Tag Archives: reading

National Book Award Winners, Classics—Other Required Reading for 2016?

 

My fellow readers and travelers—what do you suggest for a 2016 must-read list?

I’ve been chugging my way through Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, which won the Man Booker Prize earlier this year.I look to such awards as one way to compose my reading list for each
new year. I’ll add to that the books nominated for the 2015 National Book Award.

The winners were announced last night: for fiction Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles; for nonfiction,Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; for poetry, Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus; and for Young Peoples Literature, Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep. The list of other National Book Award nominees is listed below.

As I assemble my 2016 reading list, book awards are a great way to find books and authors I may not have heard of, with sort of a “best of the year” stamp of approval. I like to blend in few classics, too, especially those Victorian-era novels by authors such as Hardy, Dickens, the Brontes of which I’m a fanatical fan. New on that list for me, the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. (I’m embarrassed to admit I never heard of her until I saw North and South on Netflix.) And, I toss in a little non-fiction for good measure.

Send me your ideas and look for my final list.

Other Contenders for the National Book Award 2015
Fiction Karen E. Bender, Refund
, Angela Flournoy, The Turner House;
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies; 
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Non Fiction Sally Mann, Hold Still; 
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus
; Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship; and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran;
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light

Poetry
Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
; Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn; 

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things
; Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine

Young People’s Literature
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish; 
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
; Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
; Noelle Stevenson, Nimona

Explore Jack London State Park With My New Article

images-3I have a new article, The Wild Still Calls,  in this month’s issue of a fun magazine, “Live Happy.”   It’s about Jack London State Park and how the volunteers there are keeping the park and the memory of author Jack London alive.

London, author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang and many other adventure stories, was the most famous author of his time.  Most people don’t know he was also a world traveler, sustainable farmer and oyster pirate. His own life was as adventurous as his stories.

All is Not Grey in Seattle: Best Books Set in Seattle by Local Writers

SONY DSC
Seattle isn’t always grey. When the clouds thin you just can’t beat the city’s combination of ocean and mountains.

Seattle is famous for its grey skies and currently, for another Unknown-4
grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Crowds of Shades fans are driving by the Escala condominiums in Seattle, the home of the fictional Christian Grey, among other sites in the books and movie. And, tour operators now offer travel packages that incorporate  Fifty Shades sites, hopefully with a little more romance and a little less S and M.

One writer called the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing,” but darn, I wish I wrote those books; that woman has struck it rich.  The movie has received equally stinky reviews, but it will probably do well financially, too.

A little mommy porn can be fun if you’re into, um, pain and bondage, but I’m here to tell you that whether it’s weather or reading, Seattle isn’t just about Grey. If you’re looking for books with a little more literary merit to inform and inspire a trip to the Emerald City, the folks at one of my favorite bookstores, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle have a reading list for you. Here’s a list they sent with some great and pretty recent fiction and nonfiction books set in Seattle, by local authors.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (fiction). He also wrote the Art of Racing Unknown-1in the Rain

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)

The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction) See my other post about Sherman Alexie and banned books.

Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (fiction)

Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (fiction)

Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock (poetry)

The Good Rain by Timothy Egan (nonfiction)Unknown-5

Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (nonfiction)

Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water by Art Wolfe (nonfiction – pictorial)

Mary Randlett Portraits by Frances McCue and Mary Randlett (nonfiction – pictorial)

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Bainbridge Island.

Wonder Woman in Her Many Forms

 Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota's Nash Gallery, part of the  WonderWomen exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)
Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery, part of the “WonderWomen” exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)

I love it when events and my reading coincide. WonderWomen, an art exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery  in Minneapolis runs from now until February 14. Though they didn’t plan it that way, the exhibit came on the heels of the release of Harvard historian Jill Lapore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which details the weird life of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator and also the inventor of the lie detector test.

Wonder Woman—part superhero, part kinky-booted pinup girl—9780385354042flew into American culture in 1941 and has been part of our pop culture ever since. Along with the biography of Wonder Woman and her creator, Lepore’s book is analysis of women’s history and feminism. The WonderWomen exhibit examines that topic from the pop-art perspective. It features works by women artists inspired or influenced by comics, animation or popular culture, and related screenings of work by women filmmakers presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Read my article about the show in the Minnesota Women’s Press.

One of my favorite works in the show, “Wonder Woman Katy” dominates the room at the Nash Gallery. She wears a red cape and she’s seven feet tall. Don’t mess with her. That’s the image Minneapolis artist Barbara Porwit wants to convey in her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project,  a series of larger-than-life paintings of real women battling the disease, of which “Wonder Woman Katy” is a part. Porwit’s works celebrate the heroic nature of women affected by breast cancer

Frenchy Lunning, a professor of liberal arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an internationally known expert in manga, anime (Japanese comics and animation) and popular culture, is co-curator of the exhibit. She says, ”The takeaway for viewers is to become aware of the magnitude of feminine culture and how feminist art, with all of its potentially subversively qualities, is entering mainstream culture.”

Even if you can’t make it to the WonderWomen exhibit, you’ll want
to read The Secret History of Wonder Woman.    A New York Times review of the book called Wonder Woman’s creator “….a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast. As Wonder Woman would say, “Suffering Sappho!” How can we resist?

New: From the Ashes of the World Trade Center

 

The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan.
The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan. The final component of the skyscraper, its glowing spire, made the building’s height 1,776 feet, tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

Who doesn’t feel like they know just about everything there is to know about 9/11? We’ve seen the video tapes of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September, 2001 countless times and viewed special reports and documentaries without end. Yet, when I stepped into the new National September 11 Memorial Museum I found that there actually was more to learn, but more importantly, to remember.

Located underground in the heart of the World Trade Center site, the museum tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The exhibition explores the background leading up to the events and examines their aftermath and continuing implications.

In Foundation Hall,  the "Last Column," stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.
In Foundation Hall, the “Last Column,” stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.

Even though we’ve seen them so many times, when those video clips and films of what led up to the attack played in the museum the people watching them with me all had the same reaction: “Oh my God.” There are video taped stories from people who were there, displays of artifacts ranging from fire trucks and twisted metal beams to personal objects of people working in the towers that day (really personal things like shoes and purses), papers that rained down, and a portion of one of the stairways from which survivors escaped the building.

The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.
The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.

As one would expect in such an emotionally and politically charged situation, many parts of the museum have been controversial. Some people object to the the way one exhibit connects Islam and terrorism and the simple fact of tourists gawking at what is essentially hallowed ground offends some of the families. Nonetheless, I felt like the curators struck the right balance.

Many survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center and their families are very involved with the museum and give tours and talks at the complex. I felt lucky to be there for a presentation by an NYPD officer who was on site that day and a young woman whose father died trying to get people out of one of the towers. Their stories made it all very personal. Not a dry eye in the house.

I left the museum to stroll around the 9/11 Memorial outside with its two square waterfalls surrounded by the names of those lost in the attacks. The newly opened One World Trade Center–the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth tallest building in the world–towers, symbolically, over it all.  I’m sappy enough to feel proud of the way the city and the country has moved on, but still remembers.

If you go: Admission, $24 for adults. Go to 911memorial.org to reserve tickets, download the free 9/11 app to enhance your tour and for directions. images-1

Unknown-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read up: As usual, I recommend a bit of reading before you go which adds immensely to enhance your experience. And, as usual, I recommend fiction books for their ability to layer events and emotions to create a story that is almost more real than non-fiction. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close– Jonathan Safran Foer, Falling Man, Don DeLillo. For nonfiction, check out an anthology of New Yorker articles,  After 9/11– edited by David Remnick.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/new/

A Riverfront Tour in Minneapolis: Where History Flows With the Mississippi

PicMonkey CollageSince the beginning, Minnesota’s lakes and rivers have been the engine of the region’s development and the focus of recreation, not to mention the source of a whole lot of  fish. The Twin Cities, for example, have their roots on the Mississippi River, which has transported timber and grain from the Midwest to markets in the east and powered the four mills of the Pillsbury family, among others, since the early 1800s. That made the riverfront in Minneapolis primarily an industrial area. Interesting, but not particularly scenic.

SONY DSCAll of that is changing as the city rediscovers and redevelops its waterfront. The mills and warehouses have been converted to trendy apartments and condominiums now and that section of the riverfront is part of an expanding Mill Ruins Park. It’s the sight of the Mill City Farmers Market in summer, where you can eat and buy great organic produce under the watchful gaze of some of the world’s great playwrights who look down from the Guthrie Theater next door.

Though the new version of the riverfront is more vibrant, it’s the 18777967 unusual history here that makes it so intriguing. You can revisit the city’s early days in several ways. First, pick up a copy of Mary Relindes Ellis’s novel Bohemian Flats, which is named after the area slightly downriver from the mills which was home to the city’s poorest immigrants, mainly from Germany and eastern Europe (or Bohemia) who are the subject of the story. Set after World War I, the book traces the progress of a German immigrant family who settled in the ramshackle village that grew up along a low point along the river, many of whom worked in the flour mills.

Next, start a riverfront tour at the Mill City Museum, which offers an in-depth look at the flour industry and the early days of Minneapolis. It’s built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. Wander the across the Stone Arch bridge for a terrific view of the river and St. Anthony Falls, which powered the mills and check out the paths and ruins along the water. Grab some grub at the Farmer’s Market and watch the river roll by as you eat.

Book lovers will want to wander down Washington Avenue to explore the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at Open Book. You can view the artistic assembly of the pages, covers, and spines, then peruse the shop at MCBA, which is a reader’s delight of books, gifts, handmade paper, and journals.

Rent one of the green bikes from one of the Nice Ride Minnesota stations near the museum and head downriver for a scenic tour. Make a stop at Izzy’s gourmet ice cream to fuel your trip. You’ll arrive at Bohemian Flats, which is no longer a wild collection of shacks, but rather a lovely park inhabited mainly by University of Minnesota students throwing frisbees. It’s a great pastoral place to enjoy the view of the river, the university campus and, in particular, the futuristic Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum. It makes quite a contrast to the image of the old Bohemian Flats on the cover of Ellis’s novel.

Bohemian Flats in Minneapolis is now a pastoral play area across from the University of Minnesota.
Bohemian Flats in Minneapolis is now a pastoral play area across from the University of Minnesota.
The view from Bohemian Flats is quite a contrast to the site's 19th Century origins with the futuristic Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, atop the river bluff.
The view from Bohemian Flats is quite a contrast to the site’s 19th Century origins with the futuristic Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, atop the river bluff.

Eat, Read, Cheer: Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan Stadium, "the Big House" in Ann Arbor
University of Michigan Stadium, “the Big House,” in Ann Arbor

Whether you’re a died-in-the-wool Wolverine or not, fall is a fantastic time to visit Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Even without football tickets, you can tour the “Big House,” the University of Michigan’s football stadium which is the largest stadium in the United States, the third largest stadium in the world and the 36th largest sports venue. Its official capacity is 109,901, but it seems like whenever I’m there they have at least 110,000.  No matter how well the team plays, there’s nothing like walking into this stadium on game day and I always enjoy walking to the stadium behind the marching band.

The University of Michigan Marching Band.
The University of Michigan Marching Band

As long as you’re on the campus of my alma mater, be sure to stroll

University of Michigan Law School's beloved Reading Room
University of Michigan Law School’s beloved Reading Room

the “Diag,” the heart of the central campus for some great people watching, pop into the law school’s Hogwarts-like reading room, and spend some time in the terrific art museum on campus. The  museum’s new modern wing, with its Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, offers a look at some very important works by Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti and Max Beckman, to name a few.

Hungry?  Head to an Ann Arbor classic,  Angelo’s, for a breakfast that will fill you up for the rest of the day.  Calorie counts don’t usually slow me down, so despite my gigantic breakfast, I like to stop by Dominick’s for beer, sangria, pizza or subs.  Need something to wash all the down?  I’ve always been partial to the milkshakes at Pizza Bob’s.  Finally, you’ll want to round out your Ann Arbor pig-out weekend with a stop at  Zingerman’s Deli or Zingerman’s Roadhouse, or both.

Wait!  Don’t pick up another pastrami sandwich or you’ll burst.  feast of loveInstead, pick up a feast that will be easier on your arteries, Charles Baxter’s novel, The Feast of Love.  It’s set set in Ann Arbor where Baxter was an English professor (he’s now at the University of Minnesota).  This terrific book as nominated for the National Book Award.

Be a Rebel – Read Banned Books (They’re More Interesting)

I used to love to sneak into the adult section of the library when I

My Banned Books bracelet.
My Banned Books bracelet.

was in grade school.  I lived in a small Michigan town with a very loving yet stern librarian who I remember vividly, Miss Lillian Crawford.  She knew my my grandparents, my parents, and probably most of the parents of children who came to the library.  My mom dropped me off on Saturdays while she got her hair done, making the library both a source of child care and intellectual stimulation.

Occasionally I drifted from the sections that Miss Crawford deemed appropriate for my young mind into the adult fiction. Ohh, la, la–swearing, sex, and ideas I didn’t understand. Actually, I probably didn’t understand the sex, either. Miss Crawford ratted me out to my mother.  I was a super good girl and Mom, fortunately, thought it was amusing that I went astray in such a way. What  a rebel!

Forgive me, Miss Crawford

During this week’s discussion and celebration of banned books, I have to say both Mrs. Crawford and my mom were right.  There’s nothing wrong with guiding young people in their reading, getting them to read in the first place, and encouraging age-appropriate, quality literature. So, I have some sympathy for parents who worry about the books their children are exposed to in school. But, though it was probably benign neglect rather than liberal thinking, I’d err on my mother’s more permissive side every time. What is reading about if not about challenging old ideas, learning about other people, the wider world, and about ourselves?

One the the most frequently banned authors currently is Sherman 28c4d1f2e8d048f702c3dbf0990aca8cAlexie.  He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington.  His stories about life on the reservation are often far from the mainstream portrayal of Native Americans and consequently his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is regularly at the top of the most challenged list.  He says on his website, “It means I’m scaring the right people.  Hooray! I keep hoping somebody will organize a national boycott against me.”

Banning books is all about fear.  Fear of ideas that challenge our religious and world view.  Fear of children learning about sex and fear of people whose skin color is different.  In an article on Huffington Post, Bonnie Stiles, mother of four students in Meridian, Idaho schools where Alexie’s book was recently banned, said she pushed for its removal from the high school curriculum after reading the book and counting 133 profane or offensive words in its 230 pages. Really, if that’s your worry, you need to ban your children from riding the school bus where that language is freely shared.

Forgive me Mrs. Crawford! But, friends, I encourage you to be a rebel and let your freak flag fly.  Read those banned books yourself and, rather than counting swear words, discuss the books with your children. Encourage your book club to join you in reading banned books.  Take a look at the ideas and recommendations some of my favorite books bloggers are offering this week: Sheila at Book Journey, Epic Reads, and Banned Books Club.  You’ll also find lists of current and classic banned books  and this list of banned classics from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Finally, for inspiration, listen to what Bill Moyers said a couple of years ago.