SUMMER BOOK BINGO!

book20and20stonesIt’s summer! And that means it’s time to get reading! If you’re like me, reading is a year round activity. You don’t need time off to devour a book. But what you DO need is a fun way to pick out a book. And those library Bingo cards are pretty generic, if you ask me. So…

I have created my very own Summer Book Bingo! Yeah, I know the one in your town probably offers prizes for completion. This doesn’t offer any prizes, but it is way cooler. And you’ll feel good about yourself for finishing so many books!

Here is a link to a printable, nicer looking version. 

Happy reading! And please send pictures if you finish! I would love to know what you all read.

Alicia’s SUMMER BOOK  BINGO! 

Collection of short stories FEMALE AUTHOR NON-FICTION GRAPHIC NOVEL Written in the 1960’s
Written in the 1980’s One Word Title Takes place in Europe SCARY! A book which features a lot of  FOOD
A CHILDHOOD FAVORITE FUNNY!       FREE! ANY BOOK COUNTS! Your Dad’s favorite book A book which features a DRAGON
Book which became a movie Written the year you were born A book with a NUMBER in the title Set where you live Choose a book based on its COVER
A book which features a CAT Takes place in the SUMMER TIME TRAVEL TALKING ANIMALS Collection of Poetry

 

Books: 10 Mid-Summer Reads

jaws_bg_0June is called “mid-summer” even though it is technically the beginning of the season. It’s the month of weddings, graduations, and pool parties. This is my first summer in almost eight years that I am not landlocked. Austin was just hot and steamy. Prague is pretty rad, but it doesn’t have an ocean or bay. Summer just isn’t the same without open water and a book to read.

Here is a list of books for your own Mid-Summer enjoyment and relaxation. Best if enjoyed near open water! (You can get any of these books at your local library, or Independent Bookseller.)

Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974) – You’ve seen the movie. It scared you from going into the water for years. Now read the book. It is quite possibly the greatest beach read and the one that will keep you from putting even a toe into the ocean again.

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (2014) – imgresIn his follow-up to The Dinner, Koch once again delves underneath the smiles and laughter of friends sharing a summer together and pokes at it with a stick. Until it bleeds. And oozes. It’s a summer book with a real dark side. The narrator is a Doctor who find his patients disgusting. The book opens with him looking back at the events that have unfolded, wondering what he could have done to avoid it. Any of it. It’s a great read, but if you are looking for a “light summer read” this isn’t it. This is a book about the underbelly of human beings. The puss. The nasty, filthy things that go unsaid are said here. And it’s pretty dang good.

 

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses  (2014) by Kevin Birmingham – MDBcover021314I have not read James Joyce’s classic Ulysses. I admit it. That book is really long and really hard to read. I had no idea that the book struggled for publication for nearly fifteen years because of the controversy surrounding it. Ulysses was considered “poor taste” when it was written, and because of shameful things like female sexuality it was banned. Banned! This book explores why it was banned and how it eventually got through to the public. Any book that could make me actually want to go back and attempt to read Ulysses has got to be good. The book is funny and has a light tone considering the weight of the subject matter.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (2014) by John Waters – John Waters is one of my favorite people in the world. Ever. If I were to write a book like his book Roll Models, he would be in there. He has made a career of breaking taboos and bringing the perverse to the mainstream. His books are as funny as his films, if not more so. “Waters, who is now 68, was looking for an adventure he could write about. So he decided to hitchhike cross-country from his home in Baltimore to his co-op apartment in San Francisco.” Hilarity ensues.

Tibetan Peach Pie (2014) by Tom Robbins – Speaking of my all time favorite people… Tom Robbins has a new book out. It is a memoir… of sorts. He doesn’t call it that. Of course he doesn’t. This is Tom Robbins we’re talking about. He writes about his childhood, growing up in Appalachia in the 1930’s, and how he came to be the bad boy of the literary world. Tom Robbins was my personal introduction to Zen ideas and what it meant to be a Bohemian. I think I (unconsciously?) lived my life like one of the fiercely zany female leads from one of his novels. Reading Tibetan Peach Pie made me laugh out-loud more than once and remember why I fell in love with outlaws, literary and otherwise, in the first place. Long Live!

jamesandthegiantpeach1James and the Giant Peach (1961) by Roald Dahl – No summer reading list is complete without at least one great adventure. James and the Giant Peach is a perfect summer read. When a crazed rhino kills his parents, James is sent to live with his horrid aunts Sponge and Spiker. Dahl delights in writing wicked, truly horrid adults in his books for children. And these are two are the worst. James gets a little help from a little man and soon grows a rather large, let’s call it a giant, peach that squashes his aunts and sets him on big adventure. If you haven’t read this before, or since you were a kid, then give it a try. The least you will do is smile. “James decided that he rather like the Centipede. He was obviously a rascal, but what a change it was to hear somebody laughing once in a while. He had never heard Aunt Sponge or Aunt Spiker laughing aloud in all the time he had been with them.” 

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (1998) by Susan Orlean – {98130EFB-3E0D-4065-90A2-D786959FAA00}Img100This is one of those books that you read and you can’t quite believe that what you’re reading really happened. I get the same feeling when I read anything by Eric Larson. (Devil and the White City) The book started as an article Susan Orlean was writing about the 1994 arrest of John Larouche and a group of Seminoles in south Florida. They were stealing Orchids so Larouche could clone them. What follows is Orleans journey through the odd world of plants and the people who cultivate and kind of worship them. The book was later made into a movie (kind of) and creates its own awesome journey of flowers, passion and truth. A great book and equally great movie.

Outlander (1991) by Diana Gabaldon – imagesIf you like historical fiction, sexy sex, time travel and evil villains, then this is the book for you. The story follows a 1940’s war nurse who accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scotland. I know. It sounds ridiculous. It is. But it is also addictive and awesome. Outlander is the first in a series of eight novels. I only read the first three or four, but I loved every minute of them. Here is a quote from Diana Gabaldon, the author. “In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction… However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…” The eighth (Written in My Own Hearts Blood) was released just a few weeks ago, and the Straz series based on the books airs August 9th so you better get crackin’ if you want a head start on the next big thing.

Swamplandia! (2011) by Karen Russell – Set in the Ten Thousand Islands off the southwest coast of Florida, Swamplandia! is the story of the Bigtree family, and centers around the smart and precocious Ava, daughter of famed of alligator wrestlers who live on Swamplandia!, an alligator-wrestling theme park. The book is beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down last summer. It’s one of those special books that stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover for the last time. Inside the world of Swamplandia! there is mystery, magic, seances, water slides, ghosts, tragedy, a boy named Kiwi, love and loss. It is a fantastic book with one of the most likeable narrators in recent memory.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985) by Haruki Murakami – hard-boiled-wonderland-and-the-end-of-the-worldMurakami has a new book coming out in August called Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I’ve read it, and it is beautiful. But since that book doesn’t come out for another few months you should read this one. You could read any of his novels and walk away happy, but this one is the most… Murakami of all his books. It takes place in the real world… for the most part, and in a fantasy world. It’s part science fiction cyber punk and part dreamlike fantasy. It’s like reading a surrealist painting. The story is split between two parallel narratives: Hard-Boiled Wonderland (odd chapters), and The End of the Wold (even chapters). This is a great introduction to Murakami and his lovely, weird, sad, funny, and ultimately wise characters.

Things I’m Loving – Right Now

Hey all! Summer is in full swing here in Texas, and here is what I am loving right now!

  1. The Killing (AMC) – usa-killingIf you haven’t tuned in for this stellar show yet, then you are missing out. This show just started its 3rd season and I am already anxious to see what happened next. Unlike GoT which is action packed, “The Killing” is a slow burn. It unfolds slowly without giving too much away, and always leaves you wanting more.The first two seasons cover a single case: Who killed Rosie Larson? I just started re-watching from season 1 with my sweetheart and I am hooked all over again. It’s refreshing to watch a mystery show that I can’t figure out in the first 10 minutes.
  2. Swimming Pools
    Barton Springs Pool, Austin

    Barton Springs Pool, Austin

    As much as I love Prague in the summertime, it was always lacking one thing for me: Swimming pools. There is a huge swimming complex at Podali, but you have to wade throngs of people, dozens of screaming kids, drunk assholes, and all of the American dudes who go there just to stare at the topless ladies. No thanks. When I go to a pool I would like to be left alone and actually be able to swim. Being back in the states has reminded me of just how much I like laying in a deck chair in the hot sun. Alone. With just my book and my tunes. I also just bought a big yellow floatie that I am excited to sit in while wearing my new bikini.

  3. Gay of Thrones – I watch Game of Thrones. I like it alright, but what I like better is Funny or Die’s recap series called “Gay of Thrones”. It is a stylist recapping the last episode for you, and his current client. It’s hilarious. The dude speaks a language I can understand. I mean, GoT has so many characters (all with crazy names) that it’s kind of hard to keep track of who is who, and who killed who. The dude in Gay of Thrones uses clever nicknames to help dopes like me keep track of the action. He calls the Dragon chick “Christina Aguilera”. He calls Rob Stark’s wife “Winterfell Lady Gaga”. It’s perfect. He says everything I am thinking. I don’t have a gay boyfriend in Austin, so he is the next best thing. http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/5766ea13c1/gay-of-thrones-game-of-thrones-ep-7-recap
  4. Summer Reading List – SN856895The very best part of summer is making a dent in that huge stack of books I bought to pass the time by the pool. I also love looking at all of the reading lists on other blogs, or sites like NPR or PBS. I just started “Duma Key” by Stephen King and it’s a whopping 789 pages long. I had better get moving if I want to get to the rest of the books on my list. The one I am most excited about is the brand spanking new Zadie Smith book called “NW”. Can’t. Wait. 
  5. Jeff Goldblum – I have loved this man since I first saw “The Big Chill” and “Buckaroo Banzai”. Mr. Goldblum is a true original. He has a very unique acting style. He stands perfectly still while delivering lines and just moves his eyes. It’s rad. Anyway, I just now found out that he is on Law & Order: CI! I mean, I thought I was excited to see him play one of Rachel Berry’s dads on “Glee”, but I nearly fell over when I saw his face in the opening credits of Law & Order. I just want him to tuck me in and read things to me. And maybe tell me a couple of jokes and then explain quantum physics. So Mr. Goldblum if you are reading this – I know you play jazz piano and I sing so… match made in heaven? Yes! You know where to find me. 

10 Best Summer Reads

Just about every blog out there has a Summer Reading list – the best books of the year to companion you through the dog days of summer. While it’s a good idea, it’s not really feasible for me to do. Why? Well, out here in the land that time forgot (The Czech Republic) it isn’t really easy to get your hands on the newest literature in english. I used to work at a little independent bookstore here in Prague that has since closed, and that was the best bet. Sure you can find books in english here, but usually just best sellers and crap lit like “The Twilight Saga”. You would be shocked and amazed at the amount of crappy female detective novels (V.I Warshawski, Alexander McCall Smith) females consume thinking they are reading good “literature”. Anyway, when I see all of these enticing lists full of books that I can’t get my hands on immediately, I get upset. And sad. I wanna read new books too!

And please don’t tell me to just get an e-reader. I think e-readers suck. I don’t care how “easy” it is, or how fast I can download it. Honestly, how fucking hard is it to open a real book? How much easier does a thing need to be? I digress. It’s simple: I like books. I like the smell. I like flipping pages. I like to feel the print on the page. I like finding used books with writing in it. Why would I want to replace all of those tactile joys with a fucking computer? Oh, right. that would mean that I like ads every time I open my um, flap jacket that thinks it’s a book cover. That would mean I like “people” tracking what I read, how fast I read, and if I finish my books. Lame sauce. That’s right, lame sauce. And if I see you with one I reserve the right to call you that.

ANYHOO… That’s why this particular summer reading list is a little different. This list contains books that take place in summer months or just feel summery. I don’t know. They are good books that you can buy and read and I suggest you check them out. I tried to put some different books in here. And please note – for the first time ever there is no Murakami on the list. You should have already read him by now. The end.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Duh. A classic any way you slice it. Read it again.

2.  A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving – I know, I have put this book on so many lists! But it is that great. This book contains an armadillo, a live changing summer baseball game, a boy who believes he is an instrument of god, and just about the best Christmas pageant scene ever put on paper.

3.  Under the Dome by Stephen KingI am smack dab in the middle of this mammoth of a book. If “summer reading” for you means a big, huge adventure involving a mystery and a murder or two, then this is the book for you. Stephen King is pretty awesome and so far this book doesn’t disappoint.

4. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – Maybe fiction and sci-fi aren’t your thing. Maybe you like real life drama. If that is the case look no further than Erik Larson. I have read all of his books and they are all wonderful. He makes non-fiction feel like a story. It’s awesome. I picked my favorite of his books. The tag line for the book is “Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America”How could you NOT want to read it? And the serial killer? Well, you couldn’t make this kind of crazy up.

5. The Beach by Alex Garland – Backpackers, beaches, hostels… what more do you need in a summer read? Don’t judge this book by the movie because the book is much better. It’s a quick fun read.

6. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – Don’t worry. I am not trying to force you to become a vegetarian. That’s not really what this book is about. This book is one mans journey to discover where his food actually comes from. He tackles the issue from four different angles: Industrial, Organic, and food we forage or kill ourselves. It is a really interesting book that will make you think the next time you want to buy food at a big chain store or a Burger King.

7. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann – Sex. Drugs. Hollywood. It’s all in there and it’s all pretty damned good. You want a beach read? Then grab a copy of this classic. The book is full of helpful life hints like, “A man must feel he runs things, but as long as you control yourself, you control him.” Hmm. Good to know! or how about this one, “When you’re climbing Mount Everest, nothing is easy. You just take one step at a time, never look back and always keep your eyes glued to the top.” See? This book helps you climb mountains.

8. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell – This book isn’t really a “summer” book, but I read it a few summers ago and loved it, so it makes the list. The book is composed of thirteen chapters, each one month in the protagonists life. He is a 13-year old boy named Jason Taylor and he deals with life and loss, and peer pressure and coming into his own. The book takes place in 1982 and manages to stay fresh. Each chapter almost reads like its own short story.

9. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – This is another book I just couldn’t stop talking about after I read it. What a treat! The story is about Oscar – a fat kid from the Dominican Republic who dreams of growing up to be the next Tolkien and falling in love. You can’t help but love Oscar. He lives in New Jersey with his old school mom and his kind of mean sister. This is a good one!

10. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates – I don’t think a summer has gone by without me reaching for a Joyce Carol Oates book. Her books are epic, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. And the woman is prolific, I haven’t even come close to reading everything of hers and I have read a lot! So, I went with “The Falls”. I don’t know if it is my favorite, or even the best but it is awesome.  She is amazing at telling stories that span decades, like this one. It starts off on an ill-fated Honeymoon that leaves our heroine a widow. The rest of the story involves her life, loves, the Love Canal case and environmental issues that nobody really thought about in the 50’s and 60’s.

*****BONUS BOOK!****  

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber – This one is for all you sheep ladies out there who think 50 Shades of Grey is something new and awesome, or even well written. It ain’t. Try THIS one is you like smut, sex, romance, forbidden love and all that stuff that comes with it. This book is HOT, gritty, well-written and lot’s of fun to read.