Posts By Ron Morris

Pop Culture References Abound in Ready Player One Trailer, But How Does It Treat The Actual Story?

Tracer-ChunLi-Ready-Player-One

Left to right: Lara Croft, Tracer, and Chun-Li

It will come as no surprise that the latest trailer for Ready Player One, based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, is packed with dozens of pop culture references in the spare 90 seconds of footage.

Right off the bat, though, fans of of the novel will notice a decided lack of references to one particular ’80s pop culture staple, the one directing the movie. Steven Spielberg has said that, rather than risk Ready Player One becoming a self-referential smorgasbord, he intentionally left out references to his own work.

Level Up

There is one notable exception: the DeLorean from Back to the Future. It shows up as Parzival’s ride throughout the trailer, notably at the beginning as they’re getting ready for the race (in a later shot you can also see the custom Knight Rider KITT LED on the grill, as per the novel). In the pre-race shot, you can also catch the Mach 5 from Speed Racer and the Batmobile from the original TV series (the red dome flasher gives it away). Ryu from Street Fighter is also among the drivers moving throughout the vehicles. Other “squint-or-you’ll-miss-it” vehicles include the Charger from Mad Max and the A-Team van. What stood out to me as I watched the scene is that the majority of these cars are generic vehicles, driven by the cannon-fodder Sixers who we see falling in droves throughout the trailer.

Post–vehicular combat, the trailer switches to the nightclub and gives us a few extra Easter eggs. Building off the previous references, we have Blanka from Street Fighter, his distinctive hairdo bristling behind Art3mis’s avatar. As well as someone walking around as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. There are also additional nods to DC comic characters. Deathstroke gives Parzival a nod as he enters the club and a duo that look an awful lot like Harley Quinn and Joker show up later in the trailer.

Even better than the nightclub scene, however, is the battle scene. Here you really get a feel for the diversity of pop culture that’s present in Oasis. What’s refreshing is that Spielberg didn’t feel the need to stop with the ’80s and ’90s when peppering in references. The book takes place in 2045, after all, so it stands to reason that a fair amount of Oasis avatars would be patterned after popular modern games. Front and center in the scene is Tracer, the poster-character of Blizzard’s Overwatch. To her left is one more Street Fighter reference, Chun-Li. To her right is Lara Croft once again.

Additional shots of the battle show the Battletoads, a certain Ninja Turtle-looking profile, and Battleborn characters. I particularly like the old-school armored ostrich from Joust front and center. We also get a bait and switch shot of Parzival holding up the boombox from Say Anything, which would make you think he’s trying to woo Art3mis. Then, in the wider shot, you see him again, boombox overhead, with avatars rushing into battle around him.

Gundam-Akira-Ready-Player-One

Here’s hoping someone yells “Kaneda!”

Japanese pop culture gets some representation as well. There’s a great shot of Aech’s RX-78 Gundam, ready to perform its special move. What surprised me, though, was the inclusion of Kaneda’s bike from Akira. It’s a pivotal anime (and manga) that was surprisingly unrepresented in the original novel (here, it appears to be Art3mis’s ride). I’ve heard mention of the titular mech from Big O being in the trailer as well, but it must have been spotted by someone with much better eyes than I (it might be one of the mechs in the battle, but it’s too blurry to say for sure).

The Iron Giant and King Kong both make prominent appearances as well, the latter being a bit of a surprise. While the book did mention Godzilla (and his foes), there was no mention of the giant movie ape. I’ll be curious to see how he figures in or if he’s just there for flavor. Undoubtedly, even more references will be revealed as we get additional footage.

Closer to the Heart

On repeated viewings of the trailer, some of the more subtle story bits from the novel stood out. Spielberg has done a fantastic job of depicting just how pervasive the Oasis is in everyone’s lives. There’s a woman dancing around the kitchen of her tiny trailer in The Stack, oblivious to the world outside her window as Parzival walks by. There are scores of homeless on the street, Oasis portals strapped to their heads. In fact, it’s more unusual to see someone not jacked in to Oasis in the trailer.

First-Oasis-Ready-Player-One

One-up!

There’s also a great scene of Parzival getting what I can only assume is the Extra Life coin from a robotic docent, possibly on Archaide, possibly at the replica of Holliday’s home town (since they’re standing in front of a “First Version of Oasis” exhibit). I enjoyed the less flash-bang scenes in the novel as much as the giant battle scenes, so it’s good to see them preserved here.

I will admit that I was a bit nervous when I heard that Ready Player One would be adapted for the big screen. Even with a master like Spielberg at the helm, Ernest Cline’s debut novel has some major soggy-middle syndrome and veers dangerously close to sidelining its only major female character by the end of the book. Fingers crossed that the movie adaptation will keep Art3mis as an active player throughout and give her a bit more agency in the finale.

For all its positive reception, Ready Player One is pretty damn testosterone-heavy. I saw a tweet recently that mused on how the novel would have been received if the nostalgic references were from “girl properties” of the ’80s and ’90s. It would have been fun to see Parzival or Art3mis riding into battle on the back of Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, wielding She-Ra’s sword emblazoned with Rainbow Brite stickers, but ultimately it would have been shunned as “silly” or parody.

Of course, now that Ernest Cline has established this “Nostalgia-punk” genre, maybe it’s time to shake things up and add something other than boy-dominated toy lines and cartoons to the mix. Maybe with Spielberg’s influence there will be wider representation in the sequel.

For now, it appears that the original novel is in good hands. I’m eagerly awaiting next March.

Library Holiday Displays Abound for the Coziest Season

The holidays are always a great time to browse Instagram and marvel at beautiful decorations and get some inspiration. Some of our favorite bookish spaces are up for the task, natch. Check out this little look at some of the great library holiday displays we’ve spotted on the bookstagram.

Of course, I’m going to start with the Miami-Dade Public Library since it’s my city…

Shenandoah Branch Library is getting into the holiday spirit! #mdpls #booksnowman #bookreindeer #shenandoahbranch #librarydisplay #snowman #reindeer

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LA County Library is next with this excellent book tree, topped with a book page star:

Baldwin Park Library is in the holiday spirit with this Book Tree! Don’t forget – many of our libraries have special programs this month so be sure to check them out! #library #lacountylibrary #losangelescounty #lacounty #librariesofinstagram #bookart 🎄🌲📚

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Abilene Public Library’s youth community is making a huge snowman, and it’s coming out awesome:

Love the creativity of children’s staff at the Main Library as they’re in the process of building a large #snowman as part of the holiday decor. Can’t wait till it’s finished. #abilenepubliclibrary #coolcrafts #projects #holiday #projects #decoration #winter #snow #crafts

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Here’s a cute snowman display at Bangor Public Library:

We made our own snowman to celebrate NPRs annual book list being released. Check him out in our new non fiction on the second floor or the book list out here! https://apps.npr.org/best-books-2017/ … . . . . #newbooks #nprbookconcierge #snowman #bookdisplay #librarylife #library #bangormaine #bangorpubliclibrary #books #librariesofinstagram

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And a lovely wreath at Davenport Public Library:

Look at our book wreath! It’s almost finished. #wreath #bookcraft #bookwreath #display #talent #holiday #tistheseason #davenportlibrary

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The Amityville Public Library is ready for cozying up indoors:

Officially holiday ready at #AmityvillePL! #happyholidays #AmityvilleRocks ☃️

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Massapequa has an excellent idea, here. Check out a mystery book!

Get a wrapped surprise book at Bar Harbour at our holiday display! Pick a book, see what it’s tag says, check it out (the barcode is visible!), and unwrap it at home. #massapequa #massapequalibrary #happyholidays #books #reading #librariesofinstagram

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West Chester Public Library used some books to create a snowy village:

Miss Ellie and her wonderful elves have been busy decorating today! #librarylife

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Baldwin Library kept things simple and elegant:

So awesome! #bookart #booktree #decorations #librariesofinstagram #beautifulbaldwin

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While St Paul turned some shelves into a cozy-looking fireplace, complete with a mounted reindeer’s head:

Got the winter blues? Warm up by checking out these hot new books! We have the latest Mystery, Sci Fi, Fiction, and Urban Fiction books waiting for you! #saintpaulpubliclibrary #sppl #newbooks

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What’s your library up to this season?

6 Books to Give the Kid Who’s Read Everything

Even though I am sure you will not be surprised to hear this from the likes of me (librarian, book nerd), I feel that books make the best gifts, particularly when buying for kids. But finding the right book for the right kid can be daunting! As a former bookseller and librarian, I am very familiar with the look on people’s faces when they wander into a room full of books with no idea where to start. We are here to help!  Book Riot has lots of great gift guides for the kids in your life, including this one for Geek Girls and this “One size fits most” themed list. But what about those young readers in your life who have read everything? I meet these kids a lot at the library where I work; as I hand them book after book, they respond with a blasé “I’ve read that. I’ve read that” ad infinitum.  I’ve even met kids whose parents keep spreadsheets to track the books they’ve read. It’s kind of awe-inspiring, actually, but it only makes me more determined to find them something new and exciting to read. For those kids, you have to dig a little deeper, and find the books that live beyond the face out shelves at Bookstores. Here are six  of my favorite under the radar reads:

Picture Books

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

A young girl longs to accompany her mother, a fisherwoman, as she sails the dangerous waters off their coastal home. Everyone in the town fears Black Rock, the big mysterious rock jutting out of the water that is said to cause shipwrecks for anyone who comes near it. One night, the girl climbs on board her mother’s boat and hides, only to be accidentally knocked into the water just as the boat passes Black Rock! What will happen to her? How will she be rescued? And what is the secret of Black Rock? You’ll have to read it to find out. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and whatever lucky child gets to open it will be immediately drawn in. Age 4 and up.

Are we there yet? By Dan Santat

Many people are aware of Dan Santat, as he has become one of the biggest and most prolific names in Kidlit. His book Beekle won the Caldecott a few years back and he is very active (and funny!) on social media. Despite this, I feel like his excellent time travel picture book “Are we There Yet?” too often gets overlooked! A kid goes on a road trip to visit Grandma and is sooooo bored that is mind starts to wander. He imagines they have gone back in time, encountering pirates and dinosaurs, before zooming ahead to the future where he imagines a fantastical futuristic city with flying cars and robots. Finally, they arrive at their destination. The beautiful and interesting illustrations are made even cooler by a fun physical component built into the story, wherein the reader must rotate the book. Age 4 and up.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

This is the kind of book that becomes an instant classic in households the minute it is introduced. Goblin lives happily in a rat-infested dungeon with his best friend Skeleton. When his home is suddenly invaded by “heroic adventurers,” goblin’s home is ruined and Skeleton is stolen. Against his better judgement but determined to save his friend, Goblin must leave the dungeon and face the real world for the first time. A super sweet, funny story about true friendship and belonging. Age 4 and up.

Chapter Books

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brailler

This graphic novel/chapter book hybrid is perfect for reluctant readers and video game fans alike. It tells the story of a group of kids who seem to be the only survivors in their town after a zombie invasion. Subsisting on mountain dew and cookies, the kids have booby trapped and tricked out their tree house as a zombie-repelling safe haven. A great mix of humor and scariness with wonderful illustrations that will keep them turning pages. First in a series! Age 8 and up.

My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This book just gives me all of the feels. I have read it twice now, which is actually very rare for me, and both times, I just loved it so much. Gracie Lockwood has lived in Clifton, Maine her whole life. She lives in a world that looks a lot like ours, EXCEPT there are dragons, who migrate once a year to the South and have been known to accidentally burn down the TJ Maxx on Route 1. There are also Sasquatches who helped win the Civil War, witches who live way out in the wilderness, and angels who you can hire if necessary. And there are the black clouds. Black clouds come to get you when you are slated to die and one has started to head for Gracie’s house. The family, fearing it is for the youngest, sickliest member of the family, decides to try and outrun the black cloud by taking off across the country in an RV in search of the mythical Extraordinary World (aka our world). But can they outrun death? Do yourself a favor and buy two copies of this book! One for the kid you are shopping for and one for yourself! Age 10 and up.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

The ultimate adventure story, this historical fiction novel follows Samantha, a Chinese girl living in Missouri in 1849. She dreams of going back to New York to pursue music, but when tragedy strikes, she finds herself alone and in the care of a sinister landlord. After he tries to take advantage of her, she accidentally kills him while defending herself and must go on the run immediately. The only witness is Annamae, a young runaway slave who was working for the landlord and who decides to run away with Samantha. The two disguise themselves as boys and strike out for the West, pretending to be cowhands on the Oregon trail. A completely addictive and moving page turner. Age 12 and up.

Happy Gifting!

Cover Face Off: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman has been one of the UK’s buzziest books this year—and deservedly so.

In the US, it hasn’t been quite as omnipresent—and I wonder if that’s partly a reflection of the cover. The UK cover is distinctive and reflects important elements of the plot. The US cover is perfectly pleasant, but features one of my least favourite design motifs: the cliché of a woman with most of her head chopped off. It could be the cover of any number of books with female protagonists. I feel like, if you’re going to have someone approximating Eleanor Oliphant on the cover, she should probably be wearing black and white, or at least her iconic jerkin. Eleanor is an idiosyncratic character, and, in my opinion, she deserves an idiosyncratic cover.

I know we all think we’re far too sophisticated to judge a book by its cover, but I can’t help wondering: which came first—the understated attention such a great book received in the US, or its very-nice-but-not-that-distinctive American cover?

Which do you like more? The British cover or the American one?

UK:

US:

Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge

This year’s Read Harder challenged is presented by Libby.

Meet Libby. The one-tap reading app from OverDrive. By downloading Libby to your smartphone, you can access thousands of eBooks and audiobooks from your library for free anytime and anywhere. You’ll find titles in all genres, ranging from bestsellers, classics, nonfiction, comics and much more. Libby works on Apple and Android devices and is compatible with Kindle. All you need is a library card but you can sample any book in the library collection without one. In select locations, Libby will even get your library card for you instantly. Learn more at https://meet.libbyapp.com/. Happy Reading.


Welcome to the fourth edition of Book Riot’s annual reading challenge, the 2018 Read Harder challenge. Every year, more and more of you discover and complete Read Harder, and with every new edition, we give you 24 tasks that will invite new genres, new authors, and new worlds, both real and imaginary, into your reading life.

This year, you’ll find many new tasks and many that take previous years’ tasks and add another layer of complexity or interest. Hopefully you’ll find tasks that excite you and tasks that push your reading boundaries. I’m particularly delighted with this year’s batch and I personally can’t wait for January 1st to get started.

Just as in years past, there are 24 tasks, averaging two per month over the course of the next 12 months. You may count one book for multiple tasks or read one book per task. I’ve said it the last three challenges, so it bears repeating: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is—a perspective shift—but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.”

If you want a bit more accountability nonetheless, add a social element to your challenge, or need some help with challenge books, the Read Harder group on Goodreads is an excellent resource throughout the year for sharing your reading plans, discussing the tasks, and finding new books to fit the challenge. You can also check in all over social media with the hashtag #ReadHarder. And join Book Riot Insiders for access to an exclusive Read Harder podcast where Josh and Sharifa will offer suggestions, highlighting a new task each episode.

Click here for a downloadable and editable PDF of the 2018 Challenge tasks.

We’ll be publishing lists for each of the tasks in the coming months to help you complete your Challenge.

Finally, here are the tasks!

  1. A book published posthumously
  2. A book of true crime
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
  4. A comic written and illustrated by the same person
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
  6. A book about nature
  7. A western
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980
  12. A celebrity memoir
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection
  14. A book of social science
  15. A one-sitting book
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation
  20. A book with a cover you hate
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
  22. An essay anthology
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

Finished your 2017 Challenge? Don’t forget to take a picture of your completed list, email it to readharder@bookriot.com by Dec. 31st, and get a 30% discount at the Book Riot store! If you’re struggling for your last task or two, don’t forget you can search Book Riot for “Read Harder” and find help from our contributors for some of the trickier tasks.

Don’t just read…Read Harder!

And don’t forget to pick up one of our Best Books of 2017 boxes, which contain books that will satisfy some of the tasks!

Book Riot’s Deals of the Day for December 14th, 2017

We’re giving away a stack of our 20 favorite books of the year. Click here to enter, or just click the image below.


Today’s Featured Deals

 

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda for $4.99. Get it here or just click the cover image below:

Norweigan by Night by Derek B. Miller for $2.99. Get it here or just click the cover image below:

 

 

In Case You Missed Yesterday’s Most Popular Deal

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin for $1.99. Get it here or just click the cover image below:

 

 

 

Previous daily deals that are still active (as of this writing at least). Get ’em while they’re hot.

Going After Caccatio by Tim O’Brien for $1.99.

Broken Harbor by Tana French for $1.99.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown for $1.99.

The Devourers by Indra Das for $1.99.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman for $2.99.

Chasing the Sun by Paula McLain for $2.99.

Jade City by Fonda Lee for $2.99.

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell for $2.99.

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson for $1.99.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann for $1.99.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell for $1.99.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler for $2.99.

Drown by Junot Diaz for $1.99.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigihara for $4.99.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman for $3.99.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon for $1.99.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo for $1.99.

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies for $2.99.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge for $1.99.

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey for $3.99.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida for $2.99.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for $2.99.

Infomocracy by Malka Older for $2.99.

Start Here: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors for $0.99.

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan for $3.99.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd for $1.99.

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman for $1.99.

Bitch Planet, Vol 1 for $3.99.

Monstress, Vol 1 by Liu & Takeda for $3.99

Paper Girls, Vol 1. by Vaughn, Chiang, & Wilson for $3.99.

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1 for $3.99

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin for $9.99

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith for $0.99

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for $4.99

Excellent Biographies On Audio I’ve Listened To In 2017

Just for Book Riot readers: sign up for an Audible account, and get two biographies of your choice free!

Audiobook Deals From BookRiot.com


Most days I can’t muster the patience to read non-fiction. For some reason, even if I do pick up a non-fiction book, I always have to be reading a fiction book on the side. With audiobooks, I found a way to get around this small problem, which helps me in two fronts: getting technical knowledge and learning about matters I would be too bored to read myself, and getting to know the lives of other people, which is something I am always keen to discover.

2017 was a pretty good year for me when it comes to listening to audiobooks, and they’ve helped me get through those never-ending hours at work. Here is a list of the best biographies I’ve listened to this year, all of them delightfully read by the author.

 

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

I didn’t know the author before reading this book, but the reviews were wonderful and, being an immigrant myself, I was curious.

Listening to the author narrating facts about her own life growing up as an Iranian in America made for a very interesting listen. Most of her stories are hilarious, and the way Firoozeh opens up about growing up with a traditional Iranian family in a foreign country has put a smile on my face throughout and, most of the time, had me laughing aloud like a maniac.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Although I haven’t yet watched any episode of Mindy Kaling’s TV series, I’ve seen enough of her around the interweb to immediately sympathise with her.

The audiobook caught my attention because I have a thing for comedy, and she seemed the right person to deliver a fun read. I wasn’t wrong. Mindy has a way of bringing humour to serious situations, and hearing her deliver precious life advice, as well as details about being a woman of colour on American TV, and a comedian nonetheless, was enough to have me recommending the book around.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

This book is a gift for both Stephen King’s fans and aspiring writers, since it manages to balance perfectly details about his life, and writing advice. I’ve read a few books focused only on writing which haven’t given me advice as sound about the craft as this one. Also, maybe not surprisingly, King is pretty funny.

The narration of his failures and successes are in itself a good starting point for anyone who wants to become a writer but is struggling to find reasons to believe in success after many failures. A must-read.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I read this book on the morning of the first day of 2017. While all of my friends were still asleep after a night of celebration, I cosied up with a blanket, put on my earphones, and I let myself immerse on the stories Anna Kendrick had to tell. I was still pretty new to the whole audiobook listening, but it got me hooked up real quick, and that’s how I found out how much I love listening to biographies.

She has a very peculiar way of telling stories, one that I truly enjoyed and laughed with, and her life of stardom, starting as a child actress and finally reaching fame with Pitch Perfect—and Twilight before that—is a pretty interesting one. Also, Anna is crazy in all the best ways.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

I have no idea how he does this, but Trevor Noah can bring us to tears with laughter with completely miserable stories. I did not know tragedy could be funny, but apparently, it can, when told the right way.

By offering us many stories rich in details about his childhood in South Africa, growing up the child of a black mother and a white father in the time of Apartheid, Trevor reminds us again with his biography why his stand-up comedy shows are so entertaining and why he is, without a doubt, a natural storyteller. Best laugh of the year award, without a doubt.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

I’ll forever remember Amy Poehler as the cool mum from Mean Girls, but her work on SNL is remarkable.

The book is funny, and she is very open in regards to both her professional and personal life. Here, she explains as well how she fell in love with improvisation, and offers us a lot of insight in regards to her well-known relationships with Tina Fey and Seth Meyers. And it is, as expected, hilarious.

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming did have a tough childhood and he opens up about it without holding back in this biography.

Narrating details from his life in correlation to the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are, in which he participated in the hopes of figuring out an old family mystery, the book is captivating and keeps us stuck to it up to the last pages. Alan’s optimism, especially after we find out about the details of his father’s abusive behaviour, is contagious.

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

Those who follow Mara’s twitter and, especially, her blog, know that she is a fantastic writer, so it is not a surprise that her own biography is a well-chosen selection of episodes of her life. It is about much more than Matilda: it is about how fame in Hollywood can be so fickle, how the love for a child actor in that business can change so quickly, but it is also about family and loss. Mostly, it is about finding other things to love, when your childhood dreams don’t suit you anymore.

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

This book has honestly changed my life. Springsteen has a mindset, stubbornness, and ambition that I truly admire, and because of this, his life story has had an impact in me I couldn’t have anticipated when I started listening to the book.

The volume is huge, but the pace is soothing, and I easily got lost in Springsteen’s life story, dreading the audiobook’s ending. In it he speaks about his childhood, the complicated relationship with his father, his love for music, and the E Street Band; he opens up about faith, love, and his own personal demons, and I guess that there is very little in regards to his life left to tell at the end of it. A remarkable life that makes for a remarkable listen. Easily my favourite non-fiction book I’ve read this year.

How about you? Which great biographies have you read, or listened to, in 2017?

Overdue Library Books in Life and On Television

Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey cost me $40, and I don’t even have it anymore. I lent my borrowed library copy to a friend earlier this year, and it was lost in a moving mix up. I offered the university librarians to replace the book myself when I told them it was gone. They said the library they borrowed it from wouldn’t allow that, so I had to pay in order to take out another book. I stood there with Andrea Ritchie’s Invisible No More in my hands, knowing I needed it, and just paid the fine. At least I liked a few of Kaur’s poems.

Within a couple months, a different book was lost by my local library after I returned it. It was Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman. When I noticed it still on my checked out list after bringing it back, I started doubting myself. I returned a couple books at one time. Maybe I did leave it at home by accident. I searched all over the place and just could not find it. I knew I returned it. I renewed it about seven times before they finally found it.

I thought about my recent run-ins with the library while watching the Seinfeld episode “The Library” the other day. The New York Public Library comes after him for a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer that he didn’t return in 1971. He swears that it was a mistake and he actually returned it. It turns out that he returned Tropic of Capricorn, not Tropic of Cancer. I figure there is some symbolic reason for those books to be chosen for the episode, but I’ve never read either. Somehow I’d gotten through a number of American fiction courses with only reading The Wings of the Dove.

Anyway, the episode uses some cliché library tropes: shhing and sexually active librarians, in addition to the library fines narrative. A dramatic missing book investigator named Mr. Bookman also follows people around the whole episode. Seinfeld’s big joke in the middle of the episode includes a riff on the pettiness of fines. If a book is late, he says, “what are you gonna charge me? A nickel?”

That episode also reminded me of the way Parks and Recreation treats the library. The running joke is that everyone hates the library. Leslie refers to them as “the most diabolical, ruthless bunch of bureaucrats I’ve ever seen.” The “punk ass book jockey” line comes from this “Ron and Tammy” episode too. When the library offers to build a branch on the lot Leslie wants to develop, she goes down there only to find out that Ron’s ex-wife, Tammy, initiated the plan. Tammy uses a $3 fine as a little icebreaker, but Leslie lashes out, not realizing she’s joking. She yells out “that’s why everybody hates the library,” while throwing change on Tammy’s desk.

A season later, Ron gets served with a late fee for the book It’s Not the Size of the Boat: Embracing Life with a Micro-Penis. He knows by the title that it’s just a way for Tammy to get his attention. Ron goes to her office with Leslie to tell Tammy to clear the fines because she should know that, “in my entire adult life I have never checked a book out of the library.”

The library fine storyline works in comedy because it’s real. I know people who have had fines for years and just stopped used the library to avoid them. Even though I use libraries all the time, I was holding off paying that $40 Kaur fine as long as possible. I stopped using that library until they had a book that my local library didn’t have. A few districts in the U.S. have already stopped charging late fees to curb people from abandoning the library over a few dollars, and I hope that more places consider doing it too. Reasonable access plays a major role in people’s reading habits.

Fun Bookish Generators on the Web

The internet has given many gifts, and many of them are goofy name and story generators. Here, we have 9 bookish generators to help you choose your next book, create a new name for yourself, insult and/or compliment someone, and read some beautiful erotic prose.

The Book Seer

The Book Seer is book recommending magic! It generates books similar to what you put in, based on Amazon and LibraryThing reviews. So you really loved Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and you want more like it? Try Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders or Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Poof! Magic!

L.M. Montgomery Name Generator

For a pretty rerelease of Anne of Green Gables, Sourcebooks created a fabulous generator to L.M. Montgomery-ify your name. I’m Josephine of White Hills, pleased to meet you.

Shakespeare Insult Generator

Keep this one in your back pocket for when someone really riles you up. Maybe keep it saved on your bookmarks bar? Do whatever you wish. [Thine] face is not worth sunburning. Wasn’t that fun?

Surreal Compliment Generator

Or maybe you’re sweet on someone and looking for the best way to compliment them. Well, the Surreal Compliment Generator is for you! Your layers of absinthe and torsion form concretions of hyperalimentation. I’m gonna need a dictionary and some sentence diagrams for that one.

Dickens Character Generator

Ever wonder what your name would be if you were in a Dickens story? The time has come. This one’s a fun, random name generator. I’m Dolly Beggeridge. Rolls right off the tongue.

Read It Forward’s TBR Time

If you’re really, really dedicated to whittling down your TBR, Read It Forward has your back with this handy calculator. Put in the number of your TBR, how many books you read last year, and your age. It’ll take me two years and a month to finish the 214 books currently on my TBR pile. Yikes. And that’s not even counting all the books that will come out over that time!

Epic Reads’s YA Name Generator

It’s not a generator; you have to do the leg work here. Popular YA character names are assigned to a letter, and you pick the ones corresponding to your name. Fun! My name is June Grayson, June Grayson.

I Write Like

Slap something you’ve written in the box, click analyze, and see who you write like! I apparently write like David Foster Wallace? Huh.

Fifty Shades Generator

I’ve saved the best for last. At the click of a button, you get a wild paragraph of intense, steamy, BIZARRE erotica writing. You’re welcome.

What’s your favorite bookish generator? Let us know in the comments!

Children’s and Young Adult Books to Help You Find Your Strength

Back during the first year of my undergraduate degree, I attended a lecture given by a very brilliant man. He said a lot of things but the one that stuck the most was “How many yous are you a ‘you’ to?” His point was about language, but it was also about identity.

Who are you? What do people think of when they think about you?

Becoming who you are is one of the hardest things in the world, especially when the world is so often devoted to overriding that and asking you to conform. Fit in. Carve yourself to fit the place that people want you to fit. Be the person they want you to be instead of the person who you really are.

The Good Immigrant book coverBooks like The Good Immigrant question that narrative; righteously, honestly and often furiously. It is a collection of twenty-one essays from Black, Asian and minority ethnic voices that cover the immigrant experience in the United Kingdom. The essays are strong, potent and visceral things and I can’t imagine a more important reading experience than coming across this volume in your formative years.

My Little Pony: The Ultimate Guide is a tie-in to the cartoon series, and covers life in Ponyville, Canterlot and all of Equestria. It’s perhaps not the first title you’d think for feminist empowerment, but it’s kind of awesome. As one of the ponies reflects: “A real leader doesn’t force her subjects to deny who they are. She celebrates what makes them unique and listens when one of them finds a better way!” My Little Pony feminist warriors? I am all for that.

I am also all for seminal voices and am convinced that Holly Bourne is on her way to becoming one if she’s not there already. The Spinster Club series concluded a run of remarkable novels last year which explored the trials and tribulations of life as a girl. Whether that’s starting a feminist revolution in What’s A Girl Gotta Do?, dealing with mental health issues in Am I Normal Yet?, or  the problems of romantic relationships in How Hard Can Love Be?, these books are outstanding. Friendship, strength, and cheesy snacks.  What’s not to love?

Stardust by Jeanne Willis and Briony May Smith is a similarly outstanding book, even if it is for a much younger reader. It’s a quiet picture book about a younger sister who feels overlooked by her brighter and shinier sibling. But her grandfather believes in her, and he helps her to realise that everybody shines in different ways. That’s not the ending however; the girl grows up and does something quite wonderful. I won’t spoil what that is here, but trust me when I tell you that it’s wonderful. This is an empowering and honest book about difference—but also the strength that comes in adversity.

Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais front coverA final book that I want to tell you about is Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais. An author who writes in both French and English, I’ve read and loved a lot of what she’s done. Piglettes, however, outshines them all. Three girls have won a competition that none of them wanted to win: they have been dubbed the ugliest girls in their school. However, and stay with me here, the three girls decide to cycle to Paris to gatecrash a garden party run by the French president. It makes sense in the novel, trust me, but as ever with a road-trip novel, the trip itself is the least important element. What matters here is the strength to be found in each other, a strength which enables each girl to claim her self-identity with both hands. This book is spiky, deeply eccentric, and rather wonderful. There’s a special place in my heart for books which deliver me lessons about body image, empowerment and identity, whilst also giving me tips on how to best cook sausages.

These are just a handful of the titles that are out there, but they’re all titles that have hit home for me in one way or another. But I guess in a way that’s the joy about books; they’re the gift that keep on giving. The books you read as a child will stay with you throughout life. Let’s make them good. Let them make you great.