Literature

Literature

It's a funny thing to read a book and realize two things simultaneously. One: some people you know, whose taste you trust, will really love it. Two: some people you know, whose opinions you value, will want to toss it across the room.

For me, the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is a great example. He's one of the biggest authors in the world, a global bestseller. Millions of people love that guy, myself included. But I also know many people, readers and writers, who think he's a total sham.

Every night, author Roald Dahl told his children a story: "Most of them [were] pretty bad," he admitted in a 1972 BBC4 interview, "but now and again you'd tell one and you see a little spark of interest. And if they ever said the next night, 'Tell us some more about that one,' you knew you had something. This went on for quite a long time with a story about a peach that got bigger and bigger and I thought, 'Well heck, why don't I write it.' "

That bedtime story became Dahl's first children's book, James and the Giant Peach.

I am used to conversations about women in historical fiction — or, even more bafflingly, in historical fantasy — consisting of apologia for there being so few of them. "Women were oppressed," the old chestnut goes, and consequently unimportant in the grand scheme of things except inasmuch as they birthed heirs or sealed national alliances in marriage, so it's no surprise that today's writers find little of interest in their day to day doings, right?

When you think of recycling, you probably think of cans, plastic bottles and newspapers. Well, think a little bigger.

There are businesses devoted to recycling metal, paper, plastic, oil, textiles, cell phones, computers, motors, batteries, Christmas lights, cars and more. The hidden world of globalized recycling and reclamation, and its impact on the environment and the global economy, is the subject of the new book Junkyard Planet by journalist Adam Minter.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin indulges in Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream by Diane Kelly.

Title: Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream

Author: Diane Kelly

Pages: 310

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks        

ISBN: 978-1250023087

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

A few years ago I did an author visit at an overcrowded junior high school in a rougher part of San Antonio. I write young adult novels that feature working-class, "multicultural" characters, so I'm frequently invited to speak at urban schools like this.

As is often the case, the principal and I talked as the kids filed into the auditorium. The student body was mostly Hispanic, he told me, and over 90 percent qualified for free and reduced lunch. It was an underprivileged school, a traditionally low-achieving school, but they were working hard to raise performance.

This Veterans Day, considers these lines from the preface to Fire And Forget, a collection of short stories by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

On the one hand, we want to remind you ... of what happened ... and insist you recollect those men and women who fought, bled, and died in dangerous and far-away places. On the other hand, there's nothing most of us would rather do than leave these wars behind. No matter what we do next, the soft tension of the trigger pull is something we'll carry with us forever.

An organization representing 40,000 private schools in Pakistan says it has decided to ban I Am Malala, a memoir written by Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting the education of girls.

The Associated Press spoke to Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, who said Malala was "representing the West, not us."

The AP adds:

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin hides out in the country with Jerrie Alexander’s short romantic thriller, Someone to Watch Over Me.

Title: Someone to Watch Over Me

Author: Jerrie Alexander

Pages: 71

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press 

ISBN: 978-1-61217-966-7

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

Medical Magic Leads To Terror In 'Parasite'

Oct 30, 2013

Welcome to SymboGen, your friendly neighborhood medical company; have you stopped by for your tapeworm implant? Fair warning: There have been some unusual side effects ...

Health care has swallowed American headlines in recent years; besides the arguments over who deserves treatment to begin with, issues are emerging in pharmaceutical brand ethics, anti-vaccination activism, and the overuse of antibiotics. The war against disease is spreading against the smallest enemies of all.

Most people watch The Simpsons to laugh. And, perhaps, feel a little superior to the animated family who are Springfield's best known, if often most dysfunctional citizens.

But Simon Singh, the Cambridge-trained physicist and best-selling author, watches the show not just for laughs, but also for the ... math? In his new book, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, he argues that the writers and producers have woven a lot of math into The Simpsons — and into a highly honored show from the same team, Futurama.

*Some of the language in the summaries above has been provided by publishers.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Rebecca Walker Hurries Love In 'Adé'

Oct 30, 2013

Rarely as the rush of romance felt so, well, rushed as it does in Rebecca Walker's maiden novel Adé: A Love Story. It's a wild ride along with an unnamed (more on that later) biracial college student who's traveling through Africa with her white best friend. Our unnamed narrator falls in love with a Swahili man she meets on an island just off the Kenyan coast, grows apart from her friend and closer to her lover's family, and must struggle with the brutal realities of life under brutal Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi — all in 112 short pages.

The drawings are MS Paint-style doodles, and the stories are about everyday things like cake, poor spelling and dopey dogs. And yet each month, millions of people visit Hyperbole and a Half, the hybrid Web comic and blog created by 28-year-old Allie Brosh, who says she "tries very hard to be funny." Hyperbole has just come out in book form with a mix of old and new material featuring Brosh's absurdist take on the world and her author avatar, a stick figure with a pink dress and what might be a blond ponytail — or might not.

When it comes to book publishing, all we ever seem to hear about is online sales, the growth of e-books and the latest version of a digital book reader. But the fact is, only 20 percent of the book market is e-books; it's still dominated by print. And a recent standoff in the book business shows how good old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar bookstores are still trying to wield their influence in the industry. You might even call it brick-and-mortar booksellers' revenge.

In early 1968, country singer Johnny Cash gave one of the defining performances of his career when he played for inmates at California's Folsom State Prison. Robert Hilburn, a music critic early in his career at the Los Angeles Times, was the only reporter to cover that legendary concert.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin searches for the reality in Heather Thurmeier’s reality TV romance, Falling for You

Title: Falling for You

Author: Heather Thurmeier

Pages: 200

Publisher: Crimson Romance     

ISBN: 978-1440552045

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

At Night We Walk in Circles is set in an unnamed, war-scarred Latin American country. The book follows young actor and aspiring playwright Nelson as he traverses his nation, performing in a provocative play called The Idiot President.

It's Daniel Alarcon's second novel — his first was Lost City Radio, published in 2007. The Peruvian author says there are some parallels between him and his protagonist, dreaming of a life as an artist.

Cover image for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck
Abrams Books for Young Readers/Amulet Books

What makes Jeff Kinney look down and close his eyes because he can't bear what he's done? Check out his answer in our interview ahead of the November 5 publication of the 8th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Hard Luck.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin travels back in time to the Roaring Twenties with Mary Miley’s The Impersonator.

Title: The Imperstonator

Author: Mary Miley

Pages: 354

Publisher: Minotaur Books          

ISBN: 978-1250028167

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

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