Jody takes it as a personal challenge to try to have as many books in her house as RiverRun has. She's partial to intriguing and offbeat fiction, provocative poetry, and reference books about writing and other need-to-know topics, with a chaser of mysteries, memoirs, and more. What's really getting her in trouble lately are books that blend literary merit with visual inventiveness, and books with unusual bindings.
It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs
More fabulous thumbnail memoirs! The sequel to Not Quite What I Was Planning gathers a new crop of pithy and potent six-word summaries, from heartbreaking to ribald to thought-provoking, each encapsulating and implying an entire life. Reading these is like eating M&M’s or pistachios—just try to stop! So, what's your (six-word) story?
The True Deceiver
Jansson absolutely deserves to be known for more than her Moomins kids’ books. There is both a starkness and a sense of generosity at the heart of her adult novels. This one, the seasonal opposite of the wonderful Summer Book, explores small-town interactions and what happens when illusions clash, as the uncompromising Katri interjects herself and her brother into the life of elderly Anna Aemelin. Here’s hoping there are more English reissues of Jansson’s books soon!
Settled in the Wild
Quiet and wise—a little gem of a book. Shetterly’s concern for nature is rooted in decades of close observation of her chosen Maine environment. Her gift is to see things as they are—that animals are predators and prey with their own imperatives, as well as fascinating creatures she has the impulse to rescue; that the motives of neighbors who resist conservation efforts deserve respect and understanding, no matter how frustrating the situation; that we must live in the world as it is without giving up the belief that we can improve things.
The Killer Angels
Take it from someone who’s not a Civil War buff—this telling of the Battle of Gettysburg is phenomenal. Shaara delves into the psyches of Lee, Longstreet, and the other major figures (including Joshua Chamberlain—this is the book the movie Gettysburg was based on), revealing how irrevocably the world was changing from old ways to new. Powerful and amazing—no wonder it won the Pulitzer back in the 1970s.
Beyond the words in the dictionary...and between them...and beside them...are all those quirky little illustrations that have always made me wonder who chose these particular words and who drew these things while I pored over the minute details. Now they get their own well-deserved book, a visual buffet of all those images that have nested in the pages of Webster's throughout the 19th century; even the cover has that gratifying old-fashioned feel.
Life seems pretty cushy on the Unit—no money worries, pretty much all services provided for free, even the snow kept out by a dome arching over a perpetually green garden. But as in all good dystopias , the truth is much darker for its “dispensable” residents. A haunting and moving exploration of the price we pay when utilitarian social values outweigh individual worth and dignity.
No gimmicks or cleverness here—Ozick writes stories in the classic vein, each beautifully crafted and gradually revealing depths of irony and even despair beneath the comic surface. Self-deception is the common theme in this quartet of tales, ranging from a conspiracy between the secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad to the downfall of a small-time actor in New York.
500 Handmade Books
When is a book more than a book? When it's an art object like the fascinating and beautiful pieces gathered here, which range from tiny to expansive, from accordion-folds and pop-ups to books made from computer circuit boards, sari cloth, and even glass. You'll never look at books the same way again!
The Brief History of the Dead
This haunting novel interweaves two story lines--one occurring in "the city," a vast metropolis where the dead linger as long as they remain in the memories of the living; the other following the struggles of Laura Byrd, stranded alone at a research station in Antarctica. You might say it's an apocalypse story without any real violence, but I think it's best described as an elegy to memory and love, to the ways we connect and what we carry with us as collateral from our lives.
The Book of Disquiet
What to call this? This remarkable book is not exactly a memoir, or a novel, or essays. At his death in 1935, Pessoa, a Portuguese intellectual and poet, left an enormous trunk full of unpublished work, including hundreds of fragments destined for The Book of Disquiet. Assembled from those bits, this "factless autobiography" of an alter ego named Bernardo Soares (one of many "heteronyms" Pessoa created for himself) is a sort of philosophical grappling with an indifferent universe. Move over, Sartre.
Ella Minnow Pea
What if you could no longer use the letter y? You would no longer exist--and forget about going out to play, or what happened yesterday. In this wordsmithing tour-de-force, one letter after another disappears from the vocabulary of the citizens of Nollop, forbidden by the tyrranical authorities, and from the book itself. Ella Minnow Pea manages to be both clever and charming, and a neat commentary on the results of power run amok. Watch for the illustrated version coming out for Christmas 2008!