Friday, February 23, 2018

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben

It's the start of a revolution! When a protest against Walmart brings together a group of like-minded Vermonters, it's the start of a new movement toward secession and local decision making.

The merry band of rebels takes on small acts of rebellion against big government and big corporations, but find more trouble than they'd expected. The book mainly focuses on its fun group of radicals: a 19-year-old computer geek, a 72-year-old radio announcer and his 92-year-old mother, a former Olympian, and the very sexy Sylvia (who defies definition).

This book is for anyone frustrated by the current political climate and wishing for change. You can't really pull out of the United States, but the book will remind you there are smaller, local ways you can impact the greater good. For one: buy local beer!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Growing up mostly at his grandmother's house, J.D. Vance had a life similar to many others around him. It was only upon leaving (and in having the desire to leave) that he found out just how different his life in a poor Appalachian family was different from the rest of the United States.

This is certainly the kind of book that makes you think, and it's a great one to discuss (whether you agree or not) - we chose this for the library's book discussion group. There were plenty of copies available because this book was previously a "Go Big Read" title, where the University of Wisconsin gets everybody reading and talking about the same book. 

While there's a lot of sociology here, it's at heart a memoir and a family history. You know from the first page how J.D. has done, but you also spend the book's length cheering for his successes and perseverance.

It's a quick read, and more than once I paused to ponder things like the effects of childhood trauma on adult behavior, and the role of religion (aside from belief) in a community. I recommend it, at least as exposure to a different life.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

A full-planet reality reset on the Disc causes major chaos, as magic makes sure a failed magician with an important spell stays alive long enough to use it.

This one's an epic quest kind of novel: the guys have a mission (even if they don't know it), and they meet characters and fight battles on their way to the final goal. And Luggage shows what he's really made of!

I'm just sort of getting into the Discworld way of thinking - I've decided to read my way through them in the order they were written. They're funny and smart, with a deep philosophy that bears lingering analysis.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A classic quest through the fairy world in search of a fallen star - you know, the best kind of Neil Gaiman story!

Read by the author, the story is an epic yarn: A half-fairy boy(who doesn't know he's anything but human) whimsically takes off on a journey to win the hand of his love. There he meets trees, lords, witches, a unicorn, the broken human incarnation of a celestial body, and sky pirates. I listened to this audiobook while quilting, and I have to say I completely lost track of time.

But in looking online, I discover the book version is richly illustrated ... so off to the library to track that down, too. Oh! And there's a movie? The best adaptation of a Gaiman in film?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

A true, gripping family drama - and the interconnection of two families, farming the same soil in the American Delta in the 1940s. I picked this book up because the new movie's been getting a lot of buzz, and I always like to try to read the book first if I can manage. Now, I can't wait to see the movie!

Laura was a spinster whose family had given up on finding her a beau - until Henry came along. But things change rapidly in their young marriage when Henry buys the farm he's always dreamed about and moves them "temporarily" into the shack on the property. Can this city girl adapt to no running water, an outhouse, and more mud than a body could imagine? She quickly learns the hard truths about sharecropping and the inequities of poor farming in the South.

The other family in the story is the Jacksons - a black preacher and his family working the cotton fields of the farm. Florence comes to work to help Laura in the house, and their son Ronsel returns from fighting overseas in a tank during WWII.

The audiobook is a multicast recording, a stellar choice for a story told in six parts and across two very different families.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely

Told in alternating voices (and written by two stellar authors), this book offers an intense, interesting dual-view of police and race issues straight from the news.

Both are good boys, one white and one black. The main conflict arises from an innocent exchange, but leads to a shakeup in the entire community's perspectives. It was awesome to hear from both sides of an issue, to feel the conflict within different families and as individuals process the events.

We picked this one for an all-aged discussion at the library, and I'm sorry I had to miss talking about it - it's really a book you want to discuss.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

No pressure - it's just Adam's first holiday with the whole big family since he got out of rehab. He probably won't disappoint them in any new and dramatic fashion, right?

Meanwhile, an exhausted flight attendant ponders her own impending Thanksgiving celebration with the insufferable in-laws. Marissa and her husband are already arguing and it's probably not going to get better over dinner. But spending the day with her own family would be even worse.

The intersection of these two characters makes for a funny, sad, and completely engrossing story. You'll relate if you've ever made a snowballing series of poor decisions. These are people trying to do right, failing, and then wondering if it might be easier to just quit.