Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extra Special December Book Recommendations

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Today's book recommendations come to you from my friend and voracious reader, Dot. I'm farming out my post this month for three reasons: first, I have been on a spree of book posts (here and here and here) and I've depleted my general-recommendation-juices; second, Dot reads much more contemporary fiction than I do and has impeccable taste in good literature; third, the comments are always the best part of these posts. You all have such incredible and diverse ideas for what to read than what better idea than to take one of the best commenters and give her a post of her own? So without further ado...

When Tania asked me to recommend a few books for you all, I was thrilled. There's nothing I love better than bossing people around in a bookstore. Errh, or on the internet. You get it. So here's what you should find in your library / buy for your book-loving cousin JoJo / put on your Christmas wish list immediately:

Silver Sparrow (Tayari Jones). With its opening line, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," we spin into the secret life of Dana Yarboro. And by secret, I mean *she* is the secret--her father's other family frolics around 1980s Atlanta unaware of Dana and her mother's existence. Told from the perspective of Dana and her father's "real" daughter Chaurisse, Silver Sparrow takes us deep into a family, casting our definitions of normal childhoods, love, and commitment aside in favor of the truth: to live in relation to others is complex, risky business.

Once Upon a River (Bonnie Jo Campbell). Enough of wishy-washy Bella Swan, readers. Here comes sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, searching to find her mother (and herself) in rural Michigan. The critics are calling this sharp-shooting, river-navigating girl the next Huckleberry Finn--I say she's just plain great.

The Financial Lives of the Poets (Jess Walter). Matt Prior quits his stable job in financial journalism to start a website that turns out not to be as successful as dear Tania's fashion exploits. The website? Financial advice in poetic verse. After the site's utter failure, we find Matt on the verge of losing everything: wife, house, life as he knows it. And then he meets Skeet and Jamie, the literary world's most darling drug dealers.

The Book of Men (Dorianne Laux). I know, I get it. You don't read poetry. You read Robert Frost in high school and now you are SO OVER IT. But Dorianne Laux is something different--this book's got poems about Mick Jagger, old boyfriends, Superman, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and a heartbreaking soldier she spots in an airport. If you want to remember what life, love, and everything truly feels like, read these poems.

P.S. Dot also has the raddest pinterest boards.
P.P.S. Why I never link to you-know-what.
P.P.P.S. Read anything good lately? Please oh please leave a comment and let us poach off your reading lists.

25 comments:

liburuak said...

These sound great! "The Financial Lives of the Poets" sounds particularly appealing for its bizarreness :).
As for more book recommendations I actually just compiled a list of books I tend to recommend to people, and in a shameless act of bloggery self-promotion, I'm posting the link here: http://wp.me/P1gPfH-6x

Neeli said...

I often don't comment on here, but since it's about books and fashion, I may as well start. Here's my recs:
Jonathan Franzen's Freedom
Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging out without Me?
Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games

Ashley said...

I just finished Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" which starts off slow but is a fascinating look at the conventional and organic food chains. It's not as boring as it sounds - I promise!

If you're interested in health/diets I'd recommend "Perfect Health Diet" by the Jaminet's.

Brooke said...

Do you completely avoid Amazon, or just for things you could get locally? I completely understand and sympathize with a boycott of Amazon, esp of books, but I also really need them: I'm a grad student in classics, and most of my books (the primary texts, obviously, but also many of the secondary ones) are not available at brick and mortar stores around here. Conundrum!

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

brooke--no, i definitely don't avoid amazon completely! in fact, i often get lured by their prices and being able to find things i can't find elsewhere. i'll just always look locally first and if i can't find it, try to get it at the sem co-op online before amazon. i love local bookstores and find them especially important for local economies and for scholarly communities, so i'd hate to see them vanish even though amazon is so f'ing convenient that sometimes it's hard to resist.
just like any kind of ethical consumption--each person does the best he or she can. sometimes you buy things from enormous corporations because you can't find them elsewhere, and that's okay i think.

Ashley said...

Speaking of local stores, I saw this on another blog I read and thought you might find it useful! It lists some great local stores, including a bookstore.

http://wondrouspilgrim.blogspot.com/2011/12/last-minute-shopping-in-dcva.html

Mel said...

This is great! Right now I'm tackling Infinite Jest (along with a group of very close, very patient friends), but in my I-need-a-lighter-book-for-this-bus-ride moments, I've been reading Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split. It's full of delicious freeverse poetry that reads more like little heartbreaking stories rather than that stuff from English Lit.

nomadbandit said...

I always love the book recommendations from you and the people you outsource to! I can't wait to get my hands on them.
I would HIGHLY recommend _From the Land of the Moon_ by Milena Agus. It's a heart-breaker!
Another one is an oldie, _Parnassus on Wheels_ by Christopher Morley. A great book for the Bibliophiles.
My favortie right now is _Enough About Love_ by Herve Le Tellier(A novel about French people sick of complications of love? Awesome!)
And another novel: _The Kindly Ones_ for the History people. It's by Jonathan Littel.

wildchild said...

The Book of Men sounds awesome. i haven't had time to read lately, with school and everything, but hopefully since the semester's done, i can find something to contribute next month!

Jamie said...

All of these recommendations sound great! I'm definitely putting them on my list. Right now I'm reading two books. The first one is one I got for my birthday (all the way back in October) and it's called Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love it! Another book I'm reading is called Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. It's a nonfiction book about gaming, but I'm not a gamer and I really like it so far!

Whitney said...

I love features like this! I just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson. I absolutely loved it--but I am also a former history major who definitely appreciates nonfiction and fact-checking.

I will be sure to take a look at these books! Thanks for sharing!
Whitney

Shophopper said...

Whoa, Amazon sure has got some low tactics. I very rarely buy books online. I actually enjoy paying just a little more in an independent book store, because I know I'm supporting a good cause. I'm known for getting mad at friends and family when they buy books in huge department stores (for instance Fnac in Europe). There is one quote in the article you link to that really struck me: “People have to understand that their short-term decision to save a couple bucks undermines their long-term interest in their community and vital, real-life literary culture.” So very true - and I think this counts for clothing just as much!

Amazon made me smile with this, though: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110425/03522114026/infinite-loop-algorithmic-pricing-amazon-how-book-flies-cost-2369865593.shtml - imagine that. :)

Anyway, books. The recommendations sound great! I just read Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. She's a little to obvious sometimes (alright Barbara, we get it. Brutal capitalism and social darwinism suck, no need to spell it out quite so literally), but a really good writer. Funny, compassionate, plenty of research. I feel for the people she writes about.
Right now I'm reading "Paradise Of Cities: Venice In The Nineteenth Century" by John Julius Norwich, about prominent inhabitants of Venice. The Lord Byron chapter especially is outstanding!

Paige (Final Clothes-Out) said...

Silver Sparrow sounds great! I'll have to add that to my list.

The last thing I read was Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, which I know is incredibly nerdy. It was supposed to be the last book of the series, but he barely wrapped up any storylines and is obviously leaving things open for something else. Probably a "next generation" kind of thing, which kind of irritates me. I feel like the series wasn't really designed for that. Ugh.

wendy said...

The latest things I have read that were great:

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
by Molly Wizenberg

Ana Magdalena said...

the book of men sounds so interesting!

smalltown20something said...

I loved Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper.

Jess said...

I just finished The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. It was really clever and very funny. I'm trudging my way through The Third Reich by Roberto Bolano right now and it's really good, but for some reason I'm being really slow about reading it!

Ashley said...

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry is amazing. Its a quick read, but it's smart and interesting and exciting. A little description from the back cover: "An unlikely detective—armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook—must solve a string of crimes committed in and through people’s dreams."
Awesome amIright?

Meg said...

I just finished "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" and the first Sookie Stackhouse novel (I'm still burnt out on "smart" books after university). That said, I did like the sparseness and mundane qualiity of Larsson's prose and Sookie Stackhouse's southern spunk (unfortunately mostly missing from the TV adaptation).

As for more intellectual reads, I'd recommend "The Devil in the White City", about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and a man who might be one of the USA's most prolific serial killers. This was fascinating. Also engrossing, but tragic, is "What is the What", about a Sudanese lost boy.

erinangelena said...

So I don't comment often, but I must say my heart skipped a little when I read your book recommendations because the Author of "Financial Lives" Jess Walter, is my uncle! It's still hard to believe we have a semi-celebrity in the family :) hope you enjoyed it!

dot said...

@erinangelena - I met your uncle when he was teaching at Pacific University last summer--he's so nice and down to earth! Definitely the kind of uncle I'd want to hang out with at holidays--jealous!

Mistie said...

If you are interested in art, I would say anything by Susan Vreeland. My favorite is "Luncheon at the Boating Party." It is beautiful. As an artist, I think she does a great job of capturing the need to create.

Meg C. said...

I gave your blog “The Versatile Blog award” - Keep it coming! :)

http://mrcandme.blog.com/2011/12/18/cue-acceptance-speech/

Rebecca Jane said...

I am always looking for new books to read and I am excited to take a look at these! The most recent book that I've read recently that I loved was The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Rebecca said...

Dot, thank you so much for reccommending Dorianne Laux! I studied poetry in college and hate the Robert Frost stereotype that comes with poetry. I immediately googled her and read some poems; wonderful!

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