Are you bored by nonfiction? Yes? Well, The Devil in the White City will change your mind about nonfiction. Seriously, I read one of Erik Larson’s books and was ready to venture to the Smithsonian in D.C. for a book signing (but I didn’t because tickets sold out in five minutes…bummer…).
For some reason, reading about serial killers has always been great fun for me. I started reading about the essential serial killers: Jack the Ripper, Charlie Manson, etc. However, this book isn’t just about serial killer, madman, and general scammer H.H. Holmes; it’s also about the head architect responsible for creating the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1800’s.
H.H. Holmes creeps me out more than most serial killers. Yes, Charlie Manson got people to kill for him and Jack the Ripper had that whole carving up lady bits thing going for him, but H.H. Holmes built a maze-like MURDER MANSION! He was a true vulture, picking out young and naïve women new to the city to tempt and trap in his crazy murder mansion.
I have a much deeper respect and admiration for architects after reading this book. After all, the World’s Fair was a marvel of construction. I doubt the quality and beauty (there are pictures in the book…I know you wanna know!) of the Chicago World’s Fair could be echoed today. I’m kind of sad that they deconstructed it instead of trying to maintain it, but when they shut it down homeless people began living there and the White City was no more (Interesting tidbit: many of the people who helped build the so-called White City were unemployed when they finished construction, thus many of the former workers began living there).
How many times can I read this book before tiring of it? I think it’s impossible to tire of this phenomenal piece of writing. It’s part philosophy, part dystopian future, part ethnography. This book makes me afraid for our future, especially in America. If you’re in the mood to think about some deep shit, you must read this book. Plus, it’s a classic and Huxley’s writing is lyrically pleasing.
I’m going to be honest; I despise pretty much every character. The characters are weak and don’t ask questions. I’m a question asker and a rule breaker, just ask the headmaster at my high school. One character questions the culture he has been born into, and things don’t go swimmingly for him.
In Huxley’s culture, childbirth is considered barbaric, whilst ingesting drugs to make you happy and having wild orgies is totally acceptable behavior. It makes one think about culture and who creates culture. Are we a product of our culture, or is our culture a product of us? Who has power? Who has agency? What are we leaving behind? What will people remember?
Huxley’s masterpiece has been read and re-read for decades and for good reason. More exciting than 1984, more terrifying than Gattaca, and believable enough to be majorly unsettling, it’s a book that demands to be read! So if you’ve been slacking off in the classics department this is a great place to start. Drop some soma and cancel your orgy-porgy plans to snuggle up in bed with Brave New World before all the books disappear!
Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
When I was about 8 or 9, my brother and I found ourselves dragged along to a week-long conference for serious grownups. We basically spent the entire week stuck in a sweltering, sticky dorm room with nothing to do but color pictures of jesus (it was a suuuper Christian conference) and listen to audiobooks.
When I put it like that, it sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? But honestly, this week is one that I remember with fondness. The audio book we had chosen was The Golden compass, and I was entranced. I fell headfirst into the wonderful world where everyone had their very own forever best friend, where witches were wise women and gypsies saved the day, and one very loyal Polar bear took care of that one very headstrong little girl. It didn’t matter to me at all that I was being cooked alive in a strange room, and I especially didn’t mind that I was stuck in the same room as my EVIL little brother. We didn’t fight once, and that’s a huge compliment to the story.
I still re-read the Golden Compass every once in a while. And each time I read it, I find a little girl inside of me that can change the world, see the good in everything, and also see through lies. I have loved multiple copies of this book to pieces, and will continue to do so until I can’t see anymore. And then I will listen to it again.
It’s be a hot minute since Neil’s latest book came out, but with all the busy busy life stuff, I’ve only just finished reading it. And man, I need to tell you how awesome it is, because dear lord.
I mean, everyone knows that Neil Gaiman is the god of modern fantasy. (Right? you know that, right??) So I wasn’t surprised by how good his book was. I mean, of course it was good. He has like magic fingers or something. Wait, I take it back. It’s his hair. His hair is magical.
I was excited about this book miles before the release date. The topic of trigger warnings in general is one that I have concerns about but also am very passionate about. And I didn’t think it was possible, but Mr. Gaiman pretty much perfectly puts words to my feelings about the whole thing in his introduction to the book. I read that thing twice. I underlined things in the book. I spent days just soaking in the INTRODUCTION. I hadn’t even gotten to the juicy story bits yet. (oh. It’s a book of short stories, in case I hadn’t mentioned…)
The stories were all amazing. Like really. Highlights were a story about Ray Bradbury (that is just simply stunningly put together!), a story that is basically Sherlock fan-fiction, and a story about the real David Bowie. It was all mostly fantasy, definitely dark, but not scary. And poetically written.
This is for sure a MUST READ, guys. I didn’t think it was possible, but I loved Neil Gaiman even more when I finished. <3
Thanks to everyone who came out to book club on Sunday! We had a rip-roaring old time, what?
Just look at all these smiling faces!
The general opinion of all in attendance was that everyone should read this book! Why? Well, because it’s hilarious! and charming! And just general fun! Quite a few people at book club had already picked up another Wodehouse book to read. And let me tell you, once you’ve got the bug, you’re done for. All the Bertie Wooster is not quite enough Bertie Wooster!
The next book club will be meeting on August 16th at 6pm in the store.
We’re switching gears quite drastically with this book! On to the creepy tale of terror: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan! If you’ve been aching to get your thrill on, we got you.
See you in August! But also hopefully before then, because there is PLENTY of time to read a million other books (and post them for #KUBookBingo to win prizes) before the next meeting!!!
Okay, I’ll be brutally honest. Sometimes I’m a skimmer. Sometimes I just really get so invested in a book that I skip paragraphs so that I can learn what happens next. It’s a really bad habit that I’m trying to fix.
There is one book that I’ve read, however, that sucked me in so solidly that I read every sing word and lingered on all of them. This is that book. In fact, when I read this book, instead of rushing through it eagerly, I was so invested and interested and everything that I would put the book down for days after each chapter because I just really really didn’t want it to end. To some people it might sound a little backwards that the book that I love the most is one that took ages to read. But it’s how it happened.
I have read American Gods three times now. And each time, it was even better, and more full of hidden bits of truth and secrets. The very first time I read American Gods, I was in Ireland for six months. I was already surrounded by this feeling of magic behind the leaves of the world, and the hope that maybe I would see a fairy over the next hill. Reading a tale of Gods in our world while living in a place where there were surely fairies was intense. Magical. Wonderful.
But you don’t have to be in Ireland to feel the magic in this book. Okay, maybe magic is a strange word.… Power? Mysticism? It definitely instills a sense of mystery, of pondering. It is not a happy magic. It’s a magic that drinks your darkness and eats you up in the night.
I highly recommend this book. In fact, if someone comes into the store and asks for a book recommendation, this is my second choice. (My first is Good Omens, because it’s lighter, and sometimes people just don’t have energy for a book that pulls you alllll the way in.) But if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman at ALL, you must read this book.
Also, side note, if you read this book once and liked it, you should probably read it again. It’s now available in the ‘Author’s Preferred Text’ version, which is how Neil wishes it had be done the first time around. So you should read that version for sure!!
-I literally read AND listen to them once a year. Like separately. I listen to them once on audio book and then later in the year I read the actual physical books. (The audio book is read by Tim Curry. JUST SAYING)
-I have read through at least 2 copies of the books. At Least. Like I mean that I read the books so much that they disintegrate.
-When I changed my name legally (for entirely unrelated reasons), I added Lirael into my name.
Why do I love these books so much? Well, I would not have made it through my young life without these books. I’m not just saying that because they ‘helped me grow up’ or because I ‘learned valuable things’ or blah. I’m saying it because literally I would be dead if I didn’t have these books.
Okay, so we’re going to get dark for a second here, but bear with me.
I read Lirael (the second book in the series) during a particularly bad bout of teenage depression. I’m talking slight hospitalization-style stuff. I had already read and loved the first book, but Lirael is even nearer and dearer to my heart. Why? Because the story of Lirael was one of overcoming deep-rooted life long depression. I was dealing with that in my real life, and following Lirael through her own journey to overcome self hatred and depression brought me slowly but surely out of my own.
I know that not everyone is going to love this series as much as I do. I have a serious personal connection. But let me just tell you that it is worth at least one read. It is full of fantasy and survival and magic and a cat that talks. Seriously. Read these books.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is by far my favorite contemporary author. His work epitomizes everything that is good about magical realism and fantasy. Fortunately, the Milk is a wonderful addition to Gaiman’s already impressive body of work and is a great choice for kids of all ages to read alone or with mom and dad. In his usual, candid way, Gaiman relates the story of a father’s love for his children. And adventures. And milk.