Revolutionary thought of the day: I can’t stop looking at Rue, smaller than ever, a baby animal curled up in a nest of netting. I can’t bring myself to leave her like this. Past harm, but seeming utterly defenseless. To hate the boy from District 1, who also appears so vulnerable in death, seems inadequate. It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us.
Gale’s voice is in my head. His ravings against the Capitol no longer pointless, no longer to be ignored. Rue’s death has forced me to confront my own fury against the cruelty, the (Read more…)
This is the first in a series of reviews of youth (formerly called YA, or young-adult) novels, which I will be reading in no particular order and with no particular method. I love youth literature, and it’s simply a pleasure to read what I want once again, with no schoolwork hanging over my head. As with all my “what i’m reading” posts, if it seems that I like everything I read, it’s because I only write about books I enjoyed.
I finally read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I’ve been intensely curious about this book since it was released (Read more…)
Roddy Doyle is one of my favourite authors. I read everything he publishes for adults, but I had never read any of his children’s books before. I recently read two of them, and I’m so glad I did.
Wilderness, Roddy Doyle, 2007
In this story, a mother and her two sons set out on winter adventure vacation in Finland. They need some time alone together, while the boys’ teenage sister (their mom’s stepdaughter) needs some time alone to meet her biological mother.
The girl is a sullen, angry adolescent, trapped in her own confusing emotions, which she feels unable to (Read more…)
It’s been a while since I’ve written about children’s books, and an even longer while since I’ve done an interspecies love post, so why not combine the two? There’s a spate of children’s books depicting cross-species animal friendships, some excellent, some better avoided.
Children love these stories for the same reasons we do. There is something so touching – and off-the-charts cute! – about these friendships between animals who should, by nature, be afraid of each other, or even in a very different kind of relationship – at mealtime.
For kids, some of these books have a moral overlay, teaching
. . . → Read More: wmtc: children’s books # 6: the return of interspecies love
In anticipation of an upcoming trip to Spain, I’m re-reading For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway’s novel based on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. I haven’t read Hemingway since the 1980s, and I’m enjoying it much more than I expected to.
I had mis-remembered Hemingway as a harsher, more macho voice. Maybe it was his love of bullfighting and hunting, or his personal image as a tough guy, but I was expecting bellicosity and possibly sexism. I didn’t find it. The voice is warm and generous, and he writes with great sensitivity and respect, and keen
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading (and why): for whom the bell tolls
Revolutionary thought of the day: Across the road at the sawmill smoke was coming out of the chimney and Anselmo could smell it blown toward him through the snow. The fascists are warm, he thought, and they are comfortable, and tomorrow night we will kill them. It is a strange thing and I do not like to think of it. I have watched them all day and they are the same men that we are. I believe that I could walk up to the mill and knock on the door and I would be welcome except that they have orders
. . . → Read More: wmtc: rtod
After finally getting Jill Lepore’s “Lie Factory” posted on this blog, I will go back even further, to something I’ve wanted to post for nearly two years. No matter the date, this piece is timeless, and more relevant with every passing day.
This lengthy essay by Nicholson Baker ran in Harper’s in May of 2011: “Why I’m a pacifist: The dangerous myth of the Good War”. It’s available by pdf download with a Harper’s subscription, or (I hope) at your local library, or from me by request. (Artwork from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore, PA.)
. . . → Read More: wmtc: and one great read from harper’s: nicholson baker on "why i’m a pacifist: the dangerous myth of the good war"
The current New Yorker stories by Joseph Mitchell has given me an opportunity to post something I’ve been meaning to share for ages.
Last September, Jill Lepore unearthed an incredible bit of history, a piece of the American past that is alive with us today, and more dangerous than ever. (I am generally interested in anything Lepore writes; last year I gushed over her reviews of books about Clarence Darrow, one of my abiding heroes.)
In this piece, Lepore writes about the roots of political advertising – the falsehoods and trickery, the lies and slander, the deception and
. . . → Read More: wmtc: two great reads from the new yorker, part 2: jill lepore on political advertising
The New Yorker has given us a singularly rare gift: new writing by Joseph Mitchell.
Joseph Mitchell wrote about New York City and the multiplicity of people who inhabit it. Mitchell wrote nonfiction portraits of quirky people, overlooked trades, unknown professions, obsessive collectors. His warm, meticulous prose brought people to life before your eyes. He wrote beautifully, and with great respect for the endless diversity of humanity, long before diversity was a buzzword.
First edition, found here.
Mitchell wrote from 1929 to 1964. Then he stopped writing – stopped completely. In one of the most famous writer’s blocks known in
. . . → Read More: wmtc: two great reads from the new yorker, part 1: joseph mitchell on himself
In this post, I look at two nonfiction books for young readers. Both are featured in the current “Forest of Reading” program, a province-wide recreational reading program sponsored by the Ontario Library Association. Both fiction and nonfiction winners of the various Forest of Reading awards – Silver Birch, Red Maple, and so on – are featured in public and school libraries throughout the province. In other words, lots of kids will read these books. And that is a very good thing.
The Sea Wolves: Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest, Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read, 2012
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading, children’s books edition: # 5
A while back, I wrote some “what i’m reading” posts under the general category “books on books”. Allan has just added to this small collection with a post about The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, a book by Alan Jacobs. If you are a self-reflective reader, and if you suffer from a tendency to judge yourself and your choices, I recommend it.
For the record, my earlier posts:
Part 1: Robert Darnton’s The Case for Books
Part 2: James Shapiro’s Contested Will, his demolition of the who-wrote-Shakespeare “scholarship”
Part 3: Reading Matters:
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, 1962
A Wrinkle in Time has always been one of my favourite books. Although I have re-read it a few times over the years, I approached it for this series with some trepidation, a bit concerned that I might no longer recommend it to young readers. I needn’t have worried. The book – continually in print since it was first published in 1962 – was reissued last year in a special 50th anniversary printing, and with very good reason.
From the moment we begin, we are drawn to Meg – confused
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading, children’s books edition: # 4
I am reading Changó’s Beads and Two-tone Shoes, the latest novel by William Kennedy, one of my very favourite authors, and in my opinion, one of the greatest English-language writers of our time. Changó’s Beads is Kennedy’s first novel in several years, and after not reading him for so long, his work is a bracing shock of beauty and possibility.
I’ve read all of Kennedy’s fiction – Legs, Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, Ironweed, Quinn’s Book, Very Old Bones, The Flaming Corsage, and Roscoe – and loved each one, each book very different, but
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading: chango’s beads and two-tone shoes (and maybe more, again) by william kennedy
How this series works: I write about one or two older books, offer an my opinion on whether the book will be relevant and accessible to children today, and suggest a more contemporary equivalent. I also recommend two additional children’s books.
* * * *
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, 1959Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, 1987, first of series of five books
Sam Gribley, the teenage hero of My Side of the Mountain, runs away from his crowded New York City home, determined to live off the land. He brings only a few
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading, children’s books edition: # 2
This is the first post in an occasional series about children’s books. My plan is to intersperse children’s book among my usual reading, and to write short reviews of several books for young people in one post.
In each, I’ll include one or two older books thought to be classics, and give an opinion on the question: Does this book hold up? Is it still relevant and accessible to children today? Would I suggest it to a young reader, or is there a contemporary equivalent that I’d choose instead?
I’ll also write about two other children’s books that I recommend.
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading, children’s books edition: # 1
Of all the aspects of librarianship that I know about, the piece I’m most excited about is readers’ advisory.
Readers’ advisory is the library term for answering that important question… “What to read next?” Questions like, “Do you have any more books like this one?”, “I’m tired of reading mysteries, I need something different,” and “I loved this book, I want another just like it,” are all about readers’ advisory.
I was surprised to learn that adult readers ask library staff for book recommendations all the time. In my own reading, I am guided by almost exclusively by
. . . → Read More: wmtc: trials of a student librarian: readers’ advisory, the library thing i love best
Since quitting my horrible job, I’ve discovered that I actually can read for myself during the school term. I can’t read as much as I’d like to, but then, I never can. It was still amazing, in the middle of a school term, to put my feet up and read a book.
I’ve just finished a wonderful nonfiction book which I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys history, especially the history of science: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. The book’s
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading: the ghost map by steven johnson
An ongoing theme in my life has been ridding myself of as many shoulds as I possibly can – or, to put it more positively, to spend my time doing what I want, rather than what some voice inside my head or some external pressure tells me I ought to.
We all have obligations. Work, family, exercise – there are always things we don’t really want to do, but must do anyway. Then there are the obligations we give ourselves, the shoulds we add to our own too-full plates. Those are the ones I’ve been shedding.
Lunches with co-workers that
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading: shoulds vs. wants
Eponyms everywhere! Who knew?
Our most recent list of eponyms was a smash success. It gave rise to at least three subcategories, as I wrote here:
- Inventor/creator/discoverer, not genericized. These are eponyms, but have not entered the vocabulary as a separate noun or descriptor. Example: Alzheimer’s. Compare to pasteurized.
- Fictional characters— Mythological names—– Biblical names
This list is more specific, and more difficult. Allan and I have done this one before, and even with help from a well-read listserv, came up with only a handful. (Idea for new reality show: Are you smarter than Wallace-L?
. . . → Read More: wmtc: we like lists: list # 19: more eponyms, subcategory edition
Here I am again, gushing about another novel by Colson Whitehead. For my last grab at pleasure reading before trudging back to my grad-school cell, I went back to the only book by Whitehead – fiction and nonfiction – that I hadn’t read: John Henry Days, published in 2001 and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. I don’t know why I didn’t read this book when it first came out, since I loved Whitehead’s debut novel, The Intuitionist. And once again, a novel by this man knocks me out.
On the surface, this book combines two central stories. One is
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what im reading: john henry days, by colson whitehead
I’ve been looking for some fitting tribute to Gore Vidal, who died last week at age 86, to post here. The internet is full of Vidal’s aphorisms and his cutting wit, but those are the easiest and least meaningful tributes.
Vidal was a great thinker, and a great writer, with a ceaselessly open and curious mind. He was also a man who lived by and on his own terms, always. People often refer to Vidal as gay, but he did not identify himself that way. He was openly bisexual, and polyamorous, and he and Howard Austen, Vidal’s life partner
. . . → Read More: wmtc: we should all miss gore vidal
Allan is in the midst of a giant Stephen King reading and writing project, and in honour of that, I’m reading my first ever book by Stephen King.
From this post, I was moved to read the novella The Body (which was adapted into the movie “Stand By Me”). Allan’s description of the novella made it sound like a very good young adult story, so I decided to give it a go.
This made me think: why have I not read one single book by – as the book jacket tells me – the world’s best selling novelist? I
. . . → Read More: wmtc: we like lists: list # 16: conformity and its discontents
Before reading Invisible Man, I thought the book’s title referred to the invisibility of black men in white society, but it turns out I was mistaken.
Ellison didn’t call his masterpiece “Invisible Men“. The titular Man refers to a man – an individual, a person, a human being with a unique identity. The man in question realizes he is invisible because he is always seen as a Black Man, always slotted into one of the ways black people are perceived in American society – not just by white people, but by black people, too, and all the time.
. . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading: further thoughts on ralph ellison’s invisible man