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Tag Archives: #FridayReads
Keiko Furukura realized as a child that she was different from everyone else. Her classmates and teachers were increasingly dismayed by her behavior and her family desperately wanted her to be “cured” and become “normal.” Until Keiko found her job at the Smile Mart convenience store during university, she felt doomed to be the odd one out.
But at Smile Mart, the world makes perfect sense. She can follow the employee behavior manual, mimic the speech and dress of her co-workers, and everyone seems happy with her. Flash-forward 18 years; working part-time at a convenience store is no longer enough to keep her friends and family satisfied, and Keiko finds that it is time for a change.
This story gives some insight into the importance of conformity in Japanese culture; it is more important to Keiko’s friends and family that she meet societal expectations, to get married or find a real career path, than to live a content life as a misfit…even if that marriage is dysfunctional or the career makes her unhappy. Keiko must decide if she will do as others think she should… or be true to herself. A short read, this humorous yet heart-breaking tale may have you wondering who the misfits really are.
Murata, Sayaka. Convenience Store Woman. Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Grove Press, 2018.
J.R.R. Tolkien is best known as the creator of Middle-earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But, did you know that he wrote other stories that don’t take place in Middle-earth?
In addition to being a fantasy author, Tolkien was an academic. He wrote modern translations of Sir Gawain & The Green Knight and Beowulf as well as the narrative poems The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, based on Norse mythology, and The Fall of Arthur, inspired by the legend of King Arthur.
Those longer works can be a bit hard to get through. Personally, I prefer his shorter original fairie tale novellas. Some of them are collected in Tales from the Perilous Realm:
Roverandom is the story of a dog who is turned into a toy by an angry wizard and recounts his adventures as he searches for a way to undo the spell.
Farmer Giles of Ham is an accidental hero, who must deal with a dragon who has invaded his village.
Smith of Wootton Major is the tale of a blacksmith who, after eating a magical cake, is able to enter the Land of Faery.
Leaf by Niggle is a short story about a painter struggling to finish his greatest work.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is the only selection in this book related to Middle-earth. It is a collection of poems written by Hobbits, such as Bilbo Baggins and Sam Gamgee.
I have discovered that Tolkien is a fun and creative storyteller, in all forms. If you’ve only read his books based in Middle-earth, I highly recommend checking out his other stories.
Coyote (12) travels with Rodeo (her father, but don’t call him that) in a refitted old school bus. They go where any whim takes them and only think of the future. One day when Coyote talks to her grandma, she learns the park in their old neighborhood is going to be leveled to become housing. Now Coyote must get home, somewhere Rodeo will not go, so she will trick him into it. She must retrieve the memory box she, her sisters and her mom buried in the park five years ago. They are in Florida and need to get to Washington state in four days, without Rodeo realizing where they are going.
Along the way they give some other travelers a lift and an interesting fellowship develops. First, she finds a kitten who is unusually quiet and seemingly knowing about what humans need, a bit like Coyote herself. She invites Lester to ride with them to Montana to reunite with his former girl. Salvador and his mom help Coyote out of a tough spot right when their car dies, so they join the group. A couple of others join for a spell, including a considerate goat named Gladys. Heartfelt and full of fun too, this book is able to move from silly to touching and bring a tear to your eye. It is aimed at upper elementary to early middle school readers, or for anyone who enjoys a good road trip book about family.
Other books by the author include Good Dog, Scar Island and The Honest Truth.
Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Henry Holt and Co., 2019.
“I found a snail in the woods. I brought it back and it’s right here beneath the violets …”
“Is it alive?”
This is the first question Bailey asks of the snail in her book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, in which she recounts her survival through a debilitating relapse of her chronic illness. Once a traveler and gardener, she is rendered bedbound and alone, save for the occasional visits of loved ones and her caregiver. And then she is gifted the company of a wild woodland snail, brought from its habitat with a friend’s potted offering of wild violets.
As it so happens, the snail is alive, and its motion and unique liveliness breathes purpose into Bailey’s stalled life.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a small book. Its pages number at 170; 191 if you count the acknowledgements and bibliography. It’s a quick read that gets technical at times but never becomes wholly inaccessible. Its style, complete with pages dotted here and there with monochrome drawings of snails, is a tribute to the 19th century naturalists of whom Bailey seems fond, and she follows in their footsteps – or, rather, to borrow her imagery, she glides along the slime trail they left behind.
Bailey draws from scientific literature and poetry in rhythm with her observations, making the book one-part informative essay and one-part ode. Peppered in between discussions of the snail’s locomotion, diet, and evolution are the chronicles of her illness, told in an almost tangential fashion, secondary but parallel to the snail’s life, where she both wishes to be more like the snail and longs to feel human again. Is it alive, she asks of the snail and its stillness during their first introduction. Am I alive, she seems to ask; or, the darker question that lingers, one with an answer she couldn’t know, will I survive this?
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is best enjoyed in the perfect stillness that might allow oneself to overhear a snail at its dinner. Bailey asks the reader to slow down and ponder – and wonder – at nature and its small, unnoticed creatures and their tiny, significant lives. The reward for your patience is a quiet sort of jubilation and a feeling of hopeful resilience.
Bailey invites us to consider the snail and, in doing so, asks if we might also see ourselves.
Bailey, Elisabeth Tova. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.
What do our parents really leave us? Is it money, or a house? Seeing my father’s eye’s when I look in the mirror or my mother’s nose? Is it memories, the good and the bad? What if you found your dad wasn’t your biological father? That all the family history, the aunts and uncles, the cousins and grandparents, that they didn’t really belong to you. At least not in the way you thought. This is the basis for Dani Shapiro’s poignant and timely memoir, “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love.” This is not just the tale of the author’s search for her biological father, but her desire to know the secrets her parents kept.
I listened to the audiobook, published by Random House, and narrated by the author herself. Listening to the author tell her own story, hearing her voice and emotion as she recounts the journey she takes after this discovery made the experience even more enjoyable. I choose this book in my attempt to read more non-fiction this year, and it didn’t disappoint.
Shapiro, D. (2019). Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a necessary and fascinating read for anyone who has used a library—even more so for anyone who works in a library. Orlean tells the story of the Los Angeles Central Library, its founding and its operation, and about a dramatic 1986 fire and the following investigation. Of special interest to Nebraskans, the building itself was designed by Bertram Goodhue, who was also the architect for another building you might be more familiar with: the Nebraska State Capitol building.
The way Orlean tells the story is as interesting as the investigation itself. The book is true crime, history, biography, and homage. She describes her own emotional connection to visiting her hometown library with her mother as a child, and then returning to libraries much later, after having a child of her own, and she begins to appreciate what an incredible societal wonder the modern library is.
Orlean also tells the stories of pioneers, free thinkers, and risk takers who made the Los Angeles Central Library possible, like Mary Foy, who became the head librarian of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1880, when men still dominated the field—and when she was only eighteen years old. With thoughtfulness and sensitivity, she talks about the emotional aftermath of the 1986 fire, for the workers and patrons of the Central Library, with personalized detail. She addresses the realities of the twenty-first century public library with respect and without sentimentality.
I dragged my feet finishing this book, because I didn’t want it to end. I knew from the formatting of the first page—I won’t give away how each chapter is introduced—that I was reading a book about libraries by someone who knew them and loved them.
If you’re old enough to remember 1986, but you don’t remember the Los Angeles Central Library fire, it might be because another catastrophic event happened a few days before in Chernobyl, which overshadowed the fire in the news. After you read the book, you might want to watch news clips and video of the time—and view other reactions to the book. The story told by the book has encouraged a reckoning and remembering by those affected, and it is powerful.
I took my copy of the book on a field trip to another library designed by Goodhue—in the aforementioned Nebraska State Capitol building. Pretty library photos will be on social media soon, and I will add a link here when that happens.
Orlean, S. (2018). The library book.
Murderbot (as they call themself) is a part organic/part machine SecUnit (security unit) who is contracted out by The Company to various research and exploration teams traveling to other planets to keep them safe, and to keep an eye on what they’re doing. Unlike other SecUnits, however, this particular one has hacked their own (cheaply made) governor module so they no longer have to follow the Company’s strict protocols. Rather than turning against all humans or anything overly violent, Murderbot just wants to be left alone to watch thousands of hours of sci-fi/adventure soap operas and to do the bare minimum of work (just enough so no one realizes they now have free will).
The current job includes a group of humans who are exploring a planet for scientific reasons that don’t matter much to Murderbot. This is a fairly easy job until equipment starts to fail, creatures start attacking, and vital pieces of information seem to be missing which puts the humans all in danger. Now they must find out who is behind the conspiracy and what’s going on, keep the humans safe from other (more heartless) robots, and get them all off of the planet while desperately trying to avoid more social interaction than is necessary.
All Systems Red is the first novella of four in The Murderbot Diaries which all follow our snarky SecUnit. Quick reads with fast-paced stories, engaging characters, lots of snarky humor, cyborg/robot/human battles, and tentative friendships.
- All Systems Red
- Artificial Condition
- Rogue Protocol
- Exit Strategy
Great world buildings, eccentric characters, and a solid plot that keeps me guessing, will always catch my attention, and Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett has all of that and more. In so many ways it’s also unusual–set in a tropical seaport town, of a world that has seen an apocalypse wrought by an unusual type of magic called “scriving” by the surviving, thriving, inhabitants.
The merchant houses of Tevanne, rediscovered the art, and used the power of “scriving” to conquer other cities, create empire, and spy on each other. The tools they create are powerful, arrows that vibrate so hard as they go through the air that they disintegrate; rapiers that accelerate when put into motion, because they believe they’re going so much faster, and can go through tree trunks; and suites of armor that barely need inhabitants to kill. So of course, they create these items, and more, behind their own walls. Each merchant house is nearly a city-state with their own culture.
The people unlucky enough not to be born to the houses, or useful to them, live in the commons, the areas outside their walls. Like Sancia, a very good thief, who has a rare ability of being able to listen, and understand the scrivings on objects–floors, walls, and locks. A job comes her way through her fence to steal an item that’s just arrived in Tevanne. Which is when everything goes wrong, of course. The item is a very old, rare, scrived artifact, from the original practitioners of scriving, and talks, in a way. Its name is Clef. And he’s freaked out that she can hear him. She’s very freaked out that he can talk! And life just gets more complicated from there, with scions of merchant houses run amok, scrived humans (which shouldn’t exist), the already slightly crazy practitioners of a fractured art, and a lot of people doing impossible things such as shooting crossbow bolts at our heroes.
Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett, Crown, New York, ISBN 978-1-5247-6036-6
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for about a decade. I bought it because a few friends had raved about the life-altering, mind-bending power of this book. Needless to say, I was skeptical.
I didn’t say anything back them, but I suspected the only reason my friends enjoyed the book is because they were already in the middle of changing their own lives when they happen to stumble upon the book. The Alchemist has the ability to pour gas on a lit fire to make the flames explode upward. But it cannot apply spark to the flint over dead leaves.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the story of a young man named Santiago who wants to see the world. He starts out as a shepherd who quietly enjoys what he does. But the endless horizon calls out to him. Thus his journey begins. Along the way, he meets a variety of mystically inclined individual(s) who provide him with endless philosophical advice to drive him towards his own Personal Legend.
He winds up in pursuit of treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. It’s a wild ride. When I tried to read this book the first time, I was turned off by phrases like ‘Personal Legend’, ‘Soul of the World’, and other over-the-top phrases. Ten years later, when the book called to me again, I realized that these are just phrases. Depending on your own personal beliefs, you can mentally exchange these phrases for words that speak to you. The book was already translated once from the Brazilian author’s native Portuguese.
For me, this book was a way to see myself from a more global perspective. We will all travel through life, meeting different people who will teach us different things. As I learn more about how people in other parts of the world live, I find my own Personal Legend shifting. The small irritations in life don’t seem to matter quite as much. I have food, clean water, access to learning tools, plenty of books, all things necessary to a good life. Why not help those who don’t have access to that already?
If you’re ready to change your life, or are open to seeing other ways of life, this could be a good book. It’s a quick read, and can be a great catalyst for change. As you’re reading your own meaning into the book, keep in mind that sometimes the journey is vastly more important than the end goal.
Maybe I will pick up this book in another ten years and see a completely different story.
This book came to me by way of a recommendation from a book club member who also reads mysteries and series. I have read Nordic Noir authors Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, and Henning Mankell, but I had not read any books from the Department Q Series by the Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. All of the authors have a reputation for their dark descriptions of crime, twisted plots, and grizzled detectives. This book follows a popular recipe for sleuths: troubled personal relationships, inability to get along with co-workers, abuser of substances, and a brilliant deductive mind. The plot goes back and forth between the last week Detective Carl Mørck was a homicide detective and the present, when he is assigned to lead a newly created Department Q – a literal closet in the basement of the police department where the most difficult cold cases reside.
Thinking this is a promotion, Carl soon realizes this position will take him out of action. The first case he selects from boxes and boxes of cold cases involves trying to find a missing politician captured five years ago and assumed by many to be dead. Carl is assigned a staff of one – a man with a mysterious past named Hafez el-Assad. Initially Carl views Assad as not much more than a driver and personal assistant, but Assad makes himself a real partner in solving cases and becomes invaluable to the department. At home, Carl is separated from his wife Vigga, is a sometimes guardian to his stepson, and is in need of the rent that is paid by his opera-loving lodger to make ends meet. This book will take you on a ride that is sinister and horrifying. Expect that with Nordic Noir.
For those who have Amazon Prime, the first three books in the Department Q series are also films in Danish with subtitles. I found the casting to be spot on and the Danish countryside both beautiful and foreboding.
Adler-Olsen, Jussi, The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel. New York: Dutton, 2011.
If it’s the end of the year, then it must be Hogswatch! But, the Hogfather is missing! How can we have Hogswatch without him? Not to worry, Death is here to save the day, filling in for him so that all the children will still get their gifts. What could possibly go wrong?
Hogfather is the 20th book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. And it’s one of the most entertaining, in my opinion. If you haven’t read any Discworld books yet, that’s OK. This one can be read on its own. There’s enough detail and explanation to understand what’s happening. But, for those of you new to this series, Discworld is a magical world, filled with witches, wizards, dragons, trolls, and dwarfs. Physically, it’s a flat disc, sitting on the backs of four enormous elephants, which are standing on the back of an enormous turtle slowly swimming through space. You will recognize some similarities to our world, but since it does have magic, things are quite different.
It’s almost Hogswatchnight, and while Death is keeping up with some of the Hogfather’s duties, there’s still the problem of what happened to him. Luckily, Death’s granddaughter Susan is also on the case. While Death is trying to ensure that people will keep believing in the Hogfather, she’s trying to find him. It turns out that there will be more serious problems than a lack of gifts without a Hogfather. Belief in him also happens to be important to keep other parts of the world working properly. In order to save the Hogfather and Hogswatch, Susan must deal with the “Oh God” of Hangovers, interfering wizards, the realm of the Tooth Fairy, and Mister Teatime, an assassin who insists that his name is pronounced ‘teh-ah-tim-eh’.
As with all of the Discworld books, Hogfather is both a comic fantasy and a satirical commentary on our world. But, this novel also deals with the nature of belief and how important it can be to us, whether we realize it or not. It’s the kind of book you will need to read more than once to absorb the depth and meaning of the storytelling.
If you’re looking for a really fun seasonal read that will restore your faith in humans, Hogfather is the book for you. HAPPY HOGSWATCH!
Pratchett, Terry. Hogfather. New York: Harper, 1996.
Horrorstor is a fun, quick read, perfect for the holiday shopping season. It’s a horror story, set in a big box store, formatted to look like a catalog. Author Grady Hendrix has seen a lot of horror movies, and if you have too, there are references aplenty for you to enjoy. He’s also spent a lot of time in Ikea (and does name-check them, as the superstore Orsk is knockoff of the Swedish retail giant) and has a lot of fun with the names of products accordingly. The book has just enough digs about consumer capitalism to make you feel smart, and enough broadly-drawn but relatable characters to make you not dwell on anything too downbeat.
The book would make a good gift, for the reader with a sense of humor on your list. (Or a library book to check out and have in the house, for the family introvert during a holiday gathering.) Are there plot holes? Yes! Is it a masterpiece? No! Is it enjoyable? Definitely. Can you read it surrounded by family being loud, with every TV and speaker in the house on a different channel, while full of sugar? Yes. You’ll still be able to follow the story. You’ll root for the employee character of your choice to make it through the single overnight shift in the possibly haunted, definitely scary Orsk location in Cuyahoga, Ohio, built on the site of an abandoned experimental prison, the Cuyahoga Panopticon. The narrative design is a lot more straightforward than any big box store design. The author is having a good time, and he wants the reader to have one, too.
Hendrix, Grady. Horrorstör: A Novel. Philadelphia, Pa: Quirk, 2014. Print.
I’m rather late to the world of podcasts, but I’ve been finding more and more really good ones. Even better, I’ve been finding related books for when I just want more of the story or just need a break from listening. Here’s a list of a few I’ve recently gathered:
Limetown. “What happened to the people of Limetown?” Three hundred people living in a small town in Tennessee seemingly disappeared overnight, including Lia Haddock’s uncle Emile. Lia, a journalist, investigates the mysterious research facility and the surrounding town looking for answers as to what really happened that night. The book goes back to seventeen-year old Lia’s, looking for answers about her family who all refuse to talk about the incident, alternating with Emile’s story leading up to the project in Limetown.
Smith, Cote. Limetown: The Prequel to the #1 Podcast. 2018. Print.
Welcome to Night Vale. Presented as a community radio show, the podcast follows Cecil as he updates residents of this small desert town of all the everyday sorts of activities and events, including the dog park, the ghosts, angels, government conspiracies, and such. While I’m still making my way through the podcast archives, I’m sure I’m missing some of the references throughout the book, but it’s still wonderfully weird. The book follows two residents, Diane with her shape-shifting son, and Jackie who owns the pawn shop, and their search for the meaning of “King City.”
Fink, Joseph & Cranor, Jeffrey. Welcome to Night Vale. 2015. Print.
Sawbones. Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband explore how modern medicine has evolved and “all the dumb, bad, gross, weird and wrong ways we’ve tried to fix people.” Think eating powdered mummies, using opium or radium as a cure-all, and drilling holes in your head. Although an entertaining introduction to medical history, the book does seem to have a number of editing issues that can be distracting.
McElroy, Justin & McElroy, Sydnee. The Sawbones Book: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine. 2018. Print.
Lore. Each chapter examines a different “creature” (ghosts, vampires, werewolves, goblins…) and the legends, folklore, or history surrounding them and how they relate to human nature. Great for anyone interested in supernatural/urban legends kinds of things. Though, if you’ve listened to the podcast, the illustrations may be new to you, but the stories are more transcripts.
Mahnke, Aaron. The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures. 2017. Print.
The Moth. True stories told live in front of crowds worldwide, diverse storytellers share their experiences which can be anywhere from dumb things they’ve done to joyful to heartbreaking. The book contains fifty stories from The Moth’s archives. Good if you just want to read some interesting life stories.
Burns, Catherine (editor). The Moth. 2013. Print.
Who knew Tom Hanks was an author? Even though his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, my introduction came through his book entitled Uncommon Type: Some Stories – a collection of seventeen short stories written (and read in the audio form) by Tom Hanks. This review is specific to the audio version and each short story revealed itself to me as a brief movie performed by Hanks. Tom’s narrative is visual and I saw characters and entire sets because his voice is so closely associated to the medium of film. Interestingly, when one of his stories intersected with subject matter Hanks had previously portrayed in a movie (space travel for example), I could not help but think of that particular corresponding movie and this was not an interrupter, but an enhancement. This book was enjoyable if only for the sake of having Tom’s voice in my ear. Just like listening to Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, or Carol Burnett read their own work, it is the quality, comfort, and familiarity of the voice that adds pleasure to the text.
Some stories were more enjoyable than others were and the ones that I really enjoyed have stayed with me. Hank’s first story is about two best friends from elementary school who turn their life-long friendship into a romance against their friend’s advice. The second is about a WWII veteran who makes an annual Christmas Eve call to his friend who saved his life in battle on Christmas Eve not so many years ago. Another story is about a newly divorced woman with clairvoyant skills who moves with her three children to Green Street. The acceptance she feels from her new neighbors helps her embrace her new life. I am typically not very excited about a collection of short stories, but I very much enjoyed my time with these.
Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type: Some Stories. New York: Knopf. 2017
Kate Christensen’s The Last Cruise is not a memoir, travel guide or cruise promotion. It is a novel rich with a range of disparate, colorful and conflicted characters. The 400 some travelers are on an ocean voyage destined for unexpected and challenging adventure. While dissimilar, the book reminded me of Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, a book I read many years ago before taking a first cruise. The Last Cruise might be better likened to the Titanic, and throw in the Love Boat, too. There are elements of all with personal crises, conflict, satire, romance, and bits of comedy.
The cruise ship is the Queen Isabella, a 1950s elegant and vintage ocean liner. The voyage is the ship’s last and intended to be followed by a trip to the scrapyard. Guests board the ship at Long Beach, California, for a two-week cruise to Hawaii and back. A retro theme is planned in recognition of the ship’s origins and fate. Passengers expect to enjoy the experiences of mid-20th century luxury cruising with fine dining, cocktails, string quartets, and jazz. Central to the story is Christine Thorne. Thorne, a former journalist, joins the voyage as an escape from her Maine farm home. She meets aboard ship with her long-time friend, a journalist seeking her own escape. The story evolves with the mix of passengers, crew (notably food service workers), and musicians. Before long, the voyage is disrupted by personal conflict and ship mechanics.
The book title has a double meaning, if not more than double. The multiple meanings are revealed early and more surprisingly in the final pages. I’m curious to know how many cruise ship libraries have this book on their shelves. I hope they do.
Kate Christensen’s fourth novel, The Great Man, won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. She has also written two food themed books, Blue Plate Special and How to Cook a Moose. The latter won the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Memoir. Food elements are also prominent in The Last Cruise.
Kate Christensen. The Last Cruise: A Novel. (New York: Doubleday) 2018.
On last week’s NCompass Live, we talked about book to film adaptations. Is the book always better than the film? Can the film be as good as the book? You may be surprised to hear the answer can be yes!
One of my personal favorite book to movie adaptations is Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. I first read the novel when I was a teenager and loved it. I was immediately hooked on Anne Rice. There is an amazing depth to her story writing. The history of the characters and the worlds she creates makes you want more. I’ve read and enjoyed many of her novels since then, but being my first, the Vampire stories remain my favorites.
When they first announced that they were making a movie of Interview with the Vampire, I was at first very excited. Then, when they announced that Tom Cruise would star as Lestat, like Anne Rice herself, I became very concerned. He was definitely NOT what I pictured Lestat to be. But, despite my reservations, I tend to be open minded when it comes to movies or TV shows being made of any of my favorite stories, so I tried to be optimistic.
Then I saw the film, and all my fears were put to rest. It was perfect! It was exactly how I had pictured it in my mind when I read the book. Louis, Lestat, and especially Claudia had stepped out of my head and onto the screen. In my opinion, Interview with the Vampire is definitely one example where the movie is just as good as the book.
So, if you’ve only read the book I highly recommend checking out the movie. And vice versa. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the movie, I think you will also enjoy the book.
And if you decide, like me, that you want even more of Anne Rice’s stories on the screen, you’re in luck! The Vampire Chronicles, the ongoing series of Rice’s books about her vampires, is being developed into a TV series. Anne Rice and her son, Christopher (also a best-selling author) are executive producing the series, which will air on Hulu. Naturally, I have high hopes for the show. I can’t wait to see how it looks when the author herself is involved with the production.
Want to watch our NLC Staff discuss book to film adaptations? Check out the archived recording of NCompass Live: Book vs. Movie: The Ultimate Showdown!
The Booklist Reader recently had a blog post about short stories that have been turned into feature films, leading with the announcement of a new film adaptation of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. My first thought was that it would be difficult to create a full-length movie out of such a short story, but the more I sat with it, the more it made sense. After all, most movies based on books have to trim the story considerably to fit within the allotted time. With a short story, you can capture the entire plot, or even expand as needed, playing with pacing and visual and sound effects.
The list of short stories and their corresponding big screen treatment inspired me to pick up a few of the suggested titles, so I’ve been having my own “short-story-athon” this past month. Here are some of the collections I chose from Booklist Reader’s list that I would recommend for anyone looking for a break from 300+ page novels:
The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes. Tales of suburban life and how you never know what is happening behind closed doors. The movie didn’t get rave reviews, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. My library didn’t have the collection that this story is in (Close Range, one of three collections she wrote set in Wyoming), but I was able to listen to just Brokeback Mountain as an audio download during my commute one day. The movie stays very true to the story, and is a great example of why short stories make good films.
Love movies based on books? (Or hate ’em?). If you missed our recent NCompass Live discussion on the topic, you can catch it in the archives: Book Vs Movie: The Ultimate Showdown!
Chiang, Ted. Stories Of Your Life and Others. 2014. Audio.
Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. 2001. Print.
Carver, Raymond. Short Cuts. 1993. Print.
Homes, A.M. The Safety Of Objects. 1990. Print.
Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. 2005. Audio.
I borrowed How We Roll from the library as I enjoy this author’s work and had not seen her newest book until I ran across it on their “New Books” shelf.
Quinn (high school freshman) and her family have moved from Colorado to Massachusetts for a new school for her younger brother, Julius, who is on the autism spectrum. This is good for Quinn, too. She has lost all of her hair to alopecia and a fresh start is great since Colorado is where her friends backed away from her and then there was a sexual harassment episode that wouldn’t go away. Now, in Gulls Head, Mass. She will wear a wig and no one will know about her alopecia. Instead she worries the wig will fall off or move, and it itches like crazy.
At her new school she makes friends and learns a bit about Nick who is in a wheelchair and not friendly in study hall. He has his reasons for being rude.
Good friends are worth gold, and Quinn has found them at her new school, though she is afraid to trust them at first. Helping her brother can be tough, but he is only being himself. Now a potential new friend for her, Nick has his own issues but also begins to show a considerate side.
As SLJ mentions, readers of The Running Dream or The Fault in Our Stars will likely pick this one up.
And please accept my deep apologies for posting this very late “Friday Reads!”
Friend, Natasha. How We Roll, 2018. Print.
I started reading Sharp Objects after I started watching the HBO show. Gillian Flynn, the author, helped adapt the book for television, and I find more similarities than differences—though some of my friends who have been longtime fans of the book don’t agree with me. I think it’s the same story, told in different ways—like having a different relative go through a photo album with you, and hearing different details than you heard last time. This book and show illustrate effectively how there are different ways to tell stories, and some work better on the page, and some work better on the screen.
I could discuss the similarities and differences at length, but to focus on one aspect that won’t give too many spoilers—let’s talk about the roller skating. There are no roller skates in the book, but there is Camille’s first person narration (that, wisely, was not brought over to the show). Camille’s first person narration in the book tells us things that the roller skating shows us on the screen. The first episode opens with a flashback of Camille and her first younger sister skating outside of their small Missouri town. We can see Camille’s zest for life and freedom, her sister Marian trying to keep up, Camille keeping an eye on her. We see the setting is quiet enough for these girls to explore their environment in this innocent, edge of reckless, way.
By the time we get to the present-day of the story, the roller skates are on Camille’s second younger sister, Amma, and her two friends. (Trivia time: the actors playing her friends are sisters in real life, with a background in figure skating.) As viewers, we still align our point of view with Camille, as we do as readers—even though the show adds some scenes that aren’t from Camille’s point of view, the show is still from her worldview. Now the roller skates, on tween girls that aren’t Camille, serve a different purpose: these girls don’t stay in place long enough for most people to figure them out. They zip around their little town, risking their life (as the town police officer once points out) in traffic and without helmets, with all the vulnerability and invulnerability of the middle-schooler. From a strictly cinematic point of view, it’s uncanny: these characters are moving in a way that is out of pace with the other characters. The sound editing here is fantastic as well. Even if the dialogue was sometimes so quiet that mumbles and drawls had to replayed, the sound of the skates was rhythmic and insistent and yet natural—almost like the bugs would have sounded, in summertime Missouri, if the show had gone for real over surreal.
In later episodes, we see the roller skates one more time on Camille and once on another character—and each time we understand more about the wearer of the skates just because they’re wearing them.
We have this title in the Library Commission’s book club kits, and I’m surprised it’s not checked out right now. (Get on that, readers in Nebraska!) This would be a great book for a book club—lots of unexpected twists and turns, and unexpected and important topics, in a quick read. And your book group could discuss the show as well.
If you’re ready for more book vs. movie/television discussion, don’t miss our upcoming NCompass Live, Book vs. Movie: The Ultimate Showdown! online Wednesday September 12 at 10AM. (The archived session will be online, if that time doesn’t work for you.)
Flynn, Gillian. Sharp Objects: A Novel. , 2006. Print.
Noxon, Marti, creator. Sharp Objects. Crazyrose, Fourth Born, Blumhouse Television, Tiny Pyro, Entertainment One, 2018.
(This show is full of wonderful performances and film-making decisions that didn’t fall under the the topic of my blog post–Full cast and crew for Sharp Objects on IMDB)
An ex-military man and his new detective friend must solve a baffling murder with a few clever twists (especially with the ending) and some cosmic horror. Without giving too much away, it’s a fascinating blend of these two universes and characters. Quick read. Wonderful artwork.