Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A colleague at work asked me what I was reading last week. “I’m reading a novel about Russian polar bears written by a Japanese woman who lives in Berlin and writes in German.” “Oh.” You’ve probably never heard of this book, either. I found Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, on the German shelves of the translated literature … Continue reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

A couple of weeks ago I renewed my subscription to Netflix, just in time to catch the new documentary about American author and essayists Joan Didion.  It’s an excellent tribute, very entertaining.  C.J., who normally only watches You Tube videos about old English houses, loved it. He was even inspired to try reading some of Ms. Didion’s essays. And I was inspired to pick up … Continue reading A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

New People by Danzy Senna

I may be the only person you know who has read all three of Danzy Senna’s novels.   There’s a memoir and a collection of short stories that I’ve not read so I can’t call myself a super-fan, but I’m a fan-boy.  I might even have to confess having something of a crush, an author-crush, on her. New People, like her previous two novels, deals with people … Continue reading New People by Danzy Senna

Mississippi Noir is for Lovers

This is now my favorite volume of the many, many Akashic Noir series. It’s a high quality collection without a dud in the bunch. A few things struck me. Three that I’ll talk about here. First, I was surprised to find so little crime in Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin.  Does an actual crime have to take place for a story to be considered … Continue reading Mississippi Noir is for Lovers

Jane Austen Read All-a-long Book 4: Emma

I gave up. Full confession. I tried, I really did. I even broke down and got an audio version to listen to during my commute to and from work. But I just couldn’t take it. I think it in part an effect of this little reading challenge project I set for myself. This was the fourth Jane Austen book in as many months for me. … Continue reading Jane Austen Read All-a-long Book 4: Emma

The Nix by Nathan Hill

It’s good. I enjoyed it. It’d didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but I was entertained. A couple of points…. First, have you noticed, lately, the prevalence of the two plot structure I call What’s Happening/What Happened? In this structure there are two plots, one that is happening in the novel’s present and one that has already happened in the novel’s past.  The two plot … Continue reading The Nix by Nathan Hill

Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

My current passion for cool cover art led me to this book while browsing at Book Town Books in Grass Valley. The pulpy nature of the story is countered by the classy sophistication of the cover art.  But what does the art here have to do with anything? The book is about a hardened criminal released from a post-apocalyptic prison so he can drive a … Continue reading Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

How is it that I’ve gone this many decades without knowing this book existed.  I was as big a fan of Kurt Vonnegut as any of the other nerds in my high school class. I even found copies of the existing Kilgore Trout novels an “author” any true Kurt Vonnegut fan will recognize. I thought I had read them all. Then one of the guests … Continue reading Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth by C. Ware

If you think graphic novels are easy to read, Jimmy Corrigan  by C. Ware will put you to the test. It will be worth it. I don’t know enough about graphic novels to say this with authority, but I think there’s a visual storytelling genius at work in Jimmy Corrigan. The way Mr. Ware uses the page impressed  me from the get-go.  Some pages are … Continue reading Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth by C. Ware

Trouble in Mind: Two YA Novels about Thinking Problems.

My school librarian recommended both of these books to me.  Acutally, she tested them out on me.  They shound interesting, she said, why don’t you read them. They did sound interesting, so I read them both.  Both are good books, well drawn characters that would appeal to middle school and younger high school students. Both have good stories with happy endings that are earned and … Continue reading Trouble in Mind: Two YA Novels about Thinking Problems.

Jane Austen Read All A-long: Mansfield Park

This is a “two-gasp” Jane Austen novel. While reading it, I gasped twice. Jane Austen has this way of suddenly throwing her reader for a loop with just a tiny slip of narrative so affecting it makes this reader gasp out loud. She is a master of plotting. My gasping came during the novel’s first half.  First when young Fanny Price is forgotten by her … Continue reading Jane Austen Read All A-long: Mansfield Park

Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck

The farther you go into history, the more interesting things become. I’ve been teaching Medieval world history to seventh graders for nearly two decades now.  So I know a bit about it, but I’m very far from an expert.  Which is one reason why I like to read a book of history now and then. That, and I generally enjoy them anyway. The story of … Continue reading Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck