v. 1. To consent to the fulfillment of. 2. To accord as a favor. 3a. To bestow; confer. b. To transfer (property) by a deed. 4. To concede; acknowledge.
...And here is some more inspiration.
Why should you convince your book club to read a hardcover nonfiction book? Because it's Bill Bryson, and At Home is more engaging and pleasurable to read than much recent fiction. It's chock full of arcane factoids and cheeky observations that have made me seem smarter and more worldly than I really am. And who doesn't benefit from that? Each chapter follows a different room in Bryson's house, a Victorian parsonage in an altogether uneventful part of England. How those rooms came to be (and the various historical characters that helped shape them) is much more fascinating than this sentence makes them seem. From the hallway to the bathroom to the kitchen to the garden, Bryson uncovers a multitude of wealthy aristocrats and atheistic parishioners that, thanks to a few happy accidents and some very bad decisions, did more to influence the rooms in which we live and the conceptions we have about what those rooms are for than one could imagine. -- Grant Outerbridge
Much like in his 2007 effort, The Book of Lost Things, the central character in The Gates is a young boy on the cusp of becoming a teenager. As if a frothing sea of hormones and a cruel babysitter are not enough, Samuel Johnson's neighbors have unwittingly opened a gap in our universe through which the gates of Hell are visible. And the gates are slowly melting. With the help of his friends, a bumbling scientist, his mother, and a good-natured demon named Nurd, Samuel must figure out how to stop this ridiculous mess before it's too late. As in The Book of Lost Things, Connolly excels at creating a believable world through the eyes of his young hero, and what may at first seem simplistic is, upon further inspection, wonderfully subtle, not to mention very, very funny. -- Grant Outerbridge
Based on a passage from Homer's The Iliad, this poetic re-imagining of King Priam's journey to ransom his son Hector's body from Achilles following the siege of Troy captures the tumultuous emotional landscapes of two men at war with the grace of a bird in flight. Malouf raises to the level of myth Achilles' obsession with his loss - the way he daily desecrates Hector's body by pulling it behind his chariot only to find it, each morning, restored to radiant splendor; and Priam's debilitating regret for a life of sedentary inaction - how the simple pleasure of standing barefoot in a cool stream could be so poignant and cathartic - through prose so sharp and insightful it often seems as though you are remembering the most powerful dream of your life for the first time. When the two men finally meet, the result is one of the most affecting I've encountered in any book, ever. In 219 pages, Ransom conveys more about the male experience than Sal Paradise, Patrick Bateman and Jay Gatsby combined. -- Grant Outerbridge
At the core of Greg Milner's absurdly well-researched treatise on the history of recorded music is a question: Should a recording document reality or improve upon and transcend it? Is it nobler for a record to be an artifact or an art object? In his search for answers, Milner begins with Edison's phonograph and, as he works his way forward into the iPod age, encounters racist historians; a $100,000 record player; the militarist applications of magnetic tape; and Adorno's belief that the only reason people like popular music is because it is cynically tailored to mirror their world. Things get even weirder when Milner discovers the godfather of radio technology, Guglielmo Marconi, believed that with the right kind of device one could pluck from the air Christ's Sermon on the Mount, or that the ancient Egyptians possessed the technology to record and replay wax or metal disc phonographs, if only the thought had occurred to them. Of course, there is no right answer to our central question, only a slew of knobs, cables, monitors, hard-drives, headphones and very strange people that inhabit the variegated world of the audiophile. -- Grant Outerbridge
This behemoth of a book is a revelation of storytelling, pure and simple. A post-apocalyptic vampire tale of epic proportions could easily be yawn-inducing in our Twilight age, but the quality of Cronin's prose, the depth of his characterization, and the sheer vastness of his vision circumnavigate the tired tropes built in to the genre.
At the heart of the story is Amy, abandoned six-year-old daughter of a prostitute on the run, who becomes part of a grotesque and dangerous military experiment involving a virus discovered in South American bats. Everything goes horribly wrong and, overnight, America - and possibly the whole world - is turned into a nightmare wasteland of predator and prey, where the predators outnumber the prey a million to one.
The book then catapults 92 years into the future and examines the life of those who survived and live within the confines of a walled city-state. Guards keep watch at the ramparts day and night, aided by bright lights to ward off the virals - leathery beings, all teeth and claws, nearly immortal and hard-as-hell to kill. But, as the power source that keeps the lights on at night begins to fade, it becomes apparent they must leave to find a new home.
Miraculously, Amy has survived. But she is not an old woman, she is barely a teenager. She has forgotten how to speak, but she cares for and protects the group as best she can. Together, they travel to the origin of the experiment, looking for answers and a possible end to the tidal wave of death that has characterized their lives for generations.
The first book of a trilogy, The Passage shines and the writing is superb. Through his use of narrative turns that are at once majestic and breath-taking, dream sequences of frightening clarity, government documents from 900 years in the future, diary entries, emails and action sequences that leap off the page, Justin Cronin has penned the first chapter of a saga worthy of comparison to The Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials. -- Grant Outerbridge
It is rare that a book comes along that is SO good, well written, FUNNY, heartbreaking, heartwarming and full of vibrant life that you know everyone will love it. I cried at the end, mostly tears of joy, and GUARANTEE you'll love it or your money back!
James Sim is a mnemonist who one day finds himself abducted and taken to a sprawling mansion. The mansion is a psychiatric hospital, a home for chronic liars. Here, James discovers a sinister conspiracy of epic proportions. The problem is, if everyone is a liar what, if anything, is true? Samedi the Deafness is dreamlike, surreal, unnerving; ultimately, though, it is what Ball has to say about the nature of truth and the balleability of history that lends the catastrophic ending such an enormous amount of gravity. This is modern literary fiction at it's experimental best.
If you think the extent to which the English language's capacity for pointless rhetoric and jubilant hilarity is limitless, and that makes you chuckle (knowingly) to yourself, then this is the book for you! Bryson's research is impeccable, his wit alarmingly canny. The nature of English - its origins and the roots from which so many zany similes and serendipitous metaphors spring - is elastic, kinetic and extraordinarily wacky. Perhaps surprisingly, it is actually less logically confusing (that is to say, more logical) than many if not most other languages. It just takes the right kind of mind to unearth, analyze and appreciate the ineffable pithiness of our mother tongue.
David's worlds are colliding...the real world where his mother has died and he finds himself in a new home, living in the attic and avoiding his overbearing stepmother; and the world of fairy tales that his imagination inhabits and makes real at the beckoning of the books, for they whisper to him and he follows until he is lost (although certainly not alone). But these are not the fairy tales you or I know, these are viciously dark and forbidding, a fitting permutation of David's angst and fright, and they are all the more affecting for it. This is a book about stories that must be told, sometimes whether you're ready to listen to them or not.
Think equal parts Gulliver's Travels, Phantom Tollbooth, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This illustrated novel is very weird, very entertaining, and achieves a surprising emotional depth. Recommended for everyone!
A candid look at the effect of the individual on the collective consciousness. A powerful and often extremely funny 'Russian' period piece that flips the taboos of the time on their heads and humanizes even the most brutal acts. The best book I've read in a very, very long time! Highly recommended.
David Berman -- lead singer and songwriter for The Silver Jews -- writes lilting, funny poems steeped in Americana from the Deep South. His air is thick and humid, a smoky, wry wit. There is dialogue here, too; punchy conversational notes between himself and reader, not marked but inserted casually - archetypes as quirk, sewn together by a narrative thread celebrating life. Exquisite.
Musical imagist, tone poet of strange kinetic beauty, Trakl is a dark dense master of mood and melancholy. His phrases may not make sense, but the will make you feel in ways previously unimagined. Wittgenstein said it best: "I do not understand [Trakl's poems]; but their tone pleases me. It is the tone of true genius." Read the words aloud, for they are chewy and delicious!
*** February 2010 Newsletter Pick ***
Are you ready to have your mind blown by science? I thought so. Sheldrake's central hypothesis is that nature is habitual rather than immutable and constant. He argues that all things share a heredity across time and space - if a rat learns to navigate a specific maze, rats across the world in the same type of maze will navigate it more quickly, as will rats in the future. His refutation of the traditional mechanistic approach to science is woven with the possibility that perhaps what happens depends upon what happened before, and that memory is inherent in nature. When the original version of this book was first published with the title A New Science of Life, the British journal Nature named it "the best candidate for burning there has been for many years." If that is not reason enough to read it, I don't know what is.
*** February 2010 Newsletter Pick ***
We all know about the man that lives in the moon. But what if he were lonely? What would happen if he decided to hitch a ride on a falling star and dance by lantern light with the people of earth? How would they react? Ungerer's exquisitely illustrated book tells just such a tale and will delight readers of any age with it's weirdness and cheeky sense of humor.
*** January 2010 Newsletter Pick ***
At the beginning of a new decade, I thought it fitting to revisit a tale from my past. Hesse's Demian is many things: Jungian psychological exploration, a quest for enlightenment, a study in duality - but mostly it is the story of a youth in revolt against his bourgeois upbringing. Narrator Emil Sinclair becomes infatuated and obsessed with the darkly intriguing Max Demian, a classmate who seduces Emil out of his privilege-induced complacency and sets him on the path to self-actualization. A trope-laden story of adolescent angst, Demian avoids becoming cliché by the beauty of its details and the honesty with which Hesse presents Emil's predicament.
I tend to be coldly analytical toward literature, noting flaws and praising virtues, a syntactic, stylistic biologist as it were, prone to dissection and often removed emotionally from what I read. That is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but it provides a true inkling to my state of mind when I wept at the end of this novel. Man in the Holocene is Max Frisch's masterful meditation on aging and nature, and the both fragile and violent interactions of the two.
The protagonist, Geiser, lives alone in a small village in the Swiss Alps and becomes terribly bored during torrential rains. He speculates that the mountainside could give way and inundate the village and its inhabitants. So he sets off through a dangerous mountain pass, only to abandon his plan and return home. The plot simply serves as a vehicle to further illustrate the loneliness Geiser is steeped in and his desperate attempts to find a sense of purpose.
Frisch's prose is beyond sparse. Much of the book is comprised of lists Geiser makes: different types of thunder and how one can tell them apart, the chronology of geologic time (Holocene being the one we're currently in, the Age of Man), rock formations, and names of dinosaurs; countless excerpts from encyclopedias around the house and other intellectual detritus Geiser pins on the wall. One particularly moving passage occurs when Geiser removes his dead wife's portrait from the wall to make space for more clippings.
As Geiser watches mud flood the lettuce in his garden, or charts the progress of a single raindrop down the kitchen window, he ruminates on whether his children would even notice when he is gone. Frisch perfectly captures the state of mind of a lonely old man struggling for meaning just as it seems to scamper away from him, like the lizard in the bathroom he can never seem to catch. Stunning. -- Grant
What better way to teach your child the wonders of what books can do than by illustrating what they cannot? A monkey is peacefully reading when a jackass approaches and wants to know what the book can do. Can it text? No. Blog? No. Scroll? No. Tweet? No...it's a book. This cheeky interaction lasts until the final page, and is a perfect distillation of the current debate on books versus e-readers. It seems appropriate to introduce children to the idea sooner rather than later, and I can think of no better way than with this slim, heartwarming picture book. -- Grant Outerbridge
From the genius author-illustrator team that brought you 365 Penguins comes a chaotic tale of cause-and-effect. A husband and wife and their two kids only have ninety minutes to get to the airport! As they hurry into a taxi, the husband's nearsighted sister slips on a bar of soap in the shower and it goes flying out of the apartment window, causing the family's taxi to crash. A terrible (and terribly funny) ripple effect caroms through the city, causing panic and anarchy, as the family desperately tries to reach the airport. There are so many things happening on every page, it was a good idea to include a recap of the madness at the end of the book, replete with a numeric coding system so you can go back and see what you missed. I won't give away the ending, but it involves a flying saucer and bears wearing leis. Very smart and very fun. -- Grant Outerbridge
These stories-in-miniature, designed to be cradled in one's palm and marveled at, were for Kawabata the essence of his art. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968 for his lyrical, spare novels but these tiny tales are his crowning achievement. Many only one page long, these ultra-concise narratives distill whole lives and infinitely complex emotions into single sentences. Some are autobiographical, some fantastical, where love, loneliness, death, and jubilation all intermingle and are impossible to forget, like a transformative dream you retain for decades.