Shelf Life Blog
If memoirs are written to both connect with the reader and exorcise the writer's personal demons, then Moshe Kasher had one gigantic, stinky, firebreathing, sword-wielding demon.
His debut book's title says it all: Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. Sure the Salinger-inspired pun is as obvious as a rhino stampede, but Moshe Kasher has had quite a colorful life. A life that I would not want to wish on my worst enemy.
Now a stand-up comic, Kasher was born to not one, but two, deaf parents. Mom and Dad separated within a year of his birth, and his mother took him and his older brother from Brooklyn to Oakland where a life of food stamps, less than stellar public schools, and years of therapy awaited them. This menagerie of elements was perfect for young Moshe (who at the time went by the less-Semitic name Mark) to rebel.
"Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie."
The ad was posted on the Internet. Indeed, it generated numerous fraudulent responses, but the person who placed it only needed one true lead for his purposes. He had studied all he could in the mundane world he inhabited, but he knew the important secrets of the Fairy would only be known by others of their kind in Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.
After a wild goose chase in Cairo, at last the trail led to Ho Chi Minh City. Artemis Fowl the Second, latest in a thousand-year-old line of criminal masterminds, sweltered in the heat of a Vietnamese summer, carefully noting every detail of the passersby as he waited to make contact with his source. He was accompanied by his devoted servant, Butler, who served as confidante as well as being an amazingly lethal bodyguard.
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes: Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.
If you enjoyed this book about travel and coming of age and would like something similar, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
Ciao, America by Beppe Severgnini. Beppe Severgnini chronicles the experiences he and his wife had while renting a house in Georgetown and attempting to adapt to modern American culture. (worldcat.org)
I was never the new kid at school, but I had plenty of moments when I felt like I didn't fit in or belong. That is why I identified immediately with the titular character of Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School.
To our schoolboy narrator, Marshall looks like trouble from the start. He wears a tweed jacket with leather patches with a ragtimey hat covering his head. "He looks different to me."
The nitpicky observations continue. His glasses say "Ray Ban" so they must belong to another boy. The food Marshall eats at lunch all comes in silver wrappers, obviously "space food." While everyone else has a regular bicycle, Marshall rides a velocipede. He can't play during gym, and he doesn't watch television. Who is this kid? Is he an alien? Is he from another century? What a weirdo.
So when Marshall invites the whole class to his birthday party it's bound to be a terrible time, right?
Forget the Hunger Games. A Canticle for Leibowitz is the grandaddy of all post-apocalyptic novels. In it, Walter M. Miller Jr. eloquently dissects the nature of mankind in a moving manner that is also surprisingly funny.
Every once in a while you read a book that has phrasing which is so beautiful and uniquely written that you stop and just reread that section again. I found myself doing that often with The Light Between Oceans which is a wonderful debut novel by an Australian author, L.M. Stedman. The book takes place right after World War I and is a psychological study of one couple's decision and the ripples that it creates in the world.
Tom Sherbourne, a decorated war hero, returns from World War I forever changed by the horrors of war, but his honor is still intact. He is so respected and trusted by authorities that he is given the job of lighthouse keeper on a small island about a half day’s journey off of Australia’s western shore named Janus Rock. On one of his visits to the mainland he meets a brave and strong-willed young girl named Isabel and falls in love. They marry and start their life together on the Island.
Totally disgraced after her expulsion from school, Karigan trudged homeward through the countryside in Green Rider by Kristen Britain. It wasn't an easy walk, more of a cross-country hike, really, but her shame and rage kept her moving even as she spent an aching night sleeping in a meadow and washed down some hunks of cheese and bread with less than clean brook water.
Suddenly from out of the dark woods, there came an explosion of red and green.
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.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. (catalog summary)
If you enjoyed the dystopian themes of this novel and would be interested in similar dystopian works, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
1984 by George Orwell
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is more timely that ever. 1984 presents a "negative utopia," that is at once a startling and haunting vision of the world—so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of entire generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions--a legacy that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time. (catalog summary)
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
A bleak moon settled by utopian anarchists, Anarres has long been isolated from other worlds, including its mother planet, Urras—a civilization of warring nations, great poverty, and immense wealth. Now Shevek, a brilliant physicist, is determined to reunite the two planets, which have been divided by centuries of distrust. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have kept them apart. To visit Urras--to learn, to teach, to share—will require great sacrifice and risks, which Shevek willingly accepts. But the ambitious scientist's gift is soon seen as a threat, and in the profound conflict that ensues, he must reexamine his beliefs even as he ignites the fires of change. (catalog summary)
One of the earliest adventure novels detailing the journey of a group of explorers from the surface world through a subterranean civilization, Abraham Merritt’s The Moon Pool is also one of the best examples of the genre. With an exciting narrative full of thrilling action sequences, memorable characters, and a fascinating civilization of bizarre wonders, The Moon Pool is a great adventure novel that will thrill fans of classic science fiction. For fans of shorter novels, it is also a fast-paced read. Edited together from two novellas titled “The Moon Pool” and “Conquest of the Moon Pool,” it is under 300 pages in length and can be completed by most readers in about 3-5 days. For those seeking to discover the roots of sci-fi adventure stories in the early twentieth century, The Moon Pool is an excellent trip back in time.
I’m a photographer. Since I carry some expensive equipment (AND I’m a woman), I’m leery about shooting by myself. But the best light is often around dawn and because Autumn has been so spectacular this year, I’ve seen more than my share of sunrises. One morning in particular, I decided to let my hardworking husband sleep in and I left to hike by myself along the Rappahannock River. Apparently no one else had the same idea. I found myself alone with the trees and birds for company. Or was I alone? The imagination is a powerful tool and, with every unexpected noise, I was certain I’d see a bad guy around the next corner. I forced myself to think of Cheryl Strayed and decided I’d just have to (wo)man up to enjoy my excursion. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed, a novice hiker, walks eleven hundred miles (!!!!) SOLO from California to Oregon on the above-mentioned trail. Did I mention she was by herself??