The Book Jam Blog
Read our latest reviews
We are thrilled to report that on March 22, 2023 for the first time since November 2019, Pages in the Pub was held in person. This time we crossed the river into New Hampshire and held an incredible event at Still North Books & Bar. The presenters were fabulous, the books they recommended diverse and enticing, the setting inviting, and the money benefitted the Howe Public Library. As a fun bonus, the Book Jam briefly discussed the presenters books as part of the evening and wrote six word reviews for today's post. Thus, you all can see some of the presenters' unique talent at work, even if you could not join us in person.
Our incredible presenters:
Andy Borowitz was born in Shaker Heights, where he wrote made-up news for his high school newspaper. He moved to New York City in 2005, where he started writing made-up news for The New Yorker. His career demonstrates either a commitment to a genre or arrested development. You can find his New Yorker work here.
KJ Dell’Antonia is a novelist and former journalist and editor at the New York Times whose writing always inevitably ends up being about why the things we think will make us happy and solve our problems (Reality TV! Fame! Witchcraft! Genius athletic children!) never, ever do. She is possibly a witch and definitely has a book in her bag, and Shirley Jackson is her literary idol forevermore. You can subscribe to her newsletter by clicking here.
Peter Orner once ran for student council vice president under the slogan "Peter Orner Eats Salad." You see there was a new salad bar and the salad bar was popular, and so he thought...Anyway, he didn't prevail. You can find his personal writings here.
Sarah Stewart Taylor writes books and reads books and has way too many books. She is the author of the Maggie D'arcy mystery series, about an American police detective in Ireland, and also of a forthcoming series set in Vermont. Her new Maggie D'arcy mystery, A Stolen Child, will be out in June. She and her family raise sheep on their Hartland farm and she spends as much time in Ireland as she can. When she isn't reading, writing, or shepherding, you can find her moving her books around and coming up with excuses for her family about why she needs so many books. You can find her at www.SarahStewartTaylor.com.
And now, the books they believe we should all read, divided into categories to make it easier to figure out what you are in the mood to read right now, add to your to-be-read stack, or give as a gift.
Books for young readers (think ages 8-12) – For those not yet ready for teen topics
Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (2015). Poignant novel about friendship & jellyfish behavior. ~ Selected by Peter.
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill (1964). Best kids book about politics ever. ~ Selected by Peter.
Books for foodies and foodie aspirationals - cookbooks and beyond
My Vermont Table by Gesine Bullock-Prado (2023). Vermont vibes. Local Ingredients. Fabulous Dishes. ~ Selected by Sarah
Romance -- Because we could all use a bit more
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan (2022). People run hard from their happy endings. ~ Selected by KJ
Memoirs & Biographies - When living vicariously through other people’s memories helps
Shy by Mary Rodgers & Jesse Green (2022). Hilarious, profane life of Broadway princess. ~ Selected by Andy
Non-fiction, reference, or huge history books for sitting out mud season
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (1992). No Better book about life in a city, any city. ~ Selected by Peter
Watergate by Garrett Graff (2022). Unfolds like thriller. Essential historical context. ~ Selected by Sarah
Mysteries & Thrillers - Because sometimes you need a reminder life could be scarier
Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner (2016). Lovable police detective. Real Life. Gorgeous writing. ~ Selected by Sarah
Murder Your Employer: The McMasters guide to homicide by Rupert Holmes (2023). Knives Out in book form. ~ Selected by KJ
Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison (2022). Surprisingly un-glam life of reluctant werewolf. ~ Selected by KJ
Anywhere you Run by Wanda Morris (2022). Sisters navigating secrets danger. Jim Crow. ~ Selected by Sarah
Adult fiction for anyone who just needs an engrossing novel
Writers and Lovers by Lily King (2020). Against the odds, waitress becomes writer. ~ Selected by Andy
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2015). Screamingly funny, told entirely in letters. ~ Selected by Andy
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (2022). Twisty family secrets with lasting impact. ~ Selected by KJ
The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel (2023). Revenge misfires, backfires, makes everything better. ~ Selected by KJ
Small Things Like These (2021) and Foster (2022) by Claire Keegan. Irish. Lovely writing. Heartbreaking characters. Timely issues. ~ Selected by Sarah
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (2001). Canadian, small town pettiness, occasional wonder. ~ Selected by Peter
Poetry - because everyone can use more in their life
Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (2015). Intense, moving, among America's best. ~ Selected by Peter
The Shared World by Vievee Francis (coming in April 2023). No 6-words. Added at event. Lucky us. ~ Selected by Peter
Creativity, inspiration, and/or humor - for those who could use a dose of positive thoughts
On Writing by Stephen King (2000). Priceless advice from our greatest storyteller. ~ Selected by Andy
Books by the presenters
Profiles in Ignorance (2022). Laugh cry over USA’s anti-intellectualism. ~ Selected by Lisa
The Borowitz Report (2004). Big book of socking news stories. ~ Selected by Lisa
The Chicken Sisters (2020). Fried chicken feud attracts reality tv. ~ Selected by Lisa
In Her Boots (2022). Imploding daughter returns. Prank goes awry. ~ Selected by Lisa
Playing Witch Card (coming in September 2023). She gave up on magic. Right? ~ Selected by Lisa
Still No Word From You (2022). Peter discusses writing he has loved. ~ Selected by Lisa
Maggie Brown & Others (2019). Novellas. Short stories. Magnificent one-pagers. ~ Selected by Lisa
Am I Alone here? (2016). Living to read. Reading to live. ~ Selected by Lisa
Sarah Stewart Taylor
The Mountains Wild: Maggie D’Arcy #1 (2020). Maggie D'Arcy debut. Cousin Erin missing. ~ Selected by Lisa
A Distant Grave: Maggie D’Arcy #2 (2021). Combines Long Island, Ireland, and Love? ~ Selected by Lisa
The Drowning Sea: Maggie D’Arcy #3 (2022). West Cork vacation home equals mystery. ~ Selected by Lisa
A Stolen Child: Maggie D’Arcy #4 (coming in June 2023). Maggie relocates for love, Garda, mysteries. ~ Selected by Lisa
In many situations, perspective is everything. We can choose to see someone's actions as a result of something we did, or as a result of something going on with them. We can choose to see someone's bad behavior as them having a bad day and/or struggling with hard things, or we can choose to think they are a jerk and/or that they purposefully decided to hurt us. The stories we tell ourselves about the reasons behind actions influence our reactions.
And, as Winston Churchill stated "history is written by the victors". So it is also important to consider the source of any story one hears. Lately quite a few books that have made it off our "to be read stack" actively set out to highlight the importance of point of view as they rewrite Greek myths from the standpoint of someone we don't normally hear from in traditional tellings of myths. We review two of these books below.
Stone Blind by Nathalie Haynes (2023). This is Haynes's third novel based on myths, and somehow the first one we have read. In it, Haynes retells the story of Medusa, the youngest of the Gorgon sisters and the only mortal among them. When Medusa's beauty attracts the attention of Poseidon, he assaults her in Athena's temple. And, because of course she does, Athena takes out her rage that her temple was defiled on Medusa - giving her snakes for hair, blindness, and the ability to turn all she "gazes" upon into stone. Haynes retells the myths involving Medusa, her sisters, Perseus, Cassiopeia, and others in short chapters written from many points of view. We think Ebony Purks of INDIEbound reviewed this novel best -- “Stone Blind offers Medusa deserved sympathy, and asks: What makes a monster, and on whose authority? What does it mean to to have your authority stripped? And what does it look like when old stories get reclaimed through a little empathy?” Enjoy.
Circe by Madeline Miller (2019). According to Greek myths, Circe was banished to a deserted island by Zeus due to her ability, through her witchcraft, to transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods. But the best planned punishments go awry and islands receive unexpected visitors. Eventually after crossing paths with many mythical heroes, Circe draws the ire of both men and gods. Miller recreates Circe's story from Circe's perspective - not those of the heores and gods she encounters and in doing so Miller creates a page-turning epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss. This is a tale that will have you rethinking what makes a hero/heroine, and why perspectives matter.