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Oct. 20th, 2014

books, borges, library
The Outlaw Bible of American PoetryThe Outlaw Bible of American Poetry by Alan Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An important anthology of poets, some known, many not, who can be described as outlaws in the American tradition from the Beats to slam poets to prison writers. Like any anthology, though, it's a mixed bag, some excellent, some mediocre. Some poets probably deserved more, some less. The absence of Bukowski is notable (though addressed in the introduction). Sometimes, I wanted a little more context rather than just a long list of poems thrown at me. Still, overall, a strong collection that is worth seeking out to discover some under-read figures.



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Oct. 20th, 2014

books, borges, library
Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and RevolutionUnspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have heard this book mentioned in the same breath as Bad Feminist: Essays but this is a much angrier, more focused manifesto than that. Penny is a sharp writer and eager for the take down of the patriarchal system. But it is not just a polemic. It is a story of many people's (Penny's and others) suffering and abuse at the hands of a system that works only for a select few. Passionate and important, this is another book you want to force into everyone's hands and brains and make them examine their own lives and the society we live in.



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Oct. 16th, 2014

anglophilia, London
A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected NonfictionA Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A gathering of nonfiction written over the years by Terry Pratchett. Organized by subject rather than chronologically, the collection does exhibit a bit of redundancy and, while completists will disagree, a couple of the essays here could have been culled in favor of counterparts already included. That said, Pratchett's wit, humor, and intelligence are on full display here. Neil Gaiman's introduction asserts rightly that Terry Pratchett is angry and that is something that is evident throughout this collection as well. Fans and writers will be interested in his essays about his creative process and the later essays about his Alzheimer's diagnosis and his advocacy for "assisted dying" are heart-rending and important. Essential reading for Pratchett fans.

[I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]



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Oct. 7th, 2014

books, borges, library
Bad MarieBad Marie by Marcy Dermansky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After serving a six-year prison sentence, Marie gets a job taking care of the daughter of her childhood best friend (best friend being a loose term here) Ellen. Marie is a mess, not so much "bad" as the title suggests but lost. She gets along great with the daughter Caitlin. Soon, she, Caitlin, and Ellen's husband are on their way to Paris. The author (and many critics I've read) admits that the book is very much based on French film and it has that quality. The writing is sharp and the characters believable and I found it enjoyable, waiting to see how far down this (terrible) rabbit hole Marie would go down.



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Guess what I did this weekend?

books, borges, library
Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sometimes a book comes along that captures the zeitgeist of the moment and that you want to put into everyone's hands and scream, "Read this now!" Bad Feminist is that book for 2014. Roxane Gay provides smart, witty, insightful looks at popular culture, race, and gender in contemporary America. Sometimes very funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always intelligent and human. Highly recommended.



Dog SongsDog Songs by Mary Oliver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It's Mary Oliver writing about dogs. I love both Mary Oliver's poetry and dogs so this collection was an easy sell. I spent a lot of time trying not to tear up. Lovely and heart-warming.



3 Sections3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2014. There are two long poems (one in prose) in this book that take up much of its length, but all the poems provide meditations springing from the everyday. Travel takes up much of the thinking and many of the poems are beautiful, intelligent, and inspiring.



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Oct. 2nd, 2014

sherlock
The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #3)The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The third Inspector Gamache book finds him embroiled in scandal and back in Three Pines after a beloved resident dies during a seance. Three Pines remains a wonderful destination, a place you want to return to (you completely understand Gamache's wishing to just leave everything behind and retire there). The intrigue and mystery as more details of Gamache's and others' pasts come out is satisfying and the ending is sad and poignant.



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Sep. 22nd, 2014

books, borges, library
Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant ManifestoAgainst Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Steve Almond has been a football fan since he was a kid and he comes to face the harsh realities of the game in this book. Thr book comes on the heels of some of the NFL's most damning crises - the continuing controversy over the physical and mental damage from its violence as well as the Ray Rice abuse scandal. The book highlights the issue of the physical damage done by the game, the racist overtones of wealthy white owners and African American players putting their physical well-being on the line, the war-like tone and its fascination for American culture, the misogyny and homophobia that run rampant in the sport and its players, the simple fact that football players are outrageously overpaid while our education system suffers. The book focuses a lot on the problems, but does give a little bit of thought to solutions (getting rid of the NFL's tax-exempt status for a start). While this is an important provocative book, it is not as strong as I hoped. The passion the author has for the game (and its betrayal) comes through, but it could be better organized.



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Sep. 11th, 2014

books, borges, library
The Library of Unrequited LoveThe Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A single, lonely bookish woman working in a library finds a man who was locked in the basement overnight. This novella is her conversation - and only her side of it - with the man, a soliloquy as she passionately discusses history, literature, the Dewey Decimal System, and her unrequited love for a quiet patron named Martin. It's a short, sweet book, a love letter to the written word and the power of libraries, given voice by a character who is well-read but socially awkward.


[I received an advance reader copy of this book through Edelweiss. The book is due to be published by MacLehose Press on April 7, 2015.]



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Sep. 8th, 2014

anglophilia, London
Wittgenstein JrWittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A group of seniors at Cambridge mock their new philosophy professor, a tortured soul they call Wittgenstein. As the seniors prepare for life outside in the real world, drinking, doing drugs, general silliness and questioning their current and future lives, they grow to love their troubled professor and find themselves drawn into his life, world, and thoughts. If you've read Iyer's other work, the Spurious trilogy, you know that it is a quick read, darkly humorous full of philosophical tangents and wit.

[I received a digital reader's copy of this title through Edelweiss.]



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Aug. 28th, 2014

books, borges, library
Lines of DefenseLines of Defense by Stephen Dunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have said before that I am a huge fan of Stephen Dunn's work, and while this book is not my favorite of his, it is still remarkable. The best poems in it deal with love, not some romantic ideal of it, but rather genuine affection and how to maintain and deal with that in the face of hard reality, including death. Other poems deal with hidden truths, the things we avoid saying or believing for the sake of our own comfort, and the role of the poet in this critical examination. Often beautiful, always smart and thoughtful.



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