Shelf Life Blog
I love a book with an inventive narrative structure and, like Scheherazade, Kate Atkinson has 1,001 plots in her novel, Life after Life. Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in 1910 to banker Hugh Todd and his aristocratic wife Sylvie dies and lives--over and over again. But this is a novel not just about reincarnation but also about how a writer writes and makes choices. The chapters reveal the choices a writer--or a human being--makes and how it changes the path a life takes.
Our society is chaotic, violent, and often disturbing to grow up in. Wouldn’t it be much better to grow up in a safer, more secure place? How much of the unease and disorder of modern society would you sacrifice to create a more peaceful and harmonious civilization? The Giver, by Lois Lowry, asks this difficult question, and creates a dystopia both serene and haunting for its lack of emotions and empathy for its citizens.
Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.
New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.
John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.
Primates captures the fascinating study of several great ape species in the 1960's and 70's. Three women—Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas—found their calling and approached their research in very different ways.
Jane Goodall revolutionized animal study with her focus on the chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park. She discovered the chimps using tools such as sticks to reach termites, a tasty snack. Before that discovery, the use of tools was thought to be only a human characteristic. Becaue of her work, our definitions have since changed.
If there is one universal truth in life, it's that everyone loves pizza, even raccoons. One raccoon in particular is obsessed with pizza. All he wants is a Secret Pizza Party.
He stands outside the pizza parlor, eyes locked on the gooey, cheesy slices. Nothing can break him away from that desire, except for the owner, who chases him with a broom. A secret pizza party would be oh-so-much better.
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.
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?
Stuck in that static rut? Looking for a fix when imagination is on the fritz? Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun is the book for you.
Essential is the right word. Broken up into easy-to-read sections and articles, Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen's title is a complete guide to inspiration and suggestion. Looking for a great animated movie you haven't already seen a thousand times? Unbored has some tips. Want to play in a band but you don't know where to start? This book can get you on the right path.
Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker jumped off the train in Manifest, Kansas, well before it officially stopped—and for good reason. Abeline was in a bit of a mood. She, who was used to criss-crossing the whole nation alongside of her beloved drifter dad Gideon, was being parked for an entire summer at the dustiest, driest town imaginable while he goes to work a railroad job in another state. In Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpoole, the year is 1938—about 20 summers since her Dad was here as a boy. The whole town, not just the lawns and the gardens, seems like it’s about to blow away in the June wind. What Abilene doesn’t realize is that this seemingly dead place is full of secrets and regrets just waiting to bubble to the surface.