The Dream of the Unified Field by Jorie Graham - suggested by Mallory
The Dream of the Unified Field is Jorie Graham’s Pulitzer Prize winning compilation of poetry from her first five poetry collections: Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts, Erosion, The End of Beauty, Region of Unlikeness, and Materialism. Critic Calvin Bedient speaks of Graham’s work: “The subject itself is always ‘the outermost question being asked me by the World today.’ What counts is the hope in the questioning itself, not the answers.” For those who have never been particularly interested in poetry, but a little curious, Graham’s work is very readable, calling upon earthy imagery to speak for a heaviness of being. From the poem “Tennessee June”: “This is the heat that seeks the flaw in everything/and loves the flaw./Nothing is heavier than its spirit,/nothing more landlocked than the body within it.”
Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Mara - recommended by Lynda
Focusing on a small group of Chenhen villagers and a Russian doctor torn apart by the Chechen Wars, this is beautifully written, searing story of the terrible violence, absurdity and heartbreak of senseless war.
The main action takes place over the course of five days but the author weaves the stories of the main protagonists over time so the reader comes to know how each has come to be where they are and how the war has forced them to the decisions that will either destroy or redeem them.
Illuminations: Essays and Reflections by Walter Benjamin - recommended by Lani
Includes essays such as Theses on the Philosophy of History, and Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collection, where he says that “To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves.”
Entry Island by Peter May - recommended by Cosette
When his team is called to a remote Canadian island to investigate a murder, Detective Sime Mackenzie believes it to be a fairly simple case, with the man’s wife Kirsty Cowell the obvious suspect. However he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her, convinced their connection is more than just a physical attraction. Struggling to cope with the breakdown of his marriage, and battling insomnia, Sime takes solace in the stories of his ancestors, who travelled to Canada from the bleak Scottish islands. When Kirsty recognises the signal on a signet ring he wears, his conviction that they have somehow met before leads to explore his past, and the story of the man who he was named after. (Tracy Enyon - www.welovethisbook.com)
Nigellissima – Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes by Nigella Lawson - recommended by Rebecca
Ms. Lawson’s formula - large color photos, and a story accompanying every recipe - makes an encore appearance in her latest cookbook. Although British, this Food Network star is well qualified to write an Italian cookbook, as she studied cooking in Florence. From sauces, side dishes, meat, and seafood to pasta and desserts, she demonstrates the art of simple and inspired cuisine with an Italian twist. An extra treat is the last chapter – “an Italian-inspired Christmas.”
Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith - recommended by Rebecca
Two former Bay area cooks joined forces to found the Cowgirl Creamery shop in Point Reyes. Their latest culinary collaboration is this cookbook featuring cheese or milk in the recipes. More than a cookbook, it is a cheese bible, and includes Sue and Peggy’s personal stories, as well as notes on the organic farming movement in Marin. The last chapter is a primer on basic techniques featured in the book, such as making bread crumbs, clarifying butter and mastering béchamel sauce. The color photos are mouth watering!
Promethea by Alan Moore ; Art by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray - recommended by Stephen
A graphic novel of epic proportions from the master of the art form, Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, The Watchman). Sophie Bangs woke up an ordinary college student working on a term paper. When her research on a mythical female warrior character name Promethea brings her face to face with unknown danger and then Promethea herself. We soon learn Promethea is the embodiment of imagination and Sophie finds herself transformed into Promethea to save her friends from encroaching evil. To learn more about her new alter ego Sophie must travel to Promethea’s world, the Imatteria, the world of imagination. Here’s where it starts to get interesting…
Full of strong, funny and brilliant female characters battling evil and exploring the secrets of the universe and humanity; Promethea is rife with excitement, contemplation and imagery. Full of magic, history and themes drawing from ancient religions, tarot, kabbalah and more all intertwined with more traditional comic book themes and characters. Smartly written and portrayed with beautiful and intricate artwork this is a graphic novel for those on the fence about the genre. A graphic novel with incredible scope and vision, highly recommended.
(contains adult themes)
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts - suggested by Karin
For those who haven’t seen the movie or the play, and perhaps even for those who have,the script for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama is tragicomedy at its best.The play examines family relationships and dysfunction when the disparate pathsof its members converge at the family home in Oklahoma upon the disappearance of the alcoholic patriarch. At the center of the drama is acrimonious and prescription drug-addicted wife and mother, Violet. Her offspring and their partners bring their own foibles and her sister and family are also on hand to add to the complexity. This fevered and darkly humorous look at human relationships is compelling and memorable.
Year Zero: a history of 1945 by Ian Buruma - suggested by Beth
Compelling graphic account of the immediate aftermath of WWII in Europe and Asia with the author weaving a vivid tapestry of themes: exultation at victory and liberation; hunger, deprivation and displacement; harsh revenge and vicious power struggles; and longing for peace, justice and human rights.
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn - suggested by Ted
A play centered on the visit of Werner Heisenberg to Neils Bohr in Copenhagen during 1941.
Taking a philosophical interpretation of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the play looks at Heisenberg’s work on atomic physics during the war for the Nazis, and if he, as has been suggested, deliberately misled his superiors resulting in the German atomic bomb programs failure. Which was greater, his ego or his morality?
An interesting sidelight is the colossal irony that if Hitler had not pursued his war on the Jews, the many Jewish physicists, from Einstein to Bohr himself, that were either exiled or murdered, might have won the war for him.
The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton - suggested by Cosette
In 1942-1943 the United States, Alaska Territory, was invaded in one of the least talked about campaigns of World War II. The battle to reclaim the Aleutian Islands from the Japanese, specifically Attu Island, was actually one of the costliest battles in the Pacific Theater.
John Easley, a journalist from Seattle, in making a third attempt to report from the area by impersonating his dead brother, ends up parachuting behind enemy lines on Attu when the plane he’s on crashes. He and another soldier must find ways to survive without being found by the ever present Japanese.
John’s wife Helen, left behind in Seattle, tries to discover who she is in this new period of alone and comes to the conclusion that she must find him herself after numerous attempts through proper channels fail.
This isn’t just a survival story, not just a love story and not just a war story, but it is all of those. It’s a very well written story about a time that has in many ways been hidden from history. It’s definitely worth the read.
Etsy-Preneurship By Jason Malinak, recommended by Rebecca
The sub-title of this book is “everything you need to know to turn your handmade hobby into a thriving business.” Business planning, bookkeeping, taxes and marketing are some of the topics that make this book an encapsulated “go to” guide for people who specialize in selling their unique goods on Etsy.com. The author’s credibility is solid because he is a CPA and has helped with a family Etsy business.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door – The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler, recommended by Rebecca
Ms. Butler has written a poignant book about dying, inspired by the contrasting experiences of her aging parents. With compassion and honesty, she discusses stages of physical decline, our complex medical system, patients’ rights and the intersection with legal choices, in-home care and the toll it exacts on the care giver.
Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, recommended by Rebecca
Cahalan, a professional journalist, wrote a compelling memoir of her descent into a psychotic hell that is both fascinating and scary. The diagnosis turned out to be brain inflammation caused by a rare form of auto-immune encephalitis. Her book is a tale about the importance of family and having an advocate when facing a serious medical condition, and being in the right place at the right time.
The End of San Francisco by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, recommended by Kevin
An unconventional memoir by an ultra-unconventional queer activist and writer, Sycamore gives us a slice of San Francisco history that defies the typical myth-making narrative of the progressive City by the Bay and demonstrates the urgency, and the difficulty, of building queer community. Told in a non-linear style—moving from the epicenter of radical queer culture in San Francisco’s Mission District in the 1990s to a traumatic childhood in Washington, D.C. and many stops in between—with moments of glamour and sass throughout, this is truth-telling as its stylistic best.