30 Dec
2011

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

*Blair’s Pick*

This book, for bet­ter or worse, is respon­si­ble for my entire col­lege career. This is one of those books that I read when I was young and revis­it­ed it when I was old­er and has become one of the five books, along with my cat, that I would res­cue from a fire. My love of lan­guage began here and is still with me. It is with young Milo that I learned how won­der­ful and strange lan­guage can be, which led me to pur­sue poet­ry, phi­los­o­phy and lin­guis­tics in col­lege. In Dic­tio­nop­o­lis I learned that let­ters taste dif­fer­ent. I learned that Con­clu­sions is an island that can only be reached by jump­ing. I learned that war is what hap­pens when rhyme and rea­son are nowhere to be found. I learned that mean­ing in lan­guage is nev­er exhaust­ed, but always open to new and imag­i­na­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties.

30 Dec
2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

*Andy & Blair’s Pick*

I can’t even begin to say how awe­some this book is. Eggers plays with the read­er from the start by sneak­ing into the copy­right page and adding fun­ny snip­pets to it-a very post mod­ern move-to always remind the read­er not to take the thing in their hand for grant­ed. Eggers broke new ground with this book; it hov­ers in free space between sev­er­al poles- truth and fic­tion, youth and adult­hood, pop­u­lar and under­ground cul­tures; they all flow through this sto­ry of Eggers’ move to Cal­i­for­nia with his younger broth­er fol­low­ing the deaths of their par­ents-31 days apart from each oth­er. Moments like this are the heart­break­ing side of this book, and the stag­ger­ing genius comes in when he describes such heart­break with his unique post­mod­ern mix of humor and irony.  He was a can­di­date for the first MTV Real World, and the tran­script of the inter­view is includ­ed. I mean c’mon. That’s pret­ty neato.:)

30 Dec
2011

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

*Henry’s Pick*

This book threw a bomb into every­thing I knew when I was young. At that time I only knew how to wrap my head around my back­yard, and this book gave me the entire uni­verse. It was my intro­duc­tion to infin­i­ty. No longer was it just some­thing I drew in the mar­gins of my home­work. A Wrin­kle in Time made infin­i­ty as tan­gi­ble as I think it will ever be for me, fold­ing it into some­thing that I could fit in my pock­et. Even after delv­ing into the world of the­o­ret­ic physics and the­o­ries about mul­ti­ple dimen­sions, the ideas in this book still hold. How­ev­er, I think the great­est lesson in this book dealt with the oppo­site of infin­i­ty, which to me is fate. A mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ter named Mrs. What­sit com­pares fate to a son­net. A son­net has a strict form. There are 14 lines, all in iambic pen­tame­ter, but with­in the­se lines you can write what­ev­er you want. I think this is as hope­ful an out­look on fate you will ever find in print.

30 Dec
2011

The Art of Modern Rock by Paul Grushkin & Dennis King

*Jessi’s Pick*

Being an artist, how could I pass up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to review this book? Also being a com­plete music geek on top of that…well for­get it! Obvi­ous­ly, I rec­om­mend this book, both from an artist’s stand­point and a lover of rock n roll. It’s inter­est­ing to see the pro­gres­sion of poster art, the details and com­plex­i­ty can be quite amaz­ing. Even sim­plic­i­ty itself can be won­der­ous if used in the right con­text. You may even catch me flip­ping the pages on a slow day (shh…don’t tell my boss!).

30 Dec
2011

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

*KRISTEN’S PICK*

The day I got this book I was meet­ing my hus­band for din­ner, and (as usu­al) he was late. Which was okay, for once, as I got to start read­ing at the bar. My hus­band paid the price for being late, there was no lov­ing chit chat at din­ner, but a lot of “shush­ing” from me, along with assort­ed remarks like “I am try­ing to read”, and “where’s your book” (I love the guy, don’t get me wrong). When we got home, I stayed up read­ing until the end and I bet you will too. Lar­ry Doyle (an ex Simpson’s writer) has craft­ed an uproar­i­ous love let­ter to geeks every­where. With a def­i­nite Simpson’s flair, (and I mean that in the best of ways — I’m a huge fan!) right down to the oblig­a­tory “Mill­house” of a best friend (read gay) who also, no mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion, can­not stop spout­ing movie quotes, includ­ing their direc­tors. Who doesn’t have a friend like this? I have two (you know who you are). I can’t imag­ine any­one not lik­ing this book!

30 Dec
2011

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

*Ryan’s Pick*

Between fourth and six­th grade I think I read this book five times. Dog lovers need this book. Young boys need this book. Any­one who grew up in the coun­try needs this book. If you haven’t read it, you need this book.
Rawls encap­su­lates all of the large hard­ships and small vic­to­ries of grow­ing up and learn­ing about life in the back­woods and forests of any city and state. I think that this is the book that made me real­ize how pow­er­ful lan­guage and writ­ing can be. Pas­sages still stick with me — some 12 years after read­ing it. The rac­coons, the great sycamore, the boy falling on the axe, the side by side graves, the mys­te­ri­ous plant.
Where the Red Fern Grows was a book that changed the way that I saw lit­er­a­ture. It’s one of those sto­ries that you can read as a young boy for the thrill, as an adult for the nos­tal­gia, and again as an old man for the famil­iar com­fort that it nev­er ceas­es to deliv­er.

30 Dec
2011

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

*Marlie’s Pick!*

Ladies — this is a great sum­mer read, you won’t be able to put it down! It’s the sto­ry of a young girl, Lily, who leaves her abu­sive father and sets off on her own search­ing for answers about her deceased moth­er. She is tak­en in by a fam­i­ly of three black sis­ters liv­ing in the deep south dur­ing a time of seri­ous racial unrest. Lily is put to work in their hon­ey house for the sum­mer and begins a won­der­ful jour­ney of self dis­cov­ery in wom­en, fam­i­ly, love and trust. I swear you can actu­al­ly smell the hon­ey from the bees and feel the swel­ter­ing heat of the south in sum­mer! I ran out and got The Mer­maid Chair (by Sue Monk Kidd) the very day I fin­ished this — I couldn’t get enough! The Mer­maid Chair was great, but not as affec­tive and haunt­ing as The Secret Life of Bees… LOVED IT!

30 Dec
2011

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

*Kristen’s Pick!*

The first line is: “I was born singing. Most babies cry, I sang an aria”. Yeah, this book had me at hel­lo. I liked Levine’s oth­er books, (Ella Enchant­ed and Two Princess­es of Bamar­re) but I loved this! This lyri­cal re-imag­in­ing of Snow White spoke vol­umes to me about the spell beau­ty can weave and the use (and mis­use) of pow­er. Besides, I was born to live in Ayortha, a land where con­ver­sa­tions are most often sung and then spo­ken. This book should take its place as a mod­ern clas­sic.