WPSU's BookMark

BookMark: "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters" By Emil Ferris

Oct 4, 2018

Emil Ferris’s 2017 graphic novel “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” is at turns beautiful, haunting and heart wrenching––and it took the comics world by storm. It won 3 Eisner awards in 2018 for best writer/artist, best new graphic album and best coloring. It was also nominated for 3 Ignatz awards in 2017 and a Hugo Award for “Best Graphic Story” in 2018. It may come as no surprise, then, that the Pennsylvania Center for the Book unanimously selected this book for the 2018 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize.

BookMark: "Moby Dick" By Herman Melville

Sep 6, 2018

In my first teaching interview, I was asked what book I’d most like to teach. Without hesitation, I replied, “Moby Dick.” The interviewer probably thought I was trying to impress him, but it was true. I began teaching “Moby Dick” four years ago, and I hope I’ll be able to continue to teach it for the rest of my career.

I wasn’t the best reader in grades K-7. Most years I was invited to a special class in the summer where we cut out pictures of a C-A-T or an H-O-U-S-E from “Ladies Home Journal” and pasted them on construction paper. Between grades 7 and 8 I discovered a box of comics stashed by my brother when he entered the service. Somehow the text and the pictures magically connected, finally leading to my comprehension of what these strung together letters meant.

BookMark: "Rise of the Necrofauna" By Britt Wray

May 17, 2018

The past few years have seen a veritable flurry of renewed interest in the idea of bringing extinct species back to life. Multiple books, articles and even a few TED talks have each approached the topic from different angles, or focused on different species. A new book on the topic caught my attention, not only for its approach, but also for the almost haunting art that graces its cover: the skull of a woolly mammoth and the head of a wooly mammoth facing each other across a dark background.

BookMark: "Strange Practice" By Vivian Shaw

May 3, 2018

Vivian Shaw’s “Strange Practice” introduces a marvelous new character: Dr. Greta Helsing. Physician to the undead--or differently alive, as Dr. Helsing thinks of her patients--Greta is the most recent iteration of the famous van Helsing family. The family quietly dropped the “van” several generations ago to avoid unnecessary attention from those less inclined to view the undead as good neighbors. 

 

There are some books I read and don’t think about much afterwards. They just don’t leave a lasting impact.

But “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid stayed with me.

The novel “Spoonbenders” by Daryl Gregory tells the story of a family of psychics… who aren’t doing very well. You’d think a bunch of people with supernatural talents could use them to get ahead in life, but the three adult siblings in the Telemachus family are instead constantly stymied by their powers.

BookMark: "The Rebounders" By Amanda Ottaway

Mar 22, 2018

Just in time for March Madness, the University of Nebraska Press has published “The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey.” The cover shows author Amanda Ottaway at 4 years old shooting a basketball toward the hoop in her Hollidaysburg backyard. Ottaway, in sweats and sneakers, arms and legs flailing as the ball leaves her hands, is determined to sink the shot. How that passion has shaped her life is at the heart of this beautifully written memoir. 

                                                                  

BookMark: "Ice Mountain" By Dave Bonta

Mar 8, 2018

“Ice Mountain,” Dave Bonta’s most recent poetry collection, consists of short poems etched in an immediate present. Each poem is nine lines long, and carries a date as its title. The collection begins with a poem entitled “22 January, 2014”:

in the owl’s flight
as in the conifers it left
that late morning silence

and at the woods edge
the frozen carcass of a cow
pecked at by chickadees

bare trees like forks
the sky too is a dish
best served cold

Sunil Yapa’s debut novel “Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist” breaks the mold of our current polarized political climate and examines a controversial moment in American history from multiple angles. In doing so, the author, who is a State College native, reminds readers of the value that comes from trying to understand one another.

BookMark: "Maureen" By Mary Trimble

Feb 8, 2018

The novel “Maureen” is named after its main character. The disenchanted city girl answers an ad in the Seattle Times, and two weeks later moves to Eastern Washington to work as a nanny, housekeeper and cook on a large cattle ranch. With no experience, only great instincts and resilience, she flourishes on the ranch. Maureen’s two sisters and brother are shocked at her decision to leave the city, but she proves that you can take a girl out of the city and transform her into a country girl.

BookMark: "Fire And Fury" By Michael Wolff

Jan 25, 2018

Since the week before it was published, Michael Wolff's “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” has been, by far, the most-talked about book in the country. The furor, prompted by an angry denunciation-by-tweet from the President, a cease and desist letter from his lawyers and salacious details from the book making their way into the press, immediately catapulted it to bestseller status. Being a political junkie, of course I couldn't resist giving it a read. I rushed through it in just a few days.

Sarah Paez reviews "The Woman Who Smashed Codes" by Jason Fagone.
Min Xian / WPSU

Jason Fagone’s new nonfiction nail-biter about the life and work of codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman takes readers on a tour of a world once written in code.

In “The Woman Who Smashed Codes,” Fagone shows how Elizebeth, a sharp college graduate itching to leave rural Indiana, ends up trailblazing the very new industry of codebreaking.

I tend to gravitate toward books by authors I’ve read before. But after seeing Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” hailed a must-read multiple times, I decided to go out on a limb.

I’m so glad I did.

BookMark: "Weird Dinosaurs" By John Pickrell

Dec 14, 2017

Anyone who knows me for more than ten minutes knows of my deep and abiding fondness for dinosaurs. It’s a holdover from that phase most children go through, re-ignited for me during a summer class on the extinct beasts during college. Yet the drawback of being an adult who loves dinosaurs is readily apparent when you visit the shelves of your local library or bookstore. Most dinosaur books are aimed at a far younger audience than myself, and the books for adults are often more technical works.

“Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name” is the second thriller in the Marina Konyeshna series by Heather Harlen. Human trafficking remains the driving force behind the plot in this book as well. Its fast-paced dialogue and action kept me turning the pages. Marina’s irrepressible personality makes her a highly likable protagonist. Her fresh inner dialogue, utilizing her innate wit and intelligence, provides readers with suspense, danger and drama in Moscow’s soup kitchens to its night clubs.

BookMark: "Picturing Prince" By Steve Parke

Nov 16, 2017

I’m a child of the ’80s. The musician Prince was this fascinating, mysterious man I could not get enough of growing up. “Purple Rain” played loudly in my room. Now, as a singer and a photographer myself, “Picturing Prince” by Steve Parke seemed like a natural fit for my bookshelf.

Celeste Ng’s latest novel, “Little Fires Everywhere,” revolves around a central question: what makes a person a mother?

BookMark: "New American Best Friend" By Olivia Gatwood

Oct 19, 2017

This past March, slam poet Olivia Gatwood released her first collection of printed poems. “New American Best Friend,” which focuses on the struggles of girlhood and the common situations young women face, is affirming and moving.

BookMark: "Fierce Kingdom" By Gin Phillips

Oct 5, 2017

In Gin Phillips’ latest novel, “Fierce Kingdom,” a visit to a city zoo becomes a nightmare as Joan tries to protect her four-year-old son, Lincoln. Leaving the zoo at closing time, Joan realizes that the sounds she hears are gunshots, and that people and animals are being killed at random. 

BookMark: "Les Fauves" By Barbara Crooker

Jun 29, 2017

Barbara Crooker’s newest book of poetry, Les Fauves, begins and ends in the colorful world of Paris with the “wild beast” painters of the Fauvist movement. In the book’s opening epigraph, Crooker quotes the artist Matisse. “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.”

In the same way, Crooker throws herself into these often passionate, sometimes humorous, always thought-provoking poems. She takes us with her.

BookMark: "Hope You Guess My Name" By Heather Harlen

Oct 20, 2016

Heather Harlen’s debut novel, Hope You Guess My Name, is a thriller that will make readers wonder what’s behind the veneers of their own communities. Marina Konyeshna, the book’s main character, is threatened after she discovers a human trafficking ring in her hometown in Eastern Pennsylvania.

I picked up Paula Hawkin’s “The Girl on the Train” after I saw a trailer for the upcoming movie. I’m a sucker for film adaptations – I love reading and seeing how the story translates to film. Though, like most people, I usually think the book is far superior. But that doesn’t stop me. I downloaded the book and found myself finishing it in a few days.

If you are familiar with science writer Mary Roach, you know she is never one to shy away from parts of science that verge on the absurd. I read two of her previous books, and was enchanted by Roach's unique combination of endless curiosity and a wry sense of humor. So I rushed to lay my hands on her newest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.” It will not fail to live up to her fans’ expectations. Even those who have never read her before will be hard-pressed to put down a book that I finished in a few short days.

  This essay originally aired on April 7, 2016.

“When will we realize that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything…makes it necessary to examine carefully everything we have become accustomed to?” This quote from George Bernard Shaw can go two ways. Humanity’s natural adaptability is usually held as a shining example of how we can grow and progress. But it also works in other ways. We can normalize the most insidious injustices around us, from global sweatshops that create our shirts to the police brutality in our own country.

BookMark: "Tipping Point" By David Poyer

Aug 25, 2016

Tipping Point is a page turner. It is the fifteenth novel in David Poyer’s acclaimed series of naval adventures featuring Captain Dan Lenson. But don’t worry if you don’t know anything about the modern Navy or haven’t read any of the first fourteen novels. This was my first of Lenson’s books, but I found it easy to follow the story. Tipping Point gives me renewed respect for our military personnel. The risks they take daily would be unnerving to most civilians.

BookMark: "All Waiting Is Long" By Barbara J. Taylor

Jun 30, 2016

Barbara J. Taylor has created another suspenseful page-turner. We first met the Morgan sisters two years ago in Taylor’s debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night.  All Waiting Is Long tells us their captivating story twenty years later in the 1930s. It is a historical novel that begins when 25-year-old Violet and her pregnant sister, 16-year-old Lily, leave Scranton, Pennsylvania, by train. They are moving to Philadelphia to live at the Good Shepherd Infant Asylum until after the birth of Lily’s baby.

Left: the cover of "Before the Fall." Right: Erin Cassidy Hendrick
Right: Emily Reddy/WPSU

If you’re looking for a book to read on the beach this summer, look no further than the newest release from Noah Hawley. He’s not just an author – he’s also a TV writer and producer. He’s even won Emmy awards for writing and it shows in his newest book, “Before the Fall.” It’s a mystery novel, weaving between past and present, innocence and guilt and life and death.

The cover of "Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy" and reviewer Adison Godfrey.
Right: Erin Cassidy Hendrick / WPSU

In her latest work of historical nonfiction, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Karen Abbott examines the role of four women during the Civil War who risk their lives for their beliefs. Each chapter shifts in focus, alternating between Union and Confederate sympathizers. The book cycles through the stories of Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds, Rose O’Neal Greenhow and Elizabeth Van Lew. Drawing from original source material, Abbott makes these women and their histories come alive, illuminating the women’s war and how these unsung heroines influenced the course of history.