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  • Nicole Hill 9:00 pm on 2018/03/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , neil gaiman, pulling rank   

    A Definitive Ranking of the Fiction Books of Neil Gaiman 

    There comes a time in every beloved author’s career when a book blogger must attempt to rank that author’s works. Surely, Neil Gaiman will be thrilled to know his day has now arrived. But where do you start with Gaiman, whose works diverge so greatly in style and approach, yet remain so very true to their author’s essence?

    You start by whittling the list down. Below, you’ll find my rankings of Gaiman’s major works of fiction. Missing from this list are his notable cadre of exclusively children’s books (my sincerest regards to Chu!), though I’ve kept books that have more crossover appeal, like Coraline. Similarly, I’ve left out Gaiman’s nonfiction writings, even though you really should take in The View from the Cheap Seats.

    Keep in mind: in my estimation, Gaiman has only ever written good books, which makes ranking his works all the harder. But here we go, nonetheless.

    This trilogy, a collaboration with Michael Reaves, skews toward the younger end of YA, but it proves entertaining for readers of any age. It’s a portal story that involves more science fiction elements than typically mark a Gaiman story, no doubt thanks to Reaves and, in the second and third novels, his daughter, Mallory Reaves. High-schooler Joey Harker gets lost one day—so lost, in fact, that he winds up in another dimension in which he must work with other versions of himself to save the multiverse. A fun series, but one that doesn’t give you the best sense of Gaiman’s style as an author.

    Smoke and Mirrors
    Oft-overlooked, Gaiman’s short fiction is where his inventiveness truly shines. Smoke and Mirrors was his first mainstream collection, though it cannibalizes several stories from the earlier, small-press Angels and Visitations. There are some standouts among the stories and poems, including “Troll Bridge, an entertaining retelling of “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” (Unusually lighthearted “Chivalry” is one of my underrated favorites.) But Smoke and Mirrors, as a whole, has more ups and downs than later collections.

    Norse Mythology
    Gaiman has engaged with Norse gods on a number of occasions, notably in both the Sandman series and American Gods. In both of those works, however, he’s using these mighty characters for his own purposes, and intermingling them with other elements of fantasy. His most recent book, Norse Mythology, finds him squarely rooted in the Nordic tradition, retelling the myths of Odin, Thor, and Loki in ways that are true to the original stories but also thoroughly modern. The tales are well-crafted and retold with a unique Gaiman spin, but you get to see less of the author’s mind than in his own original works.

    Anansi Boys
    If it were the work of any other author, Anansi Boys would have been a five-star career standout of a novel. The family tale of Fat Charlie Nancy and his trickster god father is hugely entertaining and carries all the hallmarks of a standard Gaiman story. The only way it falls short is in comparison to other Gaiman stories including American Gods, from which its story spun off. Ultimately, a great read, if slightly less memorable than its sibling novels.

    Trigger Warning
    Gaiman’s latest collection of “short fictions and disturbances” is darkly chaotic—and I mean that as a compliment. “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains” has lived many lives as a story, popping up in several formats, but this disturbing fable about greed and retribution finds a haunting home in Trigger Warning. There is levity in stories like “ORANGE,” which narrates a rogue tanning cream incident through responses to an investigator’s questionnaire. But by and large, the stories are meant to make you uncomfortable, and they typically succeed.

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    A sweet-and-sour meditation on the wonders of childhood, this novella draws upon a motif found in much of Gaiman’s shorter fiction: the melancholy and magic of looking back. Maybe it’s because the protagonist is a middle-aged Brit returning to his childhood home, or maybe it’s because Lettie Hempstock is a charismatic, remarkable, magical girl in an oeuvre filled with charismatic, remarkable, magical girls—either way, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a deeply intimate, personal story that sticks with you, despite its diminutive size.

    A true fairy tale from a master of folklore, Stardust is undeniably wonderful, equal parts sweet and swashbuckling. Wall, England, serves as the perfect foil to the Faerie realm, and both make for the perfect setting for a romantic adventure. Young Tristan Thorn’s quest to find a fallen star in Faerie uncovers far more than he bargained for, including an endlessly comedic family squabble over the Stormhold throne. A delight, if more straightforward than some of Gaiman’s other novels.

    Oddly, Neverwhere can be a divisive book among Gaiman’s legions of fans. Some find it weaker than similar efforts like American Gods. For me, it’s a personal favorite, mostly because of my intense affection for poor beleaguered Richard Mayhew, cast down into London Below, the magical and murky city within a city he never knew existed. Given the split, it seems fair to stick this novelization of the British TV series in the middle of the pack.

    The Graveyard Book
    The juxtaposition of children in cemeteries is something Gaiman has played with on more than one occasion. Here, it becomes the basis for a worrisome yet warming story of Nobody Owens, a little boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard after the murder of his parents. It doesn’t sound sweet—and to be fair, it has got its fair share of fright—but Bod and his adopted ghoulish family actually do provide plenty of sweet narrative moments—and that line between “awwww” and “AHHHH” is Gaiman’s sweet spot.

    Good Omens
    Reading this collaboration between Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett feels very much like what it is: watching two masters of their respective crafts at work. Pratchett’s madcap matches Gaiman’s macabre note for note in a novel that kicks off with the birth of the Antichrist and follows the joint efforts of an angel, a demon, and the plucky witch-descendant Anathema Device as they attempt to head off the End Times. It’s a raucous delight that melds the personalities of its creators near perfectly.

    American Gods
    You’re spluttering right now at the thought of Gaiman’s most broadly known work clocking in at a mere number four, I know. But this is the danger in ranking the books of someone who has a habit of writing very good books: they can’t all be number one. American Gods sends stoic former jailbird Shadow on a classic odyssey, and the novel engages with mythology in a fresh, fascinating way that would be entirely unexpected had Gaiman not already proved he’s so darn good at it.

    Fragile Things
    There is much to savor in Smoke and Mirrors and Trigger Warning, but in my estimation, Fragile Things feels the most even and deliberate of Gaiman’s short story collections. “October in the Chair,” in which the months of the year gather to tell stories, captures the spooky essence of a chilly autumn night with precision. “The Facts in the Case of the Departures of Miss Finch” presents a full-bodied and elusive mystery, replete with circus weirdness. There’s really not a dud in the rest of the lot, either.

    In every way, Coraline feels like a classic book for that in-between age of early adolescence, along the same lines as Howl’s Moving Castle or A Wrinkle in Time. The novel has the same theme as other entries in the Gaiman canon—a hidden world within or just on the other side of your own—but puts a unique spin on portal fantasy with its feisty, take-no-lip heroine. Not to mention, the Other Mother is one of the most disturbing villains imaginable, no matter your age.

    Look, Gaiman has written some outstanding novels, and there are any number of arguments you can make for your favorites to be listed as The Best. But if we were to try to pinpoint the one work he’ll be remembered for in future generations, it has to be this sprawling, genre-defying graphic novel series (and its related companion stories). This epic saga of immortals and gods and monsters and legends encapsulates Gaiman’s myth-soaked storytelling like no other work could, and I truly believe there’s a fair number of this planet’s inhabitants for which Morpheus, the King of Dreams, will remain their moody, goth, elusive first love. (Note: I’m raising my hand.)

    The post A Definitive Ranking of the Fiction Books of Neil Gaiman appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 7:00 pm on 2018/01/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , breath of magic, crystal cove, , daughter of the blood, , erika mailman, , , , , , , , , naomi novik, neil gaiman, , paula brackson, practical magic, , , , , the witches of east end, the witching hour, the witchs daughter, the witchs trinity, toil and trouble, uprooted, , wicked deeds on a winters night, witch and wizard   

    16 Witchy Books You Need This Winter 

    You may think Autumn is the only time for witchery, but we say winter and witches go together like snowflakes and hot cocoa! If January has been keeping you cold, here are some witchy reads that will excite…and maybe even scare you a bit, too.

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    When factions of supernatural creatures set their sights on a document that could give them the upper hand in a war, a reluctant witch must seek the protection of an equally reluctant vampire, her supposed mortal enemy. Witch stories have a tendency to emphasize the importance of family…but in this case, it could be her own family that wants her dead. Can true love between two warring beings prevail?

    Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
    The Owens sisters are cursed: the men that they love will always die. But with that curse comes unique abilities—magic—that on more than one occasion, they have used to try and prevent others that they love from falling prey to the same fate. Gillian and Sally grew up as outsiders, always trying to escape the rumors about their family. One of them married, and the other ran away, determined never to do so. But when tragedy brings them together again, the curse is always there to welcome them home…

    Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts
    In this witchy trilogy, Iona Sheehan travels to Ireland to connect with family she has always yearned to know. Reunited with her cousins in the home of her ancestors, Iona is hopeful she’s found everything she’s been looking for. And then she meets Boyle MacGrath: a cowboy with no ties, except the one winding its way around her heart.

    Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night, by Kresley Cole
    In the fourth installment in this paranormal romance series, Mariketa the witch has been stripped of her magic, leaving her with no choice but to seek the protection of her greatest enemy, Bowen MacRieve. Bowen is a tortured werewolf determined never to let his heart belong to another—especially Mari—but soon enough, they cannot deny the passion between them. Forbidden love, evil forces, and magic combine for a riveting tale.

    Breath of Magic, by Teresa Medeiros
    Arian Whitewood is a witch from the seventeenth century…which means she does not belong three hundred years in the future, but alas, that’s where a mysterious amulet takes her. She meets Tristan Lennox, a billionaire with no faith in magic…and so he never expected his reward of 1 million dollars to the person who could prove its existence to ever come true. Outlander fans will love this reverse-time-travel billionaire romance.

    Crystal Cove, by Lisa Kleypas
    Friday Harbor has been a good home to Justine; here she’s found the stability she never had with her untamable mother, Marigold, and she enjoys the safety in her mundane life of running a small hotel. But then, her world is rocked by the truth that her lack of love is the result of a dark curse cast on her at birth.

    The Witch’s Daughter, by Paula Brackston
    One of the most fascinating and engrossing witch tales I’ve ever read: you will not be able to look away from the tale of Elizabeth Hawksmith, a witch who has survived over three-hundred years in loneliness, only to discover a Witchfinder from her past has been stalking her through time, determined to collect on a debt. But this time, Elizabeth can’t run: she has a teenage girl under her care, and something more important than her own immortality to protect.

    The Witches of East End, by Melissa De La Cruz
    The Beauchamp witches try to live a normal life; the fact that they are forbidden to practice magic makes that slightly easier. But when murder and mystery find them in their solitude, they decide the time has come to defy the rules and do what must be done to defeat the evil in their midst.

    Daughter of the Blood, by Anne Bishop
    This high fantasy in which power is manifested through magical gems stars a mysterious Queen who will rise to a power stronger even than Hell itself. Three men seek to find and control the girl who is destined to ascend the throne in a ruthless quest of corruption, greed, and lust.

    Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
    The story of the Wicked Witch of the West begins at birth—born green, an outcast in society, she is nonetheless destined to wield a magic that will make her infamous. This villain origin story is action-packed, beautiful, and romantic.

    The Witch’s Trinity, by Erika Mailman
    This fascinating tale of witchcraft, fear, and history begins in 1507 when a German town is struck by a famine…which one friar believes is the result of witchcraft. Güde Müller has been tormented by visions that she cannot explain…and soon she realizes that her position in the town is compromised, perhaps even by her own family.

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
    This unique story is difficult to describe, but incredibly ethereal, dark, and haunting. A man comes home to Sussex for a funeral, and is drawn to the mysterious house at the end of the road where, as a child, he met a mysterious girl and something magical and dangerous happened to him as a child.

    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
    Connie’s summer is full to the brim with research for her PhD. But when her mother asks her to help handle the sale of her grandmother’s house, Connie finds herself pulled into a dark mystery involving a family bible, an old key, and a name: Deliverance Dane. Who was she? And why is Connie suddenly having visions of the Salem Witch Trials?

    Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
    A terrifying wizard known as The Dragon kidnaps girls in a small town every ten years—and soon, Agnieszka’s best friend will be chosen. That is, until a twist of fate results in her being chosen instead.

    Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson
    In a dystopian world of governmental control, Wisty and Whit Allgood are siblings accused of being a witch and wizard. Young people everywhere have been torn from their homes and forced to face judgment for this “crime” of magic.

    The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice
    This lush, dark, and gorgeously gory paranormal series introduces readers to the Mayfair witches, whose stories have been told for centuries by the Talamasca. This time, Rowan Mayfair is a neurosurgeon who never knew of her abilities until one day when she brings a man back from the dead. Cursed (or gifted, or both) with the ability to see the dark realm and the evil spirit who wants to come through to the mortal realm, Rowan must find a way to defeat him and protect the world—and people—she loves.

    What witchy books do you love?

    The post 16 Witchy Books You Need This Winter appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 8:30 pm on 2016/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , director's cut, , neil gaiman, , raymond carver, , , version 1.0   

    Our Favorite Book “Director’s Cuts” 

    For better or worse, the “director’s cut” has become ubiquitous in film. It’s almost a given that the home version of a popular film will squeeze in a few extra minutes of material cut from the theatrical release (thank George Lucas for sparking the trend). Once in a while, though, these are more than simple attempts to encourage viewers to check out a movie a second time: in rare cases, director’s cuts offer a superior, and markedly different, experience, deepening the plot and enriching the characters.

    This phenomenon has been known to occur in the book world too, albeit much less often (editors do occasionally know what they’re talking about). We were fascinated by Harper Lee’s controversial Go Set a Watchman, apparently a very early version of her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. While Watchmen has virtues all its own, and makes for a very interesting class in the development of a novel, few would argue with the notion that Lee’s editor made an extraordinary contribution to 20th century literature when he asked for that rewrite.

    Still, there are plenty of reasons why an author (or her heirs) might want an alternate version to see the light of day: changing standards might mean once controversial material will sit better with the contemporary public; hot button topics might have cooled; an author’s popularity might mean that a book that once seemed unmarketable for its length might be a bestseller all over again. Here are a few instances in which a book’s “director’s cut” (or, sometimes, the “author’s preferred text”) makes a case for eclipsing the original.

    American Gods and Neverwhere Anniversary Editions, by Neil Gaiman
    For the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods, he  went back to tweak and adjust things with which he wasn’t thrilled in the published edition, largely by reinserting material cut upon initial publication. The additions run to something like 12,000 words, but it’s almost all material that had been cut in order to make for a more reasonably sized book. Given time and trust, we readers will frequently invest more time in an author whom we love, so size becomes less of an issue.

    American Gods wasn’t the first time Gaiman used the very fine excuse of a milestone anniversary to refine an earlier edition of one of his books. In Neverwhere, the differences are more focused. Simply put, Gaiman was never entirely satisfied with the changes he made in order to make the book more palatable to American audiences. For the U.S. edition, he’d added several thousands words, frequently to clarify the British setting and slang, and cutting other bits to compensate. He was also asked to curtail or remove much of the humor, the publisher feeling it would go well over the heads of us Yanks (the same thing happened with Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—jokes deemed too obscure for Americans were frequently altered to make them simply nonsensical). Gaiman’s preferred version restores and revises much of that added material, tweaking the book while restoring it to a purer state. He also added back a deleted prologue, and tacked on a new story. All in all, the author’s preferred edition is the largely the superior text.

    The Stand, by Stephen King
    The Stand was never a small book. When originally published in 1978, King’s post-apocalyptic horror adventure clocked in at around 800 pages. (That was the edited version.) King was a well-established figure even back then, but it was apparently felt his original manuscript would actively discourage readers from picking it up (perhaps literally). By 1990, things were quite a bit different: The Stand was already considered a classic (one soon to become a TV miniseries), and King was more than just a bestselling author—he was a living legend. Suddenly, buying a giant book by one of the most popular writers of his generation felt less like a chore and more like a bargain. King went back to his original text to selectively add back in scenes and scenarios, also throwing in a few “contemporary” pop culture references and updating the setting to the 1990s. The revised edition is some 400 pages longer, and good luck finding the originally published version today—it’s been out of print for decades, making comparing the two an exercise in trolling used book dealers.

    Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition, by Stephenie Meyer
    This one isn’t exactly a “director’s cut” in the usual sense of the term. The anniversary edition of Stephenie Meyer’s sparkly vampires saga includes the original novel, unchanged, but adds an extra 400-ish pages that take the story in a whole new direction—replacing main characters Bella and Edward with Beau and Edyth, gender-swapped versions of the romantic leads. Indeed, almost every character gets switched with one of the opposite gender, including physical powerhouse Emmett, who becomes the similarly imposing Eleanor. It’s essentially a whole new novel, even if the story beats (and the majority of the text) are largely the same, and controversial for all sorts of reasons. It’s a unique experiment, and a fun way to give fans a little something extra.

    A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition, by Ernest Hemingway
    There’s only one A Farewell to Arms, but here’s one instance where Hemingway has something in common with Stephenie Meyer: each of their books is available in editions which allow you to have a taste of what might have been. A recent edition of Farewell to Arms offers not just one different take, but several dozen—47, to be exact, one for each of the notoriously deliberate writer’s attempts at a conclusion. (Spoilers ahead!) In the original, Frederic Henry steps ambiguously into the rain, having lost his lover Catherine along with his stillborn son. But that was just one of the possibilities Hemingway considered; in others, the son lives. Some offer uplifting, deliberately religious messages of hope. Some are deeply romantic. Not one matches the power of the ending ultimately selected, but it’s fascinating to see the author posthumously working out a conclusion—and a reminder that much of the magic of writing is in rewriting.

    Stranger in a Strange Land: The Original Uncut Version, by Robert A. Heinlein
    Despite not arriving on shelves until three years after the death of its author, the expanded edition of Robert Heinlein’s free-love classic is generally regarded as superior, to the tune of around 60,000 extra words. In 1961, Heinlein produced what he felt was a tightly plotted and complete novel, and which his publisher criticized as way too long and filled with far too much sex and religious commentary. Given the controversy and impact that the abridged version generated, perhaps Putnam was right. In the early ’90s, Heinlein’s widow Virginia was able to secure the book’s copyright and set about procuring the original manuscript and publishing a version that matched her husband’s intent more closely. Typically we frown upon family members who revise classic novels once an author has passed, but in the case, few doubt the expanded version is the book that Robert Heinlein planned all along.

    A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
    In Heinlein’s case, his manuscript was trimmed in order to produce something slightly tamer, any good publisher’s goal being, of course, to produce something people will actually want to buy. Though it was approximately contemporaneous, American publishers had a different goal in mind when bringing Anthony Burgess’ dystopian classic of ultraviolence and behavior modification to the U.S.: they wanted something darker than what they’d found in the original UK version. (Spoilers ahead!) As originally released, the book included a 21st chapter not found in American editions until 1986. Legend has it that director Stanley Kubrick wasn’t even aware of the intended conclusion when he made his film version. In that last chapter, anti-hero Alex discovers the error of his ways and seeks to change his life for the better. Without that last bit, the book ends with Alex having given in to his darkest impulses. It’s possible that the American publisher felt Alex’s redemption undercut the book’s dystopian vision. Or, maybe, they just thought it was cooler without the happy ending.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver
    Another interesting alternate edition, and a stand-in for many authors whose work was mercilessly edited against their will. Carver was a short story writer whose work in the 1970s and 1980s—its deliberately spare prose style, chronicling the trials of the American working class—served to remind everyone that short fiction can be as thoughtful and probing as novels. The short story collection What We Talk About…was his breakthrough work, earning him critical acclaim and mainstream attention. It was overseen by legendary editor Gordon Lish, with whom Carver clashed over extensive edits, particularly to the title story. The Library of America edition includes the published text, as well as the original manuscript of the story, then called “Beginners.” Some of the changes are inexplicable but inconsequential, as when “Carl” became “Ed.” Others are more interesting: the edited version is significantly shorter, cutting out whole subplots to create a tighter narrative, but one lacking some of the depth of the original. Both have their virtues, and it’s fascinating to compare them.

    What’s your favorite “director’s cut” book?

    The post Our Favorite Book “Director’s Cuts” appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Diana Biller 2:50 pm on 2015/07/28 Permalink
    Tags: alexander pushkin, , , , neil gaiman, , ,   

    8 Book Recommendations for Our Favorite Avengers 

    It’s a tough job, saving the world, and when you have to do it with the regularity that the Avengers do, well, I can only imagine it wears you down. Between all the rescuing and the heartbreak and the creation of new and ever more dangerous villains, it’s hard for Earth’s mightiest heroes to get the R&R they deserve.

    Because absolutely no one wants to deal with an Avenger in the middle of a mental breakdown, we’re going to do the public a solid and offer 8 book recommendations tailored to each Avenger’s (the movie team, not the current comics one) reading preferences. So go ahead, guys, take a break. Draw yourself a bubble bath, put some jazz on, and lose yourself in an awesome book. We’ll call you if we need you.

    Captain America/Steve Rogers
    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    You can’t convince me the good Captain doesn’t like curling up with a sweeping love story at the end of the day, and the Outlander series provides that in spades. He’ll also identify with the protagonist, a nurse from his own original World War II era who accidentally steps through time to 18th-century Scotland, and likely will find her attempts to acclimate to her new environment both absorbing and familiar. Even better, he’ll be able to enjoy the Outlander television series from Battlestar Galactica‘s Ronald D. Moore—maybe he and Agent 13 can have viewing parties?

    Iron Man/Tony Stark
    The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
    Tony Stark lives a fast-paced, glamorous sort of life, and so he needs a fast-paced, glamorous sort of read for when he’s hanging out on the corporate jet. Enter The Wicked + The Divine, one of the buzzier comic titles of the last year, best described as being about rockstar gods who incarnate/merge with humans every ninety years, then die two years later. Filled with razor-sharp dialogue, stylish pop art, and the occasional bit of gruesome violence, this is sure to please Stark—who, let’s face it, is pretty sure he’s a rockstar god himself.

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
    Thor is going to have many thoughts when he’s done with Gaiman’s hugely popular road-trip novel about new and old gods struggling for power across America—probably mostly about what the author got wrong, which he’ll detail in a lengthy and verbose letter to Mr. Gaiman himself. And then for the next month he’ll be horrible at parties, because he’ll buttonhole people to ask if they’ve read the book and then explain to them, whether they’ve read it or not, exactly how the characters of Odin and Loki diverge from the originals. But listen, he was always going to read it, and it’s better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later.

    Hawkeye/Clint Barton
    The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley
    Hawkeye enjoyed The Hunger Games so much we thought we’d suggest another story about a famous archer, this time McKinley’s excellent retelling of the Robin Hood story. Of course, he fancies himself a bit of an Everyman hero as well, which makes Outlaws right up his alley: when Robin is forced to go into hiding, he and his friends (including several awesome female characters either not present or sadly undersold in the original tale) find themselves drawn into a resistance movement opposing the greedy and corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham. Maybe once Hawkeye’s done with that he can move on to yet another important archer: a certain Green Arrow.

    Black Widow/Natalia Romanova, aka Natasha Romanoff
    Eugene Onegin: And Other Poems, by Alexander Pushkin
    Natasha doesn’t have a lot of time for reading, but when she does, she likes to make it count. In honesty, most of her reading material consists of things like stolen top-secret documents and weapon manuals, but she also has a soft spot for the man frequently referred to as the Russian Shakespeare: Alexander Pushkin. With this in mind, we think she’ll enjoy this collection of his poetry, centering around Eugene Onegin, a novel in verse and one of Pushkin’s most famous works.

    Bruce Banner/Hulk
    The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett
    With his passion for science, wry sense of humor, and very serious need for diverting and uplifting entertainment (you saw what happened in the last movie—dude needs some fun reading), Bruce seems like a perfect match for Sir Terry’s works, so you can imagine our surprise when we learned he has not yet been introduced to them. The Color of Magic is a good place to start for those wanting to enter the Discworld series: it’s the first book Pratchett wrote in it, and introduces us to the inept wizard Rincewind, a man so bad at magic he’s referred to as “the magical equivalent to the number zero.”

    What books would you recommend to the Avengers?

  • Jenny Kawecki 4:30 pm on 2015/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , lang leav, , neil gaiman, noelle stevenson, put it on the list, , , ,   

    7 Books That Should Be on Your Required Summer Reading List 

    Required summer reading: occasionally awesome, but more often than not, a stack of unexciting books that sits around gathering dust until the very last possible moment. Can’t we all agree it’s time to add some new ink to the list? If I had my way, you’d all have to read these this summer (and hand me a 500-word book report on the first day of school. I’m nice, not a pushover)

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
    Shadow is expecting to be released from prison and return home to his beautiful wife. Instead, he learns his wife has died in an accident, and he enters the employ of a strange man named Mr. Wednesday. Soon, he’s entrenched in a battle between the old and new deities of the world, dealing with some of the most powerful tricksters of all time. Not only is American Gods an excellent read, it’s also an educational foray into various ancient religions of the world—a book that’s sure to make you just as interested in the myths behind them as you will be in now reading every Neil Gaiman book ever.

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Cal’s family has a secret: a little trick of DNA that’s enough to turn Calliope, a nice Greek girl, into Cal, an American living in Germany who’s telling us his story. Over the course of three generations, he reveals how traits got passed down along his family tree, making him the man he is today—and not the girl his family originally thought he was. With loads of history and medical information to spare, Middlesex explores the world of personal transformation and self-discovery in a way that’s both fascinating and relevant.

    Love and Misadventure, by Lang Leav
    Because no summer reading list would be complete without a bit of poetry, right? Lang Leav’s Love and Misadventure is the perfect choice for a wide audience. The writing is simple and unassuming, an easy segue into poetry for the non-poetic, and the topic is universal: love. It’s an easy-to-follow narrative, tackling the ups and downs of infatuation and heartbreak and everything in between. Bonus: there are even a few illustrations.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
    Reverend John Ames knows he’s not going to see his son grow up, so he’s writing him letters. As he explores his own life and the lives of his father and grandfather before him, Ames records his musings on life and love and faith, often choosing to focus on how beautiful and strange the world is. Gilead fills the dark and brooding spot on your required reading list—something to remind us you can be perfectly confused and lost and still feel an extreme amount of joy and wonder.

    Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
    Meet Nimona, the shape-shifting sidekick of Lord Ballister Blackheart, villain extraordinaire. Together, they aim to reveal the dubious nature of the kingdom’s most well-loved heroes, especially Blackheart’s friend-turned-nemesis, Sir Ambrose Goldenloin. Why read it? Because in between all the hilarity and color, there are some important thoughts on the nature of good and evil and what it really means to have morals. (Yes, villains can have rules, too.) Plus, okay, it’s just fun to read.

    On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
    Meet the Belseys, an interracial family living in a very white, collegiate town. With their marriage on the rocks and their children set on chasing after very different (somewhat problematic) lives, Howard and Kiki hardly know which issue to pursue first, especially now that Howard’s arch-rival has moved to town. Caught between two very different cultures, each of the Belseys has to decide which standard of beauty they’re going to live for—because what else is there? It’s an important look at how our perceptions of what’s ideal affect how we treat ourselves, and what’s it’s like to feel out of place in a homogenous world.

    Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
    Rounding off your new required reading with a little bit of nonfiction, Joan Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem explores the world of 1960s California, contrasting lifestyles that are at opposite ends of the political, financial, and social spectrum—and yet still, somehow, eerily similar. Understanding without judging, Didion shows you can disagree and still respect the common thread of humanity that runs through us all. It’s not only a fascinating look at recent history, but also a glimpse at the joy of well-honed writing, with nothing extra to get in the way of the facts.

    What books do you think everyone should read this summer?

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