All that short story reading has paid off: Suzanne has the definitive guide to the best short stories for your middle school or high school homeschool (or for your own personal reading list).
Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
Early voting has begun in the runoff being held in Georgia’s 6th congressional district! How is this pertinent to Library Chicken? Well, one of the early voting locations is very conveniently set in my Friendly Neighborhood Library. I’m thrilled to see the turnout—even in the first couple of days voting lines have occasionally been out the door. I’m less thrilled that my early-voting patriotic countrymen and women have been filling up the parking lot so that I have to park down the street if I want to actually use the library for its intended purpose. Also, the voting line blocks my hold shelf. BUT being that I am also a patriotic American and support the whole democratic process and all that I guess I can put up with it for a couple of weeks. (Seriously, I’m shocked by the lines. We never get lines for early voting—that’s the point. And everyone seems fairly patient and cheerful, which is nice.)
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
This Week in Comics: It is so much more difficult than it ought to be to read comics. Not actually the reading part—the figuring out what to read part. By now, I think I’ve got the hang of the fact that 1) the individual issues come out, 2) the issues are collected into a trade paperbacks, 3) which may then be further collected into a hardback. So when I started reading the current run of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I read the hardback Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-8 (not to be confused with the paperback Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-4), and then jumped to the paperback Vol. 3, which collects issues #1-6 but that’s a completely different #1-6 because Marvel started the run over with another #1 issue so that Squirrel Girl had two #1’s in 2015 AND HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO FIGURE THIS OUT. It feels like I spend more time researching a particular run to figure out what to check out at the library (Wikipedia is usually helpful, though not always up to date; Amazon sometimes tells you what a collection collects, but not always) than I do actually reading the thing. Squirrel Girl continues to be awesome, so I guess there’s that at least.
(LC Score: +2)
The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
I love China Mieville. For me he’s in the same category as Neil Gaiman with brilliantly original horror-tinged fantasy. This slim novel is an alternate history (another favorite genre of mine) exploring the Surrealist political movement, about which I know virtually nothing (but conveniently for me, my daughter came home from her AP World History class earlier in the year talking about it, so I wasn’t as utterly lost as I might have been). In an alternate version of Nazi-occupied Paris, an explosion composed of Surrealism and occult energy has rearranged the city, so that Nazis and resistance fighters fight each other in a bizarre and unpredictable landscape while giant figures from various works of art, brought to life by the blast, stalk the streets. Plus, there are Nazi-summoned demons, just to make it interesting. A large chunk of the novel is populated entirely by actual historical figures, including Jack Parsons and Varian Fry (both of whom you should immediately Google if they are unfamiliar to you) and a whole bunch of Surrealist artists who I know nothing about but whose works I spent most of the novel looking up on the internet. Aside from being an all-around great book, this would be an amazing side read for a teen studying either art history (you could base an entire Surrealism curriculum on the references here) or resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.
(LC Score: +1)
Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
More alternate history! Here, Regency Britain has (as it was wont to do) colonized Mars and its inhabitants. (As it turns out, there is plenty of breathable atmosphere between the planets, which, yeah, seems fine to me. Carry on.) Arabella was born and raised on Mars, but her English mother, worried about her going native, has dragged her back to Earth, where Arabella learns of an assassination scheme against her brother back on Mars. There’s nothing for her to do but disguise herself as a cabin boy and take passage on one of the Marsmen clipper ships, hoping to get back there in time. This is a fun Regency steampunk adventure, and I’m looking forward to Arabella’s next outing.
(LC Score: +1)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
This novel has been compared to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, in part because it too was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and there are definitely some interesting parallels between the galactic empires portrayed in both books. Unlike Leckie, though, Lee concentrates almost completely on the military side, so if you’re in the mood for a hardcore space opera shoot-’em-up, this is the book for you. I got a bit lost in the all the world-building (which was well done, but left an awful lot unexplained) but I’ll be back for the sequel, which (conveniently) is coming out in just a week or two.
(LC Score: +1)
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
Excellent collection of essays (plus a couple of poems) in many different styles from writers of color about their personal experiences with American racism past and present. Belongs on the shelf next to Coates’s Between the World and Me.
(LC Score: +1)
(Also published as Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.) In this 1999 book, Kilbourne, who’s spent decades studying how advertising depicts women, explores the effect advertising has on American culture, particularly its role in supporting addiction by pushing alcohol and tobacco while cynically devaluing the importance of human relationships. I read this as research for a class on Critical Thinking and the Media that I’ll be teaching in the fall and although I think Kilbourne occasionally overreaches (and of course the material is out of date) many of her points still stand.
(LC Score: +1)
The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
This glorious 650-page collection brings together every single Jeeves and Wooster short story ever written (with ONE exception, according to Wikipedia, but we’re ignoring that because otherwise it would bug me until I embarked on an obsessive quest to find that one last story, and frankly I’ve learned from experience that that sort of thing never turns out well). Anyway, as I said, it’s got all the Jeeves and Wooster stories and it’s been the reason I survived this homeschool year. I’ve used it as a read-aloud with my older kids in past years (because Wodehouse should be an important part of every homeschool curriculum) but we quit after a half-dozen stories or so. By then, you’ve seen just about every combination of Bertie’s-school-friend-in-crisis plus Jeeves-saves-the-day (and gets Bertie to stop wearing that horrible pair of trousers/vest/moustache/etc.) that you’re going to get. (I adore these stories, but originality is not their strong suit.) This year, however, with my younger kids, we just kept right on going. And the way 2017 has been, sometimes the only thing that got me up in the morning was knowing that we were going to start the day with Jeeves and Wooster. We didn’t make it all the way through—only to page 500 or so—but I polished off the last few stories myself and am now starting to reread all the novels in chronological order, beginning with Thank You, Jeeves, which under the circs (as Bertie would say) seems incredibly appropriate. I can’t wait to sneer at a cow creamer or two. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: 0, off our homeschool shelf)
Library Chicken Score for 6/6/17: 7 Running Score: 46
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (a “cowboy noir” that’s been on my list for years)
Ink and Bone (The Great Library) by Rachel Caine (because you know me and books with “library” in the title)
Mister Monday by Garth Nix (reread for a Summer Reading write-up)
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (short story collection because I’m in the mood for more Mieville)