Shelf Life Blog
To explain my reasoning for choosing to read What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson, I must first explain a little about myself. I'm a senior in college and in the process of applying for graduate school. One day, while frantically exploring graduate programs at various schools across the U.S. and abroad, I started to worry: Will I choose the right program? What if I wasted my college years studying the wrong subjects? What am I suppose to do with my life? Well, during my craze I jokingly typed in Google, "What Should I Do with My Life?" Po Bronson's book was the first thing to pop up in my browser. I immediately searched the library's catalog to find out whether I could borrow the book, and I drove up to Porter branch that night to check it out. I never set out to review it since it was simply a pleasure read, but I feel as though others may benefit from some of the events portrayed in this book as well.
Author Reginald Hill died January 12th, 2012, at the age of 75. Best known for his "Dalziel & Pascoe" series, he also wrote a number of stand alone novels. The Woodcutter is a fairy tale of a thriller set in the almost mythic Cumbrian countryside.
Hadda Wolf has been living Happily Ever After. The son of a Cumbrian woodcutter, he fulfills three tasks--getting an education, some social polish and amassing great fortune--to win the hand of an almost-princess, the daughter of the lord of the castle. Hadda and Imogen marry, have a daughter, and he truly feels he is living beyond his wildest dreams.
Most love stories don't end with a snowball to the face. Then again, this is no love story.
Empire State, by Jason Shiga, actually starts in the Golden State: Oakland, California. Jimmy works in a library and runs his own Web site. He finds inner peace through repairing books and geeking out over sci-fi movies. As he leaves work one day, we meet his friend Sara, who greets him...with an unprovoked punch in the arm.
Sara's sarcastic and unsatisfied world view is a million miles from Jimmy's acceptance of his uncomplicated life. Still, they both find some comfort and security in each other's presence. Unfortunately for Jimmy, Sara has a yearning to leave Oakland and enter New York City's publishing industry. When she receives an internship, the call is too powerful to resist.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is a classic parable of Generation X alienation: "THE FIRST RULE about fight club is you don't talk about fight club. Every weekend, in the basements and parking lots of bars across the country, young men with whitecollar jobs and failed lives take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded just as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, and dark, anarchic genius, and it's only the beginning of his plans for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world." (Book summary)
If you enjoyed this novel's themes of social alienation, search for meaning through dark subcultures, and atmosphere of paranoia, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
In a black satire of the eighties, a decade of naked greed and unparalleled callousness, a successful Wall Street yuppie cannot get enough of anything, including murder. (worldcat.org)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Six hundred years into the future, humans are bred by cloning, and "mother" and "father" are forbidden words. Originally published in 1932, Huxley's terrifying vision of a controlled and emotionless future "Utopian" society is truly startling in its prediction of modern scientific and cultural phenomena, including test-tube babies and rampant drug abuse. (worldcat.org)
“I think there is a destiny laid on me that I am not to know anything interesting, go anywhere interesting, or do anything interesting.”
In The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Taran feels that nothing exciting happens in his life and that nothing ever will. And yet, Taran longs to be a hero, like his idol Prince Gwydion, the famed warrior who fights in the name of the High King of Prydain. Taran lives on a farm called Caer Dallben, named after the ancient enchanter who dwells there. Dallben, between reading from his mysterious tome, The Book of Three, and giving Taran wise but confusing advice, spends most of his time meditating--an endeavor that he often undertakes lying down with his eyes closed while snoring. The only other person on the farm is Coll, who instructs Taran in making horseshoes, despite there not being any horses.
In Candyfreak, Steve Almond makes the typical chocoholic look like a quitter. Almond doesn’t just enjoy the occasional sweet indulgence. He is enamored with candy, especially chocolate candy bars. This infatuation drives his curiosity about the candy industry. It also compels Almond to wax poetic when describing candy’s taste and texture or lovingly tracing the popularity and disappearance of archaic, often regional, candies, such as Caravelle, Twin Bing, Idaho Spud, and Valomilk.
Throughout Candyfreak, Almond refers to his obsession with candy as a “freak,” arguing that the energy he expends thinking about, describing, hoarding, and consuming candy is not inherently different from the more widely accepted obsessive hobbies, such as sports fandom or extreme collecting: “[W]e don’t choose our freaks, they choose us. I don’t mean this as some kind of hippy dippy aphorism about the power of fate. We may not understand why we freak on a particular food or band or sports team. We may have no conscious control over our allegiances. But they arise from our most sacred fears and desires and, as such, they represent the truest expression of ourselves.”
In Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Sorry, the end of Stella Hardesty's marriage is the start of her new life. Stella married young and unwisely. By the time she realized what a bad man she had married, she had a young child and few prospects for getting out and taking care of herself and her daughter. So she became one of a vast army of downtrodden, beaten women and trudged through twenty five years of abuse.
Some wishes are traditional – to be the fairest in the land or find a handsome prince. Some are personal – for a family member to get better, to be a doctor, learn the piano, fall in love. Some are never identified as wishes, but are rather the silent longings of the heart. Written by a truly stellar cast of authors with a foreword by Mia Farrow, What You Wish For is a collection of short stories that center on children who wish.
The collection ranges from Meg Cabot’s wry and humorous “The Protectionist” – which starts with the protagonist lamenting that the school bully has taped a note to his sister’s back which reads, Boobies: Get some; to the quietly poignant “Rules for Wishing” by Francisco X. Stork, where a young boy is celebrating his birthday in the foster care system, after his mother gave his sister up for adoption when his father could not control his fists.
This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron: "This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, this touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here? Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8 year old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose?"
If you liked A Dog's Purpose, you may want to check out our booklist called "No, No, Bad Dog!" (it also includes non-fiction titles). These books are wonderful tales of "man's best friend."
You might try these fiction titles for a little laughter, maybe a few tears, but always a good "tale."
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Nearing the end of his life, Enzo, a dog with a philosopher's soul, tries to bring together the family, pulled apart by a three year custody battle between daughter Zoe's maternal grandparents and her father Denny, a race car driver. (summary)
Dog: a Short Novel by Michelle Herman
(T)he story of Jill Rosen-a single, childless professor who has given up on finding love-and Phil, the wise young dog she adopts, almost by accident. Although Jill finds her routines disrupted and her wistfulness about past loves stirred, she forges a connection with the dog that takes her by surprise in her solitary middle age. (summary)
Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.
When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.