Best of 2014: Audiovisual

We end our Best of 2014 list with all things vision and sound. Enjoy our staff selected list of the best in film and music for the year.

Film & Television

F1

Cutie and the Boxer
Artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara have been in a challenging marriage for 40 years. For starters, Noriko states she is not Ushio’s assistant, while Ushio claims she is.

It’s fascinating to watch these artists create. The scenes of Ushio boxing his canvases with dripping gloves contrast nicely with Noriko’s careful drawing style. -Elizabeth

Guardians of the Galaxy
Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.

Even if you know nothing about the comic books (I certainly didn’t) you’ll be cheering on our anti-hero outlaws as they band together to save the universe. Almost stealing the show from our actors: the retro soundtrack (aka Awesome Mix Vol. 1) -Carol

In a World
An unsuccessful vocal coach competes against her arrogant father in the movie trailer voice-over business.

Starring in and directing her first movie, Lake Bell delivers a quirky, sophisticated, personal, and compulsively watchable comedy that champions the underdog. It’s also nice that funnymen Demetri Martin and Ken Marino are given a chance to act. -Alan

F2

The Spectacular Now
While Aimee dreams of the future, Sutter lives in the now, and yet somehow, they’re drawn together. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth.

An authentic portrait of teen life and family relationships tempered with humor, relatable characters, and a nice edge. A smart, wise film that made me want to seek out the director’s “Smashed.” -Alan

The White Queen
Love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder in one of the most turbulent times in English history highlight Philippa Gregory novels set in 1464 and adapted for TV…all through 3 women who scheme and seduce their way to the throne.

For fans of Game of Thrones and British period pieces and those wonderful costumes. It’s also thrilling to witness the deceptions, plot twists and treacheries all to get and keep the throne. -Linda

Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season One.
Jake Peralta is a Brooklyn detective with a gift for closing cases and little respect for authority. When no-nonsense commanding officer Raymond Holt joins the 99th precinct with something to prove, the two go head-to-head.

Starring both comedians and serious actors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is guaranteed to make you laugh. Seriously: I bet a friend she’d laugh and she did! I’ve discovered I think like Rosa and dress like Gina, but follow the rules like Amy and speak like Jake! -Carol

Music

M1Indie Cindy | The Pixies
Although not as blisteringly sonically dense as the Pixies of old, Indie Cindy brings about a new chapter for the band. They’re still not in a happy, friendly, hug-filled place, just perhaps 3 inches closer.

Not many bands can create delight out of pain. -Ron

Kudos to You! | Presidents of the United States of America
Quirky rockers return with more songs of everyday life. Energetic as always, distinctive yet fresh, rocking, clever, silly. Perfect.

There ain’t nobody like them. Such simple ideas but never tiresome. Most of all, fun! -Ron

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music | Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson’s sophomore album. While the album’s sound feels like it was made in 2014, it has more in common with Merle Haggard than Florida Georgia Line.

I wouldn’t classify myself a “country music” listener (especially if you include anything produced after the 1970s), but this album stands out from almost everything else I’ve heard this year. -Zac

M2

Rockabilly Riot! : All Original | Brian Setzer
35 years later, Setzer is still cranking out authentic, exciting rockabilly, songs destined to be the classics of the future.

Virtuoso guitar, classic riffs, outstanding originals. How can he do so much with so few chords? -Ron

Tribal | Imelda May
Imelda May is rockabilly’s premier female singer,and her latest album has been eagerly anticipated. It is more contemplative than earlier stuff, slower paced, but still features Imelda’s knockout voice.

Imelda Imelda Imelda. -Ron

Best of 2014: Young Adult Fiction and Graphic Novels

We continue our Best of 2014 staff picked list today with two very popular categories that people of all ages enjoy: young adult books and graphic novels.

Young Adult Fiction

YA1

Blue Lily, Lily Blue | Maggie Stiefvater
Blue and her Raven Boy cohorts, continue to search for the Welsh king Glendower — but now they are also looking for Blue’s mother who has gone missing, leaving only a note saying she’s underground.

Stiefvater is a multitalented writer, artist and musician. Listen to the Raven Cycle series on audio to hear some of her music between chapters. -Elizabeth

The Girl from the Well | Rin Chupeco
A teen boy haunted by a malevolent spirit, a 300 year old ghost who tracks down and kills murderers of children, a seemingly evil mother, and a trip to Japan for an exorcism – all make for a story infused with an eerie atmosphere and writing style.

This is my kind of horror: not too horrifying. Instead of grisly details, there is mood aplenty – somber, dark, and foreboding – and the bit of background on Japanese ghost stories made me want to seek out other related material. -Elizabeth

In a Handful of Dust | Mindy McGinnis
Lynn and Lucy have fought hard to survive in a world with very little water, when a deadly polio strain sweeps into the camp. Lucy is forced to flee with Lynn and her journey to find a safe place is fraught with danger.

Simply written yet always building momentum and tension, these books are quick reads that are hard to put down. I appreciated the tough, resourceful female characters in the first book, and the second further illustrates their powerful will to survive. -Elizabeth

Young Adult Graphic Novels

YA2

Through the Woods | Emily Carrol
Canadian artist Emily Carrol presents five gorgeously illustrated and deliciously creepy ghost stories; each will chill your bones.

Not only are Carrol’s full color drawings exceptionally well designed and saturated with mood and movement, but her storytelling is perfectly paced to build the horror through each story and as the book progresses. -Elizabeth

Tomboy | Liz Prince
From the age of two, Liz hates anything ‘girly’. As she grows up she is teased, bullied, ridiculed and even beaten up, all the while scorning the typical roles for girls and women.

As a tomboy of sorts myself, I really enjoyed Liz’s story. She describes so perfectly the complete awkwardness and emotional turmoil of middle school years, yet she has always remained true to her own convictions about who she is. -Elizabeth

Graphic Novels & Memoirs

GN1

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? | Roz Chast
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, it delivers comfort and comic relief.

It’s touching, well-wrought, and really conveys what it’s like to care for aging parents in a very different way. -Alan

Ms. Marvel Volume 1, No Normal | G. Willow Wilson
Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm!

This was my gateway into the Marvel Universe. This year I’ve finally gotten on the comic/graphic novel bandwagon and this has everything: action, adventure, sci-fi, and a kick-butt heroine! If you love strong female characters you NEED this book! -Carol

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances | Matthew Inman
Matthew Inman, author of the incredibly popular webcomic “The Oatmeal,” gives us a compilation of comics, focused on his love/hate relationship with running.

I’m a long-time fan of “The Oatmeal,” and I’m drawn to Inman’s quirky, snarky, sense of humor. -Zac

Best of 2014: Children’s Books

We continue our Best of 2014 list today with books for the younger set. From picture books to graphic novels, take a look at our staff selected titles.

Picture Books and Easy Readers

Childrens1

Breaking News: Bear Alert | David Biedrzycki
In this story (told in the form of a television broadcast with up to the minute updates along the bottom of each page), bears emerge from hibernation demanding to be fed.

This picture book is a comical on-the-scene news story of two bears creating chaos by simply going to town. -Andrea

Little Green Peas: a Big Book of Colors | Keith Baker
Little green peas make their way into collections of objects of many different colors, from blue boats, seas, and flags, to orange balloons, umbrellas, and fizzy drinks.

Lovely art — each page could hang on your wall. Expressive, cute, and (because a kid’s book needs to teach) teaches colors. Concept books aren’t usually this good. The total package. -Alan

The Midnight Library | Kazuno Kohara
The Little Librarian works at night with her three assistant owls. It all happens at this library: patrons who don’t want to leave at closing and noisy patrons who are shown to the quiet room.

The little librarian knows how to turn a little trouble into a lot of fun. -Leslie

Childrens2

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild | Peter Brown
Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger. Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper. He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be…wild.

I loved how Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself. -Leslie

My New Friend is So Fun! | Mo Willems
Mo Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggie characters each make new friends.

As a parent of very young kids trying to navigate the friendship frontier, this book was a conversation-starter, one that teaches a lesson about possessiveness with Willems’ trademark style and humor boosting the story beautifully. -Alan

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not) | Peter Brown
Bobby thinks his teacher, Ms. Kirby, is horrible, but when he sees her outside of school and they spend a day in the park together, he discovers she might not be so bad after all.

I love everything by Peter “Children Make Terrible Pets” Brown. His books are funny, smart, and creepy (in the right way). This one gets across that teachers are people too. -Alan

Stella’s Starliner | Rosemary Wells
Stella and her Mama and Daddy have everything they need in their silver home called the Starliner until some mean weasels say mean things about the Starliner. Stella finds new friends in a new place and is once again proud of her silver home.

“Later all the boys and girls cheered when the bookmobile came. Stella and her mama read their books until they knew them by heart. Stella didn’t have a worry in the world.” -Leslie

Children’s Fiction and Graphic Novels

Childrens3

The Boundless | Kenneth Oppel
Will and his father join 6000 other passengers on the first journey of Boundless, an extravagantly outfitted train pulling nearly 1000 cars.

Boundless is a fun, action packed adventure with lovable and despicable characters. The setting is original and the scenes are brilliantly drawn. I could almost feel myself jumping between cars with Will and Maren. -Elizabeth

Sisters | Raina Telgemeier
Fourteen year old Raina is on a summer road trip from California to Colorado with her mother, 9 year old sister, and 6 year old brother. Sibling rivalry, teasing, taunting, and sweltering heat conspire to make for a bumpy ride.

Sisters, as in Smile (2010), shows us a portrait of a real family, at times laughing and playful, struggling and arguing, slipping and falling, but all along caring for each other and making the best of what they have together. -Elizabeth

Children’s Nonfiction

101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition : Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts | Kyra Sundance
In addition to step-by-step instructions for teaching tricks such as jumping through hoops and opening doors, this book has simple projects for children to do for and with their dog.

The illustrations are colorful and the instructions are broken down so that they are easy to follow. -Theresa

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet | Chris Barton
In this ironic, vividly illustrated guide the most common gaming terminology is easy to understand and fun to explore.

The perfect gift for everyone on your list who loves picture books and video games. It’s a subtle way to introduce coding lingo into your child’s vocabulary. Start them young! -Carol

Childrens4

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids : 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House | Liz Lee Heinecke
There’s a treasure-trove of science experiments hiding in your refrigerator, pantry, and junk drawer! This book invites you to explore science with simple projects and ingredients.

The illustrations make the instructions easy to follow, the science behind the project is explained, and they truly use (mostly) things commonly found in a household. -Theresa

Red madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat | Gail Jarrow
The early years of the 20th Century saw a mysterious deadly illness spreading in the American South. Pellagra first showed itself as a rash, then diarrhea, followed by dementia; death was the final result as there was no known cure.

This is a true-life mystery at its best with lots of false trails leading to dead ends but with the killer thwarted in the end through the determination of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, one of our country’s unsung heroes. -Theresa

Sniffer Dogs | Nancy Castaldo
A dog’s sense of smell is so keen, it’s the equivalent of a human being able to read an eye chart 5 miles away! A fascinating study of the multiple ways humans are taking advantage of dogs’ tremendous nose.

It’s so fascinating how dogs’ noses are being put to good use in so many ways. -Theresa

Super Human Encyclopedia: Discover the Amazing Things Your Body Can Do | Steve Parker
Great gift book for a budding scientist. Colorful illustrations of the human body reveal the truly amazing processes going on inside us. Open it to any page and find something interesting.

A color enlargement of a white blood cell devouring a group of tuberculosis bacteria grabbed me immediately when I opened this book. -Theresa

Best of 2014: Nonfiction

We continue our daily posts from our staff picked Best of 2014 list with all things factual. Read on for great nonfiction books ranging in topic from Wall Street shenanigans, Hollywood scandals, cookbooks, humor and much more.

NF1

A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction | Joel Greenberg
The story of the passenger pigeon; how flocks of billions of birds were shot, clubbed, burned, crushed, flailed, speared, drowned, and blown up; a species’ extinction by wanton human butchery.

I’d read stories about the passenger pigeon’s fate, but couldn’t believe what I was reading. This author’s careful documentation allows no evasion of the book’s central thesis. -Cameron

Capital in the Twenty-First Century | Thomas Piketty
Economist Piketty relates in great detail why funneling money to the already rich leads to the past devouring the future.

It is a tour de force of scholarship, spanning the globe and spanning centuries. -Cameron

Flash Boys | Michael Lewis
Relates how certain Wall Street traders laid their own high speed communications line from Chicago to New York to purchase stock before anyone else. They beat the buyer to the punch and sell at a profit.

Pulls back the curtain on a whole array of tawdry Wall Street scams. The kicker is that there is no law to stop them. -Cameron

Food : a Love Story | Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan gives his listeners what they really crave, his thoughts on all things culinary(ish).

Gaffigan is one of the funniest, smartest, and cleanest comics working today. Here he adds plenty of new material to what fans will already expect. Try the audiobook, narrated by Gaffigan himself. -Alan

NF2

Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets and Recipes from our Kitchen | Nathan, Zoe
Recipes for delectable baked goods, both sweet and savory, abound. Illustrated with mouth-watering photos.

I love sampling cookbooks from the library before deciding whether to purchase for my personal collection. -Eileen

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s | Tom Doyle
Based on exclusive first-hand interviews, a chronicle of Paul McCartney’s struggles in the first decade after the Beatles’ breakup discusses his reclusive life, substance abuses, arrests, and efforts to launch his band Wings.

Love it or hate it, Paul was prolific in the 70’s and I happen to love his output from the period (especially Ram and Red Rose Speedway). This details everything, including depression, granting him depth the music doesn’t necessarily indicate. -Alan

One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band | Alan Paul
Told through the voices of band members, roadies, family, and friends, it is the story of an iconic–and tragic–rock band of the sixties, the Allman Brothers Band.

Really puts the Allmans in context, a fusion band with influences from blues, rock, jazz, country, and even classical. -Cameron

The Portlandia Cookbook: Cook Like a Local | Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, with Jonathan Krisel
This cookbook features the best recipes from the stimulating food mecca that is Portland.

Portlandia. Need I go on? Okay, fine. This book combines two of my favorites: cooking and the TV show Portlandia. The recipes are real, but humor runs amok in the sidebars and chapter breaks. I’m asking Santa for this one. -Carol

NF3

QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground | Scott Stratten
Using real-life examples from human resources, marketing, branding, networking, public relations, and customer service, this book offers tips and guidance on how to prevent in-person and online/social media slip-ups.

I’m part of a team of library staffers who run the library’s social media platforms. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve the work I am doing, since it relfects on the library. Also, there’s a kitten on the cover! -Carol

Retro baby : Cut Back on all the Gear and Boost Your Baby’s Development with More than 100 Time-Tested Activities | Anne Zachry
New isn’t always better when it comes to the health and well-being of babies. Retro Baby is full of tips for inexpensive toys and simple activities to enhance your baby’s development without investing in all manner of high-tech baby gear.

Published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is full of the newest research findings about child development along with practical ways to help your baby thrive. This is a great gift for anyone with a new baby. -Theresa

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema | Anne Helen Petersen
A collection of shocking clashes and controversies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, featuring notorious personalities including Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, and more.

This is a smart treatment backed up by solid research that debunks rather than celebrates scandal. -Alan

NF4

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory | Caitlin Doughty
Young aspiring crematory operator Caitlin Doughty takes readers behind the scene of America’s death industry. Not for the faint of heart due to some graphic descriptions, this book provides a very thought-provoking look at what happens to us after we die.

This was a very honest and surprisingly humorous discussion of a topic most of us would like to ignore. Doughty provides some fascinating information about death rituals around the world, as well as a history of how we’ve responded to death in the US. -Lisa

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions | Randall Munroe
The creator of the popular webcomic xkcd receives a lot of odd queries from his fans. This book answers these (sometimes literally) burning questions such as: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?

The author’s dry wit and impressive scientific knowledge make this book not only hilarious but also amazingly informative. Impossible to put down once started. -Richard

Best of 2014: Fiction

It’s that time again. While it seems like only yesterday, 2014 is about to leave us and enter the history books. While there is no denying the passage of time, here at the library we like to make the most of it by reflecting on all the great items we have purchased and sharing our favorites with you. Since we order a lot of material, our list of favorites is pretty long. To make it more manageable for you to digest, here at A Reading Life we are going to publish a post a day this work week conveniently divided by topic.

First up, enjoy this listing of staff fiction favorites from 2014.

Fiction1

The Boy Who Drew Monsters | Keith Donohue
Ten-year-old agoraphobic Jack is housebound and only has one friend, Nick. He lives in a remote and mostly deserted seaside town. It’s frigid December when he begins drawing monsters, which soon begin to haunt the family.

The eerie setting, emotionless characterization, fumbling parents, and Nick’s inability to escape from Jack’s grasp all build to make this quite a page turner. I was reminded of reading The Shining as a teen…and imagining noises in the night!  -Elizabeth

Horrorstor | Grady Hendrix
After strange things start happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.

Orsk is a knock-off Ikea, and that idea is reinforced by the fact that this book’s designed inside & out to look like the iconic Ikea catalog. Anyone who has ever gotten lost inside the maze that is Ikea will be chilled and enthralled by this book. -Carol & Joyce

The Invention of Wings | Sue Kidd Monk
On her 11th birthday, Sarah Grimke is gifted with a slave called Hetty Handful. In this story spanning 35 years, both women become determined to rise above the injustices of their day.

This historical fiction came to life as the author gave voice to both women weaving a wonderful story. -Margo

Karate Chop: Stories | Dorthe Nors
This collection of brief short stories, the first translated into English from this Danish author, feature characters and settings that at first seem mundane. Keep reading and you will discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I found the streamlined structure of the stories very appealing. Not a word is out of place as the author explores the odd nuances of everyday human interactions and the often disturbing motivations of those involved. -Richard

Fiction2

On Such a Full Sea | Chang-rae Lee
Set in a dystopian future America, in a world beset with environmental disasters, Chinese workers raise fish and produce for the elites. Fan, a diver in the fish tanks, disrupts this carefully ordered world when she embarks on a search for her boyfriend.

I’m both intrigued at disturbed by near-future dystopian novels. Lee adds another level, as he explores the nature of myths and legends. -Eileen

Shovel Ready | Adam Sternbergh
A dirty bomb explodes in Times Square. The city empties. Spademan, a not-so-lovable protagonist, turns from garbage man into assassin. Rich people plug into virtual reality to avoid reality. Grit, noir, perversion, corrupt religious leaders.

This is one of those rare books that is extremely dark but still seems to contain light. -Ron

Station Eleven | Emily St. John Mandel
Arthur Leander collapses onstage while acting in King Lear. Jeevan tries to help, then gets a call from a doctor friend that a horrific flu pandemic is sweeping the country. Twenty years later we follow a traveling theatre group in the primitive new world

This is not run-of-the-mill predictable dystopian fiction. Artfully switching between past and present, Mandel takes us on a journey of relationships, failures, hopes, and dreams among the characters connected with Leander. -Elizabeth

Summer House with Swimming Pool | Herman Koch
A cabin fever story of a doctor and his family spending a week at a famous star’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by a rich supporting cast and with hints dropped throughout, the tragedy isn’t long to uncover itself.

The author’s “The Dinner” was a deeply disturbing psychological novel and an international hit. This appeals to the dark side of our nature and is impossible to put down. -Alan

Fiction3

The Free | Willy Vlautin
Award-winning author Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters looking to escape their financial, familial, and existential problems.

I love Willy Vlautin’s spare, poignant, humanistic style. Warning: there’s disturbing stuff in here, but it’s not exploitative. And to a thinking person, the irony of the title is the most disturbing aspect of the book. -Alan

The Painter | Peter Heller
Jim Stegner is a successful artist who appreciates the beauty of the land. He is also plagued with a recurring problem with violence. While trying to stay out of trouble, he witnesses an act of cruelty which causes him to spiral back into his anger.

As in The Dog Stars, Heller really captures the beauty of the western landscape. The lasting impression of this book however, was how he so expertly compels the reader to alternately empathize fully with Jim and then despise him. -Elizabeth

The White Magic Five and Dime : a Tarot Mystery | Steve Hockensmith
Alanis inherits a tarot business in tiny Berdache, Arizona from her estranged mother. She goes to the town in hopes of finding how her mother died, but stays while slowly getting pulled into the world of tarot. Mystery and romance round out this tale.

Hockensmith’s writing style is delightful, the story is filled mystery upon mystery, very fun start of a series. -Ron

Heavenly Pulp

It’s become a habit, a sleazy late-night habit, when the stars are out and the ladies are tucked away between chenille and damask sheets. But then we’re not dealing with ladies here are we? Broads, dames, happy cha-cha marimba girls in twirling sequined dresses and little else if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Pulp.

What with a tsunami of ancient pulp novels and short stories being reissued as ebooks, I’m discovering authors and characters I’ve never heard of, brave adventurers I crave to read about again and again. This is not frilly prose filled with multisyllabic words such as “anglepoise” or “asymptomatic” but rapid-fire, clipped writing featuring gats and hooch and stiffs.

Over the past few months, I’ve read little other than pulp and blogged about the same. One of my discoveries this month was Super-Detective Jim Anthony. Let me say that delicious name again: Super-Detective Jim Anthony. Written in the 1940’s before the U.S. entered World War II, Anthony is often described as a Doc Savage clone (no time to go into Savage today), sharing similar characteristics and cohorts. He is a perfect physical specimen, superior athlete, supergenius, inventor, engineer, chemist, and on and on. No time for ladies, duty calls! In Dealer in Death, Anthony must defeat the ultravillain Rado Ruric who is trying to bring down the U.S. in a bloody revolution. If you can imagine a Flash Gordon serial as a novel then you understand the concept.

As with many stories from this time period there are racial stereotypes that we no longer consider acceptable. And of course, women are, well, window dressing, underlings, dames, broads … Well, you get the picture. Dickens it ain’t, but I thoroughly enjoyed Super-Detective Jim Anthony (I could not resist saying it again) and his gang as they saved our beloved nation.

The library does not have a lot of pulp titles as they are long out-of-print, but you can find a few collections of short stories, as well as a book filled with pulp author profiles. Here are some titles worth (wait for it) checking out.

Pulp ActionThe Mammoth Book of Pulp Action ed. by Maxim Jakubowski
A collection of crime stories written in the 1930’s and beyond, this book features pulp authors such as Erle Stanley Gardner, David Goodis, Hugh B. Cave, Lawrence Block, Frederic Brown, John D. MacDonald and Ed Gorman.


Paperback Confidential
Paperback Confidential: Crime Writers of the Paperback Era by Brian Ritt
This title contains profiles of important pulp authors including Gil Brewer, Paul Cain, Lester Dent, Brett Halliday, Orrie Hitt, Elisabeth Saxnay Holding, Day Keene, Richard S. Prather, Harry Whittington and Cornell Woolrich.

 

Hard-boiledHard-boiled: an Anthology of American Crime Stories ed. by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian
An anthology of crime stories written from the 1920’s to the 1990’s by Raoul Whitfield, Frederick Nebel, James M. Cain, Chester Himes, Leigh Brackett, Jim Thompson and others.

 

Perhaps it’s hard to compare beautiful prose to pulp writing, but it’s the very hit-or-miss quality of metaphors and similes, the unlikely turns of phrase, the clichés, the “churn-it-out-if-you-wanna-get-paid” quality that makes pulp stories endearing to me. The stories in these anthologies are a good starting point, so find authors that grab your roving eye and then explore their writing further. Strangely, these long out-of-print tales are getting easier and easier to find.

And who can resist writing like this, a statement made by Dolores, the woman in love with … Super-Detective Jim Anthony?

 “Jim, don’t you realize that a killer as shrewd as that might have deliberately switched cars, knowing of your gelatine process?”

That, my friends, is pulp.

Embracing the Stereotype: The Modern Cat Lady

Growing up I had zero love for cats. In my defense I had every reason to keep my distance. None of my extended family had cats, and all my cat-loving friends tended to house whatever the feline equivalent of Cujo is. One friend in particular seemed to have an aversion to cleaning the litter box, so as a result the house just reeked. I thought that was how all cats smelled. I thought that was how all cats behaved. All of that changed in 2007 when in one afternoon I found myself with two kittens of my very own.

Over the ensuing years the number of cats in my house has fluctuated. Now my husband and I share our home with three, yes three darn cats:

  • The Dude, his name a blatant The Big Lebowski reference meant to win over my father-in-law, does indeed abide, though he can be a total spaz, too.
  • Tonks, named after my favorite Harry Potter character, is fiercely obsessed with all humans.
  • Gypsy, who was named after the squeaking heroine of MST3K, is the stereotypical ‘fraidy cat.

And stereotypes are what we’re talking about today, people. For one day I woke up and realized one giant truth about myself: I’m a cardigan-wearing, library-working, crazy cat lady. And I’m totally owning it! If you, like me, want to embrace the crazy cat lady stereotype, you’ll want to check out these books stat.

67 ReasonsFirst, let’s establish that cats are better than dogs. Don’t believe me? You definitely need to read 67 Reasons Why Cats are Better than Dogs by Jack Shepherd, who is responsible for launching the Animals section of BuzzFeed. Did you know that cats are better engineers, won’t eat your baby, comfort the afflicted, face their adversaries head-on, and are extremely hard workers? It’s true! Much like the website, this book is packed with imagery that proves point after point.

CHNA7291*catlady_case_1stPROOFS.inddat Lady Chic by Diane Lovejoy showcases dozens of glamorous, stylish, and posh women and their cats. These portraits range from classical paintings to iconic black-and-whites from Hollywood’s heyday to full-color photographs from the last few years. Marilyn Monroe, Ali MacGraw, Lana Del Rey, Lauren Bacall, Keira Knightly, Eartha Kitt, Twiggy, Ursula Andress, Eva Longoria, and of course Lee Meriwether dressed as Catwoman. These women embrace the stereotype and challenge it at the same time.

Cat PersonCat Person by Seo Kim is a collection of comics that started out as the author’s challenge to herself to create one new comic each day. I can tell she’s a true cat lady at heart because her cat, Jimmy, is featured in many comics in the front and back of the book. My favorites include the ways to hug a cat, different cat charades (imagine what chicken nugget and slug look like; if you have a cat this should be easy), and the horrible fate of unattended food left in front of a computer screen, Skype call in progress. Sometimes the panels so reflect my own life that I do a double-take. I’ve definitely found a kindred spirit in Seo Kim.

CatificationOnce I realized that being a cat lady isn’t so bad, I decided to see what more I could do to make life as a cat under my roof more enjoyable. That’s when I picked up Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin. I don’t have TV any more, so I hadn’t heard of Jackson Galaxy or his TV show, My Cat from Hell. But now I realize that Jackson is a genius. Yes, this book is packed with projects you can make to keep your cats happy and healthy inside your home. But it’s also got some great tips on recognizing your cat’s mood. You’ll also learn how to ensure your indoor-only cat can still have his animal instincts met (hunting, climbing, and so on). A happy cat is a happy cat lady. If this isn’t already a saying, I’m making it one.

PetcamSo what holiday gifts do you buy the modern cat lady in your life? Start with Petcam: The World Through the Lens of Our Four-Legged Friends by Chris Keeney. Any cat lady will appreciate all the trouble the three cats in this book went to in order to take some snazzy pics of their daily lives. Botty, Fritz, and Xander each wore small cameras around their necks and took photos of the places they traveled, the things they did, and the faces they saw along the way. If you think you’d like to get your cat lady a pet camera for her furry friend you may want to check out the back of the book before wrapping it. There are all kinds of tips and resources that will get you started.

Does your modern cat lady also work with customer service and/or social media? She’ll appreciate opening up QR Codes Kill Kittens by Scott Stratten. Scott was named one of the top five social media influencers in the world by Forbes, and his author photo on the dust jacket includes an adorable black cat. Consider:

If you knew that your terrible business decisions could cost a kitten its life, would you still do it? Of course not. No one wants to hurt a kitten, and no one wants to damage their own business through easily avoidable mistakes. But the trick is knowing which things are the wrong things to do.QR Codes

That’s where this book shines. Using real-life examples and plenty of illustrations, your modern cat lady will learn just what ideas that might seem great are actually hurting her image, both online and in real life, or IRL if you’re nerdy like me. Give your modern cat lady this book and she’ll thank you. In hashtags.

This year we at the library are participating in a Secret Santa game. Whoever is my Secret Santa knows me pretty well. I’m still not sure if this is a coincidence or killer intuition. But on the day I planned to write this post I received this little gift.

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You don’t have to live life avoiding the cat lady stereotype. Embrace it. Own it. Be it. Love it. You can thank me in hashtags and/or catnip.