Category Archives: Book Column

SJBC – Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

A few month’s ago the internet birthed a funky cool little group reading big important thought provoking books. You can click over to Entomology of a Bookworm and get the whole back story of the Social Justice Book Club (who doesn’t love an origin story?).

This month the Social Justice Book Club is reading Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped and I’m all in. I have my copy and ready to get started. I have no idea what to expect, but based on the SJBC’s past picks, this will be a worthwhile read.

Men We Reaped

Most of the folks reading Men We Reaped are doing an introductory post. So I hope this post qualifies.

1. Where do you plan on discussing this book the most?
I’ll probably be the most chatty here on my blog, though I am on Twitter and follow the #sjbookclub hashtag there. Also, I will definitely find a conversation and talk about it on LibraryThing.

2. Where in the world are you reading?
I am in Birmingham, Alabama.

3. Why did you decide to join in on the reading and/or discussion of this book?
This is the first SJBC choice that I have not already read and I’m ready to give it a go. Most of the ‘social justice’ books I pick up tend to be analytical and history driven. Not dry, just rooted squarely in cause/effect and pattern issues. Men We Reap sounds to be a very personal story, which is a welcome change from what I’ve been reading.

4. What, if anything, are you most looking forward to about this book?
I can say with 100% certainty that I would not have picked up this book browsing on my own. Ward’s experience sounds horrific and I want to hear her first-hand account of what’s happening around the country.

Stumbling Upon a Treasure Chest

I’ve never made a list of all the reasons I feel fortunate to live in the neighborhood I do, but I am certain that the Little Free Libraries would be in the top 5.

Last night, I ran across this little birdhouse of books perched above the sidewalk. It’s fantastic.

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I am not sure who the little librarian is, but they’re doing good work. It was a mix of kid’s and adult books inside. All in good condition. I grabbed one that I think I’ll enjoy. I’ve seen it around. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

This Friday morning, I think I’ll stop by again and donate a couple of books after dropping the kids off at school. The trick is to pick the right two books. Definitely a hardback, I think. These Little Free Libraries are always more fun when it’s not just the dregs found inside.

I hope you’re fortunate enough to be in a place that has things like this nearby. Bookish folks really are the coolest, aren’t they?

Man Booker 2016

This is one of my favorite Man Booker short lists in recent years. Such a great crop of authors and books. The Man Booker Podcast is also back up and running this season. I always look forward to it and it’s usually worth a listen. Also, The Guardian has a good write up with the authors of the books, if you want more. These six books make a great lineup:

  1. Paul Beatty (US) The Sellout 
  2. Deborah Levy (UK) Hot Milk 
  3. Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) His Bloody Project 
  4. Ottessa Moshfegh (US) Eileen 
  5. David Szalay (Canada-UK) All That Man Is 
  6. Madeleine Thien (Canada) Do Not Say We Have Nothing 

I have just started Szalay’s All That Man Is and haven’t read enough to form an opinion yet.

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The only one I have read all the way through is Beatty’s The Sellout. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Satire is one of the hardest things to write and Beatty nails it! Every single page is dripping with it. But be warned – it is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal in so many ways. I think you’ll be better off reading where Beatty is coming from before you start reading the book. So Google around a bit.

The only downside is that I read an interview with Beatty that said he was a little disappointed the humor was so well received, as he felt it distracted from the message he was trying to get out there. The message is certainly there and will slap you in the face. But it can be a rough read folks.

Two of the six, in the Man Booker Shortlist, are from Penguin-owned imprint/publisher Johnathon Cape. They have more Man Booker wins under their belt than any other publisher. So it’s another good run for them.

It doesn’t always work, but I think that the award’s opening to a global pool of entries has paid off. I usually prefer when things specialize, but for some reason this really really works.

The final winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016 will be announced October 25, 2016.

Have you read any of these books?

 

Bicycle Library Serving Homeless Patrons

I stand by my claim that book people are, as a whole, the coolest people on the planet. This story of a bicycle library making its way around to serve books to the homeless is just one more point of proof.

Since 2011, Street Books has been pedaling around Portland, Oregon, once a week, delivering books to people who can’t check them out from the library. Yes, the public library is free, but to use the printer or check out a book, you often need things like a driver’s license or proof of residence or a utility bill. These are things that people living on the fringes of society do not have.

They even have a very short video on Vimeo which captures the spirit of what being a book lover is all about:

I love this quote:

“Because there’s a freedom that comes from kind conversations about books.”

The power of books and literature is often lauded by those of us fortunate to have plenty to read, but we often forget about the real world transformative power that books can have.

The books do get returned and exchanged for others, but if a homeless patron can’t find a bike library again, they are encouraged to just pass the book along to someone else who would like it.

It seems like every city in the world could benefit from people caring for others, through books, just like this. Kudos to the folks behind the bicycle library movement and Street Books.