This month we are asking you to join a newly discovered but age-old tradition called The Slow Read Movement. Why this month? Because August is when we subtly experience the shortening of daylight, portending autumn. Also, summer and summer vacations open up moments of reverie and reflection and allow for the expansion of time. Diesel is an esteemed member of, and passionate advocate for, The Slow Read Movement (which never is converted into an acronym, because that would miss the point). So, this month, membership is free! Just take your time, turn the pages slowly, pause often and for various lengths of time, and immerse yourself in a good book. A good book is a book worth reading slowly -- see how simple it is? We hope the reviews below help to prompt you to enlist in this most ancient of reading organizations -- free and open to all who have the time, and the inclination.
John & all Dieselfolk
Masterfully written and harking back to another time, in both style and subject, Rules of Civility is a richly enjoyable read. Memories of read pleasures past -- Somerset Maugham, Fitzgerald -- rise up to meet this new addition to The Novel's great writers. This lushly textured novel, which follows the social and emotional arcs of a small cast of characters through New York in 1938, is touching, nostalgic, and evocative. Relaxing back into the text of a capable prose stylist is one of reading's great joys. You quickly develop the trust and faith to sink deep into the story. Absorbing, delightful, thoughtful, and well-crafted, Rules of Civility deserves to become a bestseller and to be read on planes, in armchairs, and in bed. -- John Evans
Who determines what constitutes a psychopath? Where did all these mental disorders come from? Why should you care? Jon Ronson, author of Them and The Men Who Stare at Goats, searches for answers and, along the way, learns how to spot a psychopath, confronts several, and often asks himself, "Why am I doing this?" The answers he finds are not simple truths but disquieting realizations about psychiatry, Scientology, mass media, and journalism. The most unsettling part of The Psychopath Test, though, is the test itself. Everybody -- you, me, our neighbors and friends -- scores something, typically a very low number. It's those higher numbers you have to watch out for, the ones often scored not just by rapists and murderers, but by CEOs and politicians. -- Grant Outerbridge
The Curfew is a novel made in a single perfect stroke to the heart of the reader.
William and his daughter Molly live in their small apartment alone. The police are everywhere and unnamed. A revolution is possibly in motion. People are dying, often without so much as a splash. But father and daughter are happy, in a way.
In a dramatic waltz, the narrative pulls William through the motions of being a noble father in times of trouble and fear. When I say the story pulls William, I mean that he is compelled by circumstance into situations he does not and most likely would not choose for himself or his family. To begin with, William is a widower. With the passing of his wife, his daughter becomes his only charge and care. But when he is faced with a decision that will put his own life at risk, and subsequently Molly's as well, there is a moment when he ponders what the worst thing would be for his daughter. There are many horrible things for a child in the world, but "to be the daughter of a coward," he concludes -- that is the worst of all.
The sacrifices and decisions William makes are drastically selfless. Ball does well at making William real despite this saintly quality. Perhaps it is that in the end, despite everything, he still does not understand his daughter, or that which he loves most -- perhaps that is what allows him the utterly human quality he bears throughout.
Midway through the novel, Molly becomes the driving force of the narrative. Reflecting and retelling the history already experienced by the reader with William in the form of a puppet show, the book is turned in upon itself, the mute Molly exposed in a cast of marionettes. Her mother, William, the world at large, are all reshaped through her imagination.
Ball's world is at once whimsical and desperately poignant. One cannot help but be drawn deeply into the relationships he creates. But Ball's real feat is not one of transportation but rather transfiguration. The readers' own personal relationships are reinterpreted through those in the text. It is this aspect that lends the novel its lasting quality.
I still take pause and feel this work wash over me now. It is a delight to say the least. -- Daniel Nelson
Gretel Ehrlich is a tough woman. This Cold Heaven is the record of her seven seasons in Greenland exploring the aesthetic and psychological impact of an absolute, frozen world. In 1994 she survived a lightning strike while walking her dogs, and reclaimed enough of her health and mental energy to travel to the Arctic Circle. Greenland is a place I never want to go, and it is fortunate that readers have Ehrlich to chronicle this beautiful and inhospitable land. Ehrlich bounces from dogsled to isolated village on the heels of seekers who came before, most notably the Danish/Inuit explorer Knud Rasmussen and American artist Rockwell Kent. Ehrlich drags her limitless compassion over the earth's darkest places, places of absolute winter and unending night where death by wolves and isolation are anecdotal. Her sentimentality is reserved for Greenland's energetic children, ethnographers, and wandering souls, but she never questions the motivations or ethics of Greenlandic journeys, thankfully. Instead, Ehrlich explores the bizarre pathways of experience when nature is unquestionably the dominant form of power in a human community and diurnal time is turned inside out. The reader is made to feel the relief of a successful seal hunt after acute and deadly starvation, the preternatural joy of Greenland's twinkling winter moonscapes, and the unspeakable horror encountered at the farthest end of the world. -- Cameron Carlson
As with most good things in life, this book was referred to me by a dear friend who was concerned for my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being. "It's brilliant," he said. "It's a completely arresting read. Riveting subject matter. And also cerebral and heart-breaking, but not snobby." He grimaced because he knew the description wasn't doing the book justice. But that's how it is with the great stories, they defy summary. And if I was going to synopsize, it would go something like this: a young boy watches as his friend, Cletus, has his life up-ended after Cletus' father commits a murder in the winter of 1920. Now an old man, our narrator, the silent observer, mulls over his early interactions with Cletus and speculates on the events leading up to the tragic shooting, tacking together memory and gossip, fact and fiction, in an attempt to make sense of what he hadn't understood as a child. It's a great story because Maxwell acknowledges that seeking truth in these memories is both futile and inevitable. It's just a thing that people do. Beautiful in its simplicity, this little novel has more than its share of stark truths, such that I could not be without a pen and paper while reading. It seems like Maxwell offers the wisdom of an entire lifetime in 130 pages. -- Sus Long
While creating art out of typographic characters is nothing new -- Sufi scribes sidestepped a ban on pictures by creating images out of scripture, and concrete poetry helped usher in early 20th century Modernism -- its popularity has increased exponentially in the past few decades. Word processing programs have made amateur typographers of us all; every computer-literate person can talk fonts to some degree, and nearly everyone has a favorite font (or, at the very least, a serif-versus-sans preference). Type Image is a gorgeous survey, presenting historical examples of typographic art alongside ultra-modern takes on the form, with a range from the comic to the profoundly moving. The book approaches the subject with enough gravity to make it a worthy addition to any study of typography, but is attractive enough to make it a stand-alone collection of art, placing the reader in the beautiful gray area between text and art. -- John Peck
I loved Kevin Henkes even before I read Kitten's First Full Moon -- and this book propelled me into full-blown Henkes obsession. It's the tale of a kitten who's convinced that the moon is actually a big bowl of milk suspended in the sky, and she's determined to make it hers. She tries everything she can think of to reach that perfect, round, smooth bowl of milk. Kitten learns a hard lesson, but luckily she has an owner who loves her. There's something so calm and reassuring about this book; Kitten's adventurous spirit and innocence take the fear out of darkness and nighttime. -- Elise Clarkson