From informal chats at the circulation desk, it seems the poetry challenge is the one many of you are procrastinating on. I get it. Poetry can be overwhelming, but it is a rich and wonderful form of writing that we would like you to dip your toes into. There will always be poetry books in our summer reading display for you to choose from BUT I would encourage you to do some exploring on your own. Go up to the Emslie room and browse through our recently moved poetry collection. Choose a slim volume (after all, you only have a few weeks left to finish your challenge card), one that speaks to you and take a few moments to sit in the quiet space in a nice, comfortable chair and get ready to fall in love with verse.
This might be my favorite category in our Adult Summer Reading Challenge–revisit a childhood favorite. I am currently revisiting Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. If you don’t have a beloved classic in mind to meet this challenge here are some ideas:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl Young Charlie Bucket can’t believe his luck when he finds the very last of Mr. Willy Wonk’s Golden Tickets inside his chocolate bar.
Matilda by Roald Dahl Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend.
Stuart Little by E.B. White An adventurous and heroic little mouse, searches for his lost friend, the lovely bird Margalo.
Pssst…all of these titles are also available as audiobooks. Check off two categories with one title!
If you’re looking for some short & sweet titles that will also make a big dent in your Adult Summer Reading Challenge, look no further! Two authors whose books will fulfill at least two (and in some instances four!) categories and are also a joy to read are:
Sarah Addison Allen and Sarah Kate Lynch–both of these writers use magical realism (bye bye “fantasy” category) and often have food centered plots (so long “food novel” category). And Ms. Lynch is from New Zealand and often stages her novels overseas so any of her novels will ALSO fulfill your “foreign writer/foreign setting” category. Make it a “reader’s choice” and you’ve knocked off a third of your challenge card with a single short & sweet read.
Will you be joining Audra and I at the July 12th meeting of the Cookbook Club? Of course you will! There’s delicious food and lovely conversation–a perfect summer evening. You can also use it to fulfill a few of the Read Outside the Box challenge categories! At our July meeting we will be bringing recipes from food memoirs or food novels. Here is my top pick for each:
Food Memoir–The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (fulfills Food Memoir/Food Novel AND Foreign Writer or Setting): A vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals in turn illuminate the two cultures of Diana’s childhood – American and Jordanian – and the richness and difficulty of straddling both.
Food Novel–Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel (fulfills Food Memoir/Food Novel AND Foreign Writer of Setting): Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit. The classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef.
The Slimmest of the Slim
To prove just how much Audra and I want you to succeed this summer. I am providing a list of some super-short books to kick-start your reading challenge!
- Woolgathering by Patti Smith Patti Smith tells real and imagined stories from her childhood. 80 pages.
- Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit. 245 pages.
- Cries for Help, Various: Stories by Padgett Powell Presents a collection of short stories that cover the topics of longing, fear, work, loneliness, and cultural nostalgia. 182 pages.
- Stuart Little by E.B. White Stuart Little is a mouse born to a family of humans and lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. 131 pages.
- Whale Rider by Witi Tame Ihimaera As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor. 152 pages.
Every week this summer the OWL blog will focus on a different challenge category with reading suggestions to pique your interest. This week is all about fulfilling your “Protagonist of Opposite Gender” challenge. Here is a list of my 10 favorite dual/multi narrative novels–because each books has male and female protagonists any of these choices will work for any reader regardless of gender.
1. Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos
In the sweltering heat of one summer in a small Midwestern town, Claire and Don Lowry discover that married life isn’t quite as they’d predicted.
2. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler
Welcome to Little Wing.
It’s a place like hundreds of others, but for four boyhood friends―all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town―it is home. One of them never left, still working the family farm, but the others felt the need to move on. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit. One of them hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.
3. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan J. Stradal*
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.
4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.
5. The Odds by Stewart O’Nan
Valentine’s weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings account and book a bridal suite at the Falls’ ritziest casino for a second honeymoon.
6. Life Drawing by Robin Black
Augusta Edelman—Gus to her friends—is a painter, a wife, and not always the best judge of her own choices—one of them bad enough that she and her husband, Owen, have fled their longtime city home and its reminders of troubling events.
7. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book…Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
8. How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings
When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else.
9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger*
A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.
10. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes*
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
*Two-for-one books–these will also fulfill your Science Fiction/Fantasy/Western category.
Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. She is content enough—until a boy with eyes the color of the Atlantic Ocean moves in next door. Their complicated romance begins over IM and grows through a wunderkammer of vignettes, illustrations, charts, and more.
Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.*
This critically acclaimed YA favorite is now in theaters as a feature length film. A perfect book club pick!
The true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.
I won’t say much more than that simple one-sentence synopsis and a heart-felt plea to PLEASE READ this fascinating account of a group of dedicated African American female mathematicians known as “human computers” who used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. After you’ve read this phenomenal story I would implore you to also watch the film–a fantastic adaptation starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Highly recommended.
Even before the highly anticipated miniseries premiered on HBO, this book has spread like wildfire–due mostly to word of mouth. However, if you somehow missed all the hoopla surrounding it, this is a friendly reminder to take a look at this well written and entertaining page turner–preferably, before you watch the adaptation.
Someone is dead and it happened at a school trivia night. The reader finds this out immediately but it is over the course of the book that we find out why and how and ultimately whodunit. Told in alternating points of view, the book follows three mothers whose lives intersect through their school-aged children. Each woman is well-developed and interesting and, as the reader, we care for all of them while still desperately racing to the end of the novel to find out exactly what happened at Trivia Night.
To kick off a month of blog posts about recent film adaptations of popular books, I’d like to start with a novel that’s in my Top 5 Favorite Books (ever!)–American Gods.
Shadow Moon is released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies. Unsure of how to proceed with his life, Shadow is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. What follows is a strange journey across America where Shadow encounters divinities who are losing their power because they are no longer believed in (old gods from overseas–like Odin and Anansi–who traveled to the new world with the immigrants who worshiped them) and the dangerous “new gods” of technology, freeways, and television who want the old guard vanquished so they can fully reign. Mythic, poignant, and not to be missed. Read the book before you watch the upcoming series.