Friday, June 3, 2016

Books of May

Nonfiction
LEGO Play Book           Lipkowitz, Daniel
The Bird King and Other Sketches          Tan, Shaun

Comics
Sardine in Outer Space 2        Guibert, Emmanuel
Sardine in Outer Space  Guibert, Emmanuel
The Fall of the House of West Pope, Paul
Bandette, Volume 1: Presto!   Tobin, Paul
Daredevil, Volume 1    Waid, Mark
Princeless, Vol. 3: The Pirate Princess Whitley, Jeremy
Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling (Delilah Dirk, #2)      Cliff, Tony
Space Dumplins      Thompson, Craig
Barbarian Lord   Smith, Matt
Marvel 1602    Gaiman, Neil

Picture Books
I Did It with My Hatchet: A Story of George Washington Quackenbush, Robert M.
Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates   Usher, M.D.
Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus   Sís, Peter
11 Experiments That Failed       Offill, Jenny
Baby Loves to Rock!     Kirwan, Wednesday
While You Were Napping          Offill, Jenny
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America         Weatherford, Carole Boston
A World Full of Monsters           McQueen, John Troy
The Beginner's Guide to Running Away from Home      Huget, Jennifer Larue
Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (Elephant & Piggie, #10) Willems, Mo
Star Wars: The Death Star         Whitman, John
Pinkerton, Behave!      Kellogg, Stevens-
The House of Wisdom   Heide, Florence Parry
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson          Muñoz Ryan, Pam
Soon, Baboon, Soon    Horowitz, Dave
The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy is Enlightening                           Raschka, Chris
All the World   Scanlon, Liz Garton
John Jensen Feels Different (Johannes Jensen, #1)      Hovland, Henrik
Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story          Hopkinson, Deborah
I Speak Dinosaur           Henry, Jed

The Woods      Hoppe, Paul

Quick Takes
Shaun Tan is a genius, and "The Bird King and Other Sketches" gives us a beautiful glimpse into his internal creative landscape. It contains some process art which will be familiar to his readers, and other sketches which hint at exciting possibilities of new stories to come.

"Marvel 1602" is definitely one of the most creative Marvel universe adaptations, though it moves a little too quickly to give its characters time to fully grow.

"Knit Your Bit" is a worthwhile look at the WWI homefront. Pair it with a book on the Christmas truce, and you have an effective mini-lesson on the so-called Great War. "I Did it With My Hatchet" and "The House of Wisdom" deserve demerits for spreading historical misinformation. While Quackenbush at first works to debunk some common Washington myths, he takes a bizarre turn at the end, claiming that Washington witnessed the rise of Democrats and Republicans (the major parties wouldn't go by these names until the 1850's, and it was only in the 1980's that they developed their present alignments). Heide makes a noble effort to share the story of an Islamic Renaissance, but falls into major factual errors about the period of translation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Books of April

April total:27
Year to date: 102

Fiction
Dandelion Wine        Bradbury, Ray
The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)        Rothfuss, Patrick
Brokedown Palace       Brust, Steve

Nonfiction
Popular Tales from the Norse Dasent, George Webbe
In My Father's Court    Singer, Isaac Bashevis

Comics
Age of Reptiles: Omnibus, Vol. 1                            Delgado, Ricardo
Daredevil, Volume 3: The Daredevil You Know   Waid, Mark
Rumble #5       Arcudi, John
Mormon Shorts                             Hales, Scott

Picture Books
Hampire!          Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta
The Hog Prince  Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta
Leo: A Ghost Story       Barnett, Mac
The Longest Wait          Bradby, Marie
West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet    Hodge, Deborah
Mustache Baby Meets His Match          Heos, Bridget
Shamoo: A Whale of a Cow      Hill, Ros
1000 Times No   Warburton, Tom
Small Elephant's Bathtime         Feeney, Tatyana
Potato Pancakes All Around: A Hanukkah Tale Hirsh, Marilyn
Waga's Big Scare            Hiti, Samuel
The Blue Whale             Desmond, Jenni
The Story of Giraffe     Pigni, Guido
Beware of Tigers           Horowitz, Dave
Bambino and Mr. Twain                             Maltbie, P.I.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?         Gray, Rita
Swords: An Artist's Devotion   Boos, Ben
Do Not Build a Frankenstein!  Numberman, Neil

Quick Takes
I did enjoy "The Wise Man's Fear" more than "The Name of the Wind". I think Rothfuss pulled off the pacing better here, and there's less drawing of folksy morals here. We still have to grapple with the fact that the protagonist is effectively a teenage male who has become an academic (as well as a minstrel, duelist, and paramour) because he's obsessed with what's effectively a political conspiracy theory about an ancient order. So sort of like going to Harvard because you're really in to the Knights Templar.

"West Coast Wild" is a really cool alphabet/nature book. My nephews really enjoyed it as a read aloud.

And I have to give a shout out here to "Mormon Shorts" by Scott Hales". The book combines Hales' comics with some of his Mormon microfiction, and both are fabulous.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Books of March

March total:41
Year to date: 75

Fiction
Varjak Paw (Varjak Paw #1)     Said, S.F.
The Outlaw Varjak Paw Said, S.F.
The Screwtape Letters   Lewis, C.S.
Pride and Prejudice     Austen, Jane
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)    Rothfuss, Patrick

Nonfiction
Long Walk to Freedom   Mandela, Nelson
Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air             Ross, Stewart

Comics
Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin   Siedell, Tim
Batman: Year One        Miller, Frank
Roller Girl         Jamieson, Victoria
All-New X-Men, Volume 1: Yesterday's X-Men  Bendis, Brian Michael
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act   Gillen, Kieron
Batman: Earth One, Volume 1 Johns, Geoff
Doonesbury: The War Years: Peace Out, Dawg! &Got War?     Trudeau, G.B.
Walking Your Octopus: A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephalopod  Kesinger, Brian

Picture Books
The Rocket Book           Newell, Peter
Gobolinks or Shadow Pictures for Young and Old           Stuart, Ruth McEnery
Oskar and the Eight Blessings Simon, Tanya
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras       Tonatiuh, Duncan
Wolf! Wolf!     Rocco, John
Tyrannosaurus Dad      Rosenberg, Liz
Moonpowder    Rocco, John
One Word from Sophia Averbeck, Jim
I Used to Be Afraid       Seeger, Laura Vaccaro
Orion and the Dark       Yarlett, Emma
Fu Finds The Way          Rocco, John
Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing           Prince, April Jones
Dear Yeti           Kwan, James
Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo         Joyce, William
Missing Treasure! (Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs)        Andreae, Giles
A Pirate's Night Before Christmas          Yates, Philip
Scribble      Freedman, Deborah
Serious Farm   Egan, Tim
The Boss Baby   Frazee, Marla
How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? Jenkins, Steve
Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World   Jenkins, Steve
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever      Frazee, Marla
Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages       Frazee, Marla
In My Tree       Gillingham, Sara
And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street Seuss, Dr.

Quick Takes
Until now, I'd never read anything by Jane Austen, in spite of having several firmly Janeite friends and family members.  But I occasionally try to increase my familiarity with the classics, and so I launched into "Pride and Prejudice" and now I understand exactly what everyone was so excited about.  This was one of the most bitingly funny books I've ever read.  No wonder she has a cult of personality.

On the picture book front, if you're not already acquainted with the work of Marla Frazee, do yourself a favor and hunt down some of her books.  Her illustrations have an eye for detail while remaining ethereal.  And she definitely understands the nuttiness of childhood.

Nelson Mandela is one of the few world leaders to have truly risen above partisanship and self-interest in defense of justice, and he's one of even fewer who have become legendary figures in their own lifetime rather than toiling in obscurity.  He was gifted by Providence with an iron determination, a brilliant legal mind, courage, patience and magnanimity.  So it strains the boundaries of credulity to discover that he's also a deeply self-aware and self-deprecating author.  "Long Walk to Freedom" is a powerful work that will make you want to learn everything about South African history.

"The Name of the Wind" launched the Kingkiller Chronicles, and brought fame to Patrick Rothfuss.  Its quickly become one of the most beloved works of epic fantasy for multitudes worldwide, and I felt it was several hundred pages too long.  Don't get me wrong-- Rothfuss definitely proves himself as a worldbuilder, but in terms of character development and narrative arc, "In the Name of the Wind" nearly bored me to tears.  I feel like it's what would happen if you crossed "The Lord of the Rings" with "Tuesdays with Morrie" (remind me someday that "Tuesdays in Mordor" is a parody worth writing someday).  Maybe the sequels will justify some of the hype for me.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Books I read in February

February total: 17
Year to date: 34


Fiction
Interesting Times (Discworld, #17; Rincewind #5)           Pratchett, Terry
Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)       Wein, Elizabeth

Nonfiction
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad     Anderson, M.T.
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination    Rowling, J.K.
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think Caplan, Bryan


Comics
All Star  Lonergan, Jesse
Ravages (Orbital #4)   Runberg, Sylvain
Level Up           Yang, Gene Luen
Justice (Orbital #5)       Runberg, Sylvain
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1   Colossal, Eric
Binky Takes Charge     Spires, Ashley

Picture Books
Uncles and Antlers       Wheeler, Lisa
Verdi Cannon, Janell
The End             LaRochelle, David
Junior Thunder Lord   Yep, Laurence
I Don't Want to Go To School! Blake, Stephanie
A Street Called Home   Robinson, Aminah Brenda Lyn

Highlights
"Symphony for the City of the Dead" is a fascinating look at some truly dystopian history.  One part biography of Shostakovich, one part history of Leningrad through Stalin's purges and the Nazi invasion, the book looks closely at the power and limitations of art when facing down the worst in human nature.  Whether discussing how Shostakovitch carefully hid his opposition to Stalin, or examining the survival of Leningrad's library and the heroic efforts of its symphony orchestra during the darkest days of the seige, this is a powerful and gripping book.

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and trips to the Columbus Museum of Art and the central branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library both meant standing in awe in  front of Aminah Robinson's massive works of textile art.  Her fabrics evoked the history of the city and people as powerfully as any medieval tapestry.  So I was delighted to find "A Street Called Home" at my local library.  It is an accordion fold-out of one of Robinson's tapestries, and it was wonderful to peruse at home.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Books I read in January

I read a lot of books.  I've read even more since I graduated from college and got a part time job at my local library.  I track my reading on Goodreads but I've decided to post monthly updates here as well.

January total: 17
Year to date: 17


Fiction
Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2) Novik, Naomi
Book of a Thousand Days         Hale, Shannon
Full Cicada Moon           Hilton, Marilyn

Nonfiction
Creativity, Inc.   Catmull, Ed

Comics
Hilda and the Black Hound       Pearson, Luke
How Mirka Caught a Fish (Hereville #3)  Deutsch, Barry
Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir     Lee, Stan

Picture Books
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink Yolen, Jane
The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams     Koralek, Jenny
Kami and the Yaks       Stryer, Andrea Stenn
Sheila Rae, the Brave Henkes, Kevin
The Terrible Plop           Dubosarsky, Ursula
The Supreme, Superb, Exalted and Delightful, One and Only Magic Building     Kotzwinkle, William
Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's Konigsburg, E.L.
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On   Ehlert, Lois
Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys   Rey, H.A.
My Little Sister Hugged an Ape  Grossman, Bill

Highlights

Shannon Hale knows how to write a good book.  And "Book of a Thousand Days" is no exception.  It's presented as the journal of a lady's maid, Dashti, who has been bricked up in a tower with Lady Saren, who has refused to marry the brutal warlord her father has chosen as her bridegroom.  Dashti has secrets of her own, and the story develops from the difference in temperament between the two young women who barely knew each other before being trapped together.  It's a fairy tale that takes the mundane details of this kind of captivity very seriously, and addresses the trauma that is both precursor and symptom of their imprisonment.  Plus, it's the only fantasy novel I know of set in a society based on the peoples of the Central Asian steppe.

"Hilda and the Black Hound" and "How Mirka Caught a Fish" are both excellent contributions to very strong comics series.  It's still great to see the proliferation of well-developed heroines in middle-grade comics.  In the same vein I also highly recommend the "Zita the Spacegirl" books, and anything by Raina Telgemeier.

"Throne of Jade" is a book that I'd skip if I could go back in time.  It's got some great positives-- intelligent wisecracking dragons, alternate history, Regency setting-- but then dives into some deeply uncomfortable Orientalism in its depiction of China.  While I respect historical (or alternate-historical) fiction that includes characters with historically realistic prejudices, it's somewhat more problematic when the narrative acts to promote the "rightness" of their prejudices. And the scheming Fu-Manshu-ness of the Chinese villains in this narrative plays right into the hands of some of the worst things Europeans have believed about Asian culture. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Where do you live?

My wife and I moved into a new apartment this week. We had lots of help loading the truck. Mormonism is good at many things, and helping those who move is certainly one-- several fellow congregants who know us only as passing acquaintances spent hours carrying heavy boxes due to our shared belief that when you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are in the service of God. 

Moving has given plenty of opportunity to think about what my place of residence means-- in moving from one apartment to another, just a few blocks away, I'm leaving one community and congregation behind and joining another. Where I leave is not just geography, it's about webs of human relationships. My wife and I made many close friends in our old neighborhood, and decided to move in part because several families we were close to moved on, as transient college students are wont to do. While we had stayed in the same place, our community changed, and it was time to move on. 

I moved to this city for college, but I chose my university in large part due to its proximity to many of my relatives. I love spending time with them, and I'm so glad that my wife was able to meet them in the early days of our relationship. The closeness she has developed with my grandparents, cousins and siblings who live here fills me with joy. 

When she graduates, we will probably move to another city. Instead of seeing these relatives a few times a week, we will see them perhaps once a year, perhaps every few years. But we will still live embedded in this web of family relationships, and they will nourish us each day. I have seen that in our relationship with her parents, who live thousands of miles away, but whose love and support flows to us constantly. We live in these relationships as much as we live in an apartment or a city. 

Our aim, in choosing and caring for the place we live in, is to make it a place that builds these kinds of relationships, that lets us live in awareness of our bonds with those around us.