Friday, August 25, 2023

V for Vendetta

Written by: Alan Moore and David Lloyd

First line: Good evening, London. It's 9 o'clock and this is the voice of Fate broadcasting on 275 and 285 in the medium wave. 

Why you should read this book, in a dismal post-World War III future, England has fallen under the sway of brutal fascism, with an Orwellian cameras in every crevice and party propaganda broadcast from every corner. A shadowy anarchist known only as V wages a rather effective one-man war against the symbols of the government and the men and woman who run it, while teaching a young woman named Evey his philosophy of self-rule and death to tyrants. With every resource of the country devoted to his death, V carries out an elaborate plan to hand power back to the people before his enemies catch up with him.

Why you shouldn't read this book: While I'm obviously very opposed to fascism and in support of anything that opposes fascism, reading this book 35 years after its original publication and maybe 25 years after the first time I read it, it feels kind of overblown, like an child's fantasy about Batman saving the world.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Written by: Frederick Douglas

First line: I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County Maryland.

Why you should read this book: In language that is eloquent and evocative, yet straightforward and blunt, Douglas details the horrors of slavery through the eyes of his own childhood. Never stinting in his description of the brutality, cruelty, and hypocrisy, Douglass explains, clearly, that there can be no moral foundation to the unconscionable idea that human beings can possess other humans beings, and that the practice degrades everyone involved. I first read this book when I was little girl, when it seemed pretty obvious to most people that slavery was wrong and horrible and indefensible, but these days some people apparently need to have this concept spelled out for them, in which case, this book is a good resource.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Bad things happen.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr

Written by: John Crowley

First line: There has come to be a great mountain at the end of the world.

Why you should read this book: When a grief-stricken man rescues a sick crow, he is surprised to learn that the crow can communicate, and that the crow has led a mytho-poetic and seemingly immortal life, traveling with various spiritual humans back and forth into the spirit world. From prehistoric times to modern day, Dar Oakley has observed humans, learned from them, helped them when he felt it was in his own best interest or he seemed compelled to do so, and frequently been confused by their symbolic language and strange obsession with defeating death. Dar Oakley has changed the fate of all crows, but not as much as humans have changed their own fates, and, in their quest for material goods and fortune, closed off their own access to the immaterial world that once brought them hope. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think birds aren't real.


Written by: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

First line: In Styria, we, though by no means magnificent people, inhabit a castle, or schloss.

Why you should read this book: This is a vampire novel—a gothic vampire novel—a gothic LESBIAN vampire novel—a gothic lesbian vampire novel, which predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by a quarter century, which is likely enough information to sway the type of readers who would enjoy this book. The narrator, an innocent but isolated girl who craves the friendship of other girls, is enchanted by the random beautiful stranger who appears on her land while she's mourning the death of another girl she had hoped to visit. While constantly praising her new friend's looks and engaging in constant shows of physical affection, the protagonist begins to suffer a mysterious illness exactly like the strange malady that killed her old friend.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Can't handle the thought of girls engaging in trembling embraces and soft kisses.

The Sandman: Overture

Written by: Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III

First line: It was a small planet.

Why you should read this book: It's the prequel to the other Sandman books, published nearly 2 decades after the end of the series, which tells the story of the dangerous but important mission that took Morpheus away from his domain and led to his weakness and capture at the beginning of volume 1. Dream, at a convention of Dreams, comes to understand that the universe is in great peril, and it's entirely his fault for not doing his job correctly in the past. He comes to understand that there's nothing he can do to fix his mistake, which is then rectified pretty much by a literal deus ex machina and the literary equivalent of clapping for Tinkerbell.

Why you shouldn't read this book;  While following many of the successful conventions from the preceding books, including spectacular world-building and a brooding protagonist who basically tries to be a decent being despite also being a self-involved jerk, and containing appearances from many beloved secondary characters, as well as introducing Dream's mother and father (!), this story doesn't ever seem to have anything at stake.

Tamamo the Fox Maiden and Other Asian Stories: A Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales Book

Edited by: C. Spike Trotman, Kate Aswin, Kel McDonald

First line: There once lived a humble tinker by the name of Jinbei. 

Why you should read this book: A wonderfully balanced collection of stories from all over Asia, featuring magic, tricksters, transformations, talking animals, foolish gods, and happy endings. Other than the tale of Fa Mulan, most of these stories will be unfamiliar to Western readers, and some may require further research to fully comprehend if you aren't conversant with world mythology, but even without deeper knowledge, they should still appeal to the sensibilities of any lover of fairy tales. Delightful and thoughtfully compiled, this is a great addition to any collection of graphic novels for children.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I don't know how cautionary a story is if bad behavior turns out well for the protagonist.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

Written by: Jarvis 

Why you should read this book: With simple, meaningful language and simple, colorful illustrations, the author conveys a vast allegory of meaning about what it is to be different, what it is to be accepting, and what it is to be a loving friend. A little boy is best friends with David, a child who is visibly unlike other children, but still happy and kind and well-liked. When his difference become more acute and less acceptable, his friend finds a way to make him happy, not by making him more like other kids, but by helping him feel more like himself.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

When the Schools Shut Down: A Young Girl's Story of Virginia's "Lost Generation" and the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka Decision

Written by: Yolanda Gladden, Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, and Keisha Morris

Why you should read this book: This autobiographical picture book follows the experience of Yolanda Gladden, a Black girl born in segregated Topeka the year that Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional. When Yolanda is finally old enough to go to school, racist local lawmakers decide to fight integration by closing down all public schools. For five years, the Black community rallies to create their own grassroots school system where children like Yolanda are educated and learn to love learning for five years until another Supreme Court decision forces the community to reopen the public schools and remain integrated.

Mommy's Hometown

Written by: Hope Lim and Jaime Kim

Why you should read this book: A little Korean-American boy loves listening to his mother's stories of her idyllic childhood playing in the river with the other village children in her hometown. He dreams of visiting the place where Mommy grew up, but when he finally gets to Korea, he's disappointed to find that modernity has turned the pastoral haven into a bustling metropolis that bears no resemblance to Mommy's bucolic bedtime stories. But the river is still there, just as Mommy remembers it, and once the boy connects to the experience of playing in the water, he's able to see the beauty and magic of the new city.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't adapt well to change.

Extra Ezra Makes an Extra-Special Friend

Written by: Kara LaReau and Vincent X Kirsch

Why you should read this book: Ezra is a flamboyant elementary student who lets his light shine extra bright, injecting pizzazz and panache into everything he does, and his many friends appreciate his way of being "extra." When he meets a new kid, Jane, with rainbow barrettes and a glittery soccer ball, he's determined to make her his extra-special friend, but Jane is "blue" and has no interest in being cheered up. Ezra has to think hard about how to change his usual approach and offer Jane what she really needs, finally making a friend through the power of empathy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate rainbows and glitter.