Summer’s finally here! As you head out the door for a much needed break check out the Summer 2018 Berkeley Law Library reading recommendations - a big thanks to all who contributed to this wonderfully eclectic list. A special shout out to the kids of the law library who delivered some fabulous reviews. The Who may have written the song and it might have been about something else, but we totally agree, “The Kids are Alright”.
The Berkeley Law Library
Click on book cover to read review.
In the book After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay, two very close friends Nasir and Bunny have a fallout, when Bunny accepts a scholarship to play basketball at a rich preppy high school across town. Nasir feels like Bunny was being selfish and only caring about himself. Due to the fact that he isn’t hanging around Bunny anymore Nasir is starting to hang around his cousin Wallace, who is set to be evicted. Wallace bets on Bunny to lose playoff basketball games in order to support himself. Things turn for the worst when Bunny starts winning games and Wallace doesn't have the money to pay off the bets. This story told from both the views of Nasir and Bunny.
I would rate this book 4 ½ stars out of 5, because it’s a great novel and is a great book about basketball and friendship.
Note to reader: Isaac is the son of law librarian Keri Klein.
I was looking forward to reading this novel about marriage, injustice and the concept of home after listening to an interview with Tayari Jones on NPR. She explained that the story came to her after she overheard a couple arguing in an Atlanta mall. She told NPR, “I overheard a couple arguing. He looked fine, but she looked great. And she said to him, 'Roy, you know you wouldn’t have waited on me for seven years.' And he said, 'I don’t know what you are talking about; this wouldn’t have happened to you in the first place!'”
An American Marriage examines how a flawed justice system tears apart the marriage of Roy and Celestial, a successful, young black couple who met at Spelman College. They are just beginning their lives together in Atlanta when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Most of their complicated story is told through letters that Celestial and Roy write during and after his time in prison. These letters offer a private glimpse into their complicated struggle to keep their marriage together. Jones also tells their story through a third narrator, Andre, Roy’s best friend in college and Celestial’s childhood friend. These varying perspectives illustrate the complex nature of their relationship and allow the reader to connect with each of the characters.
Not surprisingly, this rich novel is about marriage, but its examination of mass incarceration and injustice in America were the most compelling parts of the story for me. Jones did extensive research for the novel while completing a fellowship at Harvard, which comes through in her heartbreaking descriptions of wrongful incarceration and life in prison. While it is not exactly light beach reading, it is well worth adding your summer reading list!
Robin Hobb has created an incredibly intricate universe for her multi-book fantasy series which begins with the wonderful Assassin's Apprentice. There are over five separate trilogies which chronicle the lives of FitzChivalry Farseer and his friend, the enigmatic Fool. Each trilogy stands alone, but together they are a masterful feat of storytelling that has kept readers engaged since the mid-1990s. Her books have millions of fans including Orson Scott Card who said that she, "arguably set[s] the standard for the modern serious fantasy novel" and George R. R. Martin who said, "In today's crowded fantasy market Robin Hobb's books are like diamonds in a sea of zircons." If you love fantasy (or loved fantasy when you were younger) I encourage you to check the first book out. It's been a real treasure to get to know these characters - she's a marvelous storyteller!
In 2015, 29 year old Noah Stryker set out to break the record for the most birds seen in a year. I’ll spoil it for you – he does, seeing over 6,042 birds by the end of the year and breaking the previous record of 4341. (Sadly, his record was broken the following year by Arjan Dwarshuis, who improved upon Stryker’s well-publicized plan and was able to see 6,833 birds in 2016.) In essence, Stryker’s book is a travelogue. He set a rule for himself that he could not count a bird unless someone else saw it, too, which compelled him to find companions for each leg of his journey – and his companions are as interesting as the birds. I was also interested in the specifics of his plan – he travelled with one backpack, whose contents he enumerates. He also discusses how difficult it is to be not-at-home all year. It is an interesting thing. It’s now possible to travel around the entire world, looking at birds, but it may well be that very accessibility that threatens the existence of the birds who hang on in threatened places. In any case, what better time than now to see the world’s birds, when, according to the National Geographic, 1 in 8 species of birds worldwide are threatened with extinction. Stryker’s book alerts us to the threat the birds face, but also, it’s a fun read about an interesting way to travel the world.
Viv Albertine (I want to add in "legendary") was the guitarist in the groundbreaking all-female punk band the Slits. She was at ground zero for the punk explosion of the late 1970s in the UK. When I read this memoir when it was published back in 2014 I was totally captivated by her vibrant, uncompromising voice and deep introspection. Albertine grew in up in a working class home in London raised by a strong single mother who did her best to raise two girls after a messy divorce. Through sheer force of personality Albertine - who had no idea how to play guitar - formed the Slits. The book, written in a staccato almost punk-like style, traces the contours of the music scene in the first half, while in the second she gives a candid account of her life as she moves into movie making, art, motherhood, divorce and back to music again.
At its heart this is book about feminism and class and in no way a nostalgia trip into the history of music.
I recently saw Albertine in conversation at the Bay Area Book Festival discussing both this book and her new memoir - To Throw Away Unopened - which focuses on the death of her mother and the discovery her mother's diaries written during the period of her parent's divorce. Her incisive intelligence, wit and charm was wonderful to behold in person and is on full display in Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
This book shows photographs of types of kittens, and it tells you what they like to do. Some of the pictures are funny. There are many different colors of kittens. Some are furry, and some don’t have any fur. Some of them look weird. My cat, Wednesday, is not in this book. My dad and I read it on the couch. My dad makes up words and sounds the cats look like they would make. Some cats like to go in baby strollers. Everybody would like this book.
Note to reader: Olivia is the daughter of law librarian Dean Rowan.
This is a delightful little book that children will enjoy. The adults who love them and read the book to them will also get a kick out of it. I’d like to thank the Pence family for writing a book about their pet rabbit who also happens to have his own Instagram account, not because it’s a particularly good book. Rather, I’m grateful to the Pences because their book prompted John Oliver’s team to write A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo in response.
Marlon Bundo is a lonely bunny who lives in an old, stuffy house and watches Bunderson Cooper on BNN. Then, his Very Special Day happens. (Initial caps and all caps are used cleverly throughout the book.) He goes outside to greet his bug friends, Phil and Dennis … who happen to be playing checkers … on a tiny, bug-sized checkerboard … on a purple flower. And that is when he sees Wesley, a very special bunny who made his heart skip a beat. (The illustration of Wesley alone is worth the price of the book!) After a day of hopping around together, Marlon Bundo realizes his old, stuffy house doesn’t feel lonely anymore.
Marlon and Wesley decide to get married, and all their friends are excited and happy for them. The Stink Bug who is In Charge and Important says two boy bunnies can’t marry each other. He adds that Marlon and Wesley are Different. And Different Is Bad. I will not spoil the ending for you but voting is involved.
Bottom line: You get to decide who’s in charge.
Moral: Stink bugs are temporary. Love is forever.
Many adjectives have been used to describe war memoirs over the ages. Perhaps never before has anyone used the word “playful.” Yet how else to describe a work that includes a detailed description — with diagrams — of how to construct an instrument for self-pleasuring using only supplies available in a combat zone? Other adjectives: highly selective, raw, vivid, gross, up-lifting.
Marine Corps vet Matt Young describes his three tours in Iraq with engaging humor, but not the dark humor of M.A.S.H.-like memoirs but instead a fractured, disjointed, post-modern drunken romp through the absurd. He sidesteps most of the troublesome political and moral issues raised by the Iraq War, and focuses instead on the efforts of one very immature eighteen year old trying to grow up before he gets killed. The title comes from a Marine proverb: “Eat the apple. Fuck the Corps.” John Wayne would hate this book.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez was an amazing book. The main character in this book is Malu. One thing I think the author was trying to say was never give up on something you love. One thing that showed me this was when they tried out for the talent show and didn’t get in Malu still proceeded on the band and didn’t want to give up so she found out other ways to be able to perform in the talent show. It also showed me that you should always be honest. When Malu didn’t tell her mom about the band it just made things worse and ruined the connection that Malu and her mom had.
This book was an amazing adventure for me. Why? Because it's filled with laughter, happiness, sadness, and exciting parts. I would recommend this book to people that like action and excitement in a story full of ups and downs. This was a really fun book to read and to me it even felt like I was in it. Well as you can see I really enjoyed this book and I hope you do too.
Note to reader: Natalia is the daughter of law librarian Michael Levy.
Fragile Things is a collection of short stories and a couple of poems written by Neil Gaiman. Typically, short story collections are based on a single genre or topic written by multiple authors. I think this is probably because a collection of short stories by the same author would become a bit monotonous and feel like one long, unconnected novel. This collection is completely different. The range is from gothic fiction to children's fiction to some simply strange fiction. Some of the stories are interesting and just long enough. Some of the stories end and I'm not sure I understood the unwritten ending. Some of the stories are amazing and I wish they were hundreds of pages long instead of a dozen. The very last story is the longest and is a story about Shadow (from American Gods) two years after the events in the American Gods book - it's a good one. Side note: American Gods was also turned into a TV series and Season 2 is coming soon.
One of my favorite books of all time is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. This is a book about a boy named Harry Potter who lives with his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon along with their son Dudley. Harry lives with them because Harry’s parents were killed by Lord Voldemort an infamous wizard. Lord Voldemort tried to kill Harry as well, but the curse backfired and Harry lived but wound up with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. When Harry turns 11 he finds out he is a wizard by a friendly Hagrid and that he is going to Hogwarts, a school for Witchcraft and Wizardry. He gets his wand, books and cauldron at Diagon Alley where he meets Draco Malfoy, a mean and rude boy. On the train he meets Ron Weasley, a poor but nice boy and Hermione Granger a super smart and clever girl. Harry then has to get sorted to find out what house he is in, Gryffindor. At Hogwarts he has lessons to learn how to be a wizard. Harry also has flying lessons with Madam Hooch. He also gets to play for the Gryffindor Quidditch Team because he is really fast flyer. Harry and Ron finally become friends with Hermione after they knock out a 12 ft. mountain troll. Later they discover something really important called the Sorcerer’s Stone and that it is in danger of being taken. The rest of the story is about solving that mystery. And while doing that Harry comes face to face with the wizard that killed his parents, Lord Voldemort! I love Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because it’s fun, magical and totally amazing. The perfect book for ages 7- 14!
Note to reader: Leah is the daughter of law librarian Keri Klein
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, is about a sixteen year old African American girl named Starr. She went to a party with her friend Khalil. At the party, there was a shooting, so they flee the party in Khalil’s car. They get pulled over by the police, and when the officer asks Khalil for his license, registration, and proof of insurance, Khalil doesn’t listen. The officer takes Khalil out of the car and pats him down. The officer turned around to go to his patrol car. Khalil made a sudden move behind when the officer was walking away to ask Starr if she was okay. The officer thought Khalil was getting a gun, so he shot Khalil three times. Since Starr is the only witness and Khalil’s death is a national headline, Starr is put in the uncomfortable position of telling everyone what really happened. Not only does Starr have to deal with the stress of this, but her white boyfriend and her friends at school don’t know or understand what she is going through. In her neighborhood, Khalil’s death leads to protests and it isn’t even safe to go outside.
I recommend this book for teenagers and young adults, because there are some mature topics (gangs, drugs, violence). This book is on my list of the top ten books I’ve ever read because it has an original plot with a lot of realistic drama.
Note to reader: Jacob is the son of law librarian Keri Klein.
This well-regarded debut collection of short stories by writer, critic, and essayist Machado was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award – Fiction. Reading these sexy, sensuous, sometimes violent, anxiety-laden stories may bring to mind Shirley Jackson’s work or the updated fairy tales of Angela Carter. All eight stories are set in eerie, fantastic, or sometimes apocalyptic frameworks, yet they always feel grounded in the palpably real unease of women even while turning conventional tropes upside down. In these stories, women and their bodies are, among other things, used, enjoyed, objectified, commodified, and observed at all times, including by the reader (perhaps explaining the expansiveness behind the word “Parties” in the book’s title?). The stories are stunning and thought-provoking, even if at times uneven. Some story ideas perhaps work better than others (for example, some may enjoy the extended reworking of actual Law and Order: SVU episode titles in the story “Especially Heinous”; for me, the idea seemed better than its execution), and at times come close to seeming repetitive. But overall the collection’s keen-eyed focus on women and womanhood within interior and exterior landscapes commandeered by men rings true. Easy to consume and quick to amuse, short stories can be the perfect summertime diversion, but be aware that Machado’s stories, while short, are also potent and disturbing. They are timely and especially relevant in the #MeToo era.
Meow, meow, mrow, ffft, grrr, mrrrr, meow, hiss! Chirp, trill. Meow, mrroww.
Google translation: I give this book of poetry 1 fur ball (out of 5). I don’t know why my human thinks it’s funny. I slept on it for hours and didn’t get anything out of it.
Note to reader: To the extent a cat can belong to a person, Loco is the cat of law librarian Marci Hoffman.
When Felix isn't flying on magic carpets, he's running around singing songs. When it's time to rest he's busy not resting and asking for 'Bear!' In place of a review I will offer an excerpt from his favorite part along with his contributions.
Me: "... The goblin started running even faster but so did the SOMETHING that was running after him. pit-pat-pit-pat-pit-pat-pit-pat."
Felix: "pee - pap - pee - pap - pee - pap"
Me: "The goblin jumped into a hole in a tree and everything was quiet. The goblin wanted to peek out. Should he peek out?"
Felix: "peek out!"
Me: "He would peek out. --- Eeeeeeeee!"
You'll have to read the story to find out what happens.
Note to reader: Felix is the son of law librarian Joe Cera.
I loved Jennifer Egan’s earlier novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad. At first look, her new novel, Manhattan Beach, seems nothing like Goon Squad. It’s a historical novel, taking place in Brooklyn in the years leading up to and then during WWII. It follows the story of an Irish American family with a father who ends up working for gangsters, a disabled child, a mother devoted to a disabled child, and Anna, the main character, the sister of a disabled child. We learn about Brooklyn, gangsters, war work, and the divers who repaired ships in the East River during the war. Manhattan Beach seems to be nothing like the Goon Squad, which seemed very modern, having, for instance, a chapter composed of power point slides. But the more you look at it, the more you see that, like the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach follows the individual stories of many different characters, and for each, the novel takes them from one point of their lives to another. Mainly, we see Anna as she grows from her father’s sidekick to a shipyard diver and eventually a grown up, but we follow other characters as well on their own individual yet intersecting trajectories to suitable ends. I loved it. Apparently Jennifer Egan spent something like 30 years researching Brooklyn and diving for this book. There is a wealth of detail and the setting feels real. More than that, however, I was drawn in by the characters, wondering what would happen next, and where they would end up. I found it deeply satisfying.
One either loves or hates Frederick Seidel’s poetry, and he probably likes it that way. It’s a stew of Eliot, Pound, Mailer, Knievel, and these days, if we can imagine suspending our disbelief that he could manage a stanza, Trump. The verse is rife with metrical bounce and emphatic rhyme, smartly accoutred, cocky, self-absorbed, and vicious. He’s easy to “get,” but all the more disturbing for that fact, because he writes about festering wounds that aggravate our lives, the arts, politics, polite society, gender relations, capitalism, the country, the world. (The 2016 collection following this 2012 volume is titled Widening Income Inequality.) Nice Weather is more of the same for those who have read his earlier dozen or so books. Poems celebrate the usual topics: international travel, motorcycling, hedonism, sexual conquest...Seidel’s various Narcissus-like obsessions, burdened poignantly by his smoldering anger at growing old. One poem commences, “My old buddy, my body! | What happened to drive us apart?” He pays tribute to friends and teachers of his youth whom he has lost. He muses on pedigree: “It’s as if I were a flesh-eating flower, | Whereas actually I’m originally from St. Louis.” He spits on the caste whose company he has the credentials and financial wherewithal to keep: “Take my hand and we’ll wag down Fifth Avenue. | We’ll walk into the first church we see, | Which is to say the Apple Store.” Seidel’s humor is typically scathing. He is ironic when he gloats on his own privilege, but irony is an easy trope that quickly wears thin, and it prompts Seidel to veer toward a non-ironic horror of mortality, at which point the reader can only laugh uncomfortably. A blurb by Calvin Bedient on Nice Weather deems Seidel “the poet the twentieth century deserved,” an assessment that now, only six years later, seems quaintly academic. I don’t read Seidel to my kids at bedtime, or at any time, for that matter, but I probably should.
I went to a dinner party at my friend Doreen’s recently and she served the most delicious and strikingly beautiful food. Turns out all the dishes were from Ottolenghi, Yotam Ottolenghi’s first cookbook. Ottolenghi started a bit of a food revolution with his Middle Eastern veggie focused London restaurant Ottolenghi (followed by Nopi and several others). I like Ottolenghi because it has a bit of everything - veggies, fruit, meat, appetizers, entrees, desserts - all with a Middle Eastern flourish. Other Ottolenghi cookbooks include Jerusalem (another favorite), Plenty and Plenty More (both vegetarian), Sweets (his dessert book) and several more (the man never rests!). Two things to know about the recipes in Ottolenghi (and his other cookbooks) is that they require a lot of prep - chopping, chopping, chopping, and it’s best if you have a sous chef (I call mine Matt). Second, he uses a lot of unusual ingredients (sumac, za’atar, pomegranate molasses, preserved lemons, etc. etc.), which are easy to find in the Bay Area but may require a trip to Oaktown Spice Shop, Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods. These are wonderful dishes to serve to a crowd whether you’re hosting a group or bringing something to a potluck. People will ooh and aah and lick the plate clean - just ask my friend Doreen.
Overstory is not so much a book as it is a tactile experience. At over 500 pages of elegant prose larded with the names of trees and tree parts that sends one to a dictionary, it is no beach read. Powers makes one feel the floor of the forest and the majesty of the great trees. Yet the first section, Roots, was so powerful that I had to put the book aside and ponder my role in the universe. The very long section titled Trunk tells a story that, no surprise, springs from the roots. It parallels real life events and people but takes the story deeper and deeper. Tree sitters, scientific research and the Earth First movement all appear in one guise or another. There is no small dollop of mysticism in it though it is tied up in very realistic events. In the end it is insightful and profoundly disturbing as it looks at the earth and the humans who ravage it, from the perspective of a tree. The final sections bring one back to earth and to the reality of life as we live it. If you are not up for the full ten round heavyweight match, the Roots section stands on its own. You will want to walk in the woods.
So this story is about a dog man(?) trying to go to the zoo with spots that change and it's weird. He goes into the zoo, sees a lion, but lions are more terrifying than that. And there's a seal. The dog man is kind of not very much allowed in the zoo, but [*spoiler*] he is allowed in the circus. And he just talks and talks to the kids and the kids want to see what he can do. I like his changing spots. The good part is when he changes his spots and gets all the spots together. He has green, he has violet, blue, orange, and red. The worst part is when the boy says, "you should not be in the zoo," because that's mean.
Note to Reader: Josie is the daughter of Melissa Freeling, a rising 3L and also our law library research assistant.
Ready Player One, written by Ernest Cline, is a must read for teens and young adult similar in ways to the Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games books. This novel is captivating to the point where you can’t put it down. A young man named Wade Watts is born into a world where there is extreme poverty, climate change, and war which has lead to the creation of a virtual reality. In this virtual world named the Oasis, people can be whoever they want. A competition is announced and the winner basically has both worlds in their hands. Do Wade and friends have what it takes to keep both universes intact or will they fall apart? Also Ready Player One is a major motion picture! (I think the book was better then the movie but they were both really good.)
Note to reader: Nico is the son of law librarian Michael Levy.
Twenty two years after his father disappeared, Hisham Matar returned to Libya during what proved to be an all too brief Arab Spring. His memoir beautifully evokes a place - the air, the sights and sounds, the people - from which he and his family had been long exiled (Matar’s father was taken by secret police in Egypt when Matar was 19 years old). Matar’s father most likely perished in one of Qaddafi’s prisons many years before, but, in the absence of absolute proof, Matar is stubbornly reluctant to accept this. As he reunites with various family members (many of whom also served long prison sentences) we learn about Libya’s history, Qaddafi’s brutality, and the Matar family’s time in exile (primarily in Egypt). Matar has also lived in London and NYC but he emphasizes again and again how he has never felt at home anywhere. The Return won the Pulitzer Prize - a tribute to Matar’s ability to convey an exile’s alienation, survivor’s guilt, and intense longing for “home”.
Kevin Kwan’s Rich People Problems is the third and final instalment of his popular Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I will admit that I have not read the preceding two books and just picked this up on a whim. I am so glad I did! Kwan’s novel is full of snarkily written social satire. It reads like a gossip rag and is just as entertaining. Don’t believe me? Check out Tattler Singapore to get a gander of his obvious source material.
The book continues the ongoing saga of the Shang-Young family, of whom their matriarch Su Yi is very ill and on her deathbed. She has a massive fortune, which culminates in the ownership of Tyersall Park, a 64-acre estate on prime land in Singapore. All of the family has descended upon Tyersall Park in hopes of seeing Su Yi one last time and to get in her good graces to, hopefully, move up in her will. Everyone expects Su Yi to defy convention and pass over her son in favor of his son Nick, her beloved grandson, leaving him Tyersall Park. The only problem? Nick and his grandmother had a falling-out years before over his marrying Rachel. So let the machinations ensue!
Status conscious, brand conscious, these characters have too much money and too much time on their hands. Lavish houses, cars, clothes, life, and food. Boy can these characters eat! You will be drooling. I plan on going back and reading the first two books in this series because I liked this final one so much. It really is funny. In addition, the first book in the series has been made into a movie and is slated to open on August 17, 2018. Dip into some summer reading and read the whole series concluding with Rich People Problems then go check out the movie and see if the book is better.
Rich People Problems is located in the Popular Reading Collection at the base of the stairs on LL2.
Alice Munro is one of the best authors of the short story form you will ever read. All eight stories in her 2005 collection, Runaway, has a single-word title, reflecting Munro’s own signature style of conveying so much, so beautifully, with deceptively simple and straightforward prose. The stories, typically about middle-class Canadian women and men, are, as always in Munro’s writing, frank, often not even pleasant; but they are genuine and true. The three stories “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence” share one protagonist, Juliet, beginning as a young classics teacher who makes a daring decision, following her into motherhood and loss, then moving on to solitude and resolve. They were the basis for the 2016 movie Julieta by Pedro Almodóvar and speak to the cinematic quality of Munro’s storytelling. Each of the other stories is a standout, equally memorable. They will stay with you long after summer has ended.
Reading the autobiographies of famous musicians, singers and actors is one of my guilty pleasures. When the subject actually writes the book on their own, without a ghost writer, it is even better. One reason that I loved Keith Richards, A Life, was the fact that it was so loopy that you knew that it had to come from his hand. In this book, Linda Ronstadt writes it herself. There are no sexy stories or salacious gossip. Indeed after her tales of childhood in the desert, there is very little personal information at all. (Her famous relationship with then young Governor Jerry Brown merits one very matter of fact sterile paragraph). It is a book about her love of music and the people who make it. For someone who loves the music of the last decades of the 20th century, it is bliss. The title is accurate, it is a musical memoir. As Ronstadt moves through a dizzying variety of musical lives ranging from rock idol to singer of the American songbook, to one singing the Mexican songs of her childhood to opera and Broadway star, the reader can feast on stories of players and singers galore. Her iron will and her passion for good music of every sort drives the book. This is an amazingly strong woman gifted with a marvelous voice. It is an easy read. I loved it.
East Bay resident Kelly Corrigan’s book is blurbed by Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, which gives her some serious credibility among the hip millennial set. Corrigan’s book, published this year, is meant to be about the hardest and most potent things we say to one another in service of love and connection. With chapters including “Tell Me More” “I Was Wrong” “I Love You” and “Good Enough” she’s written a heartfelt and true series of short essays that are often funny and full of lively details about her life with teenagers, a dog, a husband, and the inevitable friends and family. Corrigan lost her father and a dear friend in the year she was writing the book, so there’s death, grief and loss. Salient bits of wisdom for 2018 are delivered via stories and anecdotes and what’s not to like about that? I enjoyed reading the book and did learn a thing or two about how to keep doing the hard work of being human. One of my favorite chapters was “I Was Wrong” where she describes her regret in not having visited her elderly grandmother more often during the last years of her life. Corrigan’s father was disappointed in her for not visiting and Corrigan was disappointed in herself as well. The important bit was that “He was asking me to know her, to enjoy her, not to let her go to waste. That was my mistake. I’m sorry I missed her, I was wrong not to know her.” That is a great example of the kind of generosity of spirit that is always worth reaching for, even when people are old, smell bad and fail to be interesting. This is an easy and enjoyable read. Perfect for the beach. With an umbrella drink.
This brilliant work of science fiction by acclaimed author Liu originally appeared in serialized form in 2006 and was published in book form in 2008 in China. The English-language version, by writer Ken Liu (no relation), was issued in 2014 and the following year became the first translated novel to win the Hugo Award. It’s also a favorite of Barack Obama’s.
Don’t be put off by all the hard science behind this first-contact story; it is also a terrific page-turner, filled with mystery, human drama, and suspense (an extended sequence late in the book involving the Panama Canal is particularly thrilling). An impressive amalgam of mind-bending disciplines and big-picture questions, Liu’s novel is wildly imaginative, involving multiple leaps in time and narrative and an extensive cast of characters (the character list at the beginning of the book is invaluable). The most engrossing piece of the puzzle is China’s Cultural Revolution, the trauma and memory of which become the force driving some of the story’s major events. Even though it’s 400 pages long, The Three-Body Problem is a surprisingly fast and elegant read (kudos to translator Liu) and will have you on the edge of your hammock. It is also Part One of the three-part Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, so when you’re finished you can rush out and enjoy the second and third books too.
This is a fascinating account of two Norwegian sisters (16 and 19 years old) of Somalian descent who flee their home in Oslo and join ISIS in Syria in 2013. The girls emigrated with their family (including three brothers) to Norway when the girls were young children (3 and 6).
The story begins with the girls leaving their home without telling anyone about their ultimate plans. They tell their parents about their plans through an email (including heart emojis). The goal: flee home, marry and die.
The book seems to do a pretty thorough job of explaining the complex lives of the girls (and the family) growing up in Norway and being part of the Somali immigrant community. We learn how the girls were raised, what kind of schools they attended, how they learned about the Quran, what their classmates thought, and their evolving hopes and dreams.
After the girls leave for Syria, their father travels to Turkey and then sneaks into Syria to try to find them and bring them home. During the course of following Sadiq (the father) and his attempts to “rescue” his daughters, you also learn about the various militant groups vying for power in Syria and the thousands of men (and hundreds of women) traveling to Syria to support jihad. Through electronic communications with their older brother and a few calls to their mother, you get a sense of their lives as members of ISIS, their belief in the cause, and how they view the death and destruction of the Syrian war.
The author is an investigative journalist who conducted many interviews with family, friends and others and recounts many interesting details (both personal and public). In an interview she stated “For me, the most important question was: How could this happen?” And then she said: “I offer no explanation, neither of what attracted them to Islamic radicalism nor what propelled them out of Norway. I relate my findings. It is up to each reader to draw his or her own conclusions.”
While this is a true story, I kept having to remind myself that this is a real family and not just characters in a fictional novel. I am still trying to sort out my own thoughts and conclusions.
Charles Todd is the pen name of the mother and son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd. They write two mystery series, both take place during and shortly after the first World War. The Ian Rutledge Series follows a psychologically damaged WWI veteran who is a Scotland Yard Inspector. The two audio books I listened to follow the protagonist of their other series, Bess Crawford. Bess, a well bred and courageous battle field nurse, is the cherished only child of a prominent English Colonel and his equally well bred wife. It may not seem like an extended visit to the battlefields of WWI would be an escape, but with Bess and her network of family and friends, one feels safe. The series does not need to be read in order. Both titles I listened to take place in or shortly before 1918, the year the WWI ended. Bess has soldiers and fellow nurses to save, surgeries to assist with, wounded troops to transport, gun fire and bombings to escape, and mysteries, complete with numerous red herrings and interesting suspects and locations to solve. Thank goodness there's always a cup of tea to be had! I admit that occasionally these stories remind me of the Nancy Drew novels I loved as a fourth grader. There may be a few too many coincidences in the charmed life Bess leads despite the miseries of the war, but one steps so easily back in time in her company. This series exudes a seamless authenticity, all the details of life in England and France in 1918, in and out of the trenches, seem completely genuine, told without a false note. This may have something to do with Rosalyn Landor's excellent narration of the series. As well as entertaining, Charles Todd's novels educate the reader about the war on the front and its unforeseen consequences back home in the villages and cities the soldiers left behind and many never returned to.
Catch a few brilliant shots of the world of these novels, by photographer Lewis Hines. A selection of his photos, commissioned by the American Red Cross 100 years ago were recently reprinted in The Atlantic - 100 Years Ago: France in the Final Years of World War I.
This book is for anyone who needs to be reminded about global surveillance but prefers to be reminded in the graphic novel format. This book is written from the point of view of a journalist. The author (Pratap Chatterjee) is a journalist and also happens to live in Berkeley. The beginning of the book starts with events prior to the Snowden revelations. It manages to discuss some of the problems for journalists covering whistleblowers and military activities and, at the same time, gives you a good grounding of the actual events and activities that have brought us to where we are today. Even those familiar with the topic will find some good bits of information that are surprising. Much of the talk in the news has been about governments getting your data, invading your privacy, and knowing everything about you. This book presents another, equally disturbing, side to that reality. Governments may have a lot of information about you but it's actually more information than can be intelligently analyzed. Let's say you are working on a case (you are a lawyer, congratulations!) and you have access to absolutely everything about your adversary's client. You don't have enough time to go through all the information but you have a theory about their guilt. Now, instead of going through all the information and building up the real story about that person, you dig through the data using keywords that support your theory. Nailed it. That person is guilty. Forget that people are complicated - you found enough data to prove your point. This is more or less what Verax is saying is happening, except 'nailing it' involves bombing people or imprisoning them without any expectation of a trial. This may be more of a book to read during your commute than right before bed. Enjoy!
This book is about a girl, Meg, on planet Earth who misses her scientist father very much. She thinks that he is somewhere in outer space, but when three godlike beings tell her that her father is in trouble, she immediately goes with them to find him. When Meg arrives at Camazotz, the planet where her father is captured, she encounters the black thing, IT, that trapped her father. She tries to stop IT with the help of her friend and brother. Her father is able to “tesser” all but her brother to another planet. The “wrinkle in time” that allows him to “tesser” is a way to travel long distances very quickly. Meg returns to Camazotz to rescue her brother, followed by the godlike beings, who help Meg. Finally, because Meg has one thing IT does not have, love, she rescues her brother and the godlike beings “tesser” the family back to Earth.
I really like the book, because the characters’ space travel was fascinating. It was easy and fun to read, never boring. There was a lot of action. I recommend this book to fans of science fiction, but also to fans of any fiction.
Note to Reader: Sebastian is the son of law librarian Dean Rowan.