Posts Tagged ‘thoughtful’

Night

November 28, 2012

Author: Elie Wiesel
Title: Night
Genre: Memoir
Publication: 2006
Number of Pages: 120 pages
Geographical Setting: Europe- Germany
Time Period: 1933-1945
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

Wiesel writes what seems to be his own autobiography through the eyes of the narrator -Eliezer.  We get a first person narrative of events of the holocaust as Elies takes us through the Nazis invasion of Hungary in 1944.  To the rude awakening of the Jews, a lot of oppressive and stringent laws are created to oppress the Jews forcing them into the ghettos. From then, there are imposed restrictions and eventual massive deportation of the Jews as prisoners by cattle cars to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.   On getting to camp, Elie is separated from his father during “selection”. From then on we get a detailed  account of the horror, hardship and inhumanity as suffered by Elie Wiesel and his family and the rest of the Jews. Babies are burned in the ditch, hundreds of Jews burned in the crematoria. Prisoners are stripped naked and exposed to extreme weather condition, most people die from malnutrition and disease.

In the end, we see a broken down man, his spirits crushed which causes him to question his faith in God and in his fellow men.
A gut wrenching read, will appeal to those curious about the holocaust.

Subject Headings:
God (Judaism), Wiesel,  Elie, 1928, Birkenau Extermination Camp, Auschwitz (Concentration Camp), Jewish teenage boys, Holocaust survivors, Belief and doubt, Loss, Holocaust, Jewish (1933-1945) – Personal narratives

Three Appeal Terms:
Moving, Disturbing, Gruesome

Appeal:
Reflective, Moody, Haunting, Menacing, Disturbing, Bleak, Gut wrenching, Engaging, Thoughtful, Descriptive, Compelling, Candid

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Gratitude by Kertes, Joseph

Another gripping account of the events of the holocaust, but this time the story is based in Hungary.  We learn more about the atrocities committed against the Jews but with a different story line and complex plot twists than the Night.  Will make a great read for those yearning for more holocaust stories.

Schindler’s list by Keneally, Thomas
Schindler’s story is retold by Keneally about his life how he – Schindler a German saved more than a thousand Jews working for him during the holocaust. For those interested in the events of the holocaust, this books brings a different perspective judging from Schindler’s  acts of goodwill.

The jade peony by Choy,  Wayson

A poignant tale of the recollections of an immigrant Chinese family in Chinatown – Vancouver before and during World War II.  The story is told from the eyes of the three young children about the difficulties, sorrows and loss they felt while growing up.  This is another alternative for readers interested in the theme of persecution, suffering and survival as in Night.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

The diary of a young girl: the definitive edition by Anne Frank
This book chronicles the personal experiences of Anne Frank and her family as they hide from place to place during the holocaust.  A more convincing account of the reality of the holocaust for those doubtful of the Night.

Maus: a survivor’s tale by Spiegelman, Art
Portrayed in a Graphic format, the author tells the story of his family’s experiences during the holocaust.  How they bounced from place to place, their hardship and survival.  Using animals in this format is a creative and effective way to depict such sorrowful events and will appeal to readers who love Graphic novels.

Holocaust: the events and their impact on real people by Wood, Angela
Find a collection of true stories of children who experienced first hand events of the holocaust.  Not only do we find each harrowing and gripping account of the suffering during this period, but we see  detailed analysis of events  leading up to this sadism and cruelty.  Great history collection.

Boy Meets Boy

November 28, 2012

Author: David Levithan

Title: Boy Meets Boy

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 185

Geographical Setting: Not specified. “Gaytopia”

Time Period: Present Day

Plot Summary: Sophomore high school student, Paul, does not have an especially profound coming out story. His kindergarten teacher simply sent a report card home to his parents that read: “Paul is definitely gay and has a very good sense of self.” Such is the laidback attitude of Paul’s town where people of all sexual orientations are treated with respect and acceptance. In this community, being gay is not considered a unique trait but rather par for the course. Paul lives in a place where the quarterback of the high school football team is a cross-dresser who also happens to be the homecoming queen. Additionally, the cheerleading squad is not your typical pom-pom crowd but rather a group of Harley-riding bikers. While Paul has had crushes spanning back to third grade, and a few ex-boyfriends along the way, none of these encounters can compare to the remarkable response Paul feels after meeting Noah. The new kid at school, Noah is artistic, kind, and intriguing. Paul falls in love deeply and quickly, yet an ex-boyfriend named Kyle has suddenly regained interest in Paul, which threatens the joy of this new romance. Paul would normally seek advice from his friends regarding the resurgence of his ex-boyfriend; however, his childhood best friend, Joni, is engrossed in a new boyfriend whose dating motives are questionable. In addition to Joni’s absence, Paul’s friend, Tony, has been put under house arrest by his conservative family. Now Paul must find a way to repair his strained friendships while also protecting his new relationship with Noah despite Kyle’s confusing advances. Inspiring and heartwarming, Boy Meets Boy is a contemporary coming-of-age story about friendships, family, and romance. Paul’s narration is unpretentious and thoughtful in this tale of believable teenage issues in an extraordinary town.

Subject Headings: Gay teenagers, High school sophomores, Infatuation in teenage boys, Interpersonal relations, Teenage boys, Teenage romance

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book: Heartwarming, Hopeful, Inspiring

Appeal: Contemporary, Breezy, Conversational, Thoughtful, Unpretentious, Unhurried, Heartwarming, Lighthearted, Hopeful, Strong Secondary Characters, Inspiring, Character-Centered

Fiction Read Alikes:

The Hookup Artist by Tucker Shaw

Aspiring to be his high school’s matchmaker, Lucas endeavors to set up his best friend Cate with the attractive new kid at school, Derek. Despite her initial reluctance, Cate falls for Derek who appears to only have eyes for Lucas. This triangle is further complicated when Lucas returns Derek’s crush which in turn threatens his relationship with Cate. Readers who are looking for additional YA GLBT fiction that discusses how first loves can complicate friendships should pick up this contemporary and humorous read.

How I paid for college: a novel of sex, theft, friendship & musical theater by Marc Acito

Recently graduated from high school, Edward Zanni has a seemingly perfect life. He has a beautiful girlfriend, an intriguing and attractive football-playing friend, and an acceptance to Julliard. When Edward’s father suddenly announces he won’t be able to pay his son’s tuition due to an upcoming marriage, Edward enlists the help of his friends to secure his collegiate future. Edward’s entourage of friends make for enjoyable secondary characters and Edward’s journey of discovering his own sexuality is endearing and believable. Adult and teen Boy Meets Boy fans looking for another humorous coming-of-age story about friendship and self-discovery might enjoy How I Paid for College.

Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan

Childhood best friends, Hal and Chuck, are spending a summer apart for the first time in ten years. In order to keep in touch, the two teens set up a blog in which Hal discusses falling for a young Frenchman and Chuck describes his crush on summer camp thespian. Despite Hal’s recently coming out to Chuck, their friendship remains strong and the two boys discuss love and sex in a frank and humorous tone. Boy Meets Boy fans who are looking for another witty, contemporary read about friendship and first loves might enjoy this book.

Non-Fiction Read Alikes:

The full spectrum: a new generation of writing about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and other identities

Edited by Boy Meets Boy author Levithan, The Full Spectrum is a collection of non-fiction poems and short stories written by gay teenagers in which they discuss their experiences with coming out, religion, family, friends, and love. Readers who enjoyed Paul’s believable teenage narration of traditional high school experiences might wish to explore similar true stories from gay young adults.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

In this non-fiction anthology, sixty-four professional authors write letters to their teenage selves in which they discuss issues such as coming out and self-discovery. Readers who are looking for more traditional coming out stories (compared to Paul’s kindergarten report card) might enjoy this title.

When the Drama Club Is Not Enough: Lessons from the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students by Jeff Perrotti

In this guidebook for teens, Perrotti (the founding director of the Massachusetts Department of Education initiative) shares his experiences as an activist for teens while trying to promote gay rights in the school setting. Some Boy Meets Boy fans may find Paul’s accepting high school environment inspiring; those readers seeking materials on how to promote gay rights in their own school should read this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Author and children’s book editor, Wendy McClure, takes readers on a humorous, reflective, and contemporary journey to revisit her favorite children’s books, the series of Little House on the Prairie.  In each chapter, McClure shares with readers her research into the history of the books along with her visits to several of the historical sites in the United States where Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, lived.  McClure even goes to festivals dedicated to the books and tries to camp out and cook as in the 19th century.  However, what adds even more depth to this novel is that McClure learns as much about herself throughout this journey as she does about her favorite series.  McClure leads this novel with a relatable, introspective, and self-deprecating voice. She describes situations and characters in a detailed, vivid, and generally sympathetic style with accessible and conversational language.  Also, while much of the novel is character-centered and informative, numerous funny adventures occur during the course of McClure’s trips.  This novel is an engaging and thought-provoking novel about one person’s relationship with the books that she loves.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading; Arts and Entertainment; Frontier and Pioneer Life; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Literature; Home; Women’s Studies; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Appreciation; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Homes and Haunts; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Little House on the Prairie; 19th Century; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing;

Appeal: leisurely-paced, relaxed, steady, bittersweet, candid, contemplative, gentle, humorous, introspective, moving, nostalgic, poignant, unpretentious, closely observed, detailed, engaging, familiar, quirky, realistic, and vivid primary and secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, episodic, layered, literary references, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, historical details, rural, academic, accessible, conversational, descriptive, engaging, informal, informative, thoughtful, well-researched

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: humorous, bittersweet, historical details

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrimwill appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another autobiographical novel that highlights a different perspective ofLittle House on the PrairieSimilar toThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is a funny, character-centered, conversational, and contemporary book about how her real life differed from the mean character that she played on the famous television show.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is more about the life of the actress beyond the series while McClure’s novel is a nostalgic and academic return to the past.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another humorous novel about a man who tries to live a simpler life in the country and discovers it is more difficult than he initially expected.  Similar to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch is a character-centered, chatty, and contemporary book, but unlike McClure, Welsch’s adventures take place in Nebraska.  Also, he continues to live in rural areas despite its hardships.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that itis another autobiographical story about a woman, who reads a book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and decides to change her contemporary life and relationships because of it.  Like McClure, Powell describes the challenges and triumphs of trying to replicate recipes from a famous book in a reflective, conversational, and engaging style.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is set in New York and focuses solely on cooking while McClure’s journey is in multiple locations and involves many different types of 19th century activities.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is anotherhistorical novel about a strong woman, Meg Mambry, who is investigating the truth regarding a diary from her great-grandmother in the 19th century. UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook is more serious and psychological in tone and takes place in New Mexico.  However, like The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook has humorous moments and focuses on women’s lives and relationships.

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another compilation of stories that include subjects, such as homesteading and living on the frontier.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx is set in Wyoming and contains more serious and dark stories in a more literary style.  Nonetheless, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx has humorous moments and focuses on family relationships as well.

An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another historical novel based on the true story of Nancy Kelsey who is the first woman to travel to California in the 19th century.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland is a more serious adventure story of survival.  However, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland has well-researched historical details and focuses on strong women.

My Year With Eleanor

August 15, 2012

Author: Noelle Hancock

Title: My Year With Eleanor

Genre: Memoir

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: NYC; Mount Kilimanjaro

Time Period: 2008-2009
Plot Summary: When she gets laid off from her job as Celebrity Blogger, Noelle Hancock decides to heed the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday. She faces physical fears as well as emotional fears, and the result is an introspective, inspiring, humorous memoir.

Subject Headings: Hancock, Noelle; Women journalists—New York, biography; Eleanor Roosevelt.
Appeal: Humorous, upbeat, inspirational, thoughtful, chatty, witty, engaging, introspective, smart, well-crafted, sophisticated narrator, informative, quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.

3 terms that best describe this book: Inspirational, engaging, humorous.
Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The author chronicles her year of trying to become a happier person by observing happiness in others and pro-actively pursuing the activities that make her own life happier. A stint memoir like hancock’s, where a sophisticated woman is trying to improve her happiness.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 564 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
Julie Powell decided to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year and blog about the experience. Her blog led to a book deal and movie. Like MYWE, this is a women’s stint memoir.

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt
First lady to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt was a UN delegate, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, newspaper columnist, Democratic party activist, world-traveler, and diplomat. This book and Eleanor Roosevelt’s life is the inspiration for Noelle Hancock.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
A student from NYU nannies for a wealthy family. Like MYWE, this is a story about a twenty-something girl in New York City that ends happily.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
This 1957 novel follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a 22-year-old American girl living in Paris in the late 1950s. Chosen because it is witty, humorous, written in 1st person, and about a young sophisticated woman.

The Guy Not Taken: Stories by Jennifer Weiner
This collection of stories about women and their transformative moments is similar because both books are light women’s reads and Hancock’s book is somewhat episodic, which fits in with this short story collection.
Name: Sonia Reppe

In A Sunburned Country

August 15, 2012

Author: Bill Bryson

Title: In a Sunburned Country

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel Writing

Publication Date: May 15, 2001

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: Australia –Description and Travel

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In this non-fiction travelogue, Bill Bryson writes of his preparation for, and adventures traveling around Australia, a land filled with friendly inhabitants, deadly and peculiar wildlife, wide open spaces, and one bizarre and interesting history. A quintessential incidental learning book, readers can’t help but pick up and become immersed in history, traveling and lodging tips, and Bryson’s witty and at times sarcastic impressions of an in many ways an undiscovered land. This book will make you both laugh out loud and cringe at Bryson’s details and experiences.

Subject Headings: Voyages and travels; Travelers; Bill Bryson – Journeys – Australia; National characteristics, Australian

Appeal: Funny, Humorous, Engaging, Witty, Engrossing, Leisurely-paced, Thoughtful, Thought-provoking, Strong sense of place, Detailed setting, Details of Australia, Descriptive, Well-researched, Vivid

3 Terms that best describe this book: Humorous, Detailed, Strong sense of place

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

This travel adventure begins when Hawks accepts a bet that he can travel around Ireland for a month with a mini-fridge as his companion, hoping that he’ll regain some sense of adventure and re-evaluate his life. Meeting many characters, you’ll find yourself rooting for Hawks and laughing along the way. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the characters Bryson encountered during his journey and the strong sense of place prevalent in In a Sunburned Country.

2) Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison

Much like In a Sunburned Country, this is a funny, informative book written in a way that educates the reader while making him laugh at Allison’s tales of working as a leader of wildlife and eco-tourism trips in the African Bush.

3) A Year in the World by Frances Mayer

Although not as humorous as In a Sunburned Country, Mayer’s tale of traveling around the world, renting ordinary houses on ordinary streets and contemplating the meaning of travel and home pulls the reader into the journey with her, experiencing the lifestyle of each locale. It too has a strong sense of place and informs the reader while telling tales of voyages and travels.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This classic WWII tale of love and war tells the story of a young Englishwoman living in Malaya who is captured by the Japanese and years later travels to the Australian Outback to find the man who helped save her.  Like In a Sunburned Country, it has a very strong sense of place and takes the reader on a journey to a more unknown Australia.

2)  Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

Set in New South Wales, the southeast part of Australia, this is the tale of a man who plants hundreds of different species of gum trees on his farm and tells his 19-year-old daughter that she can marry the first man to name all the species correctly. Many suitors show up and the story reads almost like a fairy tale. Like In a Sunburned Country, rural Australia serves as an important backdrop to the story.

3) Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

In this book, Cloudstreet refers to a broken down house on the wrong side of the tracks in Perth which is located in Western Australia. When two families move into the house, they turn it into a beautiful home against all odds and the reader follows the families over 20 years.  It’s a tale of another part of Australia: Perth, which Bryson visits and explores in his book as it’s called ‘the most isolated city on earth.’

Name: Bridget Optholt

The Color of Water

August 14, 2012

Author:  James McBride

Title:  The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

Genre:  Nonfiction, Multicultural, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date:  1996

Number of Pages: 285

Geographical Setting:  Suffolk, Virginia, New York City

Time Period:  1930s-1990s.

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

Growing up, James McBride noticed his mother did not look like him or his eleven brothers and sisters.  She didn’t look like anyone in the New York projects where they lived.  He would repeatedly ask her why she does not look like they do; she’d reply she was light skinned, that was she was a human being and not to worry about it, anything to not talk about it.  None of that matter to her; what mattered was school and church.  As an adult, James persuaded his mother, Ruth to tell her story.  She shared the story of a Jewish girl born in Poland to a Rabbi and her loving mother, immigrating to the United States, and raised in the south.  When she was twenty, she escaped to Harlem, where she married a black man in the 1940s, and converted to Christianity, thereby renouncing her Jewish background and family.  This biographical memoir takes the readers into Ruth’s world, growing up in the 1930’s to the present, while also taking readers into James’s upbringing in Ruth’s household in the 1960s.

Subject Headings:  Racially mixed people – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Mothers – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Whites – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Racially mixed people –Race identity, New York (N.Y.) – Biography.  Family and Relationships – Families.  Biography – Everyday People.  Christianity.  Judaism.

Appeal:  Inspirational, character-driven, heartwarming, thoughtful, leisurely-paced, steady, compassionate, flawed, realistic, sympathetic, family-centered, intimate, thoughtful.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Inspirational, character-driven, thoughtful.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He was Black by Gregory Howard Williams.  The author recounts the shocking experience of learning his father’s relatives in Indiana were poor and Black and the resulting prejudice him and his brother experienced from both sides.  Like Color of Water, these two memoirs address a young man’s search for his racial and ethnic identity while growing up with a white mother and an African-American father.

The Color of Love: A Mother’s Choice in Jim Crow South by Gene Cheek.  This memoir presents a story surrounding the year 1963 in during the Jim Crow era, where the author was removed from his mother’s custody because she has a half-mixed baby.  While the exact circumstances differ, both books are moving accounts of the southern United States, racial tension, poverty and the struggle for identity and feeling of belonging.

The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South by Eli N. Evans, Willie Morris.  This is a classic portrait of Jews in the South.   Authors Evans and Morris takes readers inside the nexus of southern and Jewish histories.  This book gives the reader a closer look to what it was like to be Jewish in the south, straddling the line between black and white, that Ruth McBride Jordan experienced.

 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Stopping for Green Lights by Alyce Miller.  This coming of age book set in the 1960s is about a cynical young white woman, yearning to fit in with her Black friends, falling in love with a nineteen year old Black man, who teaches her a hard lesson by his betrayal.  This fictional account shares similar subject and appeal terms, like coming of age, racial identity and the sixties, which was part of the back drop in The Color of Water.

Joshua’s Bible by Shelly Leanne. Philadelphia minister Joshua Clay is sent to South Africa, to be the first black minister in years.  He struggles to minister during the apartheid-era 1930s.  This story shares the Christianity tones, racial struggle and adversity during a time period that was featured in The Color of Water.

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. This fictional tale follows observations by Sophie Applebaum of her Jewish Pennsylvania family over the course of twenty years.  This story is a readalike because it features the dynamic of a Jewish family.

Name:  Olivia Button

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

The Alchemist

August 13, 2012

Author: Paulo Coehlo; audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational; Spiritual Fiction; Literary Fiction; Fables

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 177

Geographical Setting: Spain; Egypt

Time Period: Not specified

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Santiago’s reoccurring dream leads him on a quest to Egypt to find treasure and to also discover his personal legend or destiny. Along his journey, Santiago’s commitment to his personal legend is tested on multiple occasions, but he continues to keep choosing his quest. The Alchemist becomes Santiago’s guide through the dessert and his teacher about how to follow his heart and his dreams in the hope that, unlike so many people, Santiago will fulfill his destiny. This is a philosophical and spiritual journey for Santiago and his readers. The Alchemist is a thought-provoking and powerful novel that will cause you to question how your life and actions can impact and change yours and other peoples lives. This book will draw literary fiction, inspirational, and folk tale readers and undoubtedly, will cause all who read it to feel inspired to seek out their own personal legends.

Subject Headings: Alchemists — Fiction. Shepherds — Spain — Andalusia — Fiction. Andalusia (Spain) — Fiction. Fables.

Appeal: mystical, character-centered, gentle, thought-provoking, exotic, detailed setting, literary, thoughtful, lyrical

3 terms that best describes this book: relaxed, philosophical, inspiring

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.

Don Miguel Ruiz discusses and explicates the paths and steps to take to personal freedom, peace, and unconditional love. A great read-a-like for readers who were inspired by themes in The Alchemist of filling your life with love and peace that will help readers know spiritual enlightenment.

The Awakening Course: the Secret to Solving All Problems, Joe Vitale

This book offers a step-by-step approach to changing your personal and professional transcendence. A thought-provoking, spiritual transformation that will help readers of The Alchemist be able to take their own inspirational journey to help achieve their lives goals.

Andalusia, Eliane Faure

 Andalusia is an illustrated guide to this part of Spain. This book offers a visual understanding to one of the exotic landscape of The Alchemist. You can explore Andalusia customs, the landscape, the major regions, and more.

 3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

Brahmin or Siddhartha abandons his aristocratic life to embark on a spiritual journey to better understand Indian spirituality. Siddhartha is another inspirational, mystical, though-provoking piece of literary fiction for the reader who enjoys spiritual journeys like in The Alchemist.

The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

After Eddie dies in a tragic accident, Eddie reflects upon his life in heaven feeling that his life was uninspired, but five people he knew in life explains the meaning of his life.  The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven is an inspiring, philosophical tale about appreciating and realizing ones purpose in life.

The Tale of the Unknown Island, Jose Saramago

A philosophical fable about a man who knocks on a king’s petitioner’s door to ask him for a boat to use on his voyage. Like the king, the man sparks curiosity and desire in the reader to find out where it is he is journeying too. The Tale of the Unknown Island is a spiritual journey similar to The Alchemist in the sense that both stories are character centered, literary, and inspires readers to explore their relationship to the world.

Name: Alison Kulczak

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil