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August 20 , 2015
A Little History of Literature

John Sutherland
2014
ISBN-13: 978-0300205312
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A Little History of Literature

John Sutherland is British. He's VERY British. And you can hear his Very British accent on every page of this small book as he takes us through 40 brief chapters with each devoted to a single topic in the history of Literature from Gilgamesh all the way up to (hang onto something!) Fifty Shades of Grey. His erudite but accessible readings of the Classics and the Popular over a brisk 250 pages will give causal readers historical and critical context while providing more 'educated' imbibers with new insights and reading selections. Sutherland is a respected teacher for The Learning Company, and his new book could serve as an outline for an excellent and compelling series of lectures.
Highly recommended!




May 13, 2015
Silverlock (Including the Silverlock Companion)

John Myers Myers
2011
ISBN-13: 978-1886778528
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Silverlock (Including the Silverlock Comopanion)
Now back in print after too long an absence, this one-of-a-kind Tale of High Adventure may well become one of your favorite reading experiences.
(On the title page of the old, broken down copy that I used to read in the stacks of my hometown library, for example, some previous, properly enthralled reader had carefully printed in scroll-like text: "A Fine Yarn." That just about says it all, but I will indulge myself by adding just a tad more detail before sending you off to experience it for yourself.)

This is a story of a pretty self-centered, smug...some might say heartless or even soulless...young man who is shipwrecked on a strange island he comes to know only as The Commonwealth. He is not alone in this odd and wonderful land, however, as he discovers over the next 400+ pages in which he encounters nearly a hundred characters from literature and history...everyone from Don Quixote to Robin Hood to quite a few you won't have heard about. (Which is where the included Silverlock Companion will provide a necessary map.)

Along the way our selfish scoundrel Grows Up and evolves into the Noble Silverlock, and we learn the necessary lessons right at his side...and laugh and shudder and much else besides.
I could go on. I could tell you how even when it was out-of-print so many, many writers and critics and just 'regular' readers kept The Silverlock flame alive by sharing dogeared copies and holding live readings. Or I could tell you about my favorite adventures in the book.
But I won't.
Just go read it.

Trust me... Trust all ofUS...It's A Fine Yarn.



April 22, 2015
Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips

Walt Kelley
2011
ISBN-13: 978-1560978695
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Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips
OK, let's be Perfectly Clear about one thing right off the bat: POGO is the single greatest comic strip of all time. Sure, KRAZY KAT had e.e. cummings and Robert Warshow in his Korner, and PEANUTS was more popular, but I'm sorry, there's POGO and then Everybody Else.

Only POGO created a fantasy world of indelible characters in a fully-realized fantasy world AND interlaced it with a level of satirical political commentary which yet never detracted from its charm or humor. POGO was KRAZY KAT and DOONESBURY rolled into one glorious Swamp of Ideas and Gags.

And I've plum forgot to mention the songs! Where else can you find the complete lyrics to that Christmas Classic "DECK US ALL WITH BOSTON CHARLIE" or 'hear' Albert the Alligator serenade the Swamp with his ukulele and "I WAS EATING SOME CHOP SUEY WITH A LADY IN ST. LOOEY?"   

Only in Walt Kelly's magnificent, unique work of Art....yes, by golly, ART...the 'comic strip' called POGO.
I have never recommended a book more highly!


March 18, 2015
MAKING NICE

Matt Sumell
2013
ISBN-13: 978-1627790932
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Making Nice
I 'recommend' this 'novel' (it's actually a series of connected short stories which share the same narrator) as a genuine challenge to all those who think that fiction can and should serve to help us understand and empathize with disparate sensibilities. 
Our hero Alby is just about a 'disparate sensibility' as it gets outside of the warped world of a Dostoyevsky fever dream. He's profane and violent (he punches his sister because "she deserved it") and condescending. But he's also funny, surprisingly caring (he feeds his ailing grandmother spoonful-by-spoonful), and self-critically aware.

He's very, very human.

Can a collection of short stories convince you to understand and empathize with him?

Can fiction teach Love?
Create it?
That's my challenge, and that's my recommendation for this book.


March 2, 2015
THE AYLESFORD SKULL

James P. Blaylock
2013
ISBN-13: 978-0857689795
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The Aylesford Skull
Blaylock is back!

If that doesn't do it for you, then it will next time if you read the latest adventure of Langston St. Ives in this Victorian-era tale of derring-do and evil skullduggery.

Blaylock is rightly recognized as one of the founding creators of a subgenre of fantasy/science fiction called Stempunk, but his books have always been far more Blaylock and less Steampunk than other more genre-restricted examples of the form. Blaylock has a gently, whimsical quality to his writing which somehow matches nicely with the wild imaginings of his event-filled plotlines,making his world a comfortable one for a reader to inhabit even as all Hell appears to be breaking loose on the page. He also has written a number of pretty straightforward Ghost Stories and he often puts that skill to good use in his Steampunk offerings, as he does here with the supernaturally powered Skull of the title. 


Blaylock is one of my favorite authors, but he is...as is true of any distinctive voice...an acquired taste. Here's a good opportunity to pick up The Blaylock Habit.


February 19, 2015
We Are Pirates: A Novel

Daniel Handler
2015
ISBN-13: 978-1608196883
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We Are Pirates: A Novel
Yes, they really are pirates.

But not the Yo-Ho-Hoing, eyepatch-wearing ones familiar to us. These pirates are a modern day teenager and a dementia-ridden nursing home patient who set sail in San Francisco Harbor to find treasure but, more importantly, to Find Themselves. As Lemony Snicket, the author has written a series of Unfortunate Events books for children which had such a dark edge to them that they could easily have come with a Parental Advisory attached. Now he's applied the same combination of lighthearted adventure on the top with dark undercurrents underneath in this novel for adults, and he's equally marvelous at it. Some of the stuff involving the young pirate girl's dad feels a bit shallow, but that just means that the pirates steal the show along with everything else that isn't guarded closely enough. There's real heart and depth to the feelings here that make this far more than just a merry romp. (Although it IS that as well.)


February 10, 2015
ONE SUMMER, AMERCA: 1927

Bill Bryson
2014
ISBN-13: 978-0767919418
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One Summer

Bryson (A WALK IN THE WOODS, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID, etc.) is his usual breezy, engaging self in recounting the myriad of events and personalities which combined to make the Summer of 1927 a memorable one indeed.

It would be easy to underestimate Bryson's accomplishment and simply argue that the Time Itself did most of the work for him. After all, with things like the Flight of Charles Lindbergh, the Dempsey-Tunney fight, Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly setting a record for staying atop a flagpole for twelve days straight, etc one might think that it would take more effort to muck things up than it would to produce a book recounting that amazing year. But to do so would be a mistake: The real heart of the book is in Bryson's Voice which simply brims with gentle enthusiasm for his various topics and which never seems to lack for some new telling detail which makes even the familiar seem new. The book is long, but seemingly over in an instant. Just like all those summers we remember from our youth.


December 22, 2014
SCRIBE: MY LIFE IN SPORTS

Bob Ryan
2014
ISBN-13: 978-1620405062
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Scribe

Here are some things you probably already know about Bob Ryan, if you're even a casual sports fan:
He was a sports columnist for The Boston Globe for over 45 years
He's one of the most trenchant, distinctive commentators on ESPN
He lives, breathes, eats, and embodies a Love of Sports.
Those things alone should be enough to convince you to give this culminating work of his career an enthusiastic whirl.
But just in case it's not, here is one Big Thing you may not know about SCRIBE that might prove to be (basketball pun intended) the tipping point for you to take possession:
You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy the book.

Ryan's crusty personality cranks its way across every page, the portraits of the athletes and fellow writers are unique and indelible, and the writing is so PROFESSIONAL it will make you weep for the days before blogs and tweets sent standards down to the minor leagues.

 

December 15, 2014
Tigerman: A Novel

Nick Harkaway
2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385352413
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Tigerman: A Novel
A crazy combination of Joseph Conrad and DC Comics that shouldn't work but does to produce a tale of intrigue, adventure, and soul-searching.

It's the story of two people and an island...and, believe me, each is as fully-rounded a character as the other. A battle-weary soldier now charged with keeping the peace on the  environmentally-ravaged island of Mancreau befriends a comic-book obsessed street urchin whom he would like to adopt but can't find the courage to make the moves necessary to do so.

When the island erupts in violence, however, the 'retiring' Sergeant and his young charge have to turn 'superhero' to try and turn things around.

This is a story of idealism, hope, derring-do...and of darkness, violence, and catastrophe.
It's a tale that will never stop surprising you. It's a novel that sticks.


 


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August 20, 2015

 
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