the contextual life

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On the Shelf :: Oh, the Love of Books!

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This week there was a great article on The Millions about not-so-great books. Do authors know when their work is not their best? When do you finally wave the white flag and put a book down when it’s not holding your interest? This has been a familiar conversation in the literary world but somehow essayist Frank Kovarik made it fresh again. Award-winner author Ann Patchett is out with a new book, State of Wonder, and the raves are a flowin’. She’s been making the media rounds, notably on KCRW’s Bookworm. And, I’d love to give a shout-out to a locally-produced literary site that I’ve been looking to for book news, reviews, and links. Vol. 1 Brooklyn is a growing endeavor created and maintained by the most hardcore literary fans I know of. Their Managing Editor, Tobias Carroll, can be seen at many readings—the sign of a true fan.

And now, for what’s on my list this week:

Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru
Before there was Gay Girl in Damascus there was Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, and George Orwell. Nom de Plume is, as its subtitle says, a history of writers and their secret identities. This one is true booknerd bait.

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by James Van DerMeer and S.J. Chambers
I’m a newcomer to steampunk and have to admit, I haven’t read anything yet so it seems like this would be the perfect introduction. Here’s what the publisher has to say: “The Steampunk Bible is the first compendium about the movement, tracing its roots in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells through its most recent expression in movies such as Sherlock Holmes. Its adherents celebrate the inventor as an artist and hero, re-envisioning and crafting retro technologies including antiquated airships and robots. A burgeoning DIY community has brought a distinctive Victorian-fantasy style to their crafts and art.”

The New Yorker Summer Fiction Issue
This one is in my bag and waiting for me to find a minute to sit down and plow through great writing from George Saunders, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, and more.

Your Voice Inside My Head by Emma Forrest
I do love a good tormented memoir and this one sounds like a great read. The New York Times Sunday Book Review just had a write up and I do believe it sold me.

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
There’s just so much peer pressure one can take and I’ve reached my breaking point with Mr. Peanut. I can’t say the story jumped out at me when I first heard about it, or when I listened to Slate’s Double X Audio Book Club discuss it further but once the crew over at Bookrageous talked it up on every episode (yes, every one—they find this comical too) I knew I had to put it at the top of my must-read list.

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Written by Gabrielle

June 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

One Response

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  1. […] A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Take Two)On the Shelf […]


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