Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hitting the Pavement

Running is my favorite form of exercise, so I always enjoy books written by runners or about runners. Not technical books about the art of running, but books telling stories about people who run. Even if you aren't a runner and the thought of running more than three steps makes you want to reach for a carton of ice cream, these books are still worth your while. They show the amazing capacity of both the human body and spirit.

Run: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss by Dean Karnazes

Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth  by Adharanad Finn

Honey, Do You Need a Ride?: Confessions of a Fat Runner by Jennifer Graham

Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running by Rachel Toor

The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers, and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon by John Hanc

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

~Queen of Books

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Doc: Mythology Made Manifest

Here in Tucson we just can’t get enough of OK Corral mythology, and lovers of Tombstone lore will relish the backstory details about Doc Holliday served up in style by Mary Doria Russell in Doc.

This first of a promised two-volume fictional retelling of the life of the iconic Doc begins at the beginning (in pre-Civil War Georgia) and ends with his decision to get out of Dodge (Dodge City, that is), and light out to Arizona. Doc’s early life is marked by tragedy (the death of his mother to tuberculosis) and his own danged bad luck (a promising Dental career has to be shelved  when he is diagnosed with the same disease). But heading west for his health, Doc quickly discovers that gambling pays better than dentistry, and that a smart card player handy with a firearm can change his luck. A cast of colorful, recognizable characters appear on cue – Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Bat Masterson, and Kate Harony (Big Nose Kate) are just a few of the real-life folks strolling the streets of Dodge, each of them rendered fully-developed and multi-dimensional in Russell’s capable hands.

This well-crafted novel fairly crackles with fascinating historical fact, evocative descriptions of the West when it was wild and razor-sharp dialog. When Russell was at the Tucson Festival of Books last March, she noted that she was on her way to Tombstone to research volume II of this remarkable fictional retelling. She’ll be back at Festival 2013 this March, and I hope she’ll have lots of progress to report.  Volume II just can’t get here fast enough. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A tale of love through art and poetry

It is difficult to write a review of a book like Habibi that will do it justice and I have struggled to put my thoughts about such a complex and hauntingly beautiful story into a blog post. Habibi by Craig Thompson is, at its core, a love story. It encompasses all aspects of love, from maternal to romantic, in a story that occurs in no set place or time. What really captivated me about this book was the way Thompson incorporates Arabic script and Islamic mysticism into his art and story to add depth and beauty to an already complex and emotionally challenging tale.
Though it is a graphic novel, it is not by any means your typical superhero story. Thompson uses amazing imagery to tell the complex story of Dodola, a young woman who is desired for her physical beauty rather than her formidable intellect and fierce personality, and Zam, the young boy that she rescues from slavery and whose inner turmoil drives him to a life of self-destruction and sorrow. Over the course of their lives, these two characters will lose and find each other again, encounter great hardships, and have their freedom taken away by those in positions of power. However, despite the pain and hardships, or maybe because of them, there is always the underlying current of love.
If you have been curious about  graphic novels, but have been turned off by the perceived lack of literary merit, Habibi is a great inroad into this growing artform. It is also a fantastic introduction to Islamic art and the founding stories of the religion, things that I had very little exposure to before this book. While you are waiting, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is another graphic novel with great literary and cultural merit.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Cut

Judging from the response to an earlier blog post recommending a Jack Reacher read-alike, library patrons really didn't like the idea of Tom Cruise as the star of the new movie. Never fear! Lee Child fans can take heart that there are more cool heroes out there, just waiting to be discovered. George Pelecanos, novelist and writer/producer of the hit HBO show The Wire, has recently started a series starring returned Iraq War veteran, Spero Lucas. The Cut is the first installment.

Lucas returns to Washington D.C. after his years of service and starts work as an investigator for a defense attorney. Lucas finds his niche in his side job as a "finder." He finds stolen property for people, no questions asked, for a 40% fee. As you can imagine, the type of clients who need this service can be a bit sketchy. In fact, in this case, the client is an imprisoned drug dealer looking to recover stolen deliveries of marijuana. Lucas stylishly blazes his way across D.C., making plenty of time to enjoy wine, women and song along the way.

Keep an eye out for The Double, the second book starring Spero Lucas, that is due out this year.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Change Your World

I like the clean slate of the New Year. Time to get some new habits, clean out the clutter and change your world. However, when I want to change my world, it usually involves other people potentially changing their world too. Along the lines of convincing your friends to help paint that fence with you. I not only want to change the landscape of my own yard, I want my neighborhood and my city to change their own yards. Here are three different books that I have found inspiring to help make that change.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Are You Ready to Rock?!

While I generally don't listen to punk music, I have to admit that I love books about that world, and the people in it. Here are three of my favorites.

Born to Rock - Gordon Korman
Conservative, buttoned-down teenager Leo Caraway discovers that his real dad is a punk-rock legend. To his horror, Dear Old Dad wants to spend a summer together. On tour with a  punk band, getting into the kind of trouble that could threaten his admission to an Ivy League, Leo comes to a whole new understanding of music, family, and himself.

Five Flavors of Dumb - John Antony
Teen rock band Dumb (yep, that's their name) has just won Seattle's Battle of the Bands, but internally, they're a mess. School outsider Piper takes a dare from the narcissistic lead singer to get them organized and on the way to stardom, or at least to paying gigs. Unfortunately, she doesn't know anything about keeping a band together. Or for that matter, anything about rock. Oh, and she's deaf, too. Yep. This should be interesting.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shelf Life

Editor Thessaly LaForce challenged 100 writers, musicians and other contemporary cultural figures to "select a small shelf of books that represent you - the books that have changed your life...your favorite favorites". My Ideal Bookshelf is the result and, while too small to be a "coffee table book", could be considered a perfect demitasse. Each selection is accompanied by a short descriptive essay explaining their choices and given a stylishly unique bookshelf illustration by artist and illustrator Jane Mount.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pima County Public Library Ultimate Staff Picks 2012

Library folk love to read, they read terrific books, and they  love to talk about the books they think are terrific. So the Ravenous Readers got to thinking: wouldn't it make a great reading list if we asked library staff from all over the Pima County Public Library system to tell us the name of the single most terrific book they read in 2012?

So that's what we did --  and we gathered the results into the First Annual Pima County Public Library Ultimate Staff Picks List, which we present here, to help you find a good title to start the new year right. Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!


When Charlie McButton Lost Power
Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games), illustrated by Mike Lester (Children’s Picture Book) A great rhyming story with fantastic illustrations about a boy suffering from electronic toy withdrawal during a power outage. After an episode spent in time-out (tackling his sister’s toys for their batteries), Charlie realizes how much fun he can have--without electricity.  
Elizabeth, Collection Development Office


Karen Thompson Walker
An apocalyptic coming-of-age story: when the earth's rotation slows, day and night are thrown off track and crops start to fail...
Cindy, Nanini Library

Thursday, January 3, 2013

NoveList, almost as good as a librarian

You just finished reading your book. You have an e-reader, so you can download a book from home, but panic hits when you realize that the library is closed and you cannot call your favorite librarian and ask, "What should I read next?" Never fear, NoveList is here to provide online readers' advisory.

NoveList is an electronic resource that can be used to find your next great read. Find NoveList by clicking on "Topics and Online Resources" found on the Pima County Public Library website. Choose "Books and Literature" to find the link for NoveList. Search by author, title, or series. Find a book by providing a description of a book you want to read. Get a "Recommended Reads List" by genre or find author and series read-alikes. Titles have links to reviews provided by "Good Reads" so you can read what others think of the book. Sign into "My NoveList" and keep lists of books you have read or want to read. One of the best features is a link to the Pima County Public Library to check the availability of the book you want to read. There is so much you can do! Will NoveList replace your favorite librarian? I certainly hope not, but it is a handy tool for finding your next great read.