Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of November 15, 2022

Welcome to another wonderful week of book recommendations from the Boswellians. Here's what we've been reading lately.

Lots of great books in this year's gift guide (coming soon!) - like The Boy and the Dog, a novel by Seishu Hase, translated by Alison Watts, and recommended by Jason Kennedy, who says: "In this novel, we follow Tamon, a dog displaced by the earthquake and resulting Tsunami that hit Japan in 2013. Each section he has a new person who needs to help Tamon and also needs Tamon's help. Seishu Hase has written a tale about the hard journey it takes to come back from tragedy, the sacrifice and will, and the knowledge that what’s happened will never be erased, but family helps."

We've also got a book recommendation by Daniel Goldin to share for The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music by Stereogum editor Tom Breihan. Daniel says: "I am completely obsessed with Tom Breihan’s ‘Number Ones’ column in Stereogum. He’s been telling the story behind every Billboard chart-topper since the list started in 1958, and what started as capsule summaries have now turned into essays that almost always have something interesting to say about pop music and popular culture in general. But was this enough to make a book? You bet it was! Breihan looks at 20 particularly influential songs and the artists that created them and offers original-to-this-book essays that dig even deeper than his column. I’m sure there will be arguments about who made the cut, who was left out, and when it came to some of the artists, whether this was their move-the-needle #1, or was it another cut? And there’s always the problem of those groundbreakers, like Bob Dylan, who never got higher than #2 on the singles chart. The key here is that it doesn’t matter if you know the songs or not, especially now that you can listen to just about anything almost instantly. No less than enthralling!"

Sounds great, right? Even better, catch Daniel interviewing Tom Breihan for a virtual event on Tuesday, November 29, 7 pm. Click here to register.

Next, Tim McCarthy considers the history of the universe along with Brian Thomas Swimme, author of Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe. Tim says: "The universe has evolved a consciousness (in us, and perhaps others out there) that thinks it basically understands how everything developed, over the last 14 billion years. It’s a mind-blowing watershed in time, when awareness of the universe has emerged from the creative workings of the universe itself. Swimme believes this understanding must include more than math and science. The story of universal evolution involves the story of people like him, whose ideas are built on Pythagoras, Einstein, Hubble and Lemaitre; writers like Ursula Le Guin and philosophers like Emerson were also immersed in cosmology. He thinks our view must be autobiographical, an “auto-cosmology,” with ourselves as a developing part of a newly emerging whole. I was just looking for a small bit of knowledge and some inspiration when I found this book. I wanted a connection with forces greater than COVID and control of Congress, and that’s what I got. It’s an introduction to the people who have tracked our universal origins, wrapped into Swimme’s own story. The sense of wonder rising from his personal discoveries is compelling and unique. He’s looking for a new way of seeing the world."

Kay Wosewick wants you peruse a book called On Browsing by Jason Guriel. Kay says: "Guriel muses about the superior, open-ended experience of browsing, whether it be in bookstores, record shops, or the rare video store. Memories flooded back of visits to favorite shops in distant cities, spending hours lost in stacks or bins, finally leaving with heavy bags to discover daylight had vanished or weather had changed. Unparalleled joy!! On Browsing also speaks to the satisfaction of enjoying these media the old-fashioned way: a book in hand, and music or a movie selected from your own curated library. Come to think of it, it’s time to watch The Shining again…"

Parker Jensen recommends you don't forget to check out Have I Told You This Already?: Stories I Don't Want to Forget to Remember by Lauren Graham. Parker says: "Iconic Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham is back with her second collection of essays, and they are just as witty and insightful as last time. In Have I Told You This Already? Graham lets readers behind the scenes to explore the ins and outs of Hollywood, from the unspoken rules of social hierarchy to what a day in the life of an actor looks like. But she also reveals truths about her family and herself that have shaped her experiences in the world and how she moves through it. From her humble beginnings as a struggling actress slash sales associate at Barney's to growing up in a family historically notorious for being forgetful. Through it all she shows us the importance of storytelling, listening, and cherishing those around you. I ate these stories up and would happily wave a hand at Graham to say, 'So what, tell it to me again!'"

Over in the land of paperback releases, we've got a couple of recommendations. The first is New York, My Village, a novel by Uwem Akpan, a book that gets the dual-recommendation treatment from Jenny Chou and Daniel Goldin. First, Jenny says: "It is the rare work of literary fiction that leaves readers wondering if the war against those stealthy little insects known as bed bugs can ever really be won. After finishing Uwem Akpan’s shrewd, heartfelt, and ultimately delightful novel, I turned that question over in my mind for a while before shifting my thoughts to war in general and the scars left behind even if the battles end and a victor is declared. Ekong Udousoro, a Nigerian editor and publisher, receives a fellowship to work alongside an American publisher in Manhattan while he edits a collection of stories about the Biafran War, also known as the Nigerian Civil War. The novel weaves seamlessly between Ekong’s life in the present day to accounts of the war from his collection of stories and from his friends and family. These sections are painful to read but eye-opening about the ramifications of colonialism, especially for those of us who were only vaguely aware that the war even took place. Between his work colleagues, the other renters in his building, and the congregation at a New Jersey church he visits, both micro and macro aggressions abound. The biggest insults are the racist attacks on the Nigerian food he loves, particularly since Ekong finds so much joy in trying all the American and ethnic food to be found around New York. Ekong is a keen observer of everything, from New Yorkers to bed bugs, and his observations are often filled with humor. And it’s those bed bugs who journey with him throughout his time in New York, always a step ahead, causing misery that reaches out to touch every part of his life, a small but mighty symbol for the war that his country may never recover from."

Daniel adds: "Ekong Udousoro is a Nigerian editor is sent to New York on a program where he’ll guest edit a collection on the Biafran Civil War for Andrew & Thompson, an independent but still significant publisher. His troubles begin at the border, where they won’t let him in, and continue most notably at the editorial pitch meetings, where seemingly friendly faces betray racism and ignorance. That said, some of Ekong’s negative assumptions about others wind up being off base, leading to happier outcomes, albeit after heated discussions. I particularly loved the New York observations, making this a satisfyingly place-y novel."

Jason Kennedy has a nonfiction book for us as well, and that's The Last Winter: The Scientists, Adventurers, Journeymen, and Mavericks Trying to Save the World by Porter Fox. Jason says: "An entertaining yet sobering look at how climate change has affected our world - not in some coming-soon-to-you preview, but how people, animals and environments are forever changing right now. More than once, the book left me feeling very dejected and terrified at what we face in the coming decades. This is not a new argument; this is not something that has snuck up on civilization, and we are past the time for turning away from the stark realization that we are losing glaciers and snow (and the important melt that comes from snow that keeps areas from drought in the coming summer). Porter Fox introduces the reader to some amazing people, some of whom have lived through horrible experiences like wild fires, and some who are trying to geoengineer the earth (think floating sea walls) to help protect our shores. Is it too late - will we completely lose our winters? Only if we don’t at least try to help those on the front lines deal with climate change."

Whether you're in holiday shopping mode or in avoid-all-things-holiday-shopping-related mode, or somewhere in between, we hope these recommendations offer a bit of gentle guidance for your book buying, reading, and enjoying. Until next week, read on.

No comments:

Post a Comment