I have always read only exactly what I want which made me a very poor student but is also why I have a decent working knowledge of the French Revolution, the very dramatic and tumultuous backstage stories from "The Wizard of Oz" ("The Munchkins Remember" by Stephen Cox - sadly out of print but well worth a purchase if you see one,) and the US cycling team Tour de France blood doping scandal (how much did Sheryl Crow know?? When will we get the made for tv movie we deserve?!) I like to read about the collapse of empire, music, movies, mystery novels where someone is getting murdered in a fancy English manor, art history, television, poetry, novels where things are normal seeming & then go completely off the rails when a character begins to turn themselves into a steel chair... you know. Everything!
Whatever you might have heard, BELOVED is the great American novel. Just like it's author, this book simply has no parallel.
Easily the most disturbing, crucial, amazing, gut wrenching, unbelievably powerful history book I've ever read. Stares unflinchingly at the horror of war and makes a mockery of it's pageantry. Literally breathless while reading this, I often had to set the book down and sit with what I'd just read, which is in and of itself a near impossible task... humans weren't meant to comprehend such things, nor were we meant to be experience them. And yet. If you've never read Alexievich before, start here. If you know a military history lover, put down the Grant, Churchill and Patton bios and do them the tremendous favor of buying them this instead.
Pairs so well with the Burt Lancaster movie and a glass of cold beer, perhaps some cured meats, a few hard cheeses, maybe a fig slice or three and a strong, sugary espresso to finish. But don't let me tell you how to live! Lord knows it didn't work out so well for the Sicilian aristocracy......... do give this ridiculously good book a read and we'll see you at the next meeting of the I Had No Idea I Would Love A 19th Century Sicilian Novel Written By a Discontented, Last of His Lineage Prince So Very Much! You can bring the cheeses.
Strange, wonderful, dizzying and very funny, this book is a gem. "THE RADIANCE OF THE KING" follows Clarence, a white man from England with no real skills except losing money in card games, as he arrives in Africa with the goal of doing some unknown, un-asked for "work for the king," hoping his whiteness will provide whatever access he needs. It does not. The story follows him, his long suffering guide, and two young dancers as they all make their way through a wilderness of land and mind, circling ever closer to the shining glory of the king. Find and replace "HEART OF DARKNESS" with this and never look back.
This book has it all!
- a crone killing rabbits
- an emotionally tortured boatman
- a damp, suspicious labyrinth
- potentially truly evil monks
- romance, adventure, a fog that causes amnesia....
It's so very good.
This book confounds me in the best way. It is about:
- the claustrophobic horrible/wonderful closeness of being constantly with another woman, with any human
- the fruitless quest for purification
- what we feed our bodies and our minds; what it means to eat
- dystopic capitalism
- chain grocery stores, the kind where all the food is fake and you are watched by a hidden, silent mascot while you shop
- violence of all sorts; what it means to die
- a game show called "That's My Partner!"
- Kandy Kakes
Just try it. You'll like it.
To me, reading this book felt like a very exensive, very cold shot of vodka with a Coca Cola chaser - a headrush, deliciously cloying warmth that spreads in your middle, feels better and better, then the taste of acrid reality cutting back through to say "are you REALLY sure about this?" Kiley Reid makes it look easy, but don't be deceived. Get in before the sure to be majorly hyped and well cast screen adaptation, forthcoming from Lena Waithe.
The inimitable Miss Pamela! A bright, bouncy, gloriously juicy read from a rock and roll cultural icon. You're with the band? No Miss Pamela, they are with YOU! If you've ever read a rock & roll bio written by or about men that left a bad feeling, let this be the antidote.
I have a hard time selling this because it is so dear to me... it feels like a secret I should protect, the spot no one knows about with plenty of sunshine and deep, cool water .... a little gorgeous thing just for me. BUT! I do realize that's selfish, in matters of swimming holes and beautiful literature. So here- enjoy this perfect gem of a book.
VIVA POLDI! Our newly 60 year old heroine simply wants to slowly (or at least medium-quickly) drink herself to oblivion on the Sicilian coast, lounging in a beautiful robe and looking gorgeous and full of ennui while thinking deep, sad thoughts about her life. But, as the narrator points out on page one, Sicily is complicated, you can't just die there - something always comes up. I love this series and highly recommend you pair with prosecco.
"It is important to tell people what really happens in wars." -Marie Colvin, 2001. So important to her, in fact, that in 2012 at age 50 this decorated war correspondent, this badass professional whose personal life tended to be more messy than not climbed on the back of a motorcycle, her arms circling someone she did not know, who would take her across the border to Syria, deep into the bombed and relentlessly besieged heart. She would not return. A brilliant, brave, complicated person. A hero.
I first read this groundbreaking memoir when I was maybe 11 or so, which means Mary Karr has been blowing my mind consistently for two solid decades. She's a must read and this is the perfect place to start.
Ever fall off your bike far from home as a kid, really scrape up your knee but you've still got to ride back, ride out the sting and in doing so you acheive a kind of beautiful adrenaline rush and the pain is still there but so is Everything Else? Well. That's this book.
I knew this book was for me after the first page, where Hazel (our recently displaced heroine) finds herself face to face with her father's (who also happens to be her current roommate) life like sex doll Diane but it's not so much Diane that has her attention, rather the crate she came in. Hazel wonders, could I fit in that? Not for, you know, death... but like, a nap. See, she's on the run from her billionaire tech mogul husband who wants to put a chip in her brain and sync their thoughts and she's just a little tired. This book is strange, dark, brilliantly funny and invites you to crawl right on inside. You'll fit.
From her childhood in the salty open air markets shucking shellfish, to her teen years in the vaudeville circuit as a male impersonator, to her lonely and lustful life as a kept woman to the toast of Victorian lesbian society, to ruin, to freedom, to true love at last. Every page was as luscious, layered and full of brine as an oyster on the half shell.
The Benewski parents have presided over a successful carnival for years, staffing it with their own delightfully deformed children. When their only son, Arturo the Aqua Boy Benewski gains a cult like following and becomes a self-proclaimed messiah, the family's facade of control begins to shift with disastrous results. Although on the surface this book is bizarre, even horrifying- just below is a story about happiness, belonging and love. You know, normal stuff.
A novel that made me utter the phrase (pardon me) "holy shit!" about a dozen times while reading this on the bus. Also worth noting: one of the most gutting, darkly hilarious final lines of anything I've read. It's like seeing a grizzly bear up close- those things are POWERFUL and a little scary. Faulkner is the bear, here.
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"I saw something NASTY in the woodshed." Aunt Ada Doom is possibly one of literature's all time great characters. Stop trying to make her DO stuff, she once saw something NASTY in the woodshed!! Deeply hilarious and fairly unhinged in the absolute best way. I read this age 12 which was maybe a little young for some of the references but I laughed out loud then and I still do now. It is also a lovely movie with Kate Beckinsale, and briefly, Maggie Smith!
On the one hand, it's a book about a wealthy woman killing a bug and having an existential crisis. On the other hand, it's about birth & death, female autonomy, the body & mind as a desert we wander without reprieve... So you really can't go wrong! As GH says: "I do not want beauty, I want idenity."
I absolutely devoured every part of this book in one afternoon, I sat on my couch and barely moved until it was through. EUPHORIA is very lush and very sexy and does not shrink from questions of morality or ethics, in matters of love and anthropology alike.
You likely know her from her vast filmography but I recommend you also get to know Gabrielle Union as a writer and an activist. From her perspective as a mover of culture, a young Black woman from Nebraska, a rape survivor, a step parent to young Black men, a partner to one of the most famous basketball players in the world, she offers a glimpse into her story that is equally heartbreaking, insightful, funny and very moving. I loved it.
"What's inside it?" asked the Mole. "There's cold chicken inside it," replied the Rat briefly: "cold tongue cold ham cold beef pickled gherkins salad french rolls and widges potted meat ginger beer lemonade soda water-" "Oh stop, stop!" cried the Mole in ecstasies: "This is too much!"
Mole, you are absolutely right. What a glorious, special book this is.
The first time the author saw a 78 record, they were crammed in a tar paper shack which his grandfather had instructed him to burn down. From that moment in Mississippi, to delightfully record jumbled apartments and crowded markets of Turkey, famed collector, restorer and archivist Christopher C. King will make you share his passion for music recorded before industry and profit came calling, when people were making music only for themselves: their communities, their histories, their triumphs and losses, their Gods. This is such a beautiful clear wail of a book.
I am deeply obsessed with real estate. It is truly upsetting to me that I will never be able to see inside every home ever built in America, knock on the walls and learn how it was built; it USED to truly upset me that I didn't know the names for things adorning those homes, like what do you call all the little gingerbread siding on the Victorians and what's the difference between the scalloped shingles and the square? Well. This book changed all that for me. No, I can't access every single home ever built in America BUT I can name all their dormer styles and recite a timeline of home building tradtions from the early 19th century right on through to the so called "millenium mansions" and I am deply grateful to Virginia Savage McAlester for those gifts.