Resources for a Fruitful Life

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tweety Birds Come to Visit

Pomegranate Books hosted the February 2010 Wilmington Tweetup.  Thanks to Bruce Brown, Wilmington's own networker extraordinaire, we have lots of great pictures.  He did a nice writeup/recap on his blog: Being Bruce.  Check it out here.

His blog is also a great source of things to do and people to know in Wilmington.  A must-read for Wilmington newbies and long-time residents, alike.  He's always discovering something new in ILM!

Sarah Barbee, from Fussbudget Promotions, organized the tweetup, and you can see from the pictures that there was much mingling and browsing and book shopping.  As well as catching up on the local gossip, and strategizing about using twitter for business. 

Here are a few pics from the event, courtesy of Bruce's Blog.  To see the rest, read his blog.  And, don't miss the "Do it Downtown" blog after the Tweetup blog.  Fun times in the Port City!

We welcomed the tweeters with a special sign!

Anna, from Pomegranate, doing magic tricks (and you can just barely see Nell's nose in the bottom left)

Shannan (left) and Sarah (right) book browsing!

At the beginning of the tweetup.  Kathleen, Pomegranate's owner, in the center holding a folder, and other Pomegranate staff, welcome early tweeters in the front room near the cash wrap/ local Wilmington section.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Books that Tickle Your Brain

I'm only about 3/4 of the way through reading Spooner, by Pete Dexter.  It was on countless "best of" lists at the end of 2009.  And, while I'm naturally suspicious of bestsellers, I'm naturally curious about books that end up on end of year best of book lists.  Even though I don't know how the book ends, I think that this is one of those books meant to tickle your brain and lead you along the journey, rather than revealing a grand life epiphany.

Brain-Tickling Reads
A brain-tickling read is a book that isn't merely funny, doesn't just have a good plot or characters, but goes beyond.  A brain-tickling book is a book with fantastic writing and zingy one-liners, along with interesting characters or plot.  A book that tickles my brain is a book that makes me want to underline pages, and a book that makes me shake with barely-controlled laughter in places like airplanes.  It is a book with sentences that reach into my brain and noodle around in there.  Sentences that give you a little shiver-making you want to read them again.  Here are some of my favorite brain-tickling reads, of late.

Every now and then I'll pick up a book that reads so comfortably because the writing is so close to my regular thinking patterns. Maybe not the individual words.  (Spooner does have some language that could be considered offensive.)  More like the cadence, pacing, timing or wit.  Pete Dexter, the author, has a DRY sense of humor.  His writing reminds me of my jangled up, tangential stream of conscious thoughts, and the way one of my ex-boyfriends talks. I wouldn't want to spend my life with Pete Dexter, but I'm enjoying stepping into his world for a bit. Not unlike reading my ex's Facebook posts, after being out of touch for several years.  I knew there was a reason we got along so well.

Here are some of my favorite zingers from the book so far:

"As far as recreation went, that was about it for old Fuzz.  One attempted murder."  (Spooner's family dog)

"Spooner was sitting in the hallway beside his locker with one foot bare, attaching a Band-aid to a toe blister, when he apprehended a certain menace in the milieu, as Calmer might say, and looked up to find Russell Hodge standing over him, looming up there in the hallway's artificial light, and experienced in that moment a clear perception of himself as a lawn mower and Russel Hodge as a mower of lawns, about to set his boot on his chest to hold him in place while he grabbed the starter cord and yanked off his head."

"The thought had occurred to Spooner previously, usually sitting around the same anonymous newspaper bar, listening to reporters grumbling over a changed word or phrase in a lead paragraph, that what the world needed these days was more discouragement than it was getting at home."

"The teacher was named Miss Julie Tuttle and stopped him dead in his tracks.  Miss Tuttle had black hair that shone like Calmer's shoes and smelled like flowers, and Spooner wanted to roll in that smell the way the Shakers' coonhound rolled in cow (poo) after he'd been in the pond."

Anything by Susan Orlean
Susan Orlean is my favorite nonfiction writer.  If I could be any writer on the planet, I'd be Susan Orlean.  She writes for The New Yorker, and is the best-selling author of The Orchid Thief.  Her two books of essays, The Bullfighter Checks her Makeup and My Kind of Place, put you right in the middle of her travels around the world.

Susan Orlean is the Mike Rowe of nonfiction.  She visits people/businesses/places that do/sell/represent fringe-ish things, and writes about them like they are as common as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yet with a sense of delight, appreciation, and humor.  She manages to simotaneously wink at the reader and maintain an entirely straight face toward her subject, exhibiting true sincerity to both.

Her latest piece in The New Yorker was about mules.  I follow Orlean on Twitter, and I remember her tweeting about trying to get to the mule school during the big snows this winter.  I wondered what it was all about, and when I opened my latest magazine, I found the article "Mules in the Modern Military."
Orlean visited mule training camp in California, and opened the article with this:

"A mule is entirely nonpartisan about the contents of its load. It will carry as much as three hundred pounds, seven hours a day, twenty days straight, without complaint."  Then, Orlean goes on to describe that a mule's intelligence is sometimes interpreted as stubbornness, but is really self-preservation, and cites the Mule's reluctance to jump out of airplanes into war zones as an example.

I don't have the magazine with me, so I can't include Orlean's other brain-tickling quotes, but she gives the same treatment to a taxidermists' convention, and a profile of the Surfer Girls of Maui, an article which served as the inspiration for the movie "Blue Crush."  Which inspired me to learn to surf.  Here's a bit from that article:

"The Maui surfer girls love each other's hair. It is awesome hair, long and bleached by the sun, and it falls over their shoulders straight, like water, or in squiggles, like seaweed, or in waves. They are forever playing with it — yanking it up into ponytails, or twisting handfuls and securing them with chopsticks or pencils, or dividing it as carefully as you would divide a pile of coins and then weaving it into tight yellow plaits."

See?  She does such a great job making the ordinary, extraordinary and the extraordinary, ordinary. We can all be surfers, yes?

What are your favorite brain-tickling books?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hardboiled Detective)

The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hardboiled Detective)

Written by Nate Evans and Paul Hindman.  Illustrated by Vince Evans.

Special Guest Review by Max, Age 8

              Humpty Dumpty Jr. Hardboiled Detective is about a pancake named Johnny Cakes.  At the beginning of this story Johnny Cakes breaks out of jail to form a gang and Humpty Dumpty must track him down and put him back in jail.   You will also meet an Ice Cream Dragon and a kidnapped woman and have several other adventures.  Will Johnny Cakes get away with his scheme or will Humpty Dumpty and his side kick rat save the day?  You will have to read this great book to find the answer for yourself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Grace’s Turn

A special guest review by Josefina, age 10

Grace's Turn
By: Christy Carlson Romano

And now.  .  .  .
For the star of the show.  .  .  .  .
Grace di Govanni!  Grace is a sixteen year old girl with broad dreams or shall I say Broadway dreams.  She wants to be a star but she has lots of problems to deal with on the way to becoming a star.  Some of her problems are loads of homework, an over protective family, a super sensitive boyfriend and a girl who gets the lead part in the school play every time because her mom paid for the theater to be built.  

This year the school is performing Grace’s favorite play, Grease!  Grace desperately wants the lead girl part of Sandy.  There is a new hope a Broadway director is going to judge who gets what part and he is also going to direct the play.  But will Grace get the part? .  .  .  I hope.

This book is called Grace’s Turn, by Christy Carlson Romano, who played Bell in the Broadway play Beauty and the Beast.

Even the Snowmen Read when Snowed In

We caught our local snowman,  (Or snow wahine?) reading:

Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing

I guess even snowmen dream of warm, sunny days!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Books as Train Wrecks

I just finished reading the book Honolulu, by Alan Brennert.  It was good.  Fun, sort of light, interesting tie-ins to factual historical events, and shed some light upon Korean culture-both in Korea and in Hawaii, during the 1920s and 30s.  Last year I read Brennert's book Molokai, about the people with Hansen's Disease, also known as Leprosy.  I liked Molokai better, if only because of one, dark secret about my reading preferences:

I like train-wreck books.

Huh?  You know, books about subjects that make you squirm.  Books about things people would rather not know about.  Books that expose facts and secrets that public figures have tried to sweep under the rug.  Books about things that happened that nobody's proud of.

I have no idea when this started, but after I finished reading Honolulu, I thought "Well, that was good, but not totally interesting. His first book was better. Why?  Oh.  YEAH! I should write a blog about the train wrecks I've read in the last year or so."  Here goes.

The Swamp

This book, by Michael Grunwald, tells the story of the rape and pillage of the state of Florida.  It starts by explaining how the 2000 recount/ election Supreme Court decision might have been the nail in the coffin for any hope of eventual environmental reclamation in Florida.  Then, it goes all the way back, like a Michener novel, to the ecological formation of Florida and works its way forward. 

I wrote my major graduate paper for landscape history class on Florida.  I love Florida.  I have since I was a little girl, and skinned my knees getting off the bus on my first trip to Disney World.  I'm part of the problem, though.  My ambivalent feelings bubble to the surface every time I visit my parents, in their place in Ft. Myers.  Their house backs up to the Six Mile Cypress Slough.  You can see the Slough from the air when you fly into the RSW airport.  It is one of the only natural features left.

Most people don't really know that Florida, south of Lake Okeechobee is naturally one big swamp.  A "River of Grass," as author Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote. The Swamp takes you through Florida's history, from the removal of the native Seminoles, to Big Sugar, to the post World War Two real estate boom, the arrival of "The Mouse," and into the present day.  I wonder if Grunwald will put out a new edition with an appendix of the great housing bust of the late 2000s.  It would be fitting.

The Colony

I don't remember if I read Molokai first or The Colony first, but they're both fascinating.  The Colony is a detailed nonfiction account of the Leprosy colony on an isolated strip of one of the least-visited Hawaiian Islands.  I picked it up in the airport one time, because I needed something to hold my attention for a long plane flight.  I gravitated toward the Train Wreck.  The story of Father Damien, the Catholic Priest who risked his life, and eventually succumbed to leprosy, to help the captives of Molokai, interwoven with technical information about the disease, and the cruelty with which the Molokai colony was treated is both interesting and embarrassing.

The Imperial Cruise

My Dad and I listened to this book on CD while driving to Florida a couple of weeks ago. Talk about embarrassing.  I tweeted, not long after finishing it, "I just listened to this book that makes me think that Teddy Roosevelt was a crook!"  That definitely sparked a conversation, one which was nearly impossible to carry on via the 140 character per tweet limit.  For a summary of the book, I'd recommend reading the excellent book review in the New York Times, found here.

The title of the review is "The Queasy Side of Theodore Roosevelt's Diplomatic Voyage."  The reviewer ISN'T KIDDING.  Suffice to say, I've never heard/read so much talk about racial views of a particular time period or people, including anything about the Third Reich, as I have in this book.  Some would say that the perspectives presented should be given some slack, due to the time period.  Others say that the Author's perspective colors the narrative, too much.  The New York Times book review gives a thoughtful opinion about that, and some more information about the facts presented.  Example:  that the US was waterboarding Filipinos way back when, same as in recent times.  There was even, horror of horrors, a "patriotic song" about it.  The NYT reviewer reminds us that, while many of the facts presented in the book aren't common knowledge, they have seen the light of day before this book.  Perhaps this book will make the shocking facts "common knowledge" so that we can learn from them, once and for all. We'll see.

I say, the book is an eerie look back at how history keeps repeating itself, over and over and over again.  My verdict, after reading the book:  "Diplomatic" policy in the US, 1895-1905, yeah, TRAIN WRECK. Again, an enlightening and completely embarrassing book.

The Last Town on Earth

Another joyful book,The Last Town on Earth, by Thomas Mullen, is about the Flu epidemic of 1918, as it affects a fictional small town (based on actual small towns) in a remote mill town of the Pacific Northwest.  The town barricades itself in a quarantine against all outside interaction.  That means nobody can leave for booze, food, or "other comforts." 

Drama ensues when a sick, starving person tries to get through the barricade.  The town is then forced to take action, and the resulting twists and turns are heartbreaking and surprising.  Let's just say that the flu that eventually ravages the town doesn't come from where you think it comes from.

I like to read happy books, too.  But the train wrecks really hold my attention.  What are your favorite "train wreck" books?  Books that make you squirm, but that you can't put down?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I think about When I think about Bestsellers

The other day, Kathleen and I were discussing the new book "Committed," by Elizabeth Gilbert.  We both agreed that we enjoyed it.  My mother has said to me "I don't want to read about somebody's marriage."  Well, the book's not about her marriage.  It basically ends with the marriage.  It is really about thinking about marriage, deciding to get married, and how other cultures perceive marriage.

It's a memoir, so we see everything through the lens of Gilbert's personal experiences.  Therefore, if you read "Eat, Pray, Love," her most famous memoir, and you didn't like it, or thought she was whiny, you won't like this one, because she has the same voice. If you did like "Eat, Pray, Love," you'll probably enjoy "Committed," because it invites considering similar life questions:  What do I want to do with my life?  With whom do I want to spend it?  Where do I want to live?  What are my values?

There are some people who won't read a book just because it is a bestseller.  They didn't read "Eat, Pray, Love" because of that.  I held out for a long time on that one, too, for the same reason.

The Mighty Bestseller

This is entirely my own opinion, but something every bookseller, or every avid reader probably confronts at one point or another:  why do I read?  And, do I really want to read something that everyone else on the planet is reading right now?  There's something nice about being able to discuss a book with virtually everyone you meet.  But, there's something close and private about discovering a book that you like that NOBODY else is reading, or has read.  It is like a little secret with yourself.

Reading a book that isn't on the bestseller list confers its own status, consciously or unconsciously.  It says "I'm reading this because I like to read.  Not because my friend told me to."  It says "I can find little gems of printed word all by myself, thank you very much."  It says "I'm an individual.  I don't follow the crowd."

What I've found, though, when I refuse to read bestsellers, just because they're bestsellers, is that sometimes I miss out on really good books.  When I finally get around to reading one of those, I say to myself "Why was I the LAST person on earth to read this?"

How about you?  Do you read bestsellers often?  Do you pause before picking one up?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Valentine's Day Gifts at Pomegranate Books

We have a large selection of Valentine's Day gifts for every taste.  Books, prints, post cards, and more!  We also have local, handmade Valentines for your sweetie.

Don't want to spend $80 on roses that are, well, already "at the end of their lives" when you give them to your sweetie?  What about a Pomegranate Books gift certificate, instead? We'll even wrap it up for you in sparkly paper!

Delight your favorite bookworm with his or her favorite gift: an all-expenses paid trip to Pomegranate Books!