Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: It's the End of the World As We Know It

For People Who Are Totally Into Dystopian Fiction

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
For my money, the gold-standard series of dystopian novels.  Sure, it’s supposed to be for your twelve year-old niece, but readers of all ages will be enthralled with heroine Katniss Everdeen and the mash-up Collins creates between Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and reality television show, Survivor.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
Temple is alone in a new world.  It used to be the United States, but that doesn’t matter now.  People used to live in houses, ride bicycles, and go to school.  No one does anymore.  Not really.  Not the way it used to be.  Temple’s world is full of zombies, or meatskins, and survivors like her.  Like Katniss of The Hunger Games, Temple kicks so much ass that you can’t stop turning the page to find out what in God’s name this terrible new world is going to throw at her next.

The Passage by Justin Cronin
The most dystopian wasteland populated by zombies for your buck.  At almost 800 pages, Cronin’s wild ride starts in a secret military complex where they are creating awful, human weapons and heads to the California wasteland created in the aftermath of these humans playing God.  Fans of Stephen King’s The Stand will devour The Passage like a half-starved vampire.

World War Z by Max Brooks
The perfect Studs Terkel-style dystopian novel.  This one is for fans of zombie, werewolf, vampire novels, and fans of This American Life or StoryCorp.  Brooks creates a whole new appreciation for oral histories in this fascinating treatment of a zombie apocalypse.   

Holiday Gift Guide: Book Club Readers

For Your Friend or Relative Who Loves a Good Book Club

Room by Emma Donoghue
I know I’m not the first to recommend this novel, which was truly the best book I read in 2010, but I’m surely the most relentless at putting it in people’s hot little hands.  Narrated by 5 year-old Jack, Room is the story of Jack and his mother and the single room in which they dwell.  Despite Ma’s best effort, the horror that keeps them in the room is always looming and readers will be literally clutching their throats at an escape attempt and its aftermath.  

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Rachel’s life is coated with a strange patina of violence and fate.  Rachel, her mother, and her siblings fall from the roof of their Chicago apartment building. Rachel is too young to fully remember the circumstances that led them to the roof, leaving her and those who witnessed the aftermath of the tragedy a lifetime to wonder if Rachel’s family jumped or were pushed.

White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
This is one strange, magical book.  The narrator is a malicious house (you read that correctly) who has possibly driven three generations of Silver women mad.  Miranda Silver is the female half of fraternal twins and the heir apparent to madness.  Oyeyemi has crafted a book of malevolent magical realism that is also masterfully political.    

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divajaruni
A massive earthquake traps a groups of strangers in the Indian consulate of an unnamed American city.  As they struggle to physically survive the ordeal and pray for rescue, they also try to keep their minds sharp and prevent despair from overtaking them.  To that end, they each share “one amazing thing”.  Each story is a revelation about the characters and the human spirit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: Music

For Music Lovers
Life: Keith Richards by Keith Richards and James Fox
It’s Keith F-ing Richards!  This is the ultimate, no-holds-barred story of rock-and-roll, The Rolling Stones, and Richards himself.  The opening chapter includes Richards riding in a car stuffed with illicit drugs too numerous to remember and it only gets crazier from there.  Despite the rock-and-roll lifestyle, it’s clear Keith Richards loves music and music lovers will love to read what he has to say about it.

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Punk rock changes another life!  Sebastian lives in a geodesic dome in Iowa with his grandmother, a devotee of Buckminster Fuller.  An encounter with a family from a nearby town finds Sebastian with his first friend, first crush, and first exposure to punk rock music.  It’s all a revelation!  Remember when you first discovered the music that shaped the person you became?  

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Music is at the heart of Egan’s clever novel.  Overlapping stories start with an aging punk rocker, Bennie Salazar, and his assistant, Sasha and spiral out through time and space to tell a profound story of life, love, survival, and music.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield
It’s Rob Sheffield.  He wrote Love is a Mix Tape.  He’s a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.  His coming-of-age story is a reminder of how music helps define us as it provides a soundtrack to some of the defining moments in our young lives.

Neil Young’s Greendale by Josh Dysart and Cliff Chiang (illustrator)
This is a graphic novel for either the Neil Young fan in your life or the teen who is starting to explore classic rock.  Based on Young’s 2003 album and 2004 film, the graphic novel tells the story of Sun Green.  Sun is a beautiful, politically active teenager in Northern California whose convictions are also paired with supernatural powers that she is only beginning to tap.