Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Reading Weekly Series - June (Part 2)

Furious Readers, my sincere apologies for not posting this sooner.  It seems we followed our own advice and got caught reading (don't you love when that happens?).  More on those reading experiences later this summer, but let us get back to the matter at hand -  our summer weekly series.  Luckily, you get two posts this week!

Graduation is approaching (or for many of you, it has already happened), so we decided to suggest great reading for those who have just finished high school, or for those who are feeling nostalgic this week.

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman & Congratulations, by the way:  Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders

Okay, I'm cheating, but both of these selections are great graduation speeches by great writers.  Now you COULD find these pieces on YouTube, but you would be doing yourself a visual disservice if you didn't read the speeches thoughtfully designed and printed for your enjoyment.  Both books are short, but the length does not diminish the inspiration behind it. We've heard the commencement speeches, we've all reread All the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, and my generation was responsible for taking Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" as gospel truth.  So why not continue the tradition?  High school graduate or not, allow yourself to be moved by these words and to be captivated by the artwork in both of these texts.

Make Good Art is another Neil Gaiman gem (honestly, is there anything this guy can't do?).  

Congratulations, by the way is an interesting look at commencement speeches, which is George Saunders taking on a more non-conventional approach to graduation advice:  be kinder and celebrate this kindness.  

Paper Towns by John Green

For many people, June means one thing - Graduation. The final days of your high school or college career slowly drawing to a close. It's not only the end of an intellectual journey that's taken over a decade to complete, it's also the the end to a big chapter in our lives, one of the most formative ones in many ways. So to all those out there donning their caps and gowns, and preparing to start the next great chapter in their lives, my recommendation this week is Paper Towns by John Green. 

While many people are still reeling from The Fault in our Stars movie, based on Green's latest book of the same name, which hit theaters last week. Paper Towns seemed a much more fitting choice this time around. The book follows the senior year of Quentin "Q" Jacobsen, the narrator of our story, who is the unexpected accomplice to a night of elaborate prank based revenge, orchestrated by his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman. But after Margo goes missing the next day, Q is left to try and piece together what might have happened to her and, more importantly, just who this girl really is and why she picked him to share in her final night of mischief.

Along the way, Paper Towns does an amazing job of capturing life on the verge of change, and how we can struggle with it. The book offers a really interesting perspective on how difficult it can be to look back and figure out where we are going, but also how important it is that we do just that. Our memories are unreliable mechanisms for reflection because they are biased by our perceptions. And sometimes the stories we hold to aren't as accurate as we may believe. But if we can take a step back and really make sense of these stories for what they are, it'll help us make so much more sense of the chapters yet to come.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Reading Weekly Series - June

As June arrives, the summer is just beginning and so should your summer reading habits. Dip your toe into the water and wait for the temperature to get just right - these titles will help you take the plunge into the summer reading pool.

This week's selections:

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Last week, for the second time, we got to watch David Sedaris perform at Princeton's McCarter Theater.  So my first summer book pick is an easy one: I want to encourage anyone who has never read David Sedaris's work to pick up one of his many hilarious, and thought-provoking, collection of essays where Sedaris explores his own hang-ups, his family's hang-ups, and the often shallow motivations for all human behavior.  Most of the time these collections are just Sedaris sharing his cruel, obsessive, endearing, and (very) relatable look at life.  To make this reading experience even better, you get to read work from an unbelievable talent.

When I was in high school, my friend Andrea and I attended a writer's workshop in our school library.  The leader of the workshop was none other than Megan McCafferty (her mother was our Home Economics teacher) and I was so nervous and proud that she would take time out of her Jessica Darling series to teach us how to be a writer - like her!  She asked us to read a short story written by David Sedaris, an author we had never heard of at the time.  It was a piece from Naked, and - no hyperbolic language intended here - it changed our lives.  I didn't know a person could write this way - so honest about his life and his thoughts and make it into a larger-than-life prose.  I didn't know that a writer could use humor in this way.  My love affair for David Sedaris's work began that day and shows no sign of slowing down (my students love him - I'm always assigning his essays for them to read, but their favorites are "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and "Jesus Shaves"). The proudest day of my writing life: after reading my own work at a student reading series, someone came up to me and said, "You remind me of my favorite author David Sedaris."

I know I suggested all of his work, but it IS summer, so I highly recommend Me Talk Pretty One Day.  This collection focuses on his childhood and also his failed attempt to learn French after he and his partner make the decision to move to France.  This particular collection is not only laugh-out-loud funny (if anyone catches you, just say that you are reading David Sedaris, and they will understand), but an emotionally rewarding read as well.  Reading this book is the same as catching up with a very weird, yet honest, best friend.  However, sometimes you wish his best friend wouldn't be so honest.  Because it can get weird.  And funny.  

My one warning: if you read this in public, be prepared to make new friends.  

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

When putting together a summer reading list, it seems like an off choice to include a book where each chapter is a different story about how the main character might have died at various stages in his life. Yet, to overlook Daytripper would be doing your reading list a huge disservice. 

Taking place throughout Moon and Ba's native Brazil, the book captures the beauty of the country in a way that feels both familiar and magical at the same time. And even those who have never gotten a chance to experience the country (myself for example), will still find themselves feeling nostalgic and yearning to lay out under the sun on the beaches of Salvador or walk the streets of San Paulo under the moonlight.

Still though, with all this in mind, I recommend this book for an entirely different reason. I recommend it because Father's Day is only a few days away, and at its heart, Daytripper is a story about a father and a son, of their legacies and what each can hope to learn from the other. It's an earnest look at the characters relationship that hits right to the heart. I actually remember doing a signing once around the time the book came out, I was talking with one of the other creators, and he admitted, having just become a father for the first time, bawling uncontrollably by the end because he was so moved. So for all the fathers and sons out there celebrating this weekend, consider taking a trip south of the equator to celebrate the special bond you share.
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Why We Still Need Summer Reading

Happy Summer, Furious Readers!  We have so much planned for the summer and the months that will follow, but reading is always our first goal for the summer.

I've always loved the idea of summer reading lists - as you all know, I think it is important for anyone, from students to adults to lifelong learners, to read daily.  However, there is something about the potential of a summer reading list:  getting to those books you've wanted to read, but never having the time during those cold winter months.  And now, the summer is stretched out before you...and the possibilities are endless.   This sounds wonderful, but it can also be very overwhelming which is why I look to summer reading lists to help me out.

This summer, Read Furiously would like to introduce you to two books a week in the hopes that you will add them to your summer reading list.  Of course, you can find great titles always posted to our blog, but these titles are chosen specifically for each summer month.  As Furious Readers, you know that each book contains a small world of personality and (like a good mix tape) these personalities need to be read in perfect timing.

If you haven't had a summer reading list since high school, make one this summer!  Explore your local library, those books you haven't read on your bookcases, or even ask a friend or two.  You don't have to read all of the books on your summer reading list, but even a good book or two (or three or four) will make your summer that much sweeter.

The directions are simple:  Grab some ice cold lemonade/sweet tea and a piece of shortbread from the cookie jar.  Kick back in your lounge chair/beach chair/beach towel/picnic blanket.  Open your book, and begin the summer.  Finish book. Repeat.

I'm excited to share our book choices for the summer months.  As always: read well, read often, and read furiously.

Here's to summer!

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