Erin loves Stephen Colbert, most books, and all cats. She hates cockroaches and law school. Ask her about Moby Dick, the Moomins, and the Prison Industrial Complex.
Bold and brave. Knapp is a genius. A beautiful genius. This book is about more than drinking; it's about finding the courage to live.
I am so excited for this book! These are the women we need to teach our girls (and our boys) about; women whose art, intelligence, activism, compassion, and strength have made this world a better place for all of us. Each letter presents a different rad and radical visionary, a short bio, and bold and beautiful portraits. This book is fierce. This book is a must. Highly recommended! I only hope there are many, many sequels in the works.
- Erin B
Never. I never ever thought I would read a book about Mixed Martial Arts fighting... cage fighting if you need a visual. It's violent and dangerous, and in my opinion just stupid. But then there was this book; a world-expanding read about philosophy and obsession, failure and hope. And yes, cage fighting.While bored out of her mind at a writing conference Kerry Howley decides to follow a group of men who lead her to a makeshift fighting octagon in the conference hotel. It is here she witnesses her first MMA fight and undergoes a transcendent experience that she doesn't understand, but longs to replicate. That night she meets one to the two fighters she will follow over the course of the next three years. Inserting herself into their lives as a "spacetaker," Howely chases that unexplained otherworldly feeling while her fighters chase dreams of glory, fame, and brotherhood.This book is wild. I learned more about MMA and phenomenology than I ever thought I wanted to (not that I actually thought about those things until now). It's absurd, and smart, and sad. In a word--captivating.-- Erin
I almost read this book entirely in one sitting- a near impossible feat for me- I was just propelled forward by these vibrant characters, and captivating language.Barefoot Dogs is a collection of stories, but they are linked in such a manner as to read much more like a novel.The head of a prominent and wealthy Mexican family is kidnapped; and fearing for their safety, his adult children and their families flee to places all over the globe. And yet they remain tied together through their grief, guilt, rage, and heartbreak. It's funny, edgy, sexy, terrifying, and bold. Really, it's just all the good adjectives. READ IT!-- Erin
Once in awhile, you come across an author who shifts your belief about what is possible; about what the written word can do, and what a short, ten-page story can make you feel. Carolyn Cooke is one of those authors, and Amor & Psycho will blow your mind.
It's dark and sexy. A little violent and surprisingly funny at the most inappropriate moments. Like life, I guess. Cooke isn't timid in her exploration of the terrifying things we face everyday; illness, poverty, misogyny, isolation-- it's all here, but minus the bleakness you would expect.
Her genius is her ability to connect you to characters and situations far afield from your own experiences with compassion, solidarity, and humor. Add her acrobatic, razor-sharp writing and BLAMO! Mind blown.
As I get older, I notice my reading tastes changing, and expanding. After a pretty solid 30 years of reading almost entirely fiction, I've suddenly and unexpectedly swerved into the realm of the real. Non-fiction is what I jones for now, especially essays like these.
Each thoughtful piece in this collection is an examination on empathy-- how we feel for others; how our pain, and the pain of those around us fosters understanding and connectedness. Jamison explores such fascinating and expansive topics that the subject matter alone is enough to reel you in. But it's her experimental form and innovative command of language that are the real stars here.
A new favorite. It's hard to read this and not be altered, moved, awed ...maybe even a better person. Super smart. Super good.
Though it seems like the quietest of her novels, I truly believe this is Austen at her highest power- her most authentic. It was her final book, and the maturity of age along with a sense of time running out is unmistakable.
But don't seek out the high spirited brashness of Lizzie Bennet, or the genteel haughtiness (hottie-ness) of Mr. Darcy in these pages. Here you will find the unlikely strength and quiet determination of Anne Elliot; and the kindness and (eventual) fierce constancy of Captain Wentworth. Hands down, he is the Austen man you want.
Regret and jealousy; the heartbreak of missed opportunities; the joy of second chances; and the exhilaration of love, finally found. It's bittersweet, and beautiful. Read it.
After reading (and loving) The Bell Jar for the first time last year, I moved on to Ariel, but quickly discovered that a poetry aficionado, I am not. Desperate for more Sylvia, I found this.
And it's perfect. The personal, and intimate moments of her journals are both inspiring and hopelessly demoralizing. There's nothing quite like reading the private musings of an 18 year-old Sylvia Plath, to really deflate one's own literary aspirations.
But there is also an unexpected joy in these journals. Here is Plath's humor, compassion, biting wit, and shrewd observations, all wrapped up in her sometimes playful, often melancholy outlook; an honest account of a troubled literary genius. It's impossible to read and remain unmoved by these pages.
I could spend hours upon hours just gazing and soaking up these lush and realistic illustrations. Along side these gorgeous full-color plates is a text rich in information about the environment, life cycles, habitats, and evolution of hundreds of animals.
It's the perfect primer for introducing and fostering a love of animals, science, museums, and art in children of all ages. This is the kind of book that will stay in your collection for years to come. A true treat for the senses.
Part biography, part sociological expose on poverty, race, and education; all heart. I'm talking huge, huge heart. It's an honest portrayal of the life of an eager and vibrant young man. His family and friendships; trials, struggles, and successes; researched and uncovered by his college roommate and friend. And it clearly is the work of a friend, because the sense of loss and reverence in Hobbs' words is palpable.
Even knowing the inevitable end won't stop you from barreling through to the last page. It's a beautiful book and it will break your heart. But it's an important book. Read it.
This book is brilliant. And I had never heard of it until accidentally stumbling upon it one day.
I can see why it gets skipped. It says it right there on the front cover, "The classic coming of age gay novel." And I'm sure some people think, "well, I'm not a young gay man, why would it interest me?" But you were young once, right? You've been lost and searching for love. And you've been wild, and reckless, and eager. Isn't that why we read any coming of age story?
So yes, it's "the best gay novel written by anyone of our generation," but it's also one of the best novels, period. This remarkable book is about New York, youth, growing up, and figuring out what we want from this life. But at its heart, it's a novel about one surprisingly tender friendship and the lengths we'll go to to find a place to belong.
Outrageously funny, heartbreaking, lovely, and so, so smart. Read this. You have no idea what you're missing.
This charming book satisfies my new-found love for both diaries and New York City. Laid out with entries beginning on Janurary 1st, each day features the musings of the famous and the unknown. They paint a picture not just of that dynamic, electric city, but of a restless society always on the brink of change. Simone de Beauvoir's entries are particularly absorbing.
If you're looking for a tidy little book, a book that ties up all its loose ends, fits all the puzzle pieces together, resolves every mysterious plot line... this is not the book for you. But who wants that anyway? Life isn't tidy, so this just feels more real.
All the Birds, Singing is crammed full of hidden pasts, unraveling lives, and mysterious strangers. A bleak and wind-whipped British island is home to Jake Whyte, a solitary woman who raises sheep and keeps the locals as far away as she can. She's hiding something, and now her sheep are being hunted and mutilated, and Jake might be next.
What makes this book impossible to put down is the unique structure Evie Wyld employs. In alternating chapters, between the the eerie present day mystery, she tells the story of Jake's secret past in the burning isolation of rural Australia. But these flashbacks run backwards in time, bringing the reader ever closer to the tragic secret that sets Jake's life spiraling out of her control.
This is a dark but beautiful book that I just couldn't stop reading. Even weeks after finishing it, it's lingering on my mind. Plus, I really love a book title with punctuation in it.
A book like this sticks with you. It alters the way you think. It makes you uncomfortable, makes you angry, and it makes you face harsh truths. This book is crammed with facts and figures and written in such an engaging manner that it's one of the few nonfiction books I've found difficult to put down. Michelle Alexander's examination of mass incarceration as the latest incarnation of the racial undercaste will change the way you think about racism, white privilege and how inaction and ignorance perpetuate the system. It's devastating and alarming and absolutely required reading.
I can't really say anything more convincing than what's on the back of this book. I mean, a blurb from Groucho Marx... it doesn't get much better. But if you need my two cents, here they are: Sally Jay Gorce is one of my new favorite characters. An American, not-quite expat, bright and zealous Sally Jay is set to take Paris by storm. Sort of. Her madcap adventures and the outrageous people she meets will have you in stitches long into the night. Brief moments of sincerity temper the absurdity, and Sally Jay's often unlikeable ways keep this novel grounded. With sparkling wit, Dundy brings 1950s bohemian Paris to life. I've never really wanted to go to Paris, this book changed my mind... if I can only find a time machine.
Rainbow Rowell has done something magical. She's written a captivating book for young adults that will charm and delight regular old adults too. A love story, an honest look at mental health, family drama, loyal friendships, and nerdy, Harry Potter-esque fanfiction all wrapped up in the exciting, heady first days of college. Rowell pulls all of this off in one perfect novel; it's a marvel of a balancing act that many writers of adult fiction have yet to master. Smart, funny, sweet, and dizzyingly romantic, the love story alone will have your stomach flip-flopping with memories of your own first love. These characters leap off the page and I desperately wish that they were real. That's how lovely they are. She writes her characters with a kindness and genuineness that never wavers into sentimentality. All of her books are wonderful. Fangirl is my favorite.
I know that a lot of you hesitate to read young adult fiction, but when something this good comes along, it's time to challenge your biases and open yourself up to some inspiring and wonderful writing.
Sure, this book takes place around Valentine's Day, but it's really a message for every day. It's one of my favorite illustrated books, with the sweetest drawings. But you've got to read it to the end for the big payoff. If you're feeling a little sad or low this Valentine's season, just read this book and remember that somebody loves you... maybe more people than you think!
Quoyle, the unlikely hero of this perfect book, is a little dumpy, a little foolish, and a little pathetic. His life is collapsing around him when his aunt convinces him to move to Newfoundland for a new start. Confronting his demons, Quoyle clumsily builds his new life, and begins to believe in the possibility of joy and contentment.
I've read this book many times. I love it. Top five favorites. And it's difficult to describe it without making it sound overly sentimental or treacly-sweet. It's neither of those things. The Shipping News is dark, funny, magical, and impossibly well-written. It's just really, really good. Read it.
Pretty much the greatest encyclopedia EVER! Same snark, humor, wit and awareness that you've come to know from the website, just in book form. I challenge you to open this, read an entry and not either laugh out loud or be hurled into pensive contemplation. But seriously, I think this book is important. You should too.
This book pulled me in and had me so hooked I finished it in nearly one sitting. Is this a Pride and Prejudice spin-off? Yes. Is it the best Pride a Prejudice spin-off? Absolutely! This isn't a continuation, rather it's a different side of that beloved story. Longbourn traces the events of Pride and Prejudice but through the eyes of the people who serve the Bennet family (fans of Downton Abbey take heed!). But Jo Baker avoids the novelty and gimmick of other prequels/sequels and offers up a beautiful novel filled with romance, toil, and mystery; a novel that stands up all on its own.
I love the Everyman's Library Pocket Classics collection, and not just because they look gorgeous together on a bookshelf. It's the story selection that make these books so great. And Ghost Stories is no exception. Don't expect a bunch of traditional ghouls and goblins in these pages. Here you'll find humor, sadness, existential crises...ok, and a few sinister ghouls and goblins. These are scary stories of a more thought-provoking nature; still spooky but written by some of literature's heavyweights (Wodehouse's hilarious "Honeysuckle Cottage" is flawless). Absolutely perfect for windy, dreary, October nights. And great for reading aloud! So gather together, turn off that TV, get yourself some hot cider, and snuggle under some blankets for these lovely, eerie, hair-raising tales.
If you just opened to any page in this book and read the first sentence that appealed to you, it would sell itself. In my mind, it leaps off of the bookshelf, into your arms, and being finally introduced, you and it become inseparable.
Jules Renard's life is a strange and joyful mix of the mundane and remarkable. A writer, a father, a politician, and a devotee of the French countryside, Renard ran in circles that included Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Sarah Bernhardt. He inspired W. Somerset Maugham, and Julian Barnes' Nothing to be Frightened Of is largely devoted to Renard. Yet why is he virtually unknown today? I can't answer that, but I can convince you to remedy the situation.
This highly edited journal is really not so much a biography, but a collection of observations and anecdotes from Renard's lovely life. His tales are humorous. His quick wit, keen sense of irony are sure to charm you. Each small glimpse into Renard's life is quite simply, a delight. Bonus: Renard's obvious devotion to nature and his ability to write it beautifully makes this the perfect book to accompany you on all your summertime outdoor adventures.- Erin B
This is not a new book. I fell in love with it several years ago, long before my love affair with McSweeney's ended. But just this weekend I pulled it off my bookshelf and started thumbing through it with some friends. We laughed and laughed well into the early morning. This compilation is filled with witty, inane, and hilarious lists... sometimes the list concept alone will have you rolling on the floor and unable to read it aloud.
Excerpts from the list "Lesser Known Movie Prequels"
-Four Bachelorette Parties and a Friend in the Hospital
-There are Plenty of Mohicans - Erin B
This collection of short stories (and one novella) will knock your socks off. These stories are chilling, beautiful, and strange. The sense of foreboding and and doom that builds throughout the pieces reaches its devastating crescendo in the final story, "Apocalypse." And while solitude and death seem to be the central theme of this striking collection, I walk away from these pages with a wondrous feeling of clarity, calm, and awe. I really cannot speak too highly of Holt's talent and originality. You must read this! - Erin B
Give me a moment to dry my eyes. I'm still shedding a tear or two today after finishing this book in the wee hours of this morning I can't say much beyond what's already been said. So I will describe my experience with it.
About half-way through this book I was exhausted. Partly from turning the pages so quickly, but mostly from the unendurable sadness that is William Stoner's life(though even in my exhaustion, I was entranced). And then I realized that while quiet and melancholy, and with its fair share of villains, Stoner's life isn't sad at all. It's just life. And then the book opened up to me, or maybe I opened up to it, and I fell in love. I fell in love with William Stoner and his quiet university life. I fell in love with his sweet-tempered, lifelong friend, and even with his scheming enemies. I fell in love with the succession of events that made up this one man's ordinary life, and I fell in love with the way that life moved me.
I can't really explain what it is about this book. Yes, it's well written, filled with living, breathing characters, and perfectly paced. But it's more than that, and I don't have the talent to impress upon you just how beautiful it is. Read the blurbs, and other more eloquent reviewers. More importantly, read the book. - Erin B
I've read comparisons of this book to Alice in Wonderland, but I can't help thinking that such comparisons diminish the originality, charm, and delight of this book. September lives in Nebraska, her father is off fighting in the war and her mother works in the factory. But her lonely life is turned upside down when the Green Wind appears at her window and sweeps her away to fairyland. Collecting wonderful friends including a protective green jacket, a wyvern, and a determined key, September sets out for fun, adventure, and even peril. This book is a joy to read with plenty of grown up stuff to keep adults up long after bedtime. Valente's writing is enchanting, sometimes poignant, as she weaves sweet stories and universal truths that I think are entirely absent in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. - Erin B
I waited for months to get my hands on a copy of this book, and finally couldn't stand the wait any longer, so I splurged on the the hardcover when I was in San Francisco and visiting City Lights Bookstore. Both the wait and the splurge were worth it.
The Snow Child follows the lives of Mabel and Jack as they try to make a life for themselves in the wilds of Alaska. It's 1920 and homesteading is a harsh and lonely life. Mourning the child they always wanted but never had, Jack and Mabel exist in a distant marriage until one magical night they build a child out of snow. From this moment on, their lives are never the same.
Eowyn Ivey's words bring the wilderness to life, with intoxicating sights and smells that leave you dizzy with the need to be outside, to breath the fresh air. This novel sparkles like the ice and snow that swirl through its pages. A love story and a story of survival, a story of belonging and a story of letting go. But at its heart this is really a story about holding ourselves together when the forces that threaten to tear us asunder aren't only found in the dangers of a wild and uncharted territory, but also in the depths of our hearts.
- Erin B
A.L. Kennedy is an all-time favorite of mine. Her writing is unlike anyone else out there. Her story ideas, truly unique. I would tell you a little about this book, but that's hard to do without giving too much away, or diminishing it. I will say, it takes place on a boat shuttling retirees from Britain to America, present dayish. The novel follows the strangely misplaced, younger passengers Beth and mysterious Arthur, and explores the murky past between them... all this while Beth's better half suffers from a fiendish bout of sea sickness. Throw in some psychic mediums, dead mothers, and disappointing fathers along the way, and you have what turns out to be a surprisingly touching, humorous, and heartbreaking novel.
A.L. Kennedy is not a gentle writer. She's raw, cunning, and crude. Most of her books are manipulative and mind-bending, and this one is no exception. But her acrobatic writing will leave you dizzy and breathless and hooked. She's phenomenal. If you haven't read her, you're not reading the right things.