James has been a bookseller for eighteen years. He enjoys writing poetry and short stories. He also enjoys live theater--especially Shakespeare. And his favorite authors include: Annie Dillard, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L'Engle, Amy-Jill Levine, and Barbara Brown Taylor.
This is the perfect Summer read!: sunny and gay (in both senses of that word)—just like the Palm Springs vacation we all need. Through sad circumstances, Patrick O’Hara (as the gay uncle or ”guncle”) has charge of his young niece and nephew for the Summer. But this is a comedy. It is, in fact, a valentine to Auntie Mame—replete with all of the glitz and glamour, the heart and humor that you would expect. The Guncle is a delight!
Gilda suffers from anxiety and an obsession with death. Tender-hearted, she lies to avoid hurting other people’s feelings (or upsetting their perceptions of reality). So she sets herself up for some bizzare I Love Lucy-like situations. As the reader, we are inside her head (and along for the ride) as she spirals and soars…and occasionally shines. Her vulnerability is her strength. And this darkly comic novel’s heroine—with whom we cannot help but fall in love—reminds us what it’s really like to be human in our often messy world.
This post-apocalyptic novel features two very different protagonists who share in the telling of this story. It is the story of a journey--a difficult journey through a harsh and hostile landscape--but, more importantly, the journey of self-discovery and love in the midst of so much loss, grief, and uncertainty about the future. The writing and character development are superb. This is a most rewarding page-turner!
One of the best YA LGBTQ books that I have read. I loved this novel! The romance and the character development were compelling. I only wish that there had been this kind of novel when I was growing up!
This novel reads like a good film--it caught and held my attention and proved to be a fine and fun adventure. The sweet romance and good humor were just right.
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate Di Camillo. "What world is this I now inhabit, and how shall I live in it?” These are the words that haunt a young girl who can only remember her name—Beatryce. Found wounded and without her memory, Beatryce is offered shelter by the kindly Brother Edic, a monk of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. He nurses her back to health and disguises her as one of the monks in order to protect her from the danger he believes is her fate—she is the one of prophecy, and a threat to the King. And so it is that Beatryce must pretend to be someone she is not in order to be safe. But she is not safe. She must go back into the world—a world at war—and her adventure is fraught with danger. Beatryce must piece together the fragments of her memory (which come to her in dreams) and remember who she is in order to save the realm. Along the way she meets up with Jack Dory, who, in contrast to Beatryce, has a “prodigious” memory—along with the gift of mimicry (all of which comes in handy in times of crisis). He notices the sky and can recognize the “blue of unexpected beginnings”. Jack also has the good sense to pay attention to the bees! And, as with the best of Kate DiCamillo’s books, there is an iconic animal character: Answelica, the “demon” goat. Loyal (and loving) only to Beatryce, Answelica is a fierce protector. But, then again, is anyone safe when they must pretend to be someone they are not in order to survive? The Beatryce Prophecy is a wise and wonderful middle reader novel, packed with plenty of adventure and a good measure of heart as well!
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske. A seamless mashup of literary genres (historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, and romance) coalesce in this fascinating and fresh tale of magic and magicians—with a Queer twist— set in Edwardian England. It all begins with a deadly curse and then a murder. Right away, we know the stakes are high. Enter Robin Blyth, a non-magical wealthy and titled gentlemen appointed to a minor government post as a liaison between the government and a secret magical society. He meets the magical society’s Edwin Courcey. Together they must attempt to unravel the mystery that falls upon them both with cruel swiftness and dire consequences. This first novel in a planned trilogy promises much and, so far, delivers on that promise.
Noted forest ecologist, Suzanne Simard, has written an illuminating and compelling book—weaving the insights of her years of research with her own personal story. She writes with the authority and clarity of a scientist, and with the soul of a poet. More than a book, this is a richly rewarding journey of discovery—the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years!
“Are we there, yet?” isn’t just the persistent comment from the kids in the back seat of the car. It is, if we’re being honest, a good question. From ancient times, the motif of life as a journey resonates throughout literature. We are reminded of The Canterbury Tales, where everyone has a story to tell. So, as we plan our own travels (vacations, holidays, or pilgrimages), let us consider how we might become better travelling companions—by truly listening to the stories of others and by risking sharing our own stories! Whether you’re in search of a beach read, a travel guide, or a mind trip—QABC is your destination! There is so much to discover together!
I read this for a course on race and justice. And I found this to be an excellent book on an often difficult subject. Honest, forthright, thoughful, painful and hopeful--this book is exactly what I needed to read at this moment in our nation's history. Highly recommended.
This is the history book I wish that I had read when I was a student in school. Sadly, this is the history that, for many of us (most of us), was not taught in school. Well worth the time spent here, there is not a boring page in it.
This collection of Dr. King's sermons was foundational for shaping my own theological journey. I recently re-read them from cover to cover. And they still echo down the years with prophetic power and great wisdom.
Of the many resources that we now find available to us to help us as we struggle to understand and to listen to this urgent national conversation on race and justice, this book is written explicitly within a Christian context. As such, the format here provides the perfect context for why it is so essential for our faith and formation to take this journey now. This is our call and challenge.
This novel is a delightful journey back in time. There is plenty of heart and humor along the way. I loved it!
An unusual--no, an odd--love story. Who would do this? Really? What Lou does... well, it's nothing short of astounding. Nevertheless, this novel (only Annie's second work of fiction), is a stylistic triumph. For AD has pared down the verbage to the absolute bare minimum. The language and the story is all about essentials. For here is the keen and sharp life of the mind as it parces the language of love. What does it mean to love someone--especially when they fail you? What do you have in the end when everything extraneous is cut away? Turns out that there is quite a lot--a lot to live on. And think about. This novel is unforgettable. I loved it!
So, what happens when a renowned Episcopal preacher teaches a university World Religions 101 course and, along the way, learns herself some life-changing lessons on God and what it means to have faith? Like all of Barbara Brown Taylor's books (and sermons), this book is a please to read. Her writing is engaging, thoughtful, and challenging. And funny, too. (Not always, mind you. But, often enough). Another book that I thoroughly enjoyed!
My favorite New Testament scholar has written a magestic book on the parables of Jesus. (Some of these have also been adapted, with illustrations, into children's picture books.) Looking at the parables with attention to how they would have been heard by the original first century Jewish audience, Levine re-tells these stories (that have become so familiar to us that we now often miss what they are trying to tell us). AJL is always excellent and well-worth listening to and reading. (She is a professor, lecturer and writer). A must for students of the Bible (both professional and otherwise).
It is now a yearly tradition for me to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia in December. And I never grow tired of visiting Narnia. Of the seven volumes, my personal favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Who doesn't want to live on board a ship and sail for adventures!). Interesting side note: though these stories may seem a "grab bag" collection of genres, a fairly recent work of literary criticism by Oxford scholar, Michael Ward, has done (I think) a convincing job of demonstrating the authors "hidden" coherance of the novels. See his book, Planet Narnia, for the details. (It, too, is excellent.)
If there was a contest for writing a story that begins with the now cliche, "It was a dark and stormy night..." (remember Snoopy always begin to write this way, too), then this novel would be my choice for the top prize. The first book in a series (many of L'Engle's characters share a fictional family tree connection), A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy / fable that speaks powerfully to each generation of what it means to be uniquely one's self--and not be conformed to the tyrany of "the same". Told from the perspective of the young and the vulnerable, this conflict of good verses evil is set in a sci-fi / fantasy world that is also very much grounded in the homely realities of family and friends. It's about loyalty and love. And, of course, it's about saving the world.
The story that started it all. The journey that started it all. J. R. R. Tolkien gives us not only an enchanting story, he creates for us an enchanting world--with a full-blown mythology and language and geography that is as rich and diverse, and strange--and strangely familiar-- as our own world. Of course you'll want to continue on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Then you'll want to return to these books again and again. There is so much to notice. So much to love.
You don't really run across very many epistolary novels these days. This one--well deserving the category of contemporary classic--is a novel of letters. Alice Walker weaves together a tapestry of characters whose lives come together and come undone, and are beautifully mended (somehow). This novel is heart-rending and lovely, and ultimately magical. Don't miss this one!
If you thought saints led holy and good and boring lives, then you haven't read Godric. This award-winning novel by the great Frederick Buechner is stark and rolicking, bawdy and heartfelt, and holy--but not holy in a holier-than-thou sense. This is a fast-paced adventure. A novel (based on some historical events and characters) that is divinely fleshed out in a thoroughly human way. Delightful!
Years ago, when I read this for class, I never dreamed that I would live in the Pacific Northwest (which is the setting for this now classic YA novel). Growing up in south Florida, the terrain (to say nothing of the villages) it describes was unfamilar to me. In many ways, it still is. But the sense of entering into a place and a way of life that is so different (from what one has always known) is part of what keeps this novel one that is still one that, in spite of some of the dated language, is haunting and beautiful, and sad. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I feel an even greater kinship to this novel.
My favorite play in the Shakespeare cannon. LLL is a celebration (and parody) of language. The bantering back and forth, the upstaging and puncturing of egos, and the war of the sexes all combine to make this play feel more modern than its 16th century context would lead you to believe. This comedy is unorthodox in so many way, not least in the fact that the ending does not wrap itself up in a tidy bow (the proverbial happy ending wedding, so popular then as now). But, that is not a spoiler. The title gives that plot point away. The Folger Library editions are the best for reading Shakespeare (with the text on the right, the notes and illustrations on the left). This is great theater!
This Pulitzer Prize Winning book is the one that put Annie Dillard on the map, as they say. Nevertheless, it is Dillard herself who actually maps the territory here. A modern day Walden Pond (as it has been compared to), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is an odd and wonderful mash up of metaphysics and science--all anchored in a very specific stretch of nature, with a very specific geographical context. Paradoxically, the particulars lend themselves to universals (and it's Aristotle and Plato in the School of Athens... only in New England this time). This is a magnificent book!
Annie Dilliard is my favorite--and, indeed--I would maintain--our greatest living American author. She lives up to all the hype. Though her body of work is not voluminous. When I want to encourage a reader to dive into her work, I usually recommend that they begin here--with this magnificent collection of essays. This is the perfect Annie Dillard sampler. This will give you an excellent introduction to the author.
So... long before there was Hogwarts and Harry Potter (and no need to disparage JKR's wonderful series), there was the wizard's school of Roke, and the novels of Earthsea. These are wonderful adventures! And now, having the novels together in one volume--beautifully illustrated!--is a real treat. If you've never immersed yourself in the world of Earthsea, then perhaps it is high time that you did. Highly recommended.
I know, I know. Moby Dick--the book that seems to be as big and scary as a whale! The one that, if you are like me, we were supposed to have read for our American Literature class. (But we never seemed to have actually got through... for a host of no doubt good reasons.) Nevertheless, like so many other classics that I have returned to in my adult life (when I was not under the gun of a deadline, or paper, or exam), this book did finally grab ahold of and keep my attention--all through that dark, wet, and chilly Seattle Autumn when I committed to the journey. (Autumn is, by the way, a perfect time to read this book.) Epic in scope and drenched in atomosphere, the novel takes some time to ground us in its larger-than-life setting and subject (Hawthorne's language, style, and attention to detail take some getting used to for modern readers: it may seem almost encyclopedic and overmuch at times. For example, there is an entire chapter on Chowder! Yet this is also its glory. For Melville is, in building this story, building a ship, a life on a ship, a life at sea, and it all culminates in an ultimate journey. I loved it! (In spite of Woody Allen's funny / snarky comment in Zellig about no one ever finishing Moby Dick). Go back. Read it. You'll be hooked. (Literally.)
Known now primarily for her series of mystery novels, Dorothy L. Sayers, considered her finest work to have been her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. In this respect, I believe she was correct. Though the more modern verse translation by the Hollanders is very good, I prefer DLS's more classic translation--which she sets out (as in the original Italian) in terza rhyme. Her notes throughout are the best I've found anywhere (short of delving into the deeper waters of Charles Williams works on Dante). And, although many (if not most) readers nowadays never venture beyond the first of the three volumes (we tend to find Hell or The Inferno much more interesting), I would encourage making the whole three part journey through to the glorious finale! Futhermore, as Dante will remind you: pay attention to the stars.
The editors of The Annotated Jewish New Testament explore some of the Hebrew Bible stories that Jews and Christians share in common. With insight and humor, this book is a much-needed and welcome addition to the growing body of literature dedicated to re-visiting these classics texts, and examining what we can learn from each other. These are fresh readings with exciting implications for today!
This is a delightful collections of essays, talks, sermons, and sundry pieces that Barbara Brown Taylor has compiled--with reflections on the circumstances under which these talks were given. BBT is a progressive voice whose writings have inspired and challenged folks from a variety of faiths. This anthology is remarkably personal and heartfelt.