accept it as a primacy source in a composition class.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God, & Genius in the Music of Prince

Written by: Ben Greenman

First line: The phrase is stuck in my head.

Why you should read this book: Arranged by subject rather than chronologically, this book is part biography, part musicology, part history, part analysis, and mostly every thought the author ever had about his subject matter between discovering Prince in 1982 and turning the manuscript into his publisher in 2017. The chapters are short and sweet, peppered with anecdotes, quotes, descriptions of songs, philosophy, and personal reflection, written in an astonishing voice that tosses off stunning metaphors, name drops, and digs deep for comparisons to others artists, other art, and other types of thinking. The author doesn't pull his punches, never allowing his great admiration for Prince to overwhelm the reality of his research: that Prince was both a rock god and very human, capable of ascending to great heights while still remaining prey to the foibles of being a man.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've never been inspired by Prince.