End of the Year Book Round-Up: 2016

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Original art by ALICIA K. BROOKS.

Yeah, sure this year sucked. I agree. In fact, I bet I had a worse year than you. But 2016 was a great year for books and reading. I read a total of 52 books this year, and that’s not including the books I put down (Girl on the Train, What is Yours is Not Yours) because they were too stupid or too boring to finish. I fell in love with mystery writing from the 1930’s and 1940’s and decided that working at The Snobbiest Bookstore in Seattle was not all it was cracked up to be. Getting fired from that low paying, demeaning job was probably the best and worst thing to happen to me all year. So… thanks? But good riddance to bad rubbish. Good riddance to 2016!

This year, instead of writing about every book I read, I thought I’d break it down a little differently. Enjoy!  And please do some research about titles you are interested in reading. I didn’t write the authors name next to each book because I’m lazy.

Books are awesome! read!

Total Books Read: 52   Re-reads: 7

Total Fiction: 44      Total Non-Fiction: 8

Mystery or Horror: 15!

Favorites in Fiction: Swing Time, The Story of the Lost Child, Slammerkin, Rosemary’s Baby, Black Wings has my Angel, The Gap of Time, Ragtime, Desperate Characters, A Bloodsmoor Romance, Romie Futch… and many more!

Favorites in Non Fiction: Killing Pablo, In Other Words, Absolutely on Music, On Writing…

Least Favorites: Damed, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Boy Snow Bird, The Buried Giant

Oldest Book: Wuthering Heights, 1847 (I’ve read this book about once a year for the last twenty years. It’s one of my all time favorites.)

Biggest Surprises: Romie Futch, Desperate Characters, Little Tales of Misogyny, The Metaphysical Ukulele, Black Wings Has My Angel, Rabbit Back Literature Society, The Pets

 
    • Absolutely on Music by Haruki MurakamiSwing Time by Zadie SmithSlammerkin by Emma DonoghueOn Writing by Stephen KingZen in the Art of Writing by Ray BradburyShadow Show by Sam WellerYou Are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse by Sherwin Tjia'Salem's Lot by Stephen KingSlade House by David MitchellRosemary's Baby by Ira LevinSmoke by Dan VyletaLittle Tales of Misogyny by Patricia HighsmithLiberty Bar by Georges SimenonThe Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. KingThe Gap of Time by Jeanette WintersonKilling Pablo by Mark BowdenThe Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonBoy, Snow, Bird by Helen OyeyemiIn Other Words by Jhumpa LahiriThe Carter of 'La Providence' by Georges SimenonMe Talk Pretty One Day by David SedarisWild Nights! by Joyce Carol OatesThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire NorthRagtime by E.L. DoctorowThe Shining Girls by Lauren BeukesMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom RiggsThe Metaphysical Ukulele by Sean CarswellThe Four Agreements by Miguel RuizA New Earth by Eckhart TolleWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëGet in Trouble by Kelly LinkDamned by Chuck PalahniukThe Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroIndigo by Ron KoertgeThe Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari JääskeläinenThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen KingBlack Wings Has My Angel by Elliott ChazeThe Late Monsieur Gallet by Georges SimenonA Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol OatesSailing Alone Around the Room by Billy CollinsDesperate Characters by Paula FoxThe Pets by Bragi ÓlafssonRoom by Emma DonoghueThe Yellow Dog by Georges SimenonGateway to Paradise by Matthew VollmerHow To Be a Good Wife by Emma  ChapmanThe New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia  ElliottThe Girl in the Red Coat by Kate HamerThe Story of the Lost Child by Elena FerranteWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

 

 

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Books: Shelf-Talker Tuesday!

 

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I read this book back in my college days and loved it! Before Gregory Maquire, Helen Oyeyemi, Neil Gaiman and countless  YA writers others hopped on the “Reimagining of Fairy Tales” bandwagon, Marion Zimmer Bradley did it. And did it well. This book was published in 1982 and is still pretty freaking awesome. She takes everything you know about Arthurian myth (because… it IS a myth) and tells it from the point of view of Morgaine. It is a lot of fun and good reading.

“A retelling of Arthurian legend from a female POV. Lovely writing and required reading for feminists.”

Books: 16 Feminist Books For Women’s History Month!

CharlottePerkinsGilman_HerlandWomen’s History Month has always seemed like a consolation prize, or rather a participation trophy given to “women” as acknowledgement that we exist, and are important. An entire month of acknowledgement is supposed to somehow make us forget that MEN are systematically taking away our rights. Women’s History Month is only necessary because women are still being held down, and held back. I don’t see a “Men’s History Month”, and you know why? Because every month of every year since the dawn of time is Men’s History Month.

But I don’t want a month. I don’t want a “special” anything. The world should be a place where there isn’t a second thought about a woman running for president, or running a country. Where we don’t talk about a woman’s appearance before her accomplishments. Where women and men can work and live together without sexism getting in the way.

But that day isn’t here. They threw us a bone called “Women’s History Month” so I’ll take it and run. The following list is made up of some of my favorite books which I would consider Feminist. I didn’t put any of the famous books on the list because… who wants to read the same lists over and over? Hopefully you will find some new, interesting and favorites among these. And yes. There are books written by men on this list. I hope you are not so ignorant as to think men can’t be feminists.

ENJOY!

  1. Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  2. The Temple of my Familiar, by Alice Walker
  3. A Bloodsmoor Romance, By Joyce Carol Oates
  4. Spinster, by Kate Bolic
  5. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
  6. Around the World with Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis
  7. The Mists of Avalon, By Marion Zimmer Bradley
  8. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
  9. Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit
  10. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
  11. Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
  12. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  13. The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
  14. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
  15. I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
  16. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Books: Shelf Talker Tuesday!

IMG_0069I’ve tried counting all of the Shelf Talkers I have around the store, but I couldn’t do it. I read a lot! I have Shelf Talkers in quite a few sections of the store, and I have fun writing them. I like to talk about books, so I’ve decided to start a new feature on my Books page: Shelf Talker Tuesday! I’ll take one Shelf Talker a week and post it here, along with a picture (and the text) of said Shelf Talker. It’s real Indi-Bookstore experience right here on my little blog.

If a book looks good, head on over to your local Indi-Bookstore and grab a copy. Even order online! If you live overseas, (or even if you don’t) have no fear. You can get just about any book you want here: Better Word Books. They donate to Literacy programs around the world! They donate books new and used, all over the world! If you shop with fuckingAmazon, please watch THEY LIVE. It’s about you. You just don’t know it. 

Anyway, on to the first Shelf Talker! Enjoy!

First up is: Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia (2015)

“This book reads like a Wes Anderson movie. And I mean that in the best way possible. A hotel hosts a music conference on the anniversary of a grizzly murder/suicide years earlier. A fun, funny, and clever mystery!”

What I’d add If I had more space: The murder suicide which takes place in the hotel at the beginning of the novel is very Agatha Christie inspired. The hotel is over 700 rooms, and you can’t help but think of The Shining, or any number of Poirot who-dun-its. The book cleverly mixes teen angst with a murder mystery, and even had me laughing along the way. It’s a charming, funny and exciting book which moves at a good clip, building suspense along the way.

Books: A Year in Reading 2014

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This poster is from Anagram Bookshop in Prague, where I used to work. It was a great little shop.

I am a book stacker. When I die I expect my body to be found under a pile of books. I stockpile. There could be some sort of book shortage, or even worse, Book Zombies! I’ll only have access to what is in my home! I’ll need variety. But seriously folks, I never know what I’ll want to read next. I choose what book to read based purely on my mood. When I finish a book like Lawrence Wright’s AMAZING Going Clear, which EVERYONE SHOULD READ, I like to follow it up with something a little lighter, like Stephen King or Joe Hill. I like variety so I read everything. Reading only one type of book is like listening to only one type of music – boring. We read to have new experiences and learn new things. And we can’t do much of either if we read the same kinds of stories over and over. That would be the equivalent of wearing the same outfit every day for the rest of your life. And nobody wants to be that guy.

I started out 2014 on a road trip from Texas to California with a Stephen King book tucked in my bag. Today I type this from a tiny studio in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, while Ray Bradbury’s lovely Dandelion Wine sits next to me patiently awaiting completion. I looked at the books I read this year and couldn’t find a common theme. Some books were about solitude and loneliness, and others about love seeking robots. There were flesh-eating zombies and murderous humans. There was even a mansion in a trash heap. I learned everything I need to know about Scientology and cheese, and reminisced about London with the incomparable Zadie Smith. I read historical fiction set in Texas and the Appalachian Mountains. I read a somewhat funny book about a not so jewish dentist, and an even funnier book about a whiskey drinking’ duck named Fup.

My reading list was all over the map, just like I was.

Since people are always asking me to give them book suggestions, I have put together a doozie for ya. Here is the best of what I read this year. In no particular order. I divided them into helpful categories because I work in a bookstore, and that’s what we do. I left out the few clunkers I read so you don’t have to suffer needlessly. You’ll have to look them up for yourself, or go to your local bookstore and take a look. Just write down the title and author before you go. We thank you in advance.

FICTION

  1. N-W, by Zadie Smith
  2. Serena, by Ron Rash
  3. The Wilds, by Julia Elliott
  4. The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
  5. Hold the Dark, by William Giraldi
  6. Fup, by Jim Dodge
  7. The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
  8. Mildred Pierce, by James M. Caine
  9. You Must Remember This, by Joyce Carol Oates
  10. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, ed Kate Bernheimer
  11. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  12. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
  13. The Children Act by Ian McEwan
  14. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (Be warned. This book has an almost intolerable narrator. A good book, but man. Paragraphs go on for PAGES with no interruption.)
  15. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

NON-FICTION

  1. Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright
  2. The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti
  3. Tibetan Peach Pie, by Tom Robbins

HORROR/THRILLER

  1. Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
  2. Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess
  3. Horns, by Joe Hill
  4. *The Quick by Lauren Owen
  5. Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  6. Her by Harriet Lane
  7. Crooked River by Valerie Geary

*This title is in horror only due to subject matter and style. It isn’t horror like Stephen King. It is literary like Dracula, or Haunting of Hill House. 

KIDS

  1. Heap House (Iremonger, #1) by Edward Carey
  2. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Books: 2013 Round Up

imgresEach year I like to highlight some of my favorite reads from the last year. I love books. In fact, I think I like books more than I like most people. I have a book in my bag at all times, I get nervous without a book handy. I read a little in every genre from historical fiction to non fiction and memoirs. I love books about history, and I love to read mystery and horror. I’m just a fan of good writing. Here are the highlights, the best of what I read in 2013!

  • I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley – Flavia De Luce is an eleven year old girl who has a penchant for poison. And chemistry. And solving murders. She is a lot of fun. This is the fourth in a series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything starting here. It takes place at Christmastime in 1930’s england, and a film crew suddenly camps out at the De Luce home. Of course there is a crime, but that won’t stop Flavia from trying to catch Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. She’s hilarious, and a lot of fun to read.
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman – If for some reason you have not read this book then stop what you are doing and go find a copy. I got mine for a dollar in a used bookstore. If you adore the film, then you’ll love the book even more. I laughed out loud the entire time. I laugh every time I read it.
  • The Dinner by Herman KochdinnerIf my first two selections are fun, quick reads, then this is a serious, quick read. This little book packs a powerful punch. It takes place over one dinner (with subtle flashbacks) and two families are put to the test over love, loyalty, morals and decision making. I loved the way the book was written – I love food – and there is a lot of focus on food, restaurants and what going out to eat really means. I don’t want to give too much away, because it was a fun mess to untangle. If you have kids, remember it’s just fiction.
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell – I picked this up on vacation in L.A. and finished it before touchdown in Texas. LOVED it. So much fun, and such clever writing. The story follows Ava Bigtree, the youngest in a family of alligator wrestlers in Florida. It’s kind of a fairy tale mixed with a coming of age story. I’ve never read a book quite like this one, and the characters stuck with me long after I finished the novel.
  • Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?  by Jeanette Winterson – This book was life changing for me. This is a memoir written by novelist Jeanette Winterson. It tells the story of who she is, and what it is like to grow up adopted. Something I know about first hand. She puts into words so eloquently (and often times hilariously) what it’s like living in a place where you don’t belong, and trying to come to grips with who you are in the process. It is heartbreaking, honest and funny.
  • The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeensundeen-the_man_who_quit_moneyAnother biography that changed my outlook on life. It tells the story of a man who stopped taking, earning or using money in any way. It is a truly amazing and inspiring story if you are open to hearing it. People might find him radical, but I get it. The world is a loud, noisy place. I want to quit too. The book takes into account religion, politics and government, and ultimately makes you question all of it. An outstanding read.
  • Dearie by Bob Spitz – I’ve read two previous biographies about Julia Child and I still found this one enthralling. She is a personal hero of mine and I find her life story fascinating. I feel like I’ve been following in her footsteps without even knowing it. After I read “My Life in France”, I knew I had to know more about her growing up in Pasadena, California (like I did) and what made her want to have adventures and move abroad (like I did). Dearie delves into the character of Julia Child more than any other book I’ve read about her. I loved reading about the courtship between her and her beloved Paul.
  • Duma Key & Joyland by Stephen King – I’m a King fan. When I finish reading a heavy book, there is nothing better than a nice, fat Steven King book to disappear into. Duma Key is that book. An accident takes a man’s arm and changes his life forever. But that’s just the beginning. He moves to Florida for a fresh start and takes up painting. Now the fun really begins. There are good scares in this book, and a lot of tension. Great fun. Joyland  is a pulp-fiction detective story about a college student who gets a job working the funhouse at the amusement park on the pier. Needless to say it might be a haunted  amusement park. This is a short, fun read that will have you flipping pages to see what happens next.
  • I Married Adventure by Osa Johnsondust coverOsa Johnson and her husband Martin were pioneering explorers, photographers, filmmakers and authors, who documented the lives of the indigenous people and wildlife of the South Seas Islands, Borneo, and East and Central Africa. Their films serve as a record of these cultures and a wilderness that no longer exist today. And they did this is the 1920’s. This was a fascinating book! I loved reading her accounts of native people and customs, and it made me really, really, thankful for airplanes.
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams – Another memoir about an adventurer, although this one is a novice. A man decides to walk the original trail to Machu Picchu. It is both fascinating and hilarious. And inspiring. A good read.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – I know. Everyone has this on their “best of” lists. For good reason. It is incredible. I have read all of Murakami, and this goes to the top of my list. I won’t try to tell you plot because it won’t make sense. Just know it is a crazy adventure that takes place in two worlds. Nothing new for Murakami. This journey is fun, scary, confusing, funny and endearing. I fell in love with Murakami again. And don’t read “reader reviews” of this book. Some people are just, um, too dumb to get him. Sorry, but it’s true. Anyway, he’s rad if you like weird. And I just so happen to LOVE weird.
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides – A modern love story. What does that mean? Well, that means a discontented wife and mother, a husband who realizes he has become everything he hated, a musician “man child” who refuses to grow up, and of course the teenagers who have to watch their parents realize that they probably fucked up more than a few times in raising them. It’s a funny and sad commentary on relationships, and how we raise families here in the states.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough3412I try to read at least one classic every year, and this time I went with The Thorn Birds. I had fond memories of the TV movie, so I figured the book would be fun. It was. It was almost 700 pages long, but paced quite well for an older book. It’s an epic saga of a family rooted in the Australian sheep country. It centers around Meggie Cleary, who can never possess the man she desperately adores, a priest named Ralph de Bricassart. Steamy. The characters are fully thought out, and I really cared about what happened to poor, put upon Meg.