Reading Room Blog

10/30/2013 - 3:02am
Cover to Songs for Drella

Rock music provocateur Lou Reed passed away this week at age 71. Best known for his work with the proto-punk band The Velvet Underground, Reed supplied tough, gritty lyrics while John Cale offered up a dissonant musical journey unlike any heard at the time. Reed and Cale went on to make some transcendent solo albums as well, but my favorite collaboration of theirs will always be Songs For Drella.

10/09/2013 - 3:02am
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley's graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen zigzags between biography, cookbook, travelogue, and manifesto of all things culinary. What's more, her fun, vibrantly colorful artwork often made me very hungry. This is the mark of success for such a book.

Relish explores every aspect of food's vast appeal, whether it is for purposes of comfort, nourishment, or to just satisfy that insatiable craving for sautéed mushrooms.

10/08/2013 - 3:02am
Feynman by Jim Ottaviani

Richard Feynman was one of the younger scientists entrusted to work on the atomic bomb, but the graphic novel biography Feynman shows that there is so much more to his life than just those few years.

For one thing, the Nobel-winning physicist was equally fascinated with art, using diagrams to explain his science in a way for which he could not always find the right words. What better representation for an artistic scientist's life than a graphic novel?

08/13/2013 - 3:02am
The Tradition Masters by Odetta

Being dubbed "The Queen of Folk" is no small feat. Having Martin Luther King, Jr. give you that title is something else entirely. That is how strongly affecting the music of folk pioneer Odetta is.

The Tradition Masters is a collection of Odetta's most invigorating traditional songs. Born in Birmingham in 1930, Odetta Holmes helped to embody both the Civil Rights and the Folk Revival movements of the 1950's and 60's. One could say that she was in the right place at the right time, but that would fail to credit her heart-stopping talent as a musician and vocalist.

07/29/2013 - 3:01am
The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

In The Wind Singer, by William Nicholson, legends are sometimes true, and schools may teach lies.

Kestrel Hath did not know this when she mouthed off to her teacher and was sent to the back of the room. As soon as they could, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, cut class. This was Kestrel's idea. She was the one to do things. Bowman, on the other hand, could feel things. He felt his sister's anger, and he felt others’ loneliness. So they left the Orange district and headed to the central arena, where the wind singer stood.

07/19/2013 - 3:55pm
Monty Python's Flying Circus

When I hear the name Terry Gilliam, the first thing that I see is a gigantic pink foot...crushing everything in its path.

That is because Gilliam was the animator for Monty Python's Flying Circus, the absurdist British comedy troupe of the 1970's that has influenced everyone from Neil Gaiman to the Simpsons. The lone American of the group did surreal collages combining Renaissance paintings, nature sketches, and meat grinders to make a strange world.

When Python's reign ended, Gilliam did not stop his creating. Instead, he launched himself from the animation desk to the director's chair where things became curiouser and curiouser.

06/26/2013 - 12:44pm
Goliath by Tom Gauld

The tale has traveled far and wide over the millennia. A sinister, gigantic force of evil is vanquished by a young shepherd with a sling and a small stone. The shepherd grows up to be King David, but we know so little about the nine-foot-tall soldier who was slain. What if his real passion was not killing and maiming but filing clerical paperwork?

06/13/2013 - 3:31am
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

"This hat is not mine. I just stole it."

This is Not My Hat invites us into the mind of a tiny fish who cares nothing for his underwater brethren.  The fish offers many reasons why he will succeed in his crime, why he deserves the hat over the much bigger fish he snatched it from. Obviously, we are dealing with a sociopath here.

06/04/2013 - 3:30am
Bloody Chester by J.T. Petty; Illustrated by Hilary Florido

Chester Kate's been hired to burn the town of Whale to the ground. Every last building must be razed so the railroad can push on through. Bloody Chester is about to make his mark in the only way he knows how. Maybe then everyone will stop using his other nickname: Lady Kate.

He doesn't have to worry about Whale's citizens. Most of them are already dead from the plague. They call the sickness Coyote Waits. "Waits" because it eats you from the inside. "Coyote" because...well because there's a lot of coyotes out there in the West. 

05/29/2013 - 3:30am
The Late Shift by Bill Carter

When New York Times reporter Bill Carter recently broke the story that NBC was planning on gently escorting Tonight Show host Jay Leno out the door for a younger, fresher face, it felt a little like déjà vu. That's because the same decision happened about ten years ago.

Carter's definitely the most qualified person to reveal such information. The news made me seek out his book, The Late Shift. The title is a breakthrough account of the shake-up at NBC after Johnny Carson surprisingly announced his plan to retire within a year. The network famously snubbed their Late Night host, David Letterman by hiring Leno, who had been a successful guest host for the legendary Carson.