Miranda July is a Renaissance woman; she’s a fearless explorer in multiple artistic mediums: a filmmaker, a writer, and a performance artist. I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, an idiosyncratic independent film that addresses loneliness and human connection in contemporary society. Loneliness and connection are common topics in her work, and her latest artistic venture, the novel The First Bad Man, is no exception to that. Cheryl Glickman is a middle-aged single woman who has her life organized to virtual non-existence; she has an elaborate system set up (this includes having just enough dishes for one person for one meal) to avoid devolving into a depressed, hoarding, non-bathing mess. But there wouldn’t be a story here if her life just continued on lonely and tidy—things change drastically when her bosses’ 21-year-old daughter moves in with her. The First Bad Man is weirdly wonderful. The characters appear odd at first, but really their thoughts, emotions, and illogical natures are so utterly human. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of Miranda July or who likes eccentric, well-developed characters.
I don’t usually seek out psychological thrillers but I did enjoy The Girl on the Train, often compared to Gone Girl.
The story centers on Rachel who takes the train into London each day, traveling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. One day, Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man and the next day “Jess” is missing.
The story is told through the eyes of three characters with plenty of inventive twists and surprising developments – at least to me. This is a page turner, perhaps to be saved for a summer beach read.
This 2014 book by Steven Johnson is subtitled Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. Those six are each described in chapters which are entitled glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. Various inventions are recalled under each heading. For example, the chapter on cold discusses the development of refrigeration and the chapter on clean covers advances in public health. The illustrations and photographs by themselves make this book worthy of examination. One of my favorites is the reproduction of the old Clorox ad on page 153. Available in four formats: e-book, digital audiobook, compact disc, and print.
I recently started listening to the audiobook of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and I love it. Amy Poehler is a modern feminist heroine to me; she’s funny, passionate, and confident, not to mention extremely successful and hard-working. Her book offers a glimpse into her life--relationships, career, and motherhood—and exudes all the happy humor you’d expect from the SNL alumni and Parks and Recreation star. Her motto, “Good for her! Not for me,” has really stuck with me; it’s a great way of admiring and encouraging other women while still being kind and confident with one’s self.
If you’re a fan of Amy Poehler’s television shows or movies, or enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants, give Yes Please a try. I highly recommend listening to it, as born-performer Amy Poehler reads it herself, along with guest stars such as Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, and Carol Burnett.
As I look back over the list of books I read in 2014, I am surprised how many of them have a European, World War I or II setting both fiction and nonfiction. That was not intentional. Many of the books I read are relatively new so I can only assume there has been many books with this setting and time published in the last year or so.
Fiction favorites include:
The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton
Lovers at the Chameleon Club 1932 by Francine Prose
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My nonfiction favorites of this setting and time include:
The Hotel on Place Vendôme by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown
The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit and An Epic Quest to Arm an American at War by Albert J. Baime (Not a European setting but WW II)
Do you have any of this time and setting to recommend to me? Contact me.
Janet Evanovich latest book Top Secret Twenty One has Stephanie Plum at it again. Stephanine Plum is a bounty hunter but not what you would think of as a typical bounty hunter. She gets by on being cute and lots of luck. In Top Secret Twenty One she is looking for Jimmy Poletti who is out on bail and has missed his court date. While hunting him down she keeps finding his poker buddies, one after the other, dead. She is also helping Ranger who has an old Russian enemy trying to kill him. As usual, Stephanie bumbles about and defies death a few times. You know how some hotels have a parking garage attached and there is a walkway from the hotel to the garage, well Stephanie finds herself on top of this walkway with a bad guy forcing her to cross it. Mix in 10 Chihuahuas and you have yourself another Stephanie Plum humorous bounty hunt. I have been reading Janet Evanovich for years, this is my first time listening to one of her books on audio downloaded from KPL’s overdrive. I love audio books but since I have been reading about Stephanie, Lulu, Ranger etc I have these characters in my head. Hearing a voice for Lulu that was not what my head envisioned bothered me. I and others had similar issues when the movie One for the Money came out. It was a good movie but each of us had preconceived impressions of how these people looked and talked. I think this is the highest praise we can give an author, Janet Evanovich has written her books so well that we have made these fictional characters real in our heads. I love the Stephanie Plum series although I keep thinking my goodness how inept can you be.Come on down to KPL and check it out.
Invisible by James Patterson. Emmy Dockery is a research assistant for the FBI and thinks she has discovered a serial killer who uses arson to cover his tracks. The problem for Emmy is that the killer is very good at making these house fires look accidental. Also unfortunately for Emmy one of the victims was her twin sister so everyone discounts her theory thinking she is just mourning her sister. She enlists the aid of her ex finance, who is also ex FBI to look into the fires. They eventually find evidence and the hunt is on. The story is eerie and you feel Emmy’s frustrations. The author also lets us hear from the killer. The killer narrates the Graham Chronicles where we hear what the killer is thinking and what happens to a victim. This lets us the reader be on both sides on story, we watch Emmy track and try and hunt the killer down, we also hear from the killer and we are shared insight into the killers thoughts and actions. I downloaded this book from KPL as an mp3 and listened to the story. When the killer was talking, it sounded very pompously and full of self-importance. I took an instant dislike to the killer, but to be fair I wasn’t all that crazy about Emmy. Emmy was not a team player, she ignored Book’s commands and just did whatever she wanted even if that meant she might have endangered fellow agents. I was glad when Bookman finally got fed up with her and denounced her. That was almost more satisfying than them catching the killer. Come on down to KPL and check it out.
I watched the television show “Castle”. In the television show Richard Castle is a writer who gets to ride along with Detective Kate Becket and her team. In the television show (and I emphasize this) Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) writes a book about Detective Kate Becket and calls her Nikki Heat. Someone thought hey lets write a real book about Nikki Heat and pretend it is written by Richard Castle just like in the television series. There are now 6 books in the Nikki Heat Series written by Richard Castle. Nobody knows who really writes these books. The book jacket shows a picture of Nathan Fillion but they say his name is Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion has even signed some books using his television name Richard Castle. The books have the same characters as in the show but they change the names. Richard Castle is called Jameson Rook, Kate Becket is of course Nikki Heat, Detective Ryan is Raley and Detective Esposito is Ochoa. I like that they renamed Castle as Rook. In Chess in a move called Castling, the Rook can change positions with the King. There after you call that piece a Castle. I like that they choose to use that play on words. When reading the books it is like watching the show but can get confusing. I was reading one of the books and watching the show at the same time, not exactly the same same time, and was getting a wee bit confused. In the show her mother was killed in an alley, but in the book she is killed in their kitchen. On the show during think tank sessions they toss around a little ball the size of a tennis ball, in the book they toss a basketball, I like the show version better. I downloaded from KPL and listened to these books on my mp3 player, KPL also has the print versions and digital. So whether you prefer print, digital or audio KPL has it all. Check it out at KPL.
Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle
Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul have written another book, Mirage, filled with the adventures of the crew from the ship the Oregon. This time it’s all about invisible ships and magnetic blue beams. A Navy ship sailing out of Philadelphia disappears and somehow an inventor named Nikola Tesla is involved. Give it a read at KPL.
Yes, I studied actuarial science before getting my library science degree, which statement probably prompts most of you to think, “I didn’t even know those two sciences existed.” But I bring this up, because I am currently enjoying reading/listening to three books on three completely different subjects, but where numbers and statistics play a big part:
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant
The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by David Sally
Lewis’ book The Big Short is a well- known bestseller that explains the financial meltdown of 2008. It is fascinating and infuriating and may leave you swearing like a Wall Street bond trader (bond trader is worthy of replacing sailor in that cliché).
In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant tells the story of the Harvard Grant Study, a longitudinal study that started in 1938 and has followed almost three hundred men of which the survivors are in their 90s now. The study was started as an attempt to, “transcend medicine’s usual preoccupation with pathology and learn something instead about optimum health and potential and the conditions that promote them.” The conclusions are interesting as well as the different factors they study over time that they think might lead to optimum health and the changes in the definition of optimum health.
Sally’s book The Numbers Game is to soccer what Moneyball (written by Michael Lewis who wrote The Big Short) is to baseball. As he crunches the numbers, he comes up with conclusions like launching corner kicks into the box hoping to score a goal is less valuable than just retaining possession with a short safe pass and that the team that takes the most shots on goal actually loses slightly more than half of the time.
Isn’t it great that libraries have books to please all sorts of tastes?
The Numbers Game