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  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2017/09/22 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read, geek love, neil degrasse tyson,   

    10 Books Non-Geek Parents of Geeks Need to Read 

    Having children is one of the most powerful aspects of existence—the opportunity to mold and educate a new human, to shape their personalities and moral code. Or, try to anyway—sometimes your kids go in directions you never expected. One day they’re perfectly happy watching Spongebob, the next, they’re binging Doctor Who and reading X-Men comics. That’s right: while you were busy researching how to afford Ivy League colleges, your kid evolved into a geek.

    Don’t panic. Geeks built the world, they keep it running smoothly, they founded Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Plus, you’ve got books on your side—reading the 10 books below won’t make you into a Geek yourself, but they will give you the necessary background to avoid tip-toeing around your geek child with a permanently confused expression on your face.

    Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
    Heinlein’s influential sci-fi novel isn’t for everyone, but in it he captures the unique combination of brilliance, superiority, terror, and loneliness that defines many geeky folks’ early life experiences. The story of a human raised on Mars by Martians who returns to Earth as the ultimate outsider, it explores that painful outsider status in a way that resonates with many smart kids, while introducing a ton of concepts (and fun words like grok) that have become foundational in geek culture.

    A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
    Maybe a better place to start is with some foundational scientific concepts. If your kid is getting into the sci-fi, they’re probably also getting into the science behind it—so having at least a glancing acquaintance with the field will help you keep up. Hawking and Tyson both wrote their books with the non-scientist in mind, but these works aren’t dumbed-down. Instead, they present incredibly advanced concepts in a jargon-free, but intelligent manner.

    Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter
    One of the fundamental aspects of the geek mindset is curiosity—not about one specific thing, but about everything. Thoughts can jump alarmingly quickly as connections are made, which can sometimes make conversations a little tricky. Hofstadter’s famous book is like a deep-dive into the geekiest brain ever; just following the ebb and flow of his thoughts, and his brilliant wordplay, logic games, and intellectual experiments will be fascinating and delightful even if you don’t quite get all of them. Don’t worry—most people fail to “get” something in this book. It’s a lot to take in, but even making the attempt will put you on the right wavelength.

    Neuromancer, by William Gibson
    Another sci-fi classic that offers clues to the cyberpunk and programming subculture that your geeky kid is somehow magically well-versed in. Although dated, Gibson’s novel established so many of the tropes that reign in modern-day sci-fi, it’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the thrill of hacking together your first app—or simply hijacking the neighbors’ Netflix password.

    Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
    Another writer who “gets” the geek subculture. Neal Stephenson’s classic novel not only offers up some (again, slightly dated) examples of the geek approach to life, but also gets into the headspace of people who want answers and aren’t waiting patiently for someone to deliver them. As you read, you’ll run into a bunch of terms and concepts (like the concept of an avatar) that are common today—and then you’ll realize Stephenson coined them decades ago.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    If you want to get your geek’s sense of humor, start here, with the geekiest of comedy sci-fi novels. Adams himself was pretty geeky, a lover of gadgets and technology and an early adopter of the personal computer, and his humor runs the gamut from obscure technologies to philosophical puzzles with hilariously unconventional solutions.

    Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, by Tom Bissell
    Geeks love games. Well, most people love video games to some extent, but the geeks of the world own the gaming space, so understanding the thrill of video games (if you don’t already) is essential to being able to understand your kids. Bissell’s approach is readable but thorough, seeking to cut through the surface concepts of games simply being mindless entertainment and the crazier theories about games inspiring violence and sociopathic behavior, concentrating on what video games mean for mental and emotional development—and how it’s probably not a bad thing to let your kids enjoy the heck out of these entertainments. Video games, after all, are complex, vibrant imaginary worlds that can teach kids to use their wits, to love solving puzzles, and to deal with uncomfortable situations in a safe way.

    Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson and Empire of Imagination, by Michael Witwer
    Role playing games (RPGs) are often misunderstood—and considered the geekiest of geek pursuits. While RPGs are cracking the mainstream as more and more people discover the intense, deep-dive pleasures of total immersion in a fictional universe, they’re still difficult to understand for the non-geeks of the world. These two books will help illuminate what makes RPGs so fun, getting into the history, the mechanisms, and the basics of a good RPG experience. Read them, and you’ll understand better the next time your kid references a “saving throw” or a 20-sided die.

    The post 10 Books Non-Geek Parents of Geeks Need to Read appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:15 pm on 2017/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read,   

    45 Novels Written In the 19th Century That Deserve a Place on the Modern Bookshelf 

    When discussing novels to read, there’s always a focus on the new and the upcoming. New is always exciting, the idea that you’re going to encounter something you’ve never seen before. But if you haven’t read older books, they’re new to you, which is more or less the same thing—and when it comes to novels, new is certainly not always better.

    The fifty books on this list were all published more than a hundred years ago, and yet remain fresh and exhilarating reads. There’s a temptation, of course, to mutter the names Dickens, Tolstoy, and Twain and assume you’ve covered the 19th century—but a deeper dive proves the novel was alive and well in the 1800s.

    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    You really can’t discuss 19th-century American literature without discussion of Twain and his two most enduring works. Still controversial more than a century after publication, both novels remain hilarious examples of Americana while carrying potent social commentary, especially concerning race in America—commentary that is still, sadly, applicable. Twain’s skill in couching serious criticisms of the world he lived in within an entertaining and engrossing adventure remains unparalleled in American literature.

    The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
    Considering how much Twain disliked Cooper’s writing (devoting an entire essay to the subject of Cooper’s “offenses”), it’s fitting to follow Twain on this list with The Last of the Mohicans, chronologically a sequel to Cooper’s The Deerslayer. Often cited as the first truly successful American novel, set during the French and Indian War, it continues the story of Natty Bumppo’s adventures and is often seen as an allegory for the rise of America itself, as both a country and a symbol.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    It seems strange today, but the concept of “childhood” as a separate and distinct period of life is pretty recent. Of course, the odds of surviving childhood have greatly improved fairly recently, too, so it’s not entirely surprising. Alcott’s Little Women is one of the earliest books to have all the features of young adult fiction: a focus on youthful characters and their struggles, a story that presents an idyllic starting point that becomes complicated by adult concerns, and a realistic approach to the concerns of youth. It’s easy to see the seeds of the genre in this wonderful book.

    McTeague, by Frank Norris
    It’s usually Norris’s later novel The Octopus that people are familiar with, but his debut is the more satisfying read. It’s a grim story of a romance soured by financial pressures and dreams deferred, descending rather alarmingly into insanity and murder. It’s an evergreen story; anyone who has ever bickered over money with a loved one will see themselves in it.

    The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    One of the most complex novels ever written, dealing subtly with issues of sin, justice, shame, and religion, this is one of those novels that many people encounter first in school. The tragic and thoughtful story of a 17th-century New England woman named Hester Prynne who is sentenced to wear a red letter “A” after being convicted of adultery, it uses its seemingly obvious symbolism to incredible effect, exploring life in America in ways that applied to both the 19th century when it was published as well as today.

    The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
    Many books have explored the true terror and dread of combat, but one of the first and most powerful to subvert the cliché of glorious warfare is Crane’s 1895 masterwork. What makes it so interesting is it explores the subject without succumbing to the temptation to become an anti-war screed, presenting the protagonist, Henry, as a young man who dreamed of glory but finds his first experience in combat to be terrifying. After fleeing the battlefield, he returns to his regiment seeking the “Red Badge of Courage”—that is, a wound—and behaves more bravely, only to discover his whole unit is considered expendable. Crane manages to make Henry’s inner struggle a noble one without undercutting the inhumanity of warfare.

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    Pride and Prejudice remains so powerful a template for romance fiction that it’s still used as the inspiration for new novels, films, and more to this day. The tale of vivacious Elizabeth Bennet and her unwitting ensnaring of proud, rich Mr. Darcy has launched a million first-date conversations, and contains multiple speeches and lines of dialogue worth memorizing. You could (and people have) rewrite this book today with modern slang and language and sell millions of copies.

    The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
    The essential irony of a young woman who revels in her independence losing that freedom because she inherits great wealth drives this classic novel. That Isabel Archer faces the consequences of her decisions even though they take her further and further away from her desires makes her one of the most interesting characters in American literature.

    Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
    Moby-Dick has the distinction of being perhaps the most well-known novel no one has read. Its reputation for 19th-century density and complex language makes it fearsome. The trick to Moby-Dick? It is hilarious. There are more dirty jokes in this book than you can shake your peg-leg at (see what we did there), and the whaling stuff? Absolutely thrilling, once you get used to the rhythm of the language.

    The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
    More than a century after its initial publication, no one totally agrees on what actually happens in this brilliant short novel. A young governess is hired to care for two children on an isolated estate, ordered by their uncle not to bother him in any way. She comes to have great affection for the children, especially young Miles, who has been mysteriously expelled from his boarding school. She begins to see two mysterious figures, a man and a woman, and learns that her predecessor and another employee were lovers and are both now dead; she becomes disturbed because no one else seems to notice the pair. Here we are a hundred years later and no one is entirely certain whether this is a ghost story, the story of a woman going insane—or both.

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
    Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical story of a young girl falling down a rabbit hole and entering the strange, perilous world of Wonderland is so influential, so commonly referenced, reimagined, and reinterpreted, it transcends time. It might have been written yesterday as easily as 1865, and its clever wordplay and Carroll’s loose view of the rules of logic and language guarantee it will remain a fixture on bookstore shelves for a very long time to come.

    Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling
    Kipling’s 1897 novel is the story of a spoiled rich American teenager named Harvey who is washed overboard in a storm and rescued by a fishing boat. The crew doesn’t believe his stories of wealth, but the Captain takes him on as a crew member. Harvey slowly accepts his fate and becomes a valuable member of the crew until they finally put into port and he contacts his parents. Celebrated as a testimonial to the American spirit, the book remains thrilling to anyone who has ever sat in a boring lecture or meeting and wished fate would intervene with a dose of adventure.

    David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
    Speaking of Dickens and his dominance of the 19th century book-writing business, David Copperfield may well be his most beloved novel (it’s certainly one of his most adapted). Originally serialized, the story of the titular character’s life is largely autobiographical. Not many writers get the chance to fictionalize their own lives in such grand style, and no other Dickens novel exemplifies his wordy, fluid style like this one.

    Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    Stoker’s classic novel has been filmed so many times, it’s possible some don’t realize there’s a source novel. Stoker’s genius is using a series of diary entries and letters (plus a few newspaper clippings filling in background material) to limit the awareness of his characters, ratcheting up tension as the reader realizes they know more than the people they’re reading about. The result is an air of claustrophobic, gothic horror that has kept us reading for centuries.

    Emma, by Jane Austen
    Featuring one of literature’s great characters in the self-satisfied, well-intentioned, misguided Emma Woodhouse, Austen’s 1815 novel continues to be repurposed in the modern age (it was the basis for the film Clueless, after all) owing to its timeless themes of class, romance, and self-awareness. These evergreen concepts converge on the story of a wealthy young woman who fancies she is an expert matchmaker based on little more than her own high opinion of herself. The hilarious mess she makes as she pursues her newfound avocation is as entertaining and perceptive today as it was back then; we all know at least one Emma.

    Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
    Hardy’s best-known novel tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak. Gabriel falls in love with Bathsheba when he is well-off, but she rejects his proposal because she values her independence. As their fortunes wax and wane, Gabriel and Bathsheba remain in each other’s lives, dealing with tragedies and mysteries, more or less until Bathsheba has been through enough turmoil to realize that Gabriel is her only true love. Along the way you get to enjoy some of the finest writing the English language has ever produced.

    Flatland, by Edwin Abbott
    Somehow, impossibly, combining social commentary with serious mathematics, Flatland is one of the least-read books everyone should read. It’s set in a two-dimensional world where every character is a geometric shape and the main character is a square (named, yes, A Square) who has a vision of a one-dimensional world inhabited by points on a line, and who then is visited by A Sphere, a visitor from three-dimensional space. It’s a lot of fun, and manages to be very sneaky as it educates you about dimensions and social structures.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    The story of the orphan Pip as he makes his way through his life, from a childhood being brought up “by hand” by his harsh sister and gentle, loving brother-in-law, through his callow young adulthood, covers every aspect of our existence, dealing in universal themes including misplaced gratitude, unrequited love, and regret. It doesn’t hurt that it contains some of Dickens’ best-known characters, including the tragic Miss Havisham, who perpetually wears her rotting wedding dress after being jilted at the altar.

    Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
    Conrad’s exploration of what it means to be “civilized” unfolds as one of literature’s most iconic plots, the search for the enigmatic and ultimately insane Captain Kurtz in the Free State of Congo (adapted in nightmarish fashion in the film Apocalypse Now). Examining how supposedly civilized Western forces turned the Congo into a nightmare, Conrad’s story remains horrifying and compelling to the modern reader, and continues to be recycled and to inspire new works that seek to illuminate similar themes.

    The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells
    More than a century after its publication, Wells’ classic novel retains its power to horrify—a power that only increases as medicine advances. The question of whether or not we should do some of the things medical science is now capable of—or will shortly be capable of—will never be an easy one to answer. While Moreau’s insane experiments on animal/human hybrids may be a bit far-fetched no matter how far genetic science advances, the story demonstrates in horrific fashion just how much suffering awaits us if we ever decide that things like ethics and morals are holding back our ability to control the most fundamental aspects of biology.

    Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott
    One of the first true examples of a historical novel, Ivanhoe is set in the 12th century and focuses on one of the few Saxon noble families still intact after the Norman Conquest. Wilfred of Ivanhoe supports King Richard and is disinherited for his trouble, joining the king on the crusades. The story includes jousts, kidnappings, and plain old-fashioned adventure, and was thrillingly unlike anything that had come before it.

    Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    This revolutionary novel is in part responsible for our modern concept of storytelling, as it was the first to delve directly into the inner life of its protagonist. The story is told firmly from Jane’s point of view, embellished, dramatized, and rendered slightly unreal by virtue of her perception, memory, and prejudices. While telling a love story about a complex proto-feminist character, the novel finds time to offer thoughtful critiques of what was then modern life—critiques that still ring true today.

    Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmoore
    If you’re thinking of the cookies, you’ve missed out on a great book. This classic story set in 17th-century England tells the story of the Doones, a formerly aristocratic family that has devolved into a gang of impoverished criminals. John, a farmer whose father was murdered by the Doones, falls in love with a beautiful girl named Lorna only to discover she is the granddaughter of Sir Ensor Doone. Remarkably, Blackmore perfectly captures the lilt and rhythm of a regional dialect without it becoming distracting or comedic, giving this book a feeling of verisimilitude rarely matched.

    The Luck of Barry Lyndon, by William Makepeace Thackery
    The source material for Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon, this novel follows the entertainingly incompetent attempts of Redmond Barry, born into an aristocratic but poor Irish family, as he seeks both a fortune and an English title. Redmond thinks a lot of himself, and is a very unreliable narrator always seeking to make himself look good, but Thackery skillfully reveals his failings as both a person and a social climber, making this a book that can be read several times, each reread revealing something new.

    Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
    Dickens’ story borders on being an exposé of how orphans were treated in the 19th century, as Oliver Twist’s horrible childhood, sale into indentured servitude as an apprentice, and absorption into a criminal gang (led by the iconic Fagin and including the equally iconic Artful Dodger) was all too possible at the time. Dickens combined a bracingly realistic look at criminal life with a satisfyingly happy ending in a book everyone should read at least once in their lives.

    Tom Brown’s School Days, by Thomas Hughes
    The semi-autobiographical story of Tom Brown’s experiences at school offers universal themes of childhood and the intimidating, exciting moment when you take those first steps toward independence and adulthood. These themes still resonate, as do the episodes of impish pranks and adventures (including the occasional dorm room explosion).

    The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
    Wells’ classic sci-fi story remains so modern in execution it’s easy to forget it was written more than a century ago, especially since sci-fi to this day continues to explore the narrative possibilities of time travel. The ending of the story remains among of the most chilling sequences in literature—you will be depressed, disturbed, and, finally, haunted by the traveler’s ultimate mysterious fate.

    Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
    Hardy’s deeply considered rumination on morality, man’s relationship with both nature and modern technology, and sex is perhaps his greatest work. Tess, a good young woman from a poor family, is raped, her sickly son dies weeks after birth, and her marriage with a stalwart young farmer is ruined by the stain to her reputation—and things only get worse from there. Yet the story is animated by a deep level of empathy and contemplation that renders it not entirely bleak.

    A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
    The nearly infinite opening passage of this novel, beginning with the famous “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” signals the wide range of themes the book intends to cover; Dickens wanted nothing less than an examination of the human condition and all of history in the confines of a story. Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, Dickens captures the frenetic spirit of the times in the unsteady adventures of his characters, resulting in one the most sprawling epic novels of all time.

    Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
    The story of fierce social climber Becky Sharp and her ascent—and rapid descent—in life as she schemes, steals, and seduces those who can assist her until an almost-too-late epiphany, is extremely well-done on the surface, entertaining and well-written. But then comes the moment when the narrator reveals that he’s heard her story through gossip and has no actual knowledge of the events, and the book suddenly twists itself into a brilliant puzzle. Trying to figure out what’s true and what matters in the story has been keeping people up past their bedtime ever since.

    The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
    There’s little argument that Collins’s novel about a mentally deranged woman, amateur sleuths, and a plot to steal a fortune is one of literature’s first true detective tales. Marian Halcombe and Walter Hartright are genuine amateurs, employing nothing more than their good sense and keen eye to slowly unravel a mystery involving switched identities and an enormous amount of money. The novel is also notable for Collins’ somewhat progressive take on women’s rights, as the mystery centers on the lack of legal standing a wife had at the time when it came to her own money, and is written in a lively tone that makes it seem more modern than it actually is.

    Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
    Bursting with passion, Emily Brontë’s only novel is concerned with the destructive power of that unbridled emotion, demonstrating how feeling unchecked by reason can distort life and ultimately destroy it. Part romance, part ghost story, Wuthering Heights offers one of the best characters ever created in Heathcliff, a shifting character of uncertain parentage and legacy who is ultimately undone by his mad love for foster sister Catherine and taste for vengeance following her death.

    Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
    A fascinating novel that refutes any claim that the 19th century was prudish, this story of a man who volunteers to be a woman’s slave, encouraging her to treat him in increasingly awful ways so he can attain what he calls “suprasensuality,” is unsettling, and ends on an unexpected note. The woman is initially put off by the man’s request, and eventually meets another man she wishes to be dominated by, souring the original relationship. It’s basically Fifty Shades in 1870.

    Flowers in the Mirror, by Ju-chen Li
    A brazenly feminist novel written in 1827 in China? Why wouldn’t you read this classic fantasy? A lighthearted story that begins when a power-mad empress orders all the flowers of the world to bloom the next day; when the flower spirits, fearing her, comply, the gods punish them by reincarnating them into the mortal bodies of young girls, whose adventures make up the rest of the surprisingly modern story.

    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
    Dumas’ classic revenge story is also the ultimate adventure story, centered on a man who is wrongly imprisoned, escapes, makes a fortune, and seeks to get back at his enemies. All of this is set against the backdrop of one of the most politically and militarily unsettled periods of European history—a moment when it seemed literally anything might happen, lending the story an urgency that still jumps off the page today.

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
    Sea monsters and what is essentially the first steampunk submarine: it doesn’t get more adventurous than this. Verne’s classic work of adventure and sci-fi isn’t exactly scientifically rigorous—at one point Captain Nemo exits his submarine and strolls about on the floor of the ocean without difficulty—but its spirit of discovery as the captain and his companions travel to various incredible places (including the lost city of Atlantis) is unparalleled.

    Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    In some ways Russian literature has been an unending reaction to the nearly endless social change that has swept and re-swept the country for the last two centuries. After an era of rigidity in the social structure, Russia began what could be seen as a still-ongoing struggle with its past and its future, unsettling everybody. Tolstoy’s vivid story of three complicated romantic relationships—particularly that of its titular character, who leaves her husband and the safety of societal approval in order to pursue a great love affair—is also a study of how Russian society adjusts, or doesn’t, to its ongoing social friction.

    Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Dostoevsky explores what some see as the inherent nihilism and violence of Russian society in this novel, in which a man named Raskolnikov plots and commits a murder partially out of a belief that he is predestined to do so. Raskolnikov’s torment and struggle with his burgeoning conscience eventually result in his confession and a clear implication that he can be saved despite his brutal actions, and in some ways the novel still encapsulates the Russian view of morality, justice, and human nature.

    War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
    In some ways, any consideration of Russian literature starts here—in fact, any consideration of the novel as an art form could start here, or at least nearby. The epic story of Russia during and immediately after the invasion by Napoleon, the novel combines fiction, philosophy, history, and a clear-eyed study of 19th-century Russian society and culture. If you read just one Russian novel, this would be the right choice.

    Cousin Bette, by Honore de Balzac
    With subtle homoerotic themes, Balzac’s greatest novel is a dark and delightful story of a woman purposefully working to destroy her own family. Cousin Bette, middle-aged, spinsterish, and bitter, works with the beautiful and greedy Valérie Marneffe to seduce and destroy the men of the Hulot family until Bette’s burning resentment literally kills her. She’s one of the greatest characters in literary history, and you should read this book immediately.

    To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston
    It’s an old-school melodrama, but one of the most popular books of 1899 is a well-done one. In 16th-century Jamestown, an English soldier named Ralph buys a wife, a woman named Jocelyn who initially loathes him. Unknown to Ralph, Jocelyn is actually a ward of the king, and already betrothed to an aristocrat. Adventures ensue in a surprisingly convoluted plot that’s got plenty of action, making this a nearly forgotten gem.

    King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard
    Written in a time when Africa seemed infinite and largely unexplored, at least from a Western point of view, Haggard’s classic adventure novel created the template still followed today—the Indiana Jones films, for one, owe a huge debt to Haggard. Adventurer Allan Quatermain agrees to locate a man who went missing searching for the titular mines in exchange for a share of any treasure found, and encounters hidden kingdoms and terrible dangers on the way.

    Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
    If you’ve ever heard or used the word nihilism, you can thank Turgenev’s novel, which popularized the term. A study of the growing generational divide in early 19th-century Russia, Fathers and Sons is sometimes regarded as Russia’s first modern novel. The changing times in the country background an intense study of the characters as they mature and change, leaving nihilism behind in favor of a more spiritual and traditionally Russian outlook on life.

    The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy
    This devastating short novel hits everyone right where they live, as its tale of an absolutely average man diligently advancing in his career, tolerating his unhappy marriage, and engaging in the sort of dull, meaningless existence most people know all too well is suddenly forced into an existential crisis as a seemingly minor injury inexorably turns fatal, leaving him to face the terror of death—and the worse terror of assessing how he has spent his time. Don’t read this if you’re feeling fragile, but do read it before it’s too late.

    The post 45 Novels Written In the 19th Century That Deserve a Place on the Modern Bookshelf appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 7:30 pm on 2017/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read, , let's make some magic, , sarah skilton   

    Club Deception Author Sarah Skilton on Magic-Themed Books for Every Kind of Reader 

    My debut novel for adults, Club Deception, comes out today! A murder mystery set at an underground magic club in downtown L.A., it has been referred to as “juicy noir.” (I liken it to The Prestige meets Desperate Housewives, with a little Sons of Anarchy thrown in for good measure.)

    As the wife of a magician, I had an absolute blast writing this behind-the-velvet-curtain caper about modern magic. To celebrate Club Deception’s release, here are five terrific books about magic, for fans of different genres.

     

     

     

    If you like historical fiction, you’ll love…

    The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister
    Set during the turn of the 20th century, at the height of vaudeville, The Magician’s Lie is the story of Ada Taylor (stage name Amazing Arden), whose provocative “sawing a man in half” illusion comes back to haunt her when she’s accused of using it to commit murder. You’ll be captivated by this dark feminist fable, which expertly weaves together psychological thrills, a touching romance, and a dash of fantasy.

    Mrs. Houdini, by Victoria Kelly
    “Many people had known some of his secrets…But only Bess knew everything.” He was born Ehrich Weiss, but we know him as Harry Houdini, the most famous escape artist in history. She was born Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, and most people don’t know anything about her—until now. Mrs. Houdini proves there has never been a love story like that of Harry and Bess Houdini, two Coney Island entertainers who married after a one-day courtship in 1894, and went on to perform a husband-and-wife act featuring impossible escapes, mentalism, and “communions with the dead.” From the Jersey boardwalk and the Walsh Brothers traveling circus, to prisons in Scotland Yard and séance rooms in Manhattan, Kelly brings the past alive in glorious detail, all wrapped around a heart-wrenching tale of spousal devotion that continues even after Harry’s sudden, too-young death.

     

    If you like romance, you’ll love…

    The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
    An enchantingly evocative debut about Le Cirque des Reves (the Circus of Dreams), a magical traveling production that “arrives without warning” and opens only at night. Against this backdrop we follow the travails of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, two rival magicians forced to play a complex game of one-upmanship by their warring supernatural guardians. Problem is, the two are in love. So layered is Morgenstern’s prose, you’ll believe you’re actually visiting Le Cirque yourself, somewhere beyond the realm of imagination.

     

     

     

    If you like self-help books, you’ll love…

    Spellbound, by David Kwong
    Written by a genuinely original, whip-smart magician whose act includes creating a one-of-a-kind New York Times–level crossword puzzle on the fly, Kwong uses his knowledge of magic and magic history to teach the seven principles of illusion. These principles are designed to elevate anyone’s career, regardless of field, by explaining how to command an audience, sway opinions, and sell products and ideas in more effective ways. Kwong’s unique premise makes the advice not only entertaining, but memorable as well.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    If you like nonfiction, you’ll love…

    The Last Greatest Magician in the World, by Jim Steinmeyer
    A rock star historian and inventor, highly regarded in the magic world, Steinmeyer has designed illusions for David Copperfield, Ricky Jay, and even Orson Welles. Here, Steinmeyer expertly introduces readers to Howard Thurston (1869–1936), who became a worldwide phenomenon during the golden age of vaudeville. A pickpocket and con man turned spectacular (and spectacularly vain) conjurer, Thurston was mentored by Harry Kellar and eventually took over Kellar’s act, billing himself as the headliner of “The Wonder Show of the Universe.” Hyperbole aside, in his day he was more famous than Houdini. And even though he’s no longer a household name, Thurston’s classic image, style, and grandiose spectacles—the biggest traveling magic act in the world—are the ones we continue to envision when we think of stage magicians.

    Club Deception hits shelves today.

    The post Club Deception Author Sarah Skilton on Magic-Themed Books for Every Kind of Reader appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Whitney Collins 3:30 pm on 2017/07/18 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read,   

    50 of the Funniest Books Ever Written 

    If you love to laugh then you’re in luck, because we’ve gathered 50 of the funniest books of all time on this can’t-miss list. From the dark and dry to the witty and wry, from the fictive to the factual, from travel logs to comedic blogs, this extensive collection of humor both classic and new includes something for everyone. Get ready to read ‘em and weep with laughter.

    Cold Comfort Farmby Stella Gibbons
    Published in 1932 in satirical response to romantic rural literature popular at the time, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm is a rollicking read about Flora Poste, a broke 19-year-old metropolitan orphan who decides to impose herself upon her remote farming relatives, the Starkadders. Full of aptly (and hilariously) named characters such as the Jersey cows, Graceless, Pointless, Aimless, and Feckless; and cousins Urk, Ezra, Harkaway, and Caraway, this laugh-out-loud novel details what happens when a bossy city girl tries to meddle in pastoral affairs.

    A Confederacy of Duncesby John Kennedy Toole
    Posthumous winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize, Toole’s masterpiece has awed and entertained scholars, skeptics, and general scalawags for decades. This peerless and eternally hilarious novel relays the misadventures of the misanthropic Ignatius Reilly—a thirtysomething who lives with his mother in 1960s New Orleans and struggles to find work while battling an affliction of the pyloric valve—as well as the various trials of the colorful characters of the Quarter.

    Do the Windows Open?by Anne Hecht
    Originally published as a series of absurd pieces in the New Yorker, Do the Windows Open? follows the life of a neurotic narrator who spends most of her time attempting to photograph bizarre subjects, most notably a renowned reproductive surgeon, the ponds of Nantucket, and the many houses of Anne Sexton. Wry, dry, and irresistible, this book will have readers rooting for its exasperating star, who struggles with claustrophobia, dental complaints, and an impossibly clean macrobiotic diet.

    The Selloutby Paul Beatty
    This satirical novel about race and racism reads like a brilliant standup routine that goes on for days. Every sentence of Paul Beatty’s masterpiece is so dense and multilayered, you’ll want to set aside precious time to absorb the barrage of images and genius within. Chock full of keen observations, singular interpretations, and loads of all-American cultural and historical references, The Sellout is in a league of its own.

    Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson
    Jenny Lawson, better known on the Interwebs as “the Bloggess,” shines her brightest in this irreverent memoir that reveals what it was like to grow up with a father who ran a taxidermy business out of the house, a mother who worked the school cafeteria, and a sister who shamelessly wore her mascot costume everywhere. Equally morbid and magnificent, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened unearths all of Jenny’s humiliating moments and mines them for wit and wisdom.

    Nakedby David Sedaris
    It’s nearly impossible to choose just one David Sedaris book for this list, as there are nearly a dozen that belong here. But if I’m forced to pick one, Naked takes the cake. Why? Although its contents are much like those contents of his other works (outrageously smart and hysterical essays that render readers incontinent), Naked does include the notorious “C.O.G.,” a piece of writing so stellar and original it’s a wonder anyone, anywhere, has dared put pen to paper since its publication.

    Still Life with Woodpeckerby Tom Robbins
    Redheaded Princess Leigh-Cheri, a former cheerleader turned vegetarian, falls in love with her opposite, outlaw Mickey Wrangle, at a liberal political convention in Hawaii that Mickey intends to bomb. A book about individual priorities, “metaphysical outlaw-ism,” the purpose of the moon, and “how to make love stay,” Still Life with Woodpecker has also been described as a postmodern fairy tale that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes.

    I Was Told There’d Be Cakeby Sloane Crosley
    A collection of helpless, hapless, and howlingly good essays, Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake details the struggles and pitfalls of young urban life, from upsetting an exhibit at the Natural History Museum to managing an unhealthy obsession with plastic ponies to attending weddings for people you no longer remember.

    Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
    This 1963 science fiction masterpiece follows a cornucopia of crazed characters around a sordid Carribbean island where one writer’s desire to document atomic bomb stories overlaps with a high-stakes political drama. Once a mainstay of every student’s backpack, Cat’s Cradle offers important commentary on American imperialism, man versus technology, and the threat of nuclear war. But above all else, it’s screamingly funny.

    I’m Judging You, by Luvvie Ajayi
    Multi-award-winning writer, critic, blogger, and all-around wisecracking social commentary mastermind Luvvie Ajayi holds nothing back in this howlingly brave and funny collection of essays tackling not just the insipidness of pop culture but the pervasiveness of racism. A self-proclaimed “professional shade thrower,” Ajayi has written a brilliant bestseller that will have you laughing at (and ruthlessly lambasting) the world around you.

    In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders
    George Saunders, lauded and beloved writer of fiction, is more than just a fantastic storyteller; he’s a keen-eyed satirist who knows both heartache and humor and can expertly dish up equal servings of pathos and absurdity. In Persuasion Nation is a collection of varied short stories that blend the literary with the fantastical and offer poignant insight into the emptiness and hilarity of our modern world.

    Hyperbole and a Halfby Allie Brosh
    Praised as genius, human, broken, and sidesplitting, Hyperbole and a Half is the wildly illustrated book that Bill Gates proclaimed to be “funny and smart as hell.” Spawned from the popular blog and webcomic following Allie’s adventures with depression and rescue dogs, Hyperbole and a Half is one of the most original and captivating creations of our Internet age.

    What I’d Say to the Martians: And Other Veiled Threats, by Jack Handey
    Known for his New Yorker wit, Saturday Night Live bits, and riotous Deep Thoughts, Jack Handey is also celebrated as one of America’s most enduring humorists. In What I’d Say to the Martians, he dishes up his trademark accessible weirdness through various short stories, sketches, and musings. From “How to Prepare a Wild-Caught Rabbit for a Meal” to “My Third Best Friend” (which ends up being his wife, Brenda), Handey will have you gasping for air and buying up copies for friends.

    Our Dumb Worldby The Onion
    Brought to you courtesy of The Onion, arguably the planet’s most hilarious fake news source, Our Dumb World is the most outrageously fun faux atlas you’ll ever encounter. Chock full of laugh-out-loud maps and graphics, this book skewers every corner of the world, from Nevada (“Where Everyone’s a Loser”) to Greenland (“The Largest Land Mass on Earth”).

    Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore
    Most everyone knows the story of Jesus, but no one tells it as well as Christ’s little-known childhood friend, Biff. In Lamb, Christopher Moore retells the short life of the Messiah, including every miracle, journey, kung fu fight, and hot babe you may have missed the first time around. Hailed as both heartfelt and hilarious, this wacky, surprisingly wonderful lost book of the Gospel is truly divine comedy.

    If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t), by Betty White
    Betty White has spent seven decades in Hollywood, so you can imagine she has plenty of tales to tell and wit and wisdom to share. In If You Ask Me, White shares everything she knows about love, fame, our fine feathered and furry friends (she’s a devout animal lover), pop culture, and getting older. This read is as charming as its beloved author.

    The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain
    No one writes a travel book quite like humorist Mark Twain. In The Innocents Abroad (aka The New Pilgrims’ Progress), Twain details his journey aboard the chartered Quaker City, which took him and fellow Americans from New York City to Europe and the Holy Lands in 1867. Full of exasperation, awe, and laugh-out-loud comedy, this must-read may make contemporary travelers long for the days of slowpoke steamers.

    How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
    Fearless, feminist, and funny, How to be a Woman, by one of Britain’s most brilliant broads, has been praised as “entirely necessary” and a cultural phenomenon. Full of well-crafted arguments on how to bring down the patriarchy, as well as zingers regarding bras, strip clubs, and witches, this can’t-put-down read is everywoman’s pick-me-up.

    Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
    Named for the psychiatric disorder in which “altruistic impulses are perpetually at war with extreme sexual longings,” Philip Roth’s masterpiece is told from a psychoanalyst’s couch. This comedic jewel launched Roth to the forefront of American literature in the ’60s and continues to delight readers with its bravery and bawdiness.

    Diary of a Mad Diva, by Joan Rivers
    The last thing Joan Rivers ever wanted (or expected) as a gift was a diary, but when her daughter, Melissa, gave her one, the world’s most lovable and loudmouthed diva found she had a lot to say. The result is this gasp-inducing gem that skewers Hollywood celebs, New York, LA, vacations in Mexico, and, as always, Joan herself.

    Cruel Shoes, by Steve Martin
    One of the wisest and weirdest comedians of all time penned this classic compilation, which features absurdist short fiction and hilarious essays with LOL titles such as “The Diarrhea Gardens of El Camino Real,” “Poodles…Great Eating,” “The Vengeful Curtain Rod,” and “How To Fold Soup.”

    Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer
    An audacious and daring black comedy that was the first debut novel ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog tells the dark but surprisingly funny story of two Hungarian basketball players, Pataki and Gyuri, between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. Determined to flee their pointless factory work, the two athletes travel to every corner of Hungary, oftentimes in the nude, on an epic search for food, women, and meaning.

    No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July
    Miranda July, award-winning performance artist and filmmaker, delights fans and first-time readers alike with this collection of short stories that mine the awkwardness of the human experience for moments both mundane and meaningful. Sly, tender, strange, and often hilarious, July proves with this compilation that she’s one of the smartest, and unexpectedly funniest, voices around.

    A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, by David Foster Wallace
    There’s nothing quite like David Foster Wallace’s literary gymnastics; his flair for the funny, fearless, and footnoted are indisputably unmatched. And in this howler of a book, in which Wallace reports on experiences ranging from tennis to a Caribbean cruise to the Illinois State Fair, he brings his A-game. Readers will have their minds illuminated and their sides stitched.

    Meaty, by Samantha Irby
    Samantha Irby made her mark with her screamingly funny blog BitchesGottaEat, and the fun continues in outrageous literary debut Meaty. From the crass and witty “How to Get Your Disgusting Meat Carcass Ready for Some New, Hot Sex,” to poignant stories of her mother’s death and her struggles with Crohn’s, this bawdy and beautiful grouping of essays covers everything from poverty, race, and tacos to kittens, longing, and recipes. Yes, she’s included a few, to readers’ great joy.

    Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen
    Only the outrageous plot master and character genius Carl Hiaasen could concoct something as rude and riotous as Skinny Dip, a novel involving attempted murder, bales of floating Jamaican pot, ex-cops, and fraudulent marine biologists. Readers can’t go wrong reading any of Hiaasen’s works, but this beauty in particular dips into the real skinny of his comedic genius.

    Bossypants, by Tina Fey
    Everyone knows who Tina Fey is: she’s an SNL queen, she’s Liz Lemon, she’s an accomplished and adored writer, actor, producer, and comedian. But who was she before all that? In Bossypants, the Tina Fey story is brought to life, in the sort of autobiography everyone wishes they had written—and lived. From her early days working at the YMCA to her adventures in motherhood, this tell-all shows Fey really is as down to earth, and otherworldly, as we’ve made her out to be.

    Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    Trust us: if authors Gaiman and Pratchett are in charge of Armageddon, it’s going to be a hilarious event. In Good Omens, these two warped and witty Brits serve up their version of the end times, in which a witch whose prophecies always come true lets everyone know the world will end next Saturday before dinner. That’s when an angel and a demon (who’ve been living among mortals and enjoy it just fine) set out to find the Antichrist and put a stop to things. Too bad the Antichrist was switched at birth by a Satanist nun. Don’t miss the heaven this devilishly great read dishes up.

    In Such Good Company, by Carol Burnett
    One of television’s greatest variety shows was The Carol Burnett Show, starring Burnett alongside the outrageously fun Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway. In this read that’ll have you gasping for air, Burnett details the behind-the-scenes fun of all 276 episodes, with details on not just how the sketches were crafted, but also Burnett’s relationships with guest stars, like Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth, and Jim Nabors.

    Lamentations of the Father: Essays, by Ian Frazier
    Ian Frazier, accomplished novelist, essayist, and social satirist, whose classic comedic stylings have long graced the pages of the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, is at his all-time best in this collection. Hailed by The Boston Globe as “an antidote for the blues,” it reminds us why this life is so worth living and laughing at.

    If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I doing in the Pits?, by Erma Bombeck
    From 1965 to 1996, the incomparable Erma Bombeck wrote almost 5,000 newspaper columns about what it was like to be an ordinary Midwestern housewife, and her wry, dry style appealed to nearly everyone, laundry specialist or not. In this classic collection, readers will laugh aloud at Bombeck’s take on everything from lettuce to bunk beds to tennis elbow. Bombeck was indeed an American original, and this gem that stands the test of time reads like a slice of our country’s history.

    Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by Mil Millington
    Though the title sounds like a blog entry, this scream of a novel is actually fiction at its finest. Main character Pel, who lives with his feisty girlfriend Ursula, is unequipped to handle the downward spiral that occurs when he takes over his boss’s job. From run-ins with the Chinese mafia to stolen money and missing coworkers, Perl’s misadventures also include a series of laugh-out-loud arguments with his stalwart and stubborn love interest. This read proves a thriller can also be a killer comedy.

    I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro
    In 2012, over the course of just four months, Tig Notaro was hospitalized with a rare intestinal disease, lost her mother, endured a devastating breakup, and was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. The good news? Notaro is a comedian, and she took her unthinkable predicament onstage to deliver one of the most raw, illuminating, and darkly hilarious standup performances of all time. Her brave book tackles those same topics and is a must-read for its deep delivery of hope and laughter.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    There’s The Odyssey and then there’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which just might be slightly more adventurous than what Odysseus got himself into. In Adams’ galactic road trip, prepare yourself for all sorts of interstellar road blocks, philosophical musings, and alien weirdos—like Zaphod Beeblebrox, a two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie who’s also the president of the galaxy. If you’ve ever wondered what the meaning of life is, and why we wear watches, crack open this chestnut for the universe’s answers.

    I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
    Being a woman of certain age isn’t easy, but it just got a whole lot more fun thanks to the eternally observant and wisecracking Ephron, who gives readers the lowdown on empty nests, city life, sagging necks, and general runs of bad luck. With chapter titles like “The Lost Strudel or Le Strudel Perdu” and “Me and JFK: Now It Can Be Told,” not to mention its status as a #1 bestseller, I Feel Bad About My Neck will have readers feeling great about life.

    One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B.J. Novak
    B.J. Novak of The Office and standup fame does something unexpected and wonderful with his debut book: he tries his hand at fiction, not memoir, and the result is amazing. Including stories both sharp and tender, One More Thing has been compared to the stylings of George Saunders, Steve Martin, and Woody Allen. At its core, however, it is entirely original, and every piece of prose within tackles why humans are always searching for that one thing that will complete them.

    Shrill, by Lindy West
    Lindy West was an incredibly shy child who struggled with her weight and her large, often controversial, viewpoints. Yet she grew up to be one of the freshest, wisest, and downright funniest voices of modern feminism. In her blockbuster memoir Shrill, in a voice both charming and unapologetic, West tackles everything from rape jokes and internet trolls to activism and intestinal fortitude (or lack thereof). In a world where women are expected to be both seductive and submissive, “like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you,” West’s insights are extremely relevant and necessary. As well as hilarious.

    Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
    Published in 1889, this howler is still considered relevant and witty even though it was written more than one hundred years ago. Detailing a boating holiday on the Thames River, Three Men in a Boat began as a travel guide, but soon evolved into a comedic manuscript about the pitfalls of group vacations. Real, witty, and timeless, this humorous account proves that, when journeying with friends (and dogs), the more things change, the more they stay insane.

    Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
    What happens when a mother tires of her Seattle life and lifestyle? One in which she’s considered too bold (by her husband), too outrageous (by fellow moms), and too revolutionary (by colleagues)? She becomes an agoraphobic misanthrope who can no longer function…not even for a reward trip to Antarctica with her devoted daughter. Touching, brilliant, and very very funny, this page-turner has turned millions of heads.

    More Stories About Spaceships and Cancer, by Casper Kelly
    This little-known jewel, written by an award-winning TV writer, is chock full of absurd dark fiction that Joe Randazzo, editor of The Onion, bluntly praises as “f***ing awesome.” Within, readers will enter the mind of one of the seven dwarfs, who lusts after Snow White; an elderly man who has had his brain placed in a vat; and an office drone who believes his entire life may consist of implanted memories. Weird and incredibly smart, Casper Kelly’s little masterpiece earns a big spot on any must-read humor list.

    Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding
    Bridget Jones is a thirtysomething “Singleton” on a quest to tighten her thighs, brighten her love life, and learn how to operate the VCR. But first she must overcome patronizing questions from “Smug Marrieds,” the temptation of delicious sandwiches, and the disastrous world of dating. Full of everygirl woes, delightful self-disgust, and loads of laughter, this gem is not just comedic, it’s now a chick-lit classic.

    The World According to Garp, by John Irving
    John Irving grew up not knowing his biological father, and warned his mother that if she didn’t supply him with some details, he’d create a fictional story about his origin. This award-winning opus is said to be the result of that conversation, to which his mother famously replied: “Go ahead, dear.” Within, feminist icon Jenny Fields rapes a wounded soldier in order to become pregnant, and her son, T.S. Garp, grows up wondering who he is, where he came from, and what’s the meaning of it all. Filled with sexual deviance, heartbreak, and endless humor, this book is both harrowing and hilarious.

    Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
    Paling, of The Mindy Project and The Office fame, wows fans in her second book, in which she details her quest for happiness, her advice regarding on-camera beauty, her run-in with Bradley Cooper, and how to lose weight (or not) without employing behavior modification. This chuckle of a read is as self-deprecating and delightful as Paling herself.

    Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster), by Dave Barry
    For more than twenty years, Dave Barry, acclaimed author of over thirty books and sometime guitarist for the Rock Bottom Remainders, wrote a weekly humor column for the Miami Herald, earning him a Pulitzer Prize and a TV show. In this knee-slapping compilation, Barry gathers essays on a variety of noteworthy topics ranging from Brazil’s soccer obsession to Putin’s Russia to his very un-Mad Men-like hometown, as well as witty advice for his infant grandson.

    The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, by Issa Rae
    In this lovable, laugh-out-loud memoir named for her hugely popular web series, Issa Rae details the perils of being both awkward and black, a condition “someone once told [her] were the two worst things anyone could be.” From cybersexing and eating alone, to “rapping” and PDA, Rae endears and enlightens all readers, no matter their cool factor or skin color.

    The Kid, by Dan Savage
    Dan Savage might be best known for his syndicated sex advice column, “Savage Love,” but in this frank and courageous book, in which Dan and his boyfriend decide to start a family, new territory is chartered, and it’s both hysterical and heartfelt. For anyone who has ever wanted a baby, but perhaps have not considered what it’s like for two gay men to approach this milestone, The Kid is equal parts illuminating and entertaining.

    Seriously…I’m Kidding, Ellen Degenres
    Degeneres has given so many so much through her talk show, her standup comedy, and her activism. But she always has more to give, so she also writes books. And thank goodness for her efforts, because her memoirs are some of the most laugh-out-loud funny personal chronicles out there. Seriously…I’m Kidding is chock full of anecdotes about her life with wife Portia de Rossi and her time on American Idol, all wrapped up in a laugh-till-you-cry tell-all that’s a gift to all.

    A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
    An acclaimed writer of nonfiction (with a primarily travel-oriented bent), Bill Bryson is at his wittiest in A Walk in the Woods, tackling the Appalachian Trail, its history, and all the people he meets on his journey down it (not to mention bears). Howl like a wolf with Bryson as he makes his way from Georgia to Maine for more than two thousand miles of facts and fun.

    The Bedwetter, by Sarah Silverman
    Sarah Silverman’s autobiography is as fierce as she is, full of tales both tall and low about what it was like to grow up Jewish in New Hampshire, what it was like to write for SNL, what is was like to battle depression, and what it was like to struggle with an ongoing bedwetting condition. Very brave and extremely funny, Bedwetter will have readers wetting their pants.

    The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
    Since it took the stage in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s piece de resistance, The Importance of Being Earnest, has delighted audiences and readers with its endlessly genius wordplay. In addition to a riveting plot and dialogue, this classic play employs all sorts of tricks of language that have continued to entertain for more than a century.

    The post 50 of the Funniest Books Ever Written appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Melissa Albert 7:00 pm on 2017/07/11 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read,   

    Swell Author Jill Eisenstadt Shares Her Picks for Essential Summer Reading 

    Jill Eisenstadt’s debut, From Rockaway, was bound by the nihilistic routines of a trio of lifeguards who spend their summers surveying New York’s Rockaway Beach. Though still young, their lives already seem decided, split between watching the waves and working blue-collar jobs in the cold months. Her latest, Swell, returns to the shore thirty years later, in the story of a family with some serious baggage, moving into a Rockaway house that’s haunted in more ways than one. An unwanted houseguest and the return of a character who first appeared in From Rockaway round out this darkly funny, sympathetic tale.

     

    Both books make for perfect beach reading, set seaside but far from candy-colored. Here’s Eisenstadt to share a list of more ideal waterfront reads, for your summer enjoyment.

    What makes a good beach read? For me, it’s mainly about practicality. Leave the heavy tome at home. Avoid the minuscule print (though that’s advice for everywhere). Don’t bother with anything you’d care about getting stained with sunscreen or sandwich drippings. Wind, wet, sand, salt – such conditions require a book you can wrangle. Break the spine, throw the sopping towel over accidentally, or fold down pages when your bookmark vanishes. Other than that, it’s a matter of your current mood. So have a good assortment handy – old and new, serious, light, something in between. Content-wise, I tend to go for sweltering settings or themes, but that’s personal. There can be no bad beach books because, thank Poseidon, books don’t need charging or batteries.

    Some for Summer 2017:

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, with an Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, chaser
    Like beaches, Jane Austen is a place to escape from the news. Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern take is pure fun, an inside joke for the outdoors.

    Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami
    Short stories work well on the beach, particularly ones that tend toward the spare and philosophical. Between stories you can take a swim or stare out to sea wondering why Murakami used a Hemingway title, whether the men in the book could be weirder, and ultimately what it all means.

    The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery
    If you haven’t heard, octopuses are in. And no, it’s not octopi, as you’ll learn if you read this. Includes many other fascinating insights into these intelligent, emotional beings.

    The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers
    “It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world. Frankie had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

    Endless Love, by Scott Spencer
    I haven’t looked at this novel in decades but nor have I forgotten it. And I just recounted to verify….yes, the sex scene is 36 pages long! Definitely high time to revisit.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
    Psychological thrillers do not get better than this. Exciting and intelligent and set in fabulous sometimes beachy locales (the Ligurian coast). Never will you find yourself more fervently rooting for a sociopath.

    Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
    Lie on the sand on a big soft towel and listen to your daughters (or friends) take turns reading advice aloud. This book, culled from columns originally run in the Rumpus, written by the once anonymous and shockingly wise Cheryl Strayed, is a guaranteed conversation starter. When and if you gather the will to finally take a walk, there’s also a handy spinoff podcast with the wonderful Steve Almond.

    Sea Grapes, by Derek Walcott
    Poetry on the beach is essential. Because, as Walcott himself writes in the title poem of his most famous collection, “The classics can console. But not enough.”

    The post Swell Author Jill Eisenstadt Shares Her Picks for Essential Summer Reading appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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