Marx & Lennon: The Parallel Sayings
by Joey Green Hyperion Books
Our Price: $8.95
Alan H. suggests...
No, not THAT Marx. Here is a good demonstration of the saying that “Great minds think alike.” This book is what used to be called a 'jeu d'esprit' — but some of these comparisons are truly spot-on. Don't believe me? Try pages 16, 17, 71, 84, 88-89, 117, 125, 156-157, and 189. Or flip through it at random. You're sure to get a chuckle....
You may remember the "Time Traveler's Convention" sponsored by MIT a few years ago; what you may not know: it was inspired by a Cat and Girl comic. Now in its second volume, Cat and Girl combines idealistic twenty-something angst with the cleverness of an offbeat New Yorker cartoon, and the deadpan tone of a slogan t-shirt (worn ironically, of course). With recurrent references to conspicuous consumption, the peculiarities of the internet, performance artist Joseph Bueys, the artifice that is hipster-ism, David Foster Wallace, and the other minutia Gambrell finds tucked away in the corners of our culture, Cat and Girl takes that liberal arts education off the shelf and gives it something to do.
In this, his most recent collection of prose poems, Russell Edson offers more of the sad, thoughtful, surreal and often obscene musings of an old man for which he’s become known. From the man who starts turning into a dog partway through becoming a bird [The Man with a Sudden Desire to Bark at the Moon] to a mysteriously murderous dwarf wielding an ice pick [Space Journey] to the man whose hat starts to swallow his head [The Hunger], readers will find plenty to contemplate and savor.
(p.s. I've found that Edson pairs very nicely with Kurt Vonnegut, for those who like to enjoy multiple books at once.)
A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
by George E. Lewis Univ of Chicago Pr
Our Price: $25.00
Andy N. suggests...
A 700+ page book on free jazz is a hard sell even if one is interested
in the subject...but this book is so much more. A much overlooked history
on a group of individuals aching to create not just an art form that is
intimate, but a whole community of freedom and self expression. It is
common knowledge amongst musicians that it is painful at best to keep
communication open in a group of even three bandmates...the AACM has over
thirty. Mr. Lewis, an acomplished musician in his own right and a member
himself, takes the reader through not only the history of the group but
personal dialogues of musicians involved regarding the cultural and
philosophical implications of their new music. This is heady stuff dealing
with everything from the break from Bebop to African American identity to
the power music has over life...perfect for the musician interested in
creating something extraordinary.
Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box
by Jacques Boyreau Fantagraphics Books
Our Price: $19.99
Andy N. and Sam C. suggests...
Yes, the VHS...yes, I rented ILSA: She Wolf of the S.S...No, I'm not proud, but thanks to this book I can now remember that awful night in 9th grade...and oh so much more... For all those who miss the lurid mystery of the VHS box and the questionable wonders it promises...this book is for you... Love-Andy and Sam
Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit
by Kadir Nelson Simon & Schuster
Our Price: $12.99
Ariel R. suggests...
Kadir Nelson was approached by editors at Simon and Schuster just after the election with the idea for Change Has Come. He began work on the sketches included in this book while he was on tour for Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, and he completed them in just ten days. Known for his glowing colors and polished paintings, this was the first time I had seen looser sketches by Kadir Nelson. These sketches show all of the skill of his other books, but also have a moving spontaneity. Kadir Nelson captures Obama, as well as the spirit of America at this time, beautifully. Change Has Come is perfect for introducing your child to Barack Obama, or as a gift or keepsake for anyone inspired by this election (and who isn’t?).
Self-effacingly clever and brave, Banksy’s Wall and Piece is—well, it’s different. It’s graffiti, it’s performance art, it’s an essay. Banksy takes aim at social constructions, “normal” ideas, propriety, culture. This book is full of powerful thought. Whether or not you agree with any of the statements Banksy paints into existence and shapes into form, the stuff makes you think (and then re-think).
*Warning: *The author of this book is a very, very sick man. Under no circumstances should you let your children anywhere near this book. Brothers Grimm this is not.
Now that you have been warned come take a trip with Hegel and Manfried Grossbart, fourth generation grave robbers and heretics extraordinaire, as they wreak havoc from the Holy Roman Empire to the pyramids of Giza. Along the way you’ll meet a cast of curious characters from witches, manticores, pirates and sirens, and even the plague personified. You’ll witness scenes of shockingly senseless violence, hear blasphemies of the most outrageous kind, and experience the Middle ages in a way I’m sure you never imagined.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
by Tracy Kidder Random House
Our Price: $16.00
Carole H. suggests...
Like John McPhee, Kidder can interest me regardless of his topic. Finally he has a subject whose importance matches his considerable talents: Dr. Paul Farmer, infectious-disease expert, anthropologist, winner of a MacArthur grant, founder of Partners in Health, brilliant and tireless worker in brining health care to the world's poorest people. Farmer understands the political economy of disease and poverty, he believes that radical change is possible and he has proved it with his work in Haiti. The story is fascinating -- awe-inspiring, engrossing, funny and yet deadly serious.
Oh my gosh, this book is adorable. More than anything, Henry wants a dog. More than a trip to the moon, a cowboy costume, even world peace—Henry wants a dog. Not a frog, nope: frogs are boring. Now DOGS, they have personality. They can do tricks. So Henry places an ad in the newspaper: “Wanted: the Perfect Pet, aka A DOG.” But somewhere else there is also a duck who wants more than anything to have a friend. Ignore the boring cover and fall in love with the story about a duck, a boy, and the perfect pet.
Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
by Christopher Payne Mit Pr
Our Price: $39.95
Christina C. suggests...
On pages 42 and 71, you will find photographs of the Northampton State Hospital. There, when I was 16, my friends and I were threatened with arrest by police who patrolled the decrepit grounds day and night. This monstrously vast facility fascinated us, as it had others who had pried their ways inside to explore not just exam rooms still containing x-rays, mortuaries, underground tunnels, and other mysterious, otherworldly realms of the past, but also simply the time-saturated, crumbling walls. Flip through to find lonely beds, empty theaters, ghostly hallways, numbered graves, dry baths, abandoned medical supplies, and suitcases that never found their way home.
This novel is one of the best pieces of fiction that I have read this year. It is the beautiful and sad tale of a retired schoolteacher and his life in Colombia, caught between warring factions who kidnap and murder with no hesitation. As the teacher's village loses touch with its once simple existence, so does his mind lose touch with reality. I could not recommend it more.
I would be tremendously disappointed if the majority of people who pick up this book are vegetarians simply seeking validation for their dietary choices, and I bet Foer would be too. As a writer, Foer is renowned for engaging with the darkest truths in human experience in a wholly original manner. In his first nonfiction book, Foer saddles up to one of the most polarizing topics today: eating animals. Despite Foer's self-confessed vegetarianism, he offers narratives from all sides of the debate...factory farmers, animal rights activists, vegetarian ranchers, vegan slaughterhouse architects (you read that correctly). Most importantly, Foer lays the hard facts about factory farming out on the table, so that readers can come to their own fully informed decisions. Articulate, meticulously researched, equally funny and disturbing. Foer gently forces us to face the good/bad reality of consuming animals, in the most digestible way possible.
Impending disaster always feels like it’s on the next page, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to relieve the tension. Rage, despair, euphoria, and passion all have there place in this novel about the lost generation, and despite being about a specific place (Austria), and a particular time (the early 1920’s), the capitalist, socialist, democratic critique still felt pertinent.
Rarely have I read fiction that really turns its gaze fully on the working poor, and gives them a voice; one that’s angry and unapologetic. Read if you want to feel your blood pounding, and your heart racing. Set aside Gatsby and the entitled crowd that populate most of our American 20’s lit, and experience something gritty and bitter. The ending is satisfying in that it’s hard earned, isn’t cheap, and isn’t expected.
Deadened by a self imposed reading list of slogs and shoulds? Let Cashore’s "Graceling" remind you of the engrossing adventures of the books you first loved, and couldn’t get enough of. An afternoon of guilt-free young adult fantasy will enliven your upcoming summer reading list; a well written story, interesting concept, and the ability to make you remember what it’s like to not want to put a book down. Also a fantastic pick for any actual young adult in your life.
Dive into Connie Willis’s award-winning masterpiece of mystery, manners, and mayhem. Time-traveling Oxford historian Ned Henry finds himself in the
Victorian era with three goals: 1) find the bishop’s bird stump, 2) recover from all the other time trips he’s made, and 3) hide from Oxford’s sponsor, the formidable Lady Schrapnell. But the Victorian era has other ideas. Will Ned be able to navigate the complex web of history without destroying the space-time continuum? What is the bishop’s bird stump, anyway? And will Ned ever get a good night’s sleep?
(The answer to that last one is No.)
This is one of the most delightful books I’ve ever read. It’s chock-full of shenanigans and culture-clash hilarity, while featuring a full cast of strongly individual characters. A wonderful read for science fiction and mystery fans, historians, and Victorian literature scholars alike.
If you wanted to know how crazy people in Florida are, you could either read the newspaper or pick any one of Carl Hiaasen's hilarious bite-sized volumes. The cast of amazingly insane characters in Skinny Dip run the gamut from despicable to achingly endearing, all rendered in neon technicolor, and I swear real life Floridians are more like them than you want to believe. I read this one in two days and wanted to instantly hop on the plane back to the thick air and mosquitoes of my youth.
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
by Grace Paley Farrar Straus & Giroux
Our Price: $15.00
Geoff S. suggests...
I wrote this to a friend once:
This is the literary equivalent of sitting on a dock watching sailboats drift in & out, across heartless tall buildings, dreaming about picnics you once had under bridges in cities you don’t live in anymore. So this is for when it rains.
Vacation is told in a voice I hadn't read before, and one that kept me up all night reading. It's a mystery why these characters are following each other around their neighborhoods and all over the world and how Deb Olin Unferth can show us familiar things through alien eyes, make us see, somewhat objectively, the bizarre world we're used to. It's funny and sad and you can't tell which is which. I loved every minute of it.
The Z Was Zapped: A Play in Twenty-Six Acts
by Chris Van Allsburg Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Our Price: $18.95
Jen C. suggests...
This is my favorite alphabet book. Take a look! All the letters meet their untimely end in a Gorey-esque fashion. Chris Van Allsburg's beautiful, mysterious pencil drawings make it the only alphabet book that I reread as an adult.
Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Our Price: $40.00
Jen C. and Linden M.-F. suggests...
Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook consists of recipes (most savory) developed over many years from her life as an half-year expat in Paris. I made the Beef Cheek Daube (p. 246), and I am eager to try more recipes. Greenspan is one of my favorite recipe and cookbook writers. Her recipes are always clearly written, well-tested, and she writes a great introduction to each recipe, making them fun to read. -- Jen C.
I made the Spice Butter Glazed Carrots (p. 335), the garlicky crumb-coated broccoli (p. 334), and the mustard tart (p. 154), which was the highlight. There are several more recipes I want to try, including the salmon and potatoes in a jar (p. 154). What I like most about this cookbook is that it combines everyday ingredients in new and mouthwatering ways. --Linden
Daniel Clowes has been doing the alienated comic character thing for years, but his latest book and character, Wilson, just might one up anything he has ever done before. Wilson's story is presented as 70+ single page comics with titles like Fat Chicks, Gate 27, and Pure Bliss. Each page is a self-contained part of Wilson's larger narrative, and also a joke, making the book look and read like a series of Sunday comics. Wilson is a total asshole. Total. His unawareness, his self obsession, his blatant douchebaggery, truly are a glory to behold. He is such a perfectly constructed jerk that I worried about my own propensity towards snarky cynicism. I didn't want to identify with this guy, much less one day discover that I had become him. (Yikes!)
This book is readable and fascinating. The Judeo-Christian Bible is possibly the text (in all its forms) that has caused the most joy and also the most devastation of any book ever to exist. Armstrong's treatise examines the development of Judaism and eventually Christianity and how individuals and groups have constructed, interpreted and reinterpreted the Bible over the 3,000-odd years of its life. Understanding this history is essential to understanding our Christian-influenced country/world.
This is my favorite picture book of the year. The artwork is pretty amazing. There is so much implied motion in the seemingly simple lines, and the details are so much fun. (The little bits of stuff stuck on the hedgehog in every picture make me smile.) How can anyone resist the charm of a story that has a sleep-rumpled bear appearing after being awakened by a squirrel and a hedgehog singing sea shanties? Seriously. Just take a look. You won’t regret it. I promise.
Breathing Lessons, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1989, is the story of Maggie and Ira, who've been married 28 years, beginning on a road trip that soon veers off course. Maggie is quirky and a little meddlesome and Ira is patient and reserved, and their adventure together is funny and heartwarming. This is one of my all-time favorites that I return to again and again.
It’s a particular thrill to receive a present that shows the giver knows you well. When a friend gave me this one, it was like she had conjured it out of my psyche. Converting abandoned Wal-Marts into civic centers? Sign me up! But when I sat down with Christensen’s brilliant documentary project, I realized that poetic justice, made material, is only one of many facets to this surprising, timely portrait of America’s landscapes: how corporations have shaped them, and how regular people are reclaiming them. Its multi-dimensionality (including gorgeous, haunting photographs) gives Big Box Reuse broad appeal, making it a wonderful gift for anyone who gets a kick out of:
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor
by Flannery O'Connor Farrar Straus & Giroux
Our Price: $23.00
Leah F. suggests...
I am delighted that Brad Gooch's Flannery has endeavored to shine new light on the quirks and brilliance of Flannery O'Connor, one of the century's most unapologetically weird and opinionated fiction writers. But no one can have better insight into the head of the writer than Flannery herself. The Habit of Being, letters first lovingly compiled by O'Connor's friend Sally Fitzgerald, risks a hagiographic tone in its introduction—but this, I'm glad to report, is summarily dismissed by the crackly voice of the letter-writer.
I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Patti Smith fan, but I do love skinny suspenders so I picked up this memoir and was completely blown away. Heading to New York City in the late 1960s with zero money and a small suitcase, she lived off lettuce scraps and by chance met Robert Mapplethorpe in a book store. Just Kids chronicles their extraordinary relationship, her artistic growth,and conversations with Dylan, Hendrix, and Joplin. You’ll meet the characters from the Chelsea Hotel, Warhol’s crew at Max’s Kansas City, and see Smith maintain a determined view of who she wants to become. Absolutely (and I never say this) inspiring, this book details a true artist’s journey and a bittersweet tale of a New York City that is long gone.
Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking
by Yamuna Devi E P Dutton
Our Price: $39.95
Linden M. suggests...
I have had this book for six years now, and it has always been a comfort and an inspiration to me. First and foremost Indian vegetarian cooking is the most intricate, nuanced, and involved cuisine that I have ever come across; this cookbook is all of those things in the utmost, but it is also reader-and-home-cook-friendly. Yamuna Devi precedes each recipe with the history and background of the dish and the foods that it is best coupled with. Then most recipes call for an excitingly large number ingredients (all of them can be tweaked, and they are easy to find at any Indian market), and she gives just the right amount of details to realize your perfect dish. Among my favorites are Fried Panir Cheese in Seasoned Tomato Stock, Char-Flavored Spiced Eggplant and Potatoes, and Spiced Green Beans. About twice a year I wake up in the morning and, because of the breadth of this cookbook and the sheer weight of my love for it, I tell myself that I only want to spend all day making four curries that day, and a raita, and a chutney, and a bread! Huzzah!
If you ever came into the Harvard Book Store and felt like you didn’t receive immediate service, I’m sorry. It was because I had sneaked into the stacks to continue furtively reading The Slap. I promise I never read more than like, 3 pages while I was on the clock. So I doubt it affected you too entirely much. Anyway, now I’m done, and instead of feeling sorry for you, the customer, I’m sorry for myself ? because I don’t know when I’ll find another novel that I just can’t put down the same way I couldn’t put this one down. Tsiolkas’ modern-day Australian domestic drama has the literary heft to make the Booker Prize long list, but reads like a guilty pleasure that you want to pass off to your best friend the moment you’re done so you’ll have someone to talk to about it. I haven’t formed such passionate attachments to (or in some cases, vehement dislike for) characters since my 12-year-old self read Black Beauty for the first time. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a prize-winning recommendation that seems stuffy or opaque, then The Slap is your ticket back to the time when reading was so purely enjoyable that you’d secretly stay up past bedtime to keep going. They should sell this thing with batteries for your under-the-covers flashlight.
Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborksa is one of my favorite poets, perhaps my favorite living poet. She's certainly the one I'd most like to have tea with, if cover photos are anything to go by.
If you've never read Szymborksa before, the 27 poems in this short volume are a wonderful introduction to her work, and if you've been following her poetry for years, Here is like a long awaited conversation with an old friend who's been living far, far away.
This collection showcases the roaming curiosity of Szymborksa's poetic eye (she writes about everything from metaphysics and memory to assassins, accidents, and the art of poetry itself), her ability to create language which is simultaneously intricate and direct, and the modesty, wisdom and humor which made me love her poetry in the first place. These are poems which open outward even as they zero in, poems of such simplicity and depth that they'll move you on the first reading and stay with you for years to come.
This is a great cookbook. The recipes are accessible and accompanied by entertaining commentary from the contributors. Particularly enticing are Hallelujah the Tomato (Soup), Cambridge Skyline Chili, and End of the Week Mac-And-Cheese.
The illustrations are entertaining, the recipe titles range from really out there to very basic, the contributors are all Bostonians, and the proceeds go to the Greater Boston Food Bank. Nuff said!
This terrific book goes immediately to my top shelf of literary biographies. John Cheever lived in endless turmoil with his contradictions—the erudite high school dropout; the closeted bisexual who despised gay men, guilt-ridden, manipulative and rampant in his pursuits; the snob most at ease with workers; a man who idealized husband-and-fatherhood, and an alcoholic compulsively unkind to his children and estranged from his wife. Given a lesser biographer all this could be merely lurid, but Bailey’s clean, low-key style and generous insights tease out the strands of harsh judgment and emollient self-deception in Cheever’s journals, and convincingly trace them into the effort and effect in his stories and novels. I don’t expect to read anything better this year. Brilliant.
'It was a language of masonry, redolent with ornament and detail, emerging from the belief that every building, no matter how private, showed a public presence - that it had an obligation to the street and to anyone who paused before it, whether or not they had reason to walk through its doors.'
The passion in Goldberger's sweeping, vivid descriptions gave me goosebumps. Read it. Read it especially if you have never read about architecture before. It inspires the desire to set out on an architectural tour of the world, but like me, you may have to settle with an extensive Google image search.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
by Mary Roach W W Norton & Co Inc
Our Price: $25.95
Megan S. suggests...
One of my first jobs in high school was working at the gift shop in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville AL. I hated my uniform but I loved learning about space travel, especially the daily lives of the astronauts. In the early days of the Gemini project, you would be stuck in what amounts to the front seat of the car for several days. In the shuttle, you at least had some room to maneuver, but what did you do all day when you weren't doing science stuff? And what if we ever send people to Mars? That's a three year trip in a cramped cabin. Sure, lots of people think about the bravery and heroism of astronauts. But I wanted to know how bad they smelled after a week wearing the same space suit. And how did they go to the bathroom in space? Or wash their hair? And why was their food so gross?
Mary Roach shares my fascination apparently. In Packing for Mars, she goes on board with space monkeys, watches video of astronaut auditions, reads archives of isolation experiments and studies of what happens when you put three people in a small room for a week and don't let them change their clothes. She eats meals designed by veterinarians for minimal excretory output. And yes, she visits the center where astronauts train to use the space-commode.
As with Stiff and Bonk, her earlier books about death and sex, Roach answers questions most of us aren't quite brave enough to ask. The story is a combination of amazing, hilarious, and amazingly hilarious. The chapter on space bathroom technology alone is worth the price of admission.
Ian spends his days serving coffee to successful Manhattanites and his nights writing short stories that he can't get anyone to read, let alone publish. Then a mysterious man makes Ian a business proposition; pass off someone else's novel as his own memoir and achieve the success that's eluded him for so long.
The worst thing about this book is the awkward and unnecessary literary slang the narrator uses (Stylish eyeglasses are called "Franzens." It gets old right away.). If you can ignore that, like I did, you'll find The Thieves of Manhattan to be a surprisingly engrossing satire of the modern publishing industry and literary celebrity.
The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mac Barnett Simon & Schuster
Our Price: $14.99
Rachel A. suggests...
It's been a long time since I laughed out loud on the T and had people ask "what book are you reading". This is that kind of book! Hearkening back to vintage good ole sleuth novels, Steve Brixton and the nation's most powerful secret agents (librarians – sshhh!) are out to recover a national treasure hiding important secrets. Laughter will ensue as Steve battles baddies and thugs. Fans of The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys will love this first installment of The Brixton Brothers.
Following on the heels of countless World War II novels, this novel-in-stories, by a young German writer, takes a different perspective. Each story focuses on a different resident or neighbor of a single house near a lake outside of Berlin, with interludes from the perspective of a local gardener. The stories span the entire twentieth century, from the Weimar Republic to reunification. By placing the war’s atrocities within a larger historical context, Erpenbeck amplifies their tragedy. Visitation, in its quietness, is incredibly powerful.
I’m maybe a little jaded about epic fantasy, because I’ve read so much of it. Finnikin of the Rock is a delight, though - despite its retreading of a familiar formula, the characters are interesting people, and the journey they take to reach an inevitable conclusion was not at all what I expected. Even when Finnikin is behaving like an idiot (which he does - he is, after all, under a lot of pressure), and Evanjelin seems to have completely lost her mind, I wanted to know what was going to happen to them. If you’re not as jaded as I am, I suspect this journey will be a particularly memorable one.
This book is a superlative symphony of pie. Sweet pies, savory pies, andthose in between (for example the excellent and addictive Fidget Pie of p.76), all are brought together in a delectable mix of tantalizing photos,pie trivia, and wide-ranging recipes. From the diminutive dessert pastriesto the intense, majestic noble pies, all these pies are worthy and excitingprojects for the passionate piemaker.