Because I live under a middle-aged rock, I didn’t know about the Hyperbole and a Half blog until I heard Allie Brosh speaking on "Fresh Air" (NPR? I know, right?). The interview focused mostly on her struggles with depression, which is why I originally added this to my reading list. And then I read it, and holy cow, I cracked up.
It’s not often my husband turns to me while I’m reading in bed and tells me to quiet down. But with *every single chapter* of Hyperbole and a Half, that’s what he did because I was laughing so much. I just loved every story Brosh told and the way she told it. I could relate to more stories than I care to admit to, especially the Simple Dog and Helper Dog stories… I have a similar dog myself.
The real sad part about all of this is that Brosh doesn’t seem to be updating her website since the around the time the book was released; October 2013 is the last post. Maybe she’s working on another book? Let’s hope so!
It’s not often that a book can immediately change the way you live your day-to-day life. But The Omnivore’s Dilemma changed mine, immediately.
For me, it was just a matter of learning things I didn’t know before. I didn’t have to be convinced to change my behavior. I just had to gain full knowledge of what my behavior was supporting--its effects on my body, on society, on the environment, and on the world around me. And that was enough.
So much of the food we buy and eat today goes to such great lengths to conceal its origins and its larger effect on the world. Take some time to learn what you’re putting into your body and what you’re spending your money on. Then think about why. Then decide what you want to do about it.
Instead of going on about how important this book was to me (and completely avoiding any analysis of it as a work of literature), I think the best way to demonstrate some of the changes I’ve made is to share a few of the websites I’ve recently bookmarked. Once I started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I started researching on my own. How can I make practical changes in my own life? With more information and knowledge of local resources.
Ohio-focused info (I live in central Ohio, and naturally, I looked first for information about my local area. I’m sure a quick search would turn up similar resources for your area.)
I hope that small peek conveys an idea of the wealth of information out there. You don’t have to buy into a corporate or industrial food system. You have many options whether you live in the country or the city. All you need is knowledge!
In this delightful young adult novel, a 14-year-old girl who has just moved to Martha’s Vineyard gets involved in the environmental movement of the 1970s. Although Clem is already reading Silent Spring on her father’s suggestion, her immediate motivation is her interest in a shy boy who’s involved in restoring the osprey population of Martha’s Vineyard after they’ve been nearly wiped out from pesticide use.
I really loved how Washashore weaves in a real-life environmental message with realistic teenage problems—fitting in, feeling isolated, being bullied, watching her parents’ marriage dissolve, growing up before she’s quite ready, feeling like she needs to save the world, dealing with her first romantic relationship… whew! Really, there’s a lot packed into here.
Washashore’s characters feel very real. They all have their own lives and concerns happening outside of Clem’s point of view, and that influences how they act toward one another. The pacing is steady throughout, building up to tension in several key scenes. And I especially liked that not everything works out perfectly for Clem. She’s at an age where she has to deal with adult issues without really having the experience and skills she needs to handle them. She does her very best at everything she tries, and still there are wins and losses. So she has to learn how to move on from those.
The author has pulled together a story that incorporates so many important themes in such a subtle way that it’s easy just to follow the characters along without noticing it. Instead, you grow along with them as they battle forces in their own lives. I would definitely recommend this both for young teenagers looking for a reflection of themselves and for their parents.
Before reading Destiny of the Republic, I knew roughly three things about James A. Garfield: 1. He’d been president once, a long time ago; 2. He shared his name with a cartoon cat; 3. Wasn’t he one of the ones who was shot? I didn’t have any particular interest in learning any more about him, but a friend recommended this book when I said that I enjoyed Devil in the White City.
Since I started reading this, I’ve found ways to work interesting facts about Garfield--as well as Alexander Graham Bell, metal detectors, the New York Customs House, Abraham Lincoln, mental health and medical history, and so much other stuff–into many other conversations. My friends know more about Garfield now than before I started reading this! If my American History classes in high school had been this engaging, I would have remembered a lot more of the details.
I got this from the library as an audio book that I listened to in the car. The writing is so personal and close that I found myself crying some mornings on the way to work. Sometimes just in utter frustration at how many tiny things could have gone differently, which would have allowed Garfield to live. Candice Millard does such an amazing job of convincing you that Garfield would have been a fantastic president, and he was certainly well loved at the time he died. I used to live in DC, and I always wondered why there was a big monument of him right in front of the Capitol. Now I know why he was so incredibly popular, but he died before he was able to affect much direct and lasting change.
I could go on and on about how much I learned from this engaging book (and, if you know me personally, you’ve heard me do so), but it would be better if you just read it yourself. Seriously, just give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much you find yourself caring about this almost-forgotten president and his life before you finish the first chapter.
A lot of comics, even long-form literary “graphic novels,” tend to excel either visually or narratively, but rarely both. Especially when a single person serves as both the writer and the artist, there’s often a noticeable strength in one area. In most well done comics, I don’t even notice this disparity as I’m reading. I only mention it here because in Asterios Polyp, both the art and the narrative are so strong and interdependent on each other that it made me start noticing weaknesses in other comics. And that’s not a bad thing.
I couldn’t provide a plot summary without giving away some of the details that Mazzucchelli drips to the reader throughout the course of the entire book. There’s not a single blatant info dump to speak of. The characters don’t ask too many questions of each other, in a way respecting each other’s privacy. For the reader, the art serves to define them without relying on words–for example, Asterios’s blue geometric shape design melding with Hana’s red sketchy design. The words they do use are well chosen and reveal something significant about them--for example, the opening scene contradicts multiple things Asterios says in flashbacks later…what has happened to him in the meantime?
During an interview with Terry Gross, one of the “Breaking Bad” writers (either Peter Gould or Thomas Schnauz) said, “Give your audience two and two, and let them make four. They’ll love you forever.” Easier said than done, but Mazzucchelli nails it. And he weaves the artwork into the words in a way in which neither could exist alone. This feels like a comic that was conceived as a comic, or maybe an art project that we lump in with comics because of its similarity in format. It’s something special, a model for comics done correctly.
It seems a bit silly to write a review of Maus, because its greatness isn’t really a matter of opinion. It just is. So if this reads a little more like an advertisement, an effort to make sure everyone knows about this and has a chance to read it, then I hope you’ll understand.
Maus is a story about a man getting to know his father. Maus is a story about life as a Jewish man in Poland during the Holocaust. Maus is a story about a difficult family relationship. Maus is a story about mental health. Maus is a story about survival. Maus is a story about how essential, life-saving behaviors and habits can seem ludicrous when survival is no longer a struggle. Maus is a story about how trauma affects us and how that in turn affects everyone around us. Maus is a story about how essential we are to one another, even when we can’t stand each other. Maus is a story about marriages. Maus is a story about loss. Maus is a story about the overwhelming presence of absence. Maus is a story about immigration. Maus is a story about ingenuity. Maus is a story about real, living history.
Maus is a great book and an amazing comic. Just go read it already.
Like Moby Dick, The Old Man and The Sea clearly isn’t for everyone. But I loved it. You don’t pick this one up for the plot, you pick it up for what it says about the human condition. About each one of us, more so the older we get. Life is a struggle. Sometimes we get lucky and something amazing happens. But even then, does it really matter? We can feel proud and we can feel shame, we can face the world as an impoverished Cuban fisherman or as the great Joe DiMaggio, we can feel energy or exhaustion, and we can put up brilliant and incredible fights… but in the end, does it matter? We all die. We all struggle and die and then are eaten.
That sounds horribly depressing, I realize, but it’s not! Truly! How freeing to know that no matter what you count as your personal successes and failures in life, we all end up the same way. The trick is just to keep fighting. Just keep striving for better, for stronger, for longer. Be content with what you have and what you’ve achieved, yes, and allow others their own choices, but strive, always strive.
Santiago is like some kind of Zen master, never begrudging the other fishermen for their success, still loving the boy even though he has had to join a more successful boat, and deeply respecting the marlin who struggles so epically and forms such a worthy adversary. The sharks finally snap the calm, peaceful thread through this story, the sharks that defeat the old man.
There will always be sharks. There will be 85-day stretches without a fish. There will be giant marlins who fight for 3 days. There will be times you have to eat dolphin without lime or salt. The nobility of these struggles comes not from the struggle themselves, but out of how we react to them. Each of us has a choice at every moment to get angry, bitter, and frightened. Or, we can choose to recognize the ultimate meaninglessness of these tiny battles and accept life for what it is.
This story could very well be the defining one of Santiago’s life. But who will know about it outside his village? How much will he even tell the boy? This is just one small story in the course of one small life, the kind of thing that gets quickly forgotten by everyone else. But what is a life but a series of small stories–accomplishments mixed with failures? And what can a story from another small life contribute to mine?
Odd Men Out includes a little bit of everything effectively blended together, resulting in an action-packed story of a diverse team of do-gooders and baddies. There are a lot of characters and a lot of action to get though--not to mention a lot of world-building--but it all clips by at a quick pace, and never does that info-dump thing that so much science fiction falls back on.
The story takes place in an alternative history version of the U.S. in which the Civil War has ended only because the South and North have joined together to fight a zombie outbreak. When the book opens, the zombie outbreak is pretty well contained, although still ongoing, and the country is adapting to a new normal. What caused the outbreak? No one knows, but neither does anyone know exactly what mad scientist Dr. Pooley was working on before his death…
This truce of convenience doesn’t sit well with everyone, including Tom Preston, leader of a group of Northern loyalist terrorists who destroy infrastructure, engage in espionage, and generally lie, steal, and kill their way into possession of a small arsenal, including one mythically powerful (but untested) weapon. The only people in a position to stop Tom from leveling Atlanta are a rag-tag team of former soldiers, circus performers, pacifists, and others, all with their own secrets. Also thrown into the mix is a circus baron stubbornly intent on bringing some questionable giant lizards into his show.
Although I found myself wanting to explore some of the characters a little more, the author gives you everything you need to know to understand their actions and motivations. In a plot this complex, there’s not really time for much more. But I never felt lost or confused keeping up with everything, which says something to the author’s skill at understanding exactly what the reader will need. And with this many characters to choose from, pretty much any reader will find at least one to closely identify with.
I’d recommend this book to a wide range of people, but it would make an especially good gift for the people in your life who think books are boring. Odd Men Out just might change their minds.
If the idea of flipping one by one through 500+ art prints depicting every single page of Moby Dick sounds at all appealing to you, then this is certainly the book for you. To me, that sounds incredible, and I'm so glad this boo exists so I can do so.
This is not at all the way I pictured Moby Dick, but it’s the way Matt Kish does. And it was fascinating to get a glimpse into another interpretation. Not that many people have actually read Moby Dick, so it’s not always easy to have a detailed conversation about it. Flipping through this art, noticing the lines of text he pulls off each page and the ones he skips, and studying his interpretation of each scene felt like a conversation (albeit one in which not a lot was expected from me). A fantastic work of art.
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