Let’s face it: 2018 has been a doozy of a year. And if you’re like The Cabin’s staff, you’re probably looking forward to a few (holi-)days of curling up with tea and a good book. Here’s what we’ll be reading while we’re closed from Saturday, December 22ndthrough Tuesday, January 1st, as well as some books we’ve read already and think you should read, too!
Kurt Zwolfer, Executive Director
The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu:
Written by a former border patrol agent, this memoir uses firsthand accounts to show the human cost of our country’s immigration policy. With the current “Build the Wall” rhetoric, Cantu’s short book shows the complexity and human suffering lurking behind the political sound bites.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje:
A new novel by Michael Ondaatje is always a good bet. His work combines complex characterization, well researched historical settings, and elegant prose. Ondaatje’s latest takes place in post-World War Two London and tells the story of two children whose parents might have been involved in espionage.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan:
A finalist for the Man Booker Prize and one of the New York Times ten best books of the year, Esi Eduygan latest mixes themes of social justice and freedom with a fantastic narrative that some have compared to a Jules Verne novel. I can’t wait to sit down with this one over some hot cider and leftover Christmas cookies.
It felt naughty to relate to the heroine in Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation so of course I indulged in that “so good to be bad” feeling and read the whole book in a couple of days. If you read the news then fantasize about sleeping so long that you wake up as another better, sharper, friendlier person equipped to handle stress and the impending apocalypse(s), this is the book for you. If you’re dazzled by how syntax becomes voice in a narrative context you might dig this, too.
I’ve watched Netflix’s adaptation of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ twice in as many days and I swear the movie healed the part of me that felt closer to Stephen King’s Carrie than Elizabeth or Jessica Wakefield of Sweet Valley High. I’m hoping the book is as sweet as the movie and can soothe my deep-seated resentment towards the Babysitter’s Club. Read this with me if your inner 13-year-old still needs a radical fat girl to look up to.
I heard Ashley Toliver read at the Portland Book Festival and immediately wanted more of her intimate poems about birth, brain surgery, and the body. I’ve been saving Spectra for our holiday break so the poems can have the space and attention they deserve.
Something Old: When settling down for the holidays, I like to read something seeped in nostalgia while I sit in front of the fire. To honor my Nebraska roots, my nostalgia read this year is going to be a Willa Cather novel I haven’t read yet: Death Comes for the Archbishop. I recommend reading the University of Nebraska Press’ edition because it honors Willa’s desire to print her work in dark type with wide margins, on heavy textured cream-colored paper because she believed it “created a sense of warmth and invited a childlike play of imagination.”
Goodreads says: “There is something epic — and almost mythic — about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert.”
Something New: Mark Dery’s book Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Genius and Mysterious Life of Edward Goreywas just released this past November. I look forward to learning even more about the fascinating writer and artist Edward Gorey. I adore the perspective he showed through his detailed ink drawings and how they continue to celebrate the whimsy of everyday life.
Goodreads says: “An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes — but who was the real Edward Gorey behind the Oscar Wildean pose?”
A book to read now so you are ready for its sequel: Oh man, I love Emil Ferris’ graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Ferris manages to produce a work that manages to be a love letter to horror media, while having an incredible and multifaceted plot with interesting, relatable characters. Her ballpoint pen to notebook paper artwork adds such richness to the world she’s created with her words. This novel is no joke, and winner of three 2018 Eisner Awards — Best Writer/Artist, Best Graphic Album-New, and Best Coloring. Enjoy it now, so you can pounce on volume two when it is released in September 2019!
Goodreads says: “Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography…the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.”
Educated by Tara Westover:
I have (understandably) heard so much about this book; the holiday break will be my chance to read it before she comes to Boise in February.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’D by Alan Bradley:
Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series is charmingly addictive. This is book eight, with each one following Flavia, a young girl with a bicycle nicknamed “Gladys,” as she encounters mystery and, yes, murder, in her small English town. Flavia has a knack for chemistry, for finding the truth, and for worming her way into your heart!
Little Men (the sequel to Little Women) by Louisa May Alcott:
There is something about Christmastime that always makes me want to read Little Men again. This book brings to the forefront the simplicity of how families interacted before technology: homemaking gifts, putting on plays, reading books, cooking, and taking long vigorous walks outside! The beauty of the less-is-more sentiment and quality time is even prettier this time of year, and this book really brings that feeling to life.
Black Science, Vol. 8: Later Than You Think by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera:
Volume 8 of deadbeat dad and anarchist Grant McKay tumbling through the multiverse in an effort to save his estranged family and prevent nihilistic tapeworms and fuzzy demons from pillaging all sentient life.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius:
Something I’ve been meaning to read for years and years. Also something that will sate my recent craving for classics.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy:
Another foray into Russian lit after a Solzhenitsyn bout and my introduction to Tolstoy. Luckily a smaller read to cope with my begrudgingly short attention span lately. Also, hope to pair this with Kurosawa’s loose adaptation, Ikiru.
This summer I found myself in a virtual reading desert with no good reads in sight for the rest of forever. I was fairly certain I’d read everything on the planet worth reading, and shuffled around in the heat like a lost soul until I staggered across Who Fears Death by Nigerian-American writer, Nnedi Okorafor. This book saved my literary life! It’s a post-apocalyptic fantasy spiked with gritty realism, strong female characters, African shamanism and the refreshing ecological wonders of Africa. If you need a reason to live, read this book!
Only the Stones Survive is a book on my horizon by one of my favorite Celtic historical fiction writers, Morgan Llewelyn. Winter arrives and I simply start craving books that depict the lives and times of my Celtic ancestors.
The Lost Heir is a much anticipated sequel to Rivera Sun’s fast paced YA fantasy novel The Way Between, and I can’t wait to see how the female protagonist applies sprightly nonviolent techniques to bring peace to a land divided by war.
The book I just started reading is There There by Tommy Orange — I’m only 30 pages into it and already it’s a terrific read. I picked up the book not just because Orange is coming to Storyfort this March, but because the book takes place in my hometown, Oakland. Oakland is an extremely diverse community, but growing up going to public schools there I was never aware that there were urban Native Americans living in Oakland. Orange’s lauded 11-page prologue, which talks about the evolution of the urban Native American, really is fantastic. I’m also a big fan of Gertrude Stein, so I was attracted by the title There There, which is a famous Stein quote about her hometown, Oakland. She said, “There is no there, there.” I would say that this book is going to disprove Stein once and for all.
The most recent book I’ve read is Common Wealth by Ann Patchett. Like all of Ann Patchett’s books, it is beautifully written. Though my favorite Patchett book is still Run, one of her lesser-known books, Common Wealth is a lovely read. The book is told from multiple perspectives from members of a blended family. It’s hard to tell at first who is the main character, and what the book is actually about. But the narrative drew me in and as I kept reading I came to realize that it’s the woven family unit that is the main character.
As a reading specialist for ages 7 through 13, the books I spend most of my time reading are early chapter books and graphic novels. Some of the most thoughtfully written graphic novels I’ve read this year are all by Raina Telegemeier. I can’t decide which of her four books I like best so I am going to recommend all four, Smile, Drama, Ghosts, & Sisters. Before you run out and buy these for the 10- to 13-year-old on your holiday list, please treat yourself and go with Telegemeier as her character’s journey through junior high school, getting braces, volunteering for drama club, fighting with their sisters, and trying their best to grow up.