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Best Books for Spring and Summer 2011: The Top 25 Must Have Reads (Special Section on Local Authors)

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25 Best Books for Spring and Summer 2011

Best Spring/Summer Books 2011Finally, the thaw is coming. What better way to shed that cold, harsh winter than grabbing a great book and heading to the park (soon to be the beach), and basking in the warmth and sunshine. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of our Best Picks for Spring/Summer and organized them into six main categories (with a few extras for good measure), including Popular Fiction, Literature, Science Fiction, Classics, Local Authors, Juvenile Fiction and Non-fiction. Here’s the list of this season’s hottest, must have reads:

POPULAR FICTION

[amazonify]0553807722::text::::What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz[/amazonify]

what the night knows dean koontzJohn Calvino is a hard-nosed detective with little patience for superstition. He works duteously to keep criminals off the street who are pure evil in their own right. John is forced to reconsider when a fourteen-year-old boy brutally murders his own family in the exact manner of Alton Turner Blackwood—a serial killer that invaded the detective’s home when he was a boy, a serial killer who brutally and ritualistically murdered three other families before John shot him dead.

Soon there are additional murders, each committed or attempted by a different person, but performed in almost the same exact manner. John is forced to accept the possibility of the impossible, and defend his family from the spirit of a crazed sociopath who has possibly come back from the depths of Hell itself to finish his work and find revenge. –Stephen Wells

[amazonify]1439102724::text::::Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult[/amazonify]

Sing You Home Jodi PicoultGenerating some major buzz since its March 1 release for its nonbiased views on the issues of same-sex marriage and adoption, as well as the perspective of the church and the LGBTQ community, Picoult’s Sing You Home is full of surprising twists and well-rounded characters with interesting quirks.

The novel is told through the perspectives of Zoe, her husband Max, and her new lover Vanessa. Zoe and Max are trying to conceive a child in vitro. When Zoe’s latest pregnancy ends in a stillbirth, Max leaves her, claiming that he can’t handle more heartbreak. Zoe eventually falls in love with Vanessa, a school counselor, and complications arise when Vanessa and Zoe are married in Massachusetts, and Max enters the picture once again.

Zoe is a music therapist; music being a recurring theme throughout the novel. Zoe uses music to save suicidal children, alleviate pain in the cancer wing of the children’s hospital, and help the elderly suffering with Alzheimer’s. The novel comes with an accompanying CD for each section that instructs the reader which song to play, so they can experience the music that Zoe is feeling at that moment. A film version of the book is also in the works, with Ellen DeGeneres providing the funding. –Juliet Barney

[amazonify]0312364423::text::::Night Road by Kristin Hannah[/amazonify]

Night Road Kristin HannahLexi Baill’s life has not been easy. She’s spent most of her younger years in and out of foster homes, due to the neglect of her heroin-addicted mother. When Lexi’s mother dies, Lexi goes to live with an unbeknownst to her great aunt from Seattle. Upon arrival at her new high school, she finds a like-minded soul in Mia Farraday, who also introduces Lexi to her brother, Zach. The three become inseparable, and Lexi is absorbed into the Farraday’s home and life. As Lexi and Zach fall in love, her friendship with Mia becomes strained. When a tragic accident ensues dealing with underage drinking and driving, they must work to try and put the pieces back together.

The story is an emotional and powerfully-charged one (ie, it’s a tear-jerker), but if you’re into gripping tales that keep you turning the pages late into the night, then give it a try. Hannah handles the heavy subject matter with skill and compassion and relates a touching story about relationships—between siblings, families, lovers and friends—and the consequences of the choices we make in our lives. –Penelope Jansen

[amazonify]0307394980::text::::Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian[/amazonify]

secrets of eden chris bohjalianMurder, religion, alcoholism and domestic violence are at the heart of Chris Bohjalian’s Secrets of Eden. Set in the small town of Haverill, Vermont, the story unfolds with the deaths of George and Alice Hayward, the day after Alice was baptized by Reverend Stephen Drew. Pinnacles of the community, their deaths are labeled a murder-suicide, but after thorough investigation by the state’s attorney, the outcome is uncertain and over time, long-suppressed secrets are revealed.

A resident of Vermont who is heavily involved in his community, Bohjalian perfectly captures the feel of a small New England town, a setting that can be found in many of his novels. Aside from the difficult subject matter, Bohjalian uses four perspectives to narrate the story, with Reverend Drew as the focal point, where the pieces eventually fit into place, leading to a rather unique plot twist. –Chad Henning

FOR THE LITERARY-MINDED

[amazonify]0316074233::text::::The Pale King by David Foster Wallace[/amazonify]

The Pale King David Foster Wallace Wallace spent ten years working on The Pale King, prior to his tragic death, and though still unfinished at the time of his suicide in 2008, many consider it one of his greatest works. Depending on how polished you like your literature will define to some degree how much you enjoy this as a work of fiction; if such things are important to you, you may have to give the novel some leeway, and should, because even though it’s not “finished” in the larger sense, it most definitely warrants a read, and in all fairness is actually pretty close to being done.

Darkly funny, heartbreakingly sad, rich in philosophy and brimming with original characters (the main one of whom is named David Foster Wallace), Wallace attempts to unravel the meaning of life in the context of one of life’s most mundane existences—a Midwestern tax-return processing center, where new employees, of which Wallace is one, receive boredom survival training, because yes, it really is that dull. His coworkers, it turns out, are a motley crew of fascinatingly atypical personalities, fraught with strange afflictions and supernatural abilities.

Wallace’s sharp, sardonic wit is a centrifugal force here, carrying you through the novel’s more fractured moments, and belying a talent that will indeed be much missed in the literary world. –Monica Sirignano

[amazonify]0307477479::text::::A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan[/amazonify]

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer EganI wish I had the literary talent to tell you what the narrative arc of Goon Squad is, to lay it out there in black and white and give you hints as to a wonderfully twisted ending. Unfortunately, I doubt even Egan can do this. The thing is, what drives the narrative is the interweaving of stories (thirteen in all), points of view, and even format (the story is told in PowerPoint slides for about fifty pages). A character is mentioned in passing during one chapter and fully fleshed out in the next. Egan plays with time here, jumping twenty years or more with no warning, yet somehow making it seamless.

So, since giving you a book-jacket summary of Goon Squad is out of the question, I have no other option but to tell you why you have to read this book. First, it won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Second, I always thought the most overused and hyperbolic adjective when describing writing is the word “electric.” In this case, though, it fits. The writing here is vibrant. It spurs you on to read for all the right reasons. The plot twists are sudden and dramatic. The language is spot on, not sparse nor poetic, but just… efficient. Every word is there because it must be, and you’re left wondering how it is that a person who speaks the same language you do always knows the perfect word. –Matthew Holden

[amazonify]0385343833::text::::The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht[/amazonify]

the tigers wife tea obrehtThe novel is narrated by a young physician, Natalia Stefanovic, in an unnamed Balkan country (Obreht was born in Belgrade) in the aftermath of a civil war. Stefanovic herself is on a voyage to discover the truth of her beloved grandfather’s death as she travels across state lines to deliver vaccines to orphans. As she travels, she remembers her grandfather and how he used to take her to see the tigers in the zoo. This was before the war and Stefanovic’s rebellious youth, where she smuggled contraband cassette tapes and made out with petty criminals by the docks. She regrets never rejoining her grandfather on his daily ritual of visiting the tigers after the war was over and the zoo reopened.

Throughout the novel, Stefanovic proceeds to retell these stories told to her by her grandfather. The story of the tiger’s wife is a tale of an abused deaf and mute woman who befriends a lost tiger in the village where Stefanovic’s grandfather was born. And the deathless man is just that: a man cursed to defeat death no matter how hard he (or others) try to kill him, who also has the power to tell when others will die. Stefanovic tells how he crosses paths with her grandfather on numerous occasions.

Switching fluidly from the present to the past, The Tiger’s Wife is a captivating story about storytelling itself. –Stacey Stump

[amazonify]1565125606::text::::Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen[/amazonify]

Water for Elephants Sara GruenA reflective and equally moving tale (now a major motion picture) about the recollections of ninety-something Jacob Jankowski, a one time veterinary student, who after his parents die in a car accident, runs away and hops on a train, literally running away to join the circus. The circus experience is filthy and squalid, the animals are mistreated and many of the characters he encounters, such as the impresario, Uncle Al and the animal trainer, August, are cruel and brutally violent.

With his veterinary expertise, he cares for the animals and serves as an overseer of the circus menagerie. Other characters that rub Jacob the wrong way are Uncle Al, the circus impresario, and August, the animal trainer–both are at times charming, yet brutally violent. Complications arise when Jacob meets the beautiful equestrian star, Marlena, who is August’s wife. Also entering the mix is Rosie, an un-trainable elephant with whom Jacob develops a bond in this intriguing tale of love, symbolism and moral choice. –Chad Henning

SCI-FI/FANTASY

[amazonify]0810989581::text::::The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers[/amazonify]

steampunk bible A gorgeously illustrated romp through the caverns of Steampunk history. Although the book is billed as a coffee table book, it’s packed with intriguing facts and interviews with experts, enough so that you’ll enjoy reading it as much as you will ogling the pretty pictures. But even if you’re just looking for a fancy picture book for guests to peruse, or a tool to strike up some conversation with that cute guy or girl you just happen to be sitting next to, this one won’t disappoint.

Steampunk, the subgenre of science fiction, alternate history and speculative fiction that combines a 19th Century (mostly British) Victorian aesthetic with a punk rock flair is explored in great depth here, from its roots in Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to its more recent appearances in countless sci-fi films and novels. VanderMeer and Chambers give a luscious look at Steampunk’s evolution over time, how the movement has affected not only film and literature, but art, music and fashion as well. Some cool extras include the proposal of a possible future for the Steampunk movement and a project you can do on your own. If nothing else, it’s (awe)inspiring. –Monica Sirignano

[amazonify]1590302583::text::::Monkey: A Journey to the West by David Kherdian[/amazonify]

Monkey: A Journey to the WestThe journey begins with something of a creation myth of Monkey, who will accumulate more personalities as the tale goes on, battling the gods and fly through the heavens until his hubris gets the best of him. Eventually freed from what we thought would be eternal punishment by the kind bodhisattva Guanyin, he must prove himself worthy under the watch of heaven. Along with a group of cohorts, the true journey to the West begins with the ultimate goal of transporting Buddhist scriptures. The characters face countless evils like the Iron Fan Princess and the Dragon King, falling victim to and overcoming these obstacles throughout their trip.

What shines through these fantastical stories are themes of personal transformation, moral ambiguities and cosmological order. For someone who knows nothing about Chinese tradition, this book offers an intimate view of Chinese culture in the telling of fables. The book is also one that is read all over China as a staple piece of literature and teaching for children and adults (it’s actually an abridged version of a four volume Chinese classic). Many Daoist and Buddhist ideals are woven into the narrative but don’t overwhelm the American reader as necessarily “religious”. Kherdian’s edition features simple illustrations and intricate language that tell a classic story in a lovely way. –Chrissy Lefavour

A TIMELY CLASSIC

[amazonify]1451635621::text::::Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell[/amazonify]

Gone with the Wind Margaret MitchellOn April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired in South Carolina. April 12, 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of that moment, and it brings to mind one of the most famous novels set before, during and after the Civil War—Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. A story of a spoiled but resilient Southern belle named Scarlett O’Hara, the book addresses more than the love life and various adversities of its heroine. Although often considered historically inaccurate and overly utopian in its description of Southern life and the Civil War, Gone with the Wind has stood the test of time and become a staple of pop culture.

O’Hara seems to be a Southern belle personified, but when the Civil War threatens her family and their home, her true strength and survival instinct is roused. Often thought of as simply a “romance” or a “historical novel,” Gone with the Wind is much more; it manages to drive home the tragedies of the Civil War and the interpersonal power struggles common in human relationships. It also serves as a study in the complexity of individuals. Scarlett seems like a genteel decorous young woman, albeit a bit manipulative, but her true nature is revealed as the book continues. Similarly, our assumptions are challenged throughout—is Scarlett to be admired or hated? Much like life, the book offers no real answers.

In love with the uninterested and pensive Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett endures a series of loveless marriages until being swept off her feet by the charming social outcast Rhett Butler. Their love-hate relationship leads to marriage, but also to surprising realizations and tragedy. By the end of the book, Scarlett’s life is in ruins, and the novel ends with the now famous line, “……After all, tomorrow is another day.”

I highly recommend this book, not only because of its “Classic” status in libraries worldwide, but also because it is a well-crafted glimpse into the world of the Civil War era and an intriguing study of human nature. –Christie Sausa

AN OLDER FAVORITE

[amazonify]0061350966::text::::Wicked by Gregory Maguire[/amazonify]

wicked gregory maguire“Alien girl—she called herself Dorothy—was by virtue of her survival elevated to living sainthood. The dog was merely annoying.”

This is one of the best lines in Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire’s 1995 fantasy novel (and basis for the Tony Award winning Broadway Musical) about Elphaba, the famous wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz, and it’s a must read for any Oz fan.

Elphaba is born poor and green to Munchkinlander parents, a preacher father and a mother who’s a descendent of the “Eminent Thropp,” ie the ruler of Munchkinland. Elphaba is ultimately raised by her mother’s old nanny and is third in line to become the Eminent Thropp.

She goes off to Shiz University when she’s 17, accepted primarily because she’s the Eminent Thropp’s descendent. It’s at Shiz that Elphaba meets Galinda (later Glinda) by sheer misfortune on Galinda’s part; they end up roommates and reluctant friends. When a beloved professor is murdered, the girls find themselves in an unsettling situation with the headmaster who casts a spell on them to do the bidding of the Great Oz. Wicked is as much about who Elphaba is, as it is a political rendering of the Land of Oz and a timeless tale of good and evil. Readers won’t view the Wicked Witch the same way ever again. –Lisa M. Boucher

LOCAL AUTHORS

Rehabilitation by TJ Brearton

Rehabilitation TJ BreartonDark and mysterious in tone and veering in the vein of a futuristic detective novel, author T.J. Brearton’s Rehabilitation is a fascinating foray into a mysterious world that offers ruminations on drug addiction and alcoholism at times reminiscent of the pulp fiction of Jim Thompson, and the surrealist bent of William S. Burroughs. In a crazy universe, Brooklyn-based Jack Aiello ventures forth into Vermont’s Northern Kingdom, as well as Costa Rica, where he encounters spies and power-hungry biochemists, while investigating the disappearance of young man–the nephew of the notorious Brandis Brothers.

Through the course of the book, Aiello transforms from amateur detective to someone who, in essence, fights for the security of his family. Rehabilitation is unique in how it deals with the desperation of overcoming demons and finding the goodness inside. A must-have read for those looking for a new twist on the speculative fiction/pulp fiction genres.

Brearton’s next novel, Highwater, is set for release in May. This one takes place in Burlington, VT, where a flood has caused an ancient dark force to become unleashed in the town’s waters; only one boy may be able to stop it, but will he be able to do so in time? For a sneak peek at this upcoming novel, click here. –Dave Bower

[amazonify]0982770502::text::::The Remains by Vincent Zandri[/amazonify]

The Remains Vincent ZandriA long time has passed, thirty years to be exact, since twins Rebecca and Molly were taken by a man who lived near their upstate NY farm–a secret they vowed never to tell their parents to protect them & hide the fact that they were playing where they weren’t supposed to. When the man was arrested and sentenced to thirty years in prison, they thought that part of their life was behind them forever.

Flash forward to the present day, where the novel begins. Rebecca Underhill is now a painter and art instructor, her sister Molly died about ten years earlier from cancer, and her parents passed shortly after, leaving Rebecca alone to navigate what may just be the biggest nightmare of her life. It begins with Franny, a fellow artist and artistic savant, as well as childhood friend, painting strange and troubling paintings. Soon after Rebecca receives odd text messages and learns that the same man from her past has now been released from prison, and he’s after her.

Full of gripping suspense (Zandri’s a master at it), the novel delves as well into the supernatural–is Rebecca being helped from the other side? The suspense will keep you up until the wee hours. –Monica Sirignano

[amazonify]1416551611::text::::The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball[/amazonify]

the dirty life kristin kimballKristen Kimball was a freelance writer in New York City when she fell in love with a farmer and decided to take a giant leap of faith. Knowing next to nothing about farm life, she joined her new fiancé in a mission to own land and start a farm in northern upstate New York. This book is the story of the tribulations, emergencies, and victories they face along the way with humor and grit, as the farm takes shape and they invest everything they own in their dream of starting a community-supported farm to supply everything needed for the diet of its 100 members.

Kimball uses farming and food as a lens through which to examine love, character, relationships and culture. She writes beautifully of her adventures in both the field and the kitchen, recounting a pattern of diving into everything head first, and learning as she goes along. Her experiences are nothing if not inspiring, reminding farmers and non-farmers alike of the unparalleled, hard-won joys of a life of natural beauty and risks and physical work.

Much is written about farming these days, and sometimes we hesitate, thinking that the subject may soon be beaten to death. Kimball proves otherwise, that there is no such thing as “a story about a farm.” In writing a memoir about farming, she made the farm experience a medium to tell a wider story – about her own life, a love story, and a region, and makes us believe that there is always a new angle from which to come at the farm story. –Genevieve Slocum

THE SHORT STUFF

[amazonify]0307278255::text::::Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri[/amazonify]

unaccustomed earth jhumpa lahiriJhumpa Lahiri’s third book, Unaccustomed Earth, follows ten years after her first collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies, and shows a great leap in maturity and perspective for the already accomplished author. In the eight short stories of Unaccustomed Earth, she deals with all aspects of the familial: a daughter struggles to accept her father’s marriage to another woman after her mother’s death, a sister watches her younger brother’s battle with alcohol addiction, a father and son watch their mother struggle with cancer.

Part Two: Hema and Kaushik is the collection’s centerpiece, a beautifully crafted narrative through three stories, in which we see the title characters grow, their lives diverging and converging as they travel from Bombay to Cambridge to Calcutta and Rome. An added bonus to reading anything by Lahiri is her natural teaching—the pages gather warmth and value as she shares Bengali culture, cuisine, dress and history with us, never breaking up but always adding to the flow of her stories. –Justin Henry Fallon

[amazonify]0307387534::text::::Emerald City by Jennifer Egan[/amazonify]

Each work in this recently published collection of short stories from Jennifer Egan is told from the perspective of a different character attempting to overcome a personal hurdle. The first story in the collection, “Why China?” focuses on an American family that’s moved to China to escape a debt held by the patriarch of the family. In China, he crosses the man who’s caused him to lose his money and is forced to confront the demons of his past. Another story, “The Stylist,” follows the story of a stylist and photographer on location in another country. The photographer helps the stylist come to terms with the life she’s built for herself. The remaining stories in the collection also tell the tales of characters attempting to mend their broken lives and find happiness.

Emerald City is not only the title of the collection, but it’s also the theme that resonates throughout each story. We’re all in search of an Emerald City–a world we believe will grant our wishes, yet upon reaching our destination, more often than not, we find that the world is not quite how we dreamed. Each of Egan’s stories shows the various characters at each stage of their personal journey towards this Emerald City. –Juliet Barney

THE REAL STUFF

[amazonify]0316056863::text::::Bossypants by Tina Fey[/amazonify]

Bossypants Tina FeyI’m not a follower of Tina Fey. I’ve never seen a “30 Rock” episode, although followers of the show assure me that I’m missing out. I have seen her SNL comedy sketches (but who hasn’t seen Fey imitating Sarah Palin). Besides that, my experience with the popular quirky lady comedian boils down to a movie or two with her in it. Not a whole lot, I know, but I was still curious when this book came out, so I decided to give it a shot. I expected it would be funny, what I didn’t expect was that it would be quite so funny. It’s damn funny.

And it’s not just funny in the way that you’d expect a comedian’s autobiography to be—relaying amusing and self-deprecating quips about their childhood and adolescence, their awkward teenage years, their lives before and after stardom, etc (etc, etc). As the title suggests, Bossypants is as much an autobiography about Fey’s life as it is a book on how to be a good, you guessed it, boss. Packed into its pages is a wealth of excellent advice on this very matter.

If you’re already a fan of Tina Fey, no doubt her autobiography will endear her to you more, as Fey gives her readers an honest appraisal (or as honest as anyone can surmise when it comes to celebrity) of her life, shelling out stories and advice on motherhood, success, and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. If you’re not a huge fan of Fey, and you decide to venture into it anyways, you may find that you’re following her a little closer from here on out. –Monica Sirignano

[amazonify]0060936223::text::::Just Kids by Patti Smith[/amazonify]

just kids patti smithIn her memoir, Just Kids, Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith tells the story of her time in spent in New York City circa the 1970s—a testament to, and fulfillment of a  promise to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Leaving her home in New Jersey to find herself in the city, instead she found Robert. From the day they met, Patti and Robert became inseparable. First as lovers, and ultimately as lifelong muses and friends, together Patti and Robert took on the world, determined to define themselves as artists. Her book brings readers back to a time before she was a punk poetess, when Robert was a gay provocateur and New York City was alive with art, music and bohemianism.

Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010, Just Kids at its core is a love story, where art is the romancer. Although many would not be able to relate to Patti’s experiences—nights at Max’s Kansas City with the Velvet Underground and friendships with Dylan, Hendrix, Joplin, Allen Ginsberg and so on—deep down everyone is insecure, unsure of what they’re “here” for, just like when Patti and Robert were first starting out and just kids. –Aubree Cutkomp

[amazonify]030747545X::text::::The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches[/amazonify]

Baseball Zack HampleFan of the game or not, this is a book that just about anyone can enjoy. Rife with humor, packed with interesting facts about the baseball itself, including a fairly long section on its history, author Zack Hample shares his fanatical yet fascinating knowledge of the ball, the game and ballhawking. If you’re thinking this might be a dry read, think again. There’s also a special section devoted to Foul Balls in Pop Culture, and a highly entertaining interview section with the Top 10 Ballhawkers of all time.

You’ll find out which Hall of Famer once caught a ball dropped from an airplane, a part of the baseball at one time actually came from dog food companies (you’ll have to read the book to find out which part), and some handy ballhawking advice like where to sit for your best chance of catching a foul ball. A fun and fascinating read, this is the author’s third book on the sport, and it doesn’t disappoint. –Monica Sirignano

[amazonify]0670022209::text::::Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable[/amazonify]

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Controversial and complex, Malcolm X remains one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. Yet there was a mythology and numerous contradictions about Malcolm that many have questioned. With a background that involved a life of crime, a prison sentence, his involvement with the Nation of Islam and his evolution into one of the most powerful orators of the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm gets a fresh perspective in this new and controversial biography by the late Manning Marable.

A highly respected scholar who spent 20 years researching the book, Marable acquired information from interviews, government documents and private papers, uncovering new revelations, including alleged infidelities that have caused an uproar with members of Malcolm’s family. Regardless of these controversies, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is an intriguing look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement and gives perspective on Malcolm X’s importance in American history. –Dave Bower

[amazonify]074324754X::text::::The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls[/amazonify]

the glass castle jeannette walls Jeanette Walls lives in a chaotic world with her siblings and parents. Dealing with the eccentrics of her childhood, she speaks honestly about her trials living in cars, having little food to eat and the grey areas of her family revolving around the law. Alongside her struggles though lie happy memories of her father giving the kids stars for Christmas, and her triumphs against bullies in the neighborhood. Each new place they reside in gives light to the real traumas she faces and her child-like perspective to how to deal with everyday life.

The memoirs of Jeanette Walls can be whatever the reader would like them to be—either a warning about heeding to family problems or a beautiful story of hope and survival. By following her from childhood to the present day, this novel gives a broad perspective of growth and experience that will lead a reader to meditate on what family really means. The Glass Castle is sometimes tearful, but the overall message is so poignant and endearing, it’s worth a couple sniffles. –Eileen Cotter

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

[amazonify]0802138187::text::::Kubrick by Michael Herr[/amazonify]

Kubrick Michael HerrFilmmaker Stanley Kubrick (Paths of Glory, Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey—shall I go on?) was known for his meticulous attention to detail and for working on his own terms, which often led to long shooting schedules, sometimes taking years just to complete one film. Kubrick has often been regarded as a misanthrope, a hermit, a misogynist and a reclusive megalomaniac; yet, this is how the media and most of the public have always perceived him. For those who actually knew Kubrick, it would appear to be quite the opposite. An intensely private individual, Kubrick is given a fair, and honest appraisal in this brief, witty tribute by screenwriter (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket) and journalist (Dispatches) Michael Herr.

This look at Herr’s 20-year friendship with Kubrick dispels the numerous rumors and mythology about his many perceived idiosyncrasies, while also giving a look at the filmmaker’s personality and sense of humor, recollected in highlights of the numerous phone conversations the two had, ranging from minutes to several hours. Herr divulges that Kubrick wasn’t a hermit (although he rarely left his home in England from 1968 until his death in 1999), and though he could be extremely difficult at times, he was a devoted family man.

Herr also provides an encompassing overview of Kubrick’s career ranging from his days as an early New York hipster/beatnik auteur fascinated by jazz, baseball, photography (he was a staff photographer at Look Magazine while a teenager) and, of course, chess. In addition to critiques of all of Kubrick’s films, Herr gives what may be the definitive analysis of his final film, Eyes Wide Shut, which has been both praised and derided by critics and fans. A relatively quick read at just under 100 pages, Kubrick is filled with fascinating information and a fitting tribute to the director’s legacy. –Dave Bower

FOR THE YOUNGUNS

[amazonify]0982981694::text::::Family Ties by Ottilie Weber[/amazonify]

Family Ties Ottilie WeberAn exciting young adult/teen novel, the story follows Abby and her best friend Cory during their high school summer break. In high school, everyone thinks their summer is boring, that there must be something better to do outside their town. Well, Abby gets more than she bargained for when one night after work, on her way home, she’s kidnapped. Cory blames himself and becomes more despondent, not even really excited for his trip to Germany to visit his aunt and uncle; his mind is totally focused on Abby. Cory, while on another trip to another castle with his aunt and uncle, finds Abby. He tries to rescue her, but Abby wasn’t someone who really needed rescuing – she’s a feisty character on her own. Together, they endure the selfish prince and his distorted view of reality, and why Abby’s been kidnapped.

What’s so great about “Family Ties” is that Abby doesn’t need rescuing. She’s independent, smart, resourceful, stubborn, and she does not give up. She’s a great role model for younger girls. Not your stereotypical damsel in distress, she’s barely a damsel in distress as it is. Weber has done a fine job in creating real characters, even the minor characters are fleshed out and have genuine motives and feelings – there’s not a single aspect that feels fake. –Jenn Waterman

THE POETIC STUFF

[amazonify]B003F76FAO::text::::The Ghost Soldiers by James Tate[/amazonify]

ghost soldiers james tate James Tate’s sixteenth book of poetry captures him at the height of his creative power. The Ghost Soldiers is made up of about one hundred prose poems, or, poems that appear and read like prose stories, but still insist on being called poems. Tate makes the comic tragic, the tragic comical and the mundane heroic, while generally highlighting and drawing the absurdity out of everyday life situations.

Enjoyable even on first glance, the deceivingly simple pieces warrant reread after reread, slowly revealing themselves through repetition. The book has all of the grace, humor, wit and power of observation to be expected from James Tate, without the burden of any of the flowery or overly abstract trappings of “typical” poetry to make non-poetry lovers run away from the book in fear. –Justin Henry Fallon

–This article was co-written by various members of The Free George staff.

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