Reading Room Blog

07/29/2013 - 2:01am
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 - 2:55pm
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 - 11:44am
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 - 2:31am
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 - 2:30am
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 - 2:30am
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.

05/28/2013 - 2:30am
Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science Bad by Jonathan Hickman

I thought that Manhattan Projects was weird, and then the main characters stuck a cybernetic spike into Franklin Roosevelt's head, creating the world's first artificial intelligence.

Woe to anyone hoping that Jonathan Hickman's comic book series would be an accurate retelling of the construction of the atomic bomb. Sure, it gets mentioned from time to time.

The real driving force of Hickman's story, which ended up on many top comics lists last year, is the idea that the atomic bomb is just one of the hideous creations that super-geniuses Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, and Richard Feynman were working on. The other stuff... it ain't pretty.

03/19/2013 - 2:31am
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

What was it that defined the 1960s and made it one of the most important decades of the 20th century?  This question is often asked, even by those who lived through its tumultuous events. Many classic novels portrayed and influenced the counterculture of the 1960s, including Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Another classic novel indelibly linked the culture of the 1960s was The Crying of Lot 49, one of Thomas Pynchon’s earliest works.  Supposedly the story of a woman seeking to sort out the estate of her dead boyfriend’s will, The Crying of Lot 49 is a kaleidoscopic narrative that ventures through centuries-spanning conspiracies, bizarre characters, and an American rock band desperately pretending to be part of the British Invasion.  One of Pynchon’s earliest and shortest novels, The Crying of Lot 49 is a surreal whirlwind of 1960s literature.

03/12/2013 - 2:31am
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain is a graphic novel that is heavy on the novel half of that term. The book draws from the romantic authors of the nineteenth century, from the sirens of the Odyssey, and from the emotional and carnal explorations of modernist literature.

On a riverboat churning through the Hudson, we meet two very different men. One is the serious, contemplative Captain Twain. The other is the more freewheeling boat owner Lafayette. They are about to become ravaged by the same obsession: mermaids.

01/09/2013 - 1:50pm
project gutenberg logo

"Powered by ideas, ideals, and by idealism." This is one of the first few lines in the mission statement of Project Gutenberg, a Web site stating that it is the first—and largest—single collection of free eBooks. Another tidbit worth mentioning is the fact that it is completely run by volunteers, and there are no dues or membership requirements. While they do gladly accept donations and new volunteers, the site makes its main goal clear: “...provide as many eBooks in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible.”