28 September, 2010


In honor of Banned Books Week,which just wrapped up on Friday, please read one of the books on this list. Seriously, it has something for everyone.

And now, more of the books I have read this year.

It's Superman! by Tom Dehaven

I found this completely by accident whilst browsing at the library (Shut up, I'm awesome). I didn't think to check the copyright until I was finished (2005?), but it clearly owes at least some debt to the television shows Smallville and more importantly Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman--the other Superman origin stories. It basically tells the backstories of Lois Lane, Lex Luther and Clark Kent, via a non-comic book character named Willie, who interacts with all of them and sort of ties the story together. The writing was brisk and exciting, and the characters were a really great mix of overall believable (despite the fact that Superman is often seen as one of the more "flat" superheroes) and historically accurate (Dehaven chose to set the book in the 1930s). Also, didn't we all secretly hope that Clark Kent had spent a few years as a train-hopping hobo during the Depression? I know I did.

Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson

I bought this at Golden Age Collectables pretty much on a whim. At the register, the extra-geeky female cashier in a witch hat got really excited and said "Oh! I love these books! I bought the entire series for my niece!"

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a graphic novel aimed at very young children, but I absolutely loved it. Magic Trixie is a young witch from a family of witches who goes to a Hogwarts-esque school, where her classmates are a werewolf, a zombie (but a very CUTE zombie), a mummy, and a vampire. It's a credit to Thompson's skill as an illustrator that all of the characters are totally adorable, but not in an overtly Disney-ish way.

This first book in the series is about Magic Trixie's angst about her brand new baby sister, and her feeling like she is always either too big or too little to do something. It has a charming, kinda moralizing ending (but hopefully not so moralizing that kids would see through it ... I don't think they would, at least). Yay for families, basically. I plan to buy the rest for my future children.

Fun House by Alison Bechdel

This is another one of those books that I loved and identified with so much that I'm worried I won't be able to do it justice. Bob recommended this book to me and I bought it the last time I was in Pike Place (and thus Golden Age Collectables). I read it in a day and a half. It was that gripping. The story follows Alison through her childhood in a small town with her distant, abusive father, who later turns out have spent her childhood having affairs with men. Some of them were his students from the school where he worked as a high school teacher. Compounding her confusion is her realization as an adult that she is gay. It's a really depressing premise (at least the pedophile dad part), obviously, but her voice is so heartfelt and humorous and honest that I didn't find the book depressing at all. On the contrary, it was incredibly refreshing to know that lots of other adults are sometimes ambivalent and conflicted about some of the most important adults in their lives (I know I am). It made me want to write my own memoirs ... after my parents are dead, of course.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Remember the Banned Books list I referenced earlier? This book and the other books in this series are NUMBER ONE one the list of most banned/challenged books in the United States. Number. One. Banned more often than The Color Purple, or Sex by Madonna, or Heather Has Two Mommies (all of which are also on the list, naturally). I had heard of these books when I was a kid, but never read them myself. I do remember that they were very,very popular. Considering their placement on the list, I expected this book to be shocking, or at least inappropriate for young children.

I was wrong. The truth is, people are idiots.

So this book is indeed a collection of scary stories, but what you don't realize unless you actually READ the book is that the book is a collection of folk tales from around the world that Schwartz has collected in his years as a folklorist. Most of the stories are familiar from movies or TV shows or camping trips, and none of them are too mature for children. American folklore, is of course often known as Urban Legend, and some of the stories are about scary things like escaped convicts or supernatural things like ghosts, but the point remains the same: these are creepy stories that everyone knows of, but have never been traced to any real source. They are not out to harm anyone, and they are not too scary for kids. If you're old enough to want to read a book of scary stories, you are old enough to read it, and then deal with being a little scared. That's part of life. This book ought to have been titled "Intro to Folklore for Kids." I would wager that most kids find these stories to be harmless fun, not a gateway to a lifetime of witchcraft, or whatever it is parents are afraid of.

Also, the academic footnotes about the origins of the stories and how Schwartz researched them is totally fascinating.

Unauthorized X-Men by Len Wein, ed.

Yup, another collection of comic book essays. Shut up! I'm awesome!

This was an interesting book, and I was really excited to dig into it, because X-Men is one of my favorite franchises. I have always loved anything about misfits, for obvious reasons. Anyway, some of the essays in this were really great, but some of them were not as strong ... the connection of some essays' subjects to X-Men or its related issues felt like kind of a stretch. I still feel that Webslinger was a stronger collection overall. That said, I really enjoyed the articles about Jean Grey and feminism, as well as some of the articles about the science of mutation (although one of the Neofuturist pieces left a really bad taste in my mouth).

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

I found this book also just through some un-organized library browsing. I checked it out because 1. Her last name is Kohler, which is similar to mine, and 2. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, and perhaps the only 19th century novel I have actually enjoyed. I have started each of Jane Austen's books at some point in my life, but never finished any of them. Anyway, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book or not, but I ended up liking it. Not loving it, but liking it.

The book was a little slow, but so was 19th century life, I suppose. Kohler follows the lives of the three Bronte sisters, who were all spinsters and writers and, as you all know, tough as hell. I don't know how exhaustive her research was, but the book felt pretty authentic. Also I really pity Charlotte's multiple encounters with unrequited love. Poor, plain, penniless babe. Like I said, it was slow as molasses, and the writing was just OK, so that's what the book was ... OK.

You can definitely read this if you want. I won't stop you.

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

AKA the most Irish author name in recent memory.

I think a lot of people have made the mistake of checking out Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (which is vol. 2 in this series) at their local library because they assumed that the movie is based on that book rather than on the whole series. Incorrect! I do not know this from experience.

This is a great, fast read. The pictures are really fun, as well. I don't know what else to say about it except that it's just as good, if not better, than the movie, and the movie was pretty damn good. If you've ever lived in a basement apartment or dated someone you weren't that into, you will relate to this book. Also, if you've ever bought something you didn't need as an excuse to see a someone you had a crush on (for me, it was a floppy disk ... in 2005).

Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly by Jane Espenson, ed.

Yeah, another fan book, mounting evidence of my incurable geekdom. Shut up. I like myself.

I loved this book enough to want to buy it. Which is a big deal because I don't often find a book I like enough to want to read multiple times. Once through is good enough for most. But not this book. The more I learn about how awesome this show was, the sadder I get that it was cancelled after one season.

One of the articles in this book taught me about what kind of marriage I want to have someday (Uh, hi, Wash and Zoe? Perfect marriage). Another taught me that strong woman are neither surprised nor threatened by their own sexuality (I love you Joss Whedon, you crazyfeministman). If you enjoy this show, this book will change your life. Bonus: CHINESE GLOSSARY IN THE BACK.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

So I mentioned earlier in this very blog entry that I don't like Jane Austen, but I REALLY REALLY WANT to like Jane Austen. I've tried reading her books and I just can't. Get. Into them. I don't know if it's some sort of chemical imbalance in my brain or what. But it makes me sad.

I really did love the movie that is based on this book, though. I was surprised to find out it was a book, and again surprised at how much I enjoyed it. A nice beach book, even though I read it in my bed.

The movie aligns with the plot of the book with these slightly disturbing exceptions: 1. in the book, everyone is ten years older than they were portrayed in the movie, 2. Prudie's affair with her student was completely fabricated for the film--in the book, she has a happy, albeit occasionally boring, marriage and finally 3. the ending of the movie was pretty much a "happily ever after" deal, but the book's ending was much more ambiguous. People got back together even when it maybe wasn't the best thing, some people had unsatisfying aspects of their life that never got resolved. I liked that, though. Life is messy. Things don't always get resolved. It felt very honest. Very ... not Jane Austen.


Kelsy said...

Jane Austen it much more cynical and realistic than you give her credit for. The movies just tend to make cleaner plot lines and easier characters rather than show all the nuances that her novels show. In fact, I don't like how a lot of them end because they feel like people settling with the wrong people. Case in point: Sense and Sensibility. Why didn't Elinor and Colonel Brandon just run off together? They were the most reasonable people in the whole book. But no, Elinor gets boring Mr. Ferrars and Colonel Brandon gets flighty Marianne. The worst.

TheMoncurs said...

Dude. I LOVE Firefly. That was one I learned about too late, unfortunately. That and Arrested Development. Sigh.

theFinn said...

I agree that the Scary Stories books aren't offensive, but it looks like you got a different edition from the original. In the ones I read as a kid, there were no explanations giving background, and the illustrations were really creepy and often covered in blood. The pictures disturbed me more than the stories themselves.

Darth Vader Quotes

There was an error in this gadget

Andy Warhol Art of the Day