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« April, 2018 »

The Little Book: A Novel   book icon  
by Selden Edwards (2009)

read: 30 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: fiction

There’s a special sort of nostalgia fiction that always presses my buttons and this book is one of those. It’s sort of a time travel novel but not really. There is a lot of people figuring out just what is going on and once you learn “the truth” it’s clear that this is mostly a book about getting there and not being there. A lot of background noise about the rise of fascism in Vienna and some famous people who you have heard of make appearances. I felt the book was strongest when it was not talking about Mahler or Freud but fans of those folks might find that to be an extra special benefit.

Playing the Whore   book icon  
by Melissa Gira Grant (2014)

read: 29 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

A thoughtful collection of essays about some of the philosophies about sex work, more in how it exists in the larger society (and so, then, how we deal with cops, crime, labor, money) and less the day to day work of sex work. Gira Grant has created a great book about six work that isn’t particularly sexy or titillating. It comes from a pretty firm “This is what I think” perspective which I found useful and refreshing. It’s a short book and left me wanting to know more about what it was talking about which is always a good thing.

Unaccustomed Earth   book icon  
by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008)

read: 28 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: fiction

Another great collection of very poignant short stories usually about Indian people who have, at some point in their lives or their parents lives, moved to New England. Each story is different and a subtly different way of looking at otherness as it crosses generations and geographical boundaries.

We Are As Gods: Back to the Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America   book icon  
by Kate Daloz (2016)

read: 26 April 2018
rating: [+]
categories: best in show, non-fiction

Such a great book about back to the landers who wound up in Vermont and what was their deal anyhow. Told by one of the children of the original back-to-landers, this well-researched and well-told story follows a group of people as they leave their comfortable lives for a decidedly less comfortable life (but much more free, or was it?) in rural Vermont where they made all their own food, built or rehabbed all their own houses and tried to build a new world. Daloz makes the compelling argument that freedom for some was not freedom for all (men would work til dinnertime while women would work til bedtime, as one basic example) and even though many of their experiments ultimately failed (the original communes are mostly not still working today) a lot of the values of the original folks are still imbued in Vermont and the rest of the country in very important ways. Institutions in Vermont such as food co-ops, organic food choices, and the community college system came out of the hard work of some of the original Summer of Love expats. This is a story beautifully told, a great read for anyone interested in hippies, the sixties, Vermont’s DIY culture or general permaculture ideals.

The Moon and the Other   book icon  
by John Kessel (2017)

read: 23 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: fiction

This was a great deep book about a ;lunar colony but really about reimagining society to see what different types and groupings of people might exist if you got to start sort of from scratch. This book takes place on the moon. There are lunar colonies and they are very different. Some of them seem like Earth II and some of them are entirely different, with women in charge, men in subservient roles and a whole bunch of different ways of doing things. There are inevitable conflicts. This book is a fascinating thought experiment into how some of those types of conflicts get resolved. One of those books where I finish reading it and then want to go read about the book to learn more about the topics in it in depth.

Lost in the Jungle   book icon  
by Yossi Ghinsberg (2009)

read: 16 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

I read this book because someone suggested it for something but I couldn’t remember what. And so I was a little surprised that for a book called Lost in the Jungle it basically took nearly 30% of the book for them to actually GET LOST. I found this book a weird read because it’s essentially the story of people who went into the wilderness totally unprepared and... nearly died. Which I did not find that surprising. Ghinsberg is a good writer and I enjoyed his evocative descriptions of a lot of this story, but it’s a little odd to read it as a tale of personal obstacles overcome when one of the other members of his party actually DID die (or probably died) and that gets sort of downplayed. So, mixed feelings, overall a lively read.

Breakers   book icon  
by Lara Antal (2013)

read: 12 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: graphic novel

Picked this up in a cheapie bin at Drawn and Quarterly. This collection comes out of a comics artist residency down in Florida with some people you may have heard of and many you haven’t. They have to, among other things, draw every day and this is a collection of some of the stuff they drew. A lot of it is personal in nature and it’s interesting to see some of the same experiences (i.e. "that weird guy at the nude beach") show up as motifs over and over. I’m not sure this work would stand alone as a graphic novel to read for fun, but to get an idea of what was going on during this residency and see the various talents of the people residing there was well worth it.

The Postal Age The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America   book icon  
by David Henkin (2007)

read: 6 April 2018
rating: [+]
categories: best in show, non-fiction

Why is this book so good? Hankin looks at the history of how we send and receive mail with an eye towards looking at whether certain postal regulations seem to have had effects on how we communicated and even how society works. He makes a case that lowering postal rates in the 1840s dramatically changed the way we interacted and the varying way newspapers were priced affected how we got our news. He has done a ton of research and you can look into the epistolary lives of people who lived over 150 years ago. Along the way he has illustrations and a lot of amusing reports of the way society worked or failed to work and how that was interwoven with the history of the postal system in the US.

Ghosts   book icon  
by Raina Telgemeier (2016)

read: 3 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: graphic novel

I’ve loved Telgemeier’s other graphic novels and was happy to find one in my library I hadn’t read. This book is more of a stretch than some of her other ones--she writes about people of color and she writes about a cultural tradition which is (I think?) not entirely her own. So I both read this book and read what people were saying about the book and the way it represents Latinx culture. Next up to read what disability advocates have to say about the way it represents people with cystic fibrosis. I always learn something from reading Telemeier’s books, just not always entirely from Telgemeier herself.

Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War   book icon  
by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (2015)

read: 3 April 2018
rating: [+]
category: graphic novel

This is a great series of very poignant vignettes that bring home the idea of what was really going on in the civil war--the brutality, the spectating, the cruelty, the varied vested interests--in a way that makes it visceral. Even if you feel like you already know abotu the Civil War in the US, maybe especially if you feel this, this is a good book to pick up.

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