Brilliant Book Titles #233

confedaracy.jpg

Blurb: 
John Kennedy Toole’s hilarious satire, A Confederacy of Dunces is a Don Quixote for the modern age, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy.

Never published during his lifetime, John Kennedy Toole’s masterful comic novel takes its title, as well asfrom Jonathan Swift A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern – this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged. Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city’s fleshpots in a noble crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment to further his mission – and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with…

John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969) was born in New Orleans. He received a master’s degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son’s book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved, winning the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, was eventually published as well.

If you enjoyed A Confederacy of Dunces, you might like Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

‘A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities … it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue’
The New York Times

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra

multiple choice.jpg

Picked this one up during a random perusal of the library’s stacks. Was drawn in by the sleeve and title. Much to my delight, the book itself continued the wackiness.

Didn’t know what to make of the first section, which is just a one-word multiple choice exercise, but I enjoyed the experimentation. The following sections give you more yarn to work with and so, I found, are more engaging. As you get to the final sections and the longer form pieces, the strength of the writing, previously hinted at, becomes undeniable.

Most of the vignettes tend to deal with men struggling to cope with their responsibilities to their families and their strained relationships wherein. There’s some wonderful portraits of Chilean life under Pinochet and the complicated marital and familial relationships which we can only assume were casualties of the repressive regime that inflicted huge psycho-social damage on its citizens.

Despite the horror of the regime Pinochet presided over, the book is laugh out loud funny, bleakly so in many respects, but still hilarious. Redolent of Monty Python for me.

You have to commit to this book; not for its length, as its short enough for one to get through it in one sitting (although due to the strength of the final 3 sections, I’d recommend 2). You have to commit to participate in what the book asks of you. It’s a multiple choice questionnaire after all and is meant to be read as such. If you do, hilarity ensues.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

do no harm

This is a fascinating account of the work of a top British Neurosurgeon. The author has the great talent of explaining complex medical matters in a way that’s very accessible to the lay person.

This book is affecting on a number of levels. It makes you realise what an amazing and complex thing the brain is, and the catastrophic consequences for the individual if things go wrong. We are also left in awe at the personality of a skilled surgeon who must become a detached and precise technician, in order to achieve the best possible outcome for his patient. The stakes are high, mistakes in this line of work can be fatal, or worst, leave a patient in a twilight world between life and death. Marsh never loses sight of the humanity and dignity of his patients.

The emotional punch of this account is, as you would expect, very great. He also doesn’t sugar coat his own persona, he is often high handed and tough on colleagues, he is no saint, as he would readily admit. Marsh has produced a work of great honesty, he is fearless and direct, especially when condemning the petty bureaucracy of the National Health Service.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the workings of that most complex of organs, the human brain. But, more than that, I recommend this book to all those who wish to gain an insight into the high pressure world of the people who care for us at our most vulnerable. A mighty book!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #232

failing up

Blurb: 

Leslie Odom Jr., burst on the scene in 2015, originating the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton. Since then, he has performed for sold-out audiences, sung for the Obamas at the White House, and won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. But before he landed the role of a lifetime in one of the biggest musicals of all time, Odom put in years of hard work as a singer and an actor.

With personal stories from his life, Odom asks the questions that will help you unlock your true potential and achieve your goals even when they seem impossible. What work did you put in today that will help you improve tomorrow? How do you surround yourself with people who will care about your dreams as much as you do? How do you know when to play it safe and when to risk it all for something bigger and better?

These stories will inspire you, motivate you, and empower you for the greatness that lies ahead, whether you’re graduating from college, starting a new job, or just looking to live each day to the fullest.

Brilliant Book Titles #231

chen chen

Blurb: 
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

WINNER OF THE THOM GUNN AWARD FOR GAY POETRY

WINNER OF THE GLCA NEW WRITERS AWARD

WINNER OF THE A. POULIN, JR. POETRY PRIZE

A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2017 SELECTION: POETRY & LITERATURE

ON NPR BOOKS’S LIST OF “POETRY TO PAY ATTENTION TO: 2017’S BEST VERSE”

In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and family―the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes―all from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one’s own path in identity, life, and love.

In the Hospital

My mother was in the hospital & everyone wanted to be my friend.
But I was busy making a list: good dog, bad citizen, short
skeleton, tall mocha. Typical Tuesday.
My mother was in the hospital & no one wanted to be her friend.
Everyone wanted to be soft cooing sympathies. Very reasonable
pigeons. No one had the time & our solution to it
was to buy shinier watches. We were enamored with
what our wrists could declare. My mother was in the hospital
& I didn’t want to be her friend. Typical son. Tall latte, short tale,
bad plot, great wifi in the atypical café. My mother was in the hospital
& she didn’t want to be her friend. She wanted to be the family
grocery list. Low-fat yogurt, firm tofu. She didn’t trust my father
to be it. You always forget something, she said, even when
I do the list for you. Even then.

Chen Chen was born in Xiamen, China, and grew up in Massachusetts. His work has appeared in two chapbooks and in such publications as Poetry, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry. The recipient of the 2016 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, he has been awarded fellowships from Kundiman, the Saltonstall Foundation, Lambda Literary, and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. He earned his BA at Hampshire College and his MFA at Syracuse University. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. Chen lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug dog, Rupert Giles.

The Killer on the Wall by Emma Kavanagh

the killer on the wall

When fifteen-year-old Isla Bell finds three bodies propped up against Hadrian’s Wall, her whole world falls apart. In such a close-knit community, everyone knows the victim and most likely the person who did it.

Fast forward twenty years and Isla is still living in the same community-but working as a forensic scientist….. coming face to face with convicted murderers on a daily basis.  One of them is Heath McGowan-the man convicted of the murders so long ago. But they are safe now as he is behind bars…….

Then another body appears against the wall………

This is a tense and dramatic thriller. Told from viewpoints of several characters, many of them coming forward as potential suspects. Ultimately can anyone be trusted?

A really  good read.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Photography Books to Watch Out For

Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years, 1970-1983 (25 Aug 2018)
annie leibovitz
For more than half a century, Annie Leibovitz has been taking culture-defining photographs. Her portraits of politicians, performers, athletes, businesspeople, and royalty make up a gallery of our time, imprinted on our collective consciousness by both the singularity of their subjects and Leibovitz’s inimitable style.The catalogue to an installation at the LUMA Foundation in Arles, Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years, 1970-1983 returns to Leibovitz’s origins. It begins with a moment of artistic revelation: the spontaneous shot that made Leibovitz think she could transition from painting to photography as her area of study at the San Francisco Art Institute. The meticulously and personally curated collection, including contact sheets and Polaroids, provides a vivid document both of Leibovitz’s development as a young artist and of a pivotal era.Leibovitz’s reportage-like photo stories for Rolling Stone, which she began working for when she was still a student, record such heady political, cultural, and counter-cultural developments as the Vietnam War protests, the launch of Apollo 17, the presidential campaign of 1972, Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and the Rolling Stones on tour in 1975. Then, as now, Leibovitz won the trust of the prominent and famous, and the book’s pages are animated by many familiar faces, among them Muhammad Ali, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ken Kesey, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Didion, and Debbie Harry, as well as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, captured in their now iconic embrace just hours before Lennon was assassinated.Throughout the book, the portraits and reportage are linked to images of cars, driving, and even a series on California highway patrolmen. In many ways, it’s a celebration of life on the road-the frenetic rhythms, the chance encounters, the meditative opportunities. And with its rich archival aspects, it is also a tribute to an earlier time and a young photographer enmeshed in a culture that was itself in transition.

Great English Interiors (3 Sep 2018)
great english interiors
Famed photographer Derry Moore and renowned interior designer David Mlinaric offer a panoramic tour inside some of Britain’s finest manor houses, halls, castles, and public buildings. Bridging five centuries, this lavishly illustrated book looks at houses such as Haddon Hall, Chastleton, and Knole, each with superb examples of Tudor and Stuart interiors. Including Houghton Hall from the 18th-century and Waddesdon Manor from the 19th-century, the book continues into the 20th century to feature the homes of such influential figures as Nancy Lancaster, Pauline de Rothschild, and David Hicks, guiding readers through the finest examples of English interior design. The work of British masters including Inigo Jones, William Kent, and Robert Adam is beautifully portrayed in striking photographs while complementary essays enlighten readers on the events and personalities that lend each site cultural significance. Anglophiles, armchair tourists, and lovers of grand interiors will enjoy these gorgeous photographs while discovering more about the designers, architects, and trends that have made British style so alluring and enduring over the centuries.

Alright Darling?: The Contemporary Drag Scene by Greg Bailey (15 Oct 2018)
alright darling
Alright Darling? is a visual celebration of the uninhibited, unapologetic and unafraid wonderland world of contemporary drag. Showcasing the world’s fiercest and most famous drag queens, along with their wild fashion―and the wit, realness, backstage antics and outrageous shade of drag culture―the book includes fresh shots of all the ringleaders of this wild world, including:

Adore Delano, Alyssa Edwards, Courtney Act, Detox, Francois Sagat, Manila Luzon, Sharon Needles, Trixie Mattel, Willam Belli, Latrice Royale, Bob the Drag Queen, Raja Gemini, Milk and many, many more…

All images are taken by Greg Bailey, founder and editor of Alright Darling – the zine at the centre of the recent explosion of drag.

Point of View: Me, New York City and the Punk Scene by Chris Stein (16 Oct 2018)
point of view.jpg
For the duration of the 1970s – from his days as a student at the School of Visual Arts through the foundation of the era-defining New Wave-band Blondie and his subsequent reign as epicentre of punk’s golden age – Chris Stein kept an unrivalled photographic record of the downtown New York City scene. Following in the footsteps of the successful book Negative, this spectacular new book presents a more personal and more visceral collection of Stein’s photographs of the era. Focusing on a single decade in Stein’s own world, the images presented here take readers from self-portraits in his run-down East-Village apartment to candid photographs of pop-cultural icons of the time and evocative shots of New York City streetscapes in all their most longed-for romance and dereliction. An eclectic cast of cultural characters – from Richard Hell and William Burroughs to Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, and Stephen Sprouse – appear here exactly as they were in the day, juxtaposed with children playing hopscotch on torn-down blocks, riding the graffiti-ridden subway, or cruising the burgeoning clubs of the Bowery. At once a chronicle of one music icon’s life among his punk and New-Wave heroes and peers, and a love letter to the city that was the backdrop and inspiration for those scenes, P.O.V. transports us to another place and time.

Hip-Hop at the End of the World: The Photography of Ernie Paniccoli (2 Oct 2018)
hiphop at the end of the world.jpg
Filled with more than 250 images of artists including Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Naughty by Nature, Public Enemy, 50 Cent, N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim, Flavor Flav, Lauren Hill, Queen Latifah, TLC, Sean Combs, many that have never before been published, this book is set to become the new hip-hop photography bible.

With exclusive, behind-the-scenes access, preeminent photographer Brother Ernie captures the last four decades of the evolution of hip-hop–the styles that grew from it, and the artists who shaped it. Complete with Brother Ernie’s personal anecdotes of time spent with subjects, and stories behind the photographs, Hip-Hop at the End of the World shares intimate moments from the most important era of hip-hop.

After picking up a camera in the 1973 to document the graffiti art that dominated New York City, Ernest Paniccioli started his journey of whole-heartedly capturing the scene during the most fertile years of hip-hop. Always armed with a 35mm camera, he successfully photographed nearly every rapper of note since the genre’s inception, making him the go-to photographer for magazines like Word Up and Rap Masters. Hip Hop at the End of the World is a carefully curated selection of photographs from Brother Ernie’s extensive archives, celebrating over 40 years of swag in one of the most complete records of the most crucial movements in American music.

The Art of Breathing by Danny Penman

the art of breathing

OK…. I will be honest I suffer from insomnia and would try anything for a bit of sleep. I have tried yoga, pilates and now finally turn to mindfulness. Hence reading books on mindfulness!

This book provides a short guide to letting go and finding peace by focussing on your breathing.

It offers simple breathing exercises along with words of wisdom.

It didn’t solve my sleepless night-but is definitely worth a read to focus your thoughts and help you to de-stress.

Habits aren’t destiny unless you allow them to be.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #230

the day the sun died

Blurb:
The reality of life in China today contrasts with the sunny optimism of the ‘Chinese dream’ in this gripping, gruesome dystopia from ‘one of the masters of modern Chinese literature’ (Jung Chang)

One dusk in early June, in a town deep in the Balou mountains, fourteen-year-old Li Niannian notices that something strange is going on. As the residents would usually be settling down for the night, instead they start appearing in the streets and fields. There are people everywhere.

Li Niannian watches, mystified. But then he realises the people are dreamwalking, carrying on with their daily business as if the sun hadn’t already gone down. And before too long, as more and more people succumb, in the black of night all hell breaks loose.

Set over the course of one night, The Day the Sun Died pits chaos and darkness against the sunny optimism of the ‘Chinese dream’ promoted by President Xi Jinping. We are thrown into the middle of an increasingly strange and troubling waking nightmare as Li Niannian and his father struggle to save the town, and persuade the beneficent sun to rise again.

Praise for Yan Lianke’s books

‘Nothing short of a masterpiece’ Guardian

‘A hyper-real tour de force, a blistering condemnation of political corruption and excess’ Financial Times

‘Mordant satire from a brave fabulist’ Daily Mail

‘Exuberant and imaginative’ Sunday Times

‘I can think of few better novelists than Yan, with his superlative gifts for storytelling and penetrating eye for truth’ New York Times Book Review

Shopping for a Billionaire, Book 1 and 2 by Julia Kent

Shopping for a Billionaire #1

When mystery shopper Shannon Jacoby meets billionaire Declan McCormick with her hand down a toilet in the men’s room of one of his stores, it’s love at first flush in this hilarious new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent.

Shopping for a Billionaire #2

New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent continues her Shopping for a Billionaire series as mystery shopper Shannon and (near) billionaire Declan explore a relationship (and each other).

The pair deal with a jealous ex-boyfriend, a new perk at work that makes Shannon rethink her job, and a cat that offers up quite a present when Declan takes Shannon out for their first non-business date.

Review

These two books are very quick reads and fun rom com. I loved it! I found at times I was laughing out load, real belly laughs that knocked me out of any funky mood I may have been in. Both Shannon and Declan have such great chemistry and if I’m being honest I could not get enough of them.

This was my first read from Julia Kent, Shannon is a curvy girl, she speaks her mind and she is hilarious. Her family are even funnier and bonkers, I love great secondary characters and Kent has them in spades in these books.

“It’s 2:13 in the afternoon and all I can think about is getting home so I can veg out and cyber-stalk Declan. I’ve only made it to page twenty-three of my Google search.”

Shopping for a Billionaire 2 follows where we left off with Shannon and Declan getting hot and heavy in a restaurant hallway. So yes you do have to read this series in order and you will love all of them!

What totally won me over was the fact that Declan is completely head over heels even with Shannon’s quirkiness and crazy family. I also thought the whole gimmick thing with Shannon and her coworkers getting the gag company cars was so funny and was very original.

This book series was so fresh, funny and Shannon was just one hilarious hot mess. I’m hooked and have launched myself into the next books in the series.

5 Stars!