The Book Jam Blog
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Well Hannukah is in full swing, Christmas is imminent, and you still need to buy a few gifts. You also need a few books for yourself to read either after the relatives have left, or to escape a bit in the midst of the lovely chaos the next few weeks will bring. Luckily, we have a few ideas and share them below.
Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams (2019). Reading this book of essays is like taking a long walk through the American West with your most passionate, poetic, and eloquent environmentalist friend. Williams writes with honesty and grace but also with gravity. This is not an uplifting work nor is it meant to be. She is deeply concerned about the future of her beloved Utah, democracy, disappearing birds, Bears Ears National Monument, and the management of public lands. These are serious essays about tea ceremonies in the dessert post-election 2016, the loss of loved ones and beloved places, and the degradation of important legislation. But Williams always notices the beauty around her and encourages her readers to appreciate it as well. This book is for the naturalist in your life. Its message will continue to have an impact long after the last page is turned, inspiring action, preservation and “do-ing.” ~ Lisa Cadow
British Library Crime Classics by assorted authors (assorted years). I recently read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that readership of mysteries and thrillers increases dramatically during troubled and uncertain times (see previous Terry Tempest Williams review). The article had numerous theories as to why, which I will skip and get straight to this review of great books to give and get. Luckily for those of us troubled by headlines of bad behavior by so many people, British Library Crime Classics exists. Poison Pen Press has reissued classic mysteries by a variety of British authors in lovely paperback forms. These make perfect stocking stuffers or host/hostess gifts for all the holiday parties in your future. Or, give them to anyone who likes a well plotted mystery, who needs something to be solved in a neatly and timely fashion, or to yourself for some diversions. If a British mystery isn't your (or your loved ones') cup of tea, try the American Mystery Classics Series by Penzler Press and The SOHO Crime series. ~ Lisa Christie
Frankly In Love by David Yoon (2019) - This novel is one of the best YA books I have read in a long time. I was surprised how this apparently simple (and honestly familiar) story of first love that does not meet with parental approval (hello Romeo and Juliet), as well as of navigating the final year of high school made me smile and tear-up a bit. Some plot points: Frank Li and Joy Song have been friends since childhood, attending regularly scheduled dinners with a larger group of Korean-American families in Los Angeles for as long as they have a memory of any event. As they navigate senior year, they are both in love with the wrong ("not-Korean") person. They decide to fake that they are dating each other to keep their parents happy, while still seeing their true loves. Their elaborate scheming provides the plot for this novel's terrific cast of characters. (I truly loved Frank's superb best friend.) And while Buzzfeed aptly stated, “Yoon's stellar debut expertly and authentically tackles racism, privilege, and characters who are trying to navigate their Korean-American identity”, I would argue you should read it for the fun. Give it to your favorite teen or your favorite adult in need of a smile or two (and distraction from the news). ~ Lisa Christie
A Cloud a Day: 365 Skies from the Cloud Appreciation Society by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (2019). Clouds are poetry in the sky. Stop! Look up! With this inspiring coffee table book, Pretor-Pinney and his British Cloud Appreciation Society encourage us to do just this. These cloud passionistas want us to understand that we “live in the sky - not beneath it, but within it.” Flipping through it’s 368-pages, the reader is exposed to the heavens : from the marvel of lenticularis clouds - “the smoothest of clouds” - to a survey of art history in which painters portray status, cumulus, and cirrus clouds with centuries of white brush strokes, to awe-inspiring photographic images taken by the society’s members and shared from all over the world. This book is sure to open eyes and minds in 2020 and to help us mere mortals to see the sky in a different way - instead of staring down at our phones, it reminds us to look up, and with wonder. I learned of this book in a recent lovely New York Times piece. If you are looking for the perfect last minute gift for just about anyone on your list, look no further. This is it. And when I last checked, they still had a few ethereal copies left at The Norwich Bookstore. ~ Lisa Cadow
Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper (assorted years). Finally for the kids in your lives, a great family read aloud or chapter book for some youngster to devour alone. This series was first published in 1964 and has been going strong ever since. In it, the three Drew children, while on vacation in Cornwall, discover they are important players in the fight against evil in the world. This sequence consists of five fabulous books filled with adventure and hope. Thank you Liam for reminding us of their existence when you recommended them during BOOK BUZZ. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
May 2020 bring amazing adventures and many, many great books.