Monday, December 9, 2019

Best Books of 2019

Another year, another handful of fabulous reads...I will be posting some of my favorite children's books SOON... 


Those people by Louise Candlish (2019)

I love a thriller, and this one about some undesirable neighbors with unreliable narrators and multiple points of view has me hooked. I’ve read a LOT of Candlish since this one.

Three things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon (2018)

Not enough stories deal with the difficulties of aging, and this one has some fabulous wrinkles.

The mother-in-law by Sally Hepworth (2019)

Another thriller, this one a very interesting exploration from two very distinct points of view.

The other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson (2019)

There is something eerie about a look-alike assuming another identity, and this one, set among the idle not-rich, strikes a very contemporary cord.

The knowledge by Martha Grimes (2018)

The mythology of London’s black cabs underpins this solid Anglophile mystery.

My sister the serial killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (2019)

It is so refreshing to read something from another part of the world, and this Nigerian thriller is funny and complex.

Realistic fiction

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (2019)

An amazing, nuanced look at youth and mental illness in modern, multicultural London.

Fleishman is in trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (2019)

Plumbs midlife malaise has many deft touches that elevate it, a la Philip Roth.

There was an old woman by Hallie Ephron (2014)

Both contemporary and historical, this look at gentrification, addiction, and adulthood stuck with me.

Brit lit

Nothing to report (1940) and Somewhere in England (1943) by Carola Oman

I often think I would love to search for backlist titles for ebook editions: isn’t that the promise of the long tail? Dean Street Press has done a terrific job with recovering this pair of provincial English wartime accounts.


Thick and other essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom (2019)

Another excellent piece of biographically informed nonfiction, which I have turned back to and recommended again and again.

Because Internet: understanding how language is changing By Gretchen McCulloch (2019)

Linguistic ticks to re-framing communications, the network has changes how and why we communicate.

How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell (2019)

Artist Odell calls for a return to time unplugged for an authentic life and urges connection with the natural world.

From Goodwill to grunge: a history of secondhand styles and alternative economies by Jennifer Le Zotte (2017)

When I heard about this at SHARP, I downloaded it immediately and devoured it. For anyone obsessed with vintage things, this is a must-read.

How to own the room: women and the art of brilliant speaking by Viv Groskop (2018)

Call it a public speaking guide, but it is also a manifesto about power and the public.

Strangely, this list is ALL WOMEN. Hmmm.


Best Books of 2018

Best Books of 2017

Best Books of 2016

Best Books of 2015

Best Books of 2014

Best Books of 2013

Best Books of 2012

Best Books of 2011

Best Books of 2010

Best Books of 2009

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Fleishman, the Performative Middlebrow and Legible Clothing

I saw this tweet just after I'd started the book

and then I saw the Susan Hill comment after

so I'm not the only one that can't stop thinking about this book.

One of my favorites bits in the novel are the legible tank tops that Rachel and her cohort wear.
Brodesser-Akner has her finger on the pulse with these:
  • Spiritual gangster
  • But first, coffee
  • Brunch so hard
  • Ride or die
  • Lipstick and lunges
  • Any yoga I do is hot yoga
  • Nevertheless, she perspired
  • Run the world
  • Nah 'ma stay in bed
I have been fascinated by slogan-ed clothes for a while. They are an aggressive form of signaling. Virtue-signaling, too, because they are on tank tops teamed with yoga tights. The choice to wear such little clothing in public, yet having it speak so assertively intrigues me. These are texts, right?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Turning the TItanic

Earlier this year, I was feeling a little over ALA. I was becoming convinced that it was too enormous and unwieldy to be useful to me as a nascent academic. I questioned the utility of a conference experience where it seemed like social media created an in-group and out-group. I even did some research into professional involvement life cycles to confirm I wasn't some sort of negative Nellie outlier.

Image result for world landscape blowing up

Then things began shifting. There was the "future of Midwinter" conversation. In our spring meeting, AASL board talked about some changes, including publishing the electronic Board Books so members can read them before the conferences, combining association awards like Best Apps and Best Websites (since there is considerable overlap and probably considerable streamlining in these areas), and eliminating the committee liaison role of the Board to have them report directly to the EC. There is the very real prospect that Council (which has some issues, though participation there was one of the best experiences I have had with ALA) might vote itself out of existence.

Then, in my final act as regional director on the AASL board yesterday, I seconded a motion and we voted unanimously to investigate restructuring that body -- a fleshed-out proposal would be sent to the membership for a vote, but it was a big signal to me (along with the whole Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness and LITA/ALCTS/LLAMA confluence) that the organization and AASL as a piece of it was more responsive and forward-thinking that I had feared. And I got to use a little Latin in a meeting.

Social cooling aside, this felt worthy of reviving this little channel. I now feel I am a different place with ALA. Maybe this January, I will actually get to a program or two. So I am optimistic. Happier. A librarian can hope.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Best Books of 2018

Everyone's got an opinion. I'm sort of over everyone critiquing everything as if they were Pauline Kael. And this year has been full of way too many serials -- a year of Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke, Mo Hayder. But I wanted to add to my body of favorites...for the historical record as it is. Here goes!

For Younger Readers

Monday's Not Coming (Katherine Tegen, 2018) by Tiffany D. Jackson

Totally transporting and a little mind-bending, this slide of D.C. life deserves a lot more love.

I've got my fingers crossed for midwinter.

Ghost Boys (Little Brown, 2018) by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Real racial justice talk for middle grade readers, bonus Emmett Till.

Nate Expectations (Simon & Schuster, 2018) by Tim Federle

After E.T.: The Musical folds, Nate returns to Jenksburg and goes in for production in a big way.

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the best burger in Los Angeles) (Sky Pony, 2018) by Amy Spalding

The fashionista details, the L.A. locale, the sweet sweet romance are all top-notch.

Mystery and Suspense

Sabrina (Granta, 2018) by Nick Drnaso

The aesthetic and palette are kitschy, but the mystery is well handled, anxiety palpable and the product is ambitious.

Give Me Your Hand (Little Brown, 2018) by Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott makes her regular appearance.

This science-y one more than passes the Bechdel test.

Sunburn (Harper Collins, 2018) by Laura Lippman

Top-notch noir in an out-of-season Maryland beach town. I have read it three times already. The nods to James M. Cain are triumphant. It led me into the world of Tess Monaghan, and now I spend as much time thinking about Baltimore as Alabama.

Bluebird, Bluebird (Little Brown, 2017) by Attica Locke

Faulkner-worthy Southern communities with twisty, intergenerational and interracial relationships? Yes, please. I was late to this party, but Locke is stellar. This one is my favorite of hers.

#FashionVictim (Crooked Lane, 2018)  by Amina Akhtar

This book could have been frothy social media satire, but there was just enough Patrick Bateman-y rage and truth in the shifting sands of Anya's relationships to make it stand out.

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane (Harper Collins, 2017) by Carmel Harrington

I read a lot of frothy, soapy women's fiction, but this one has just enough intrigue, with its backdrop of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and intergenerational support, to stick with me. 

Health, Mental and Physical

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Novel (Penguin, 2018) by Ottessa Mohfegh

It's literary fiction, but a primer for everyone who's ever wanted to check out, as our protagonist crawls towards 9/11.

Hey, Kiddo (Scholastic Graphix, 2018) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

This tale of connection and loss and addiction will leave you teary, and it is all too relatable for too many people.

Heavy: An American Memoir (Bloomsbury, 2018) by Kiese Laymon

One of the modern south's most interesting voices does a sustained memoir. I've heard the audiobook's a treat, too.

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (Grand Central, 2018) by Barbara Ehrenreich

I love a good Ehrenreich, and this one's a top-form take-down of the medicalization of older age. National treasure. 

Here's to another year of reading!

Best Books of 2017

Best Books of 2016

Best Books of 2015

Best Books of 2014

Best Books of 2013

Best Books of 2012

Best Books of 2011

Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Best Books of 2017

This was a big confidential committee reading year for me, so when I saw down I can uncertain if I'd even have enough books to do this...but of course, I did. And how could I not make a list?

When I think of 2017, it will forever be the year of Angie Thomas's tour de force The Hate U Give. If you haven't heard Bahni Turpin's audio version, get it -before- it takes the Odyssey Award (only my prediction, but...)

Anything by Dorothy Whipple. I'd looked at the Persephone Press editions of Dorothy Whipple for eons, but this was the year I dug in. Whipple provides some of the best analysis on social dynamics in the 20th century and is pretty funny, too. I think my two favorites were Because of the Lockwoods (1949) and They Knew Mr. Knight (1934). The Persephone editions have the same dove gray covers, but gorgeous endpapers.

The Line of Beauty (2004) by Alan Hollinghurst. I liked this quiet novel because it had the right feel for a Brideshead-update for Thatcher-era Britain.

The Awkward Age (2017) by Francesca Segal This one is about step-families and aging and dogs dying and all sorts of other hard things.  You WILL cry.

Poor Cow (1967) by Nell Dunn. When I saw the Drabble blurb, I had to buy it, and it introduced me to a fascinating women and a really interesting body of sociologically derived work.

The Cows (2017) by Dawn O'Porter An expansive domestic fiction that deals with just about every aspect of modern life and womanhood. This one made me gasp out loud.

The Leavers (2017) by Lisa Ko. I think the immigrant story everyone was reading was Behold the Dreamers, which I also enjoyed, but this one was haunting, most especially the ending.

The Dead of Summer (2008) by Camilla Way. I listened to Watching Edie, but this quiet, dark book was strangely compelling in the way it captures summer idleness and the potential for violence.

Different Class (2017) by Joanne Harris This book seemed to take forever to read, but it was back to Notes on a Scandal caliber for Harris's take on inside-school politics.

Holly Brown was an exciting discovery, and her This is Not Over (2017) is about the sharing economy gone bezerk. No AirBNB for me.

Lower Ed: The Tooubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (2017) by Tressie Milliam Cottom By really dissecting the motives behind our knee-jerk faith in education as a social good, this book changed my thinking about education forever.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (2015) by Sam Quinones really gets into a new model of drug trafficking. I liked it so much I read his other book about Mexico just after.

Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide (2017) by Lynsey Hanley A really interesting memoir about a hard-working girl determined to make good.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) by Roxane Gay A memoir like no other -- brave and fierce and candid in a glorious way.

How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir (2017) by Cat Marnell I was a huge fan of Marnell's XOJane work, and frequently wear a lipstick she recommended. Her story of addiction and struggle went beyond the usual misery memoirs to really get at modern young womanhood and what it means to claim control.

More nonfiction than usual, I think...and perhaps more 2017 titles.

Best Books of 2016