Wednesday, April 20, 2011

11 Best Books on the Civil War

Just in time for the 150th Anniversary, the Daily Beast has come up with this list of essential books about the war.  There are no fiction titles here (that would be a separate list), and they may be missing a few essential ingredients, but it is an excellent starting point.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

I loved this book.  It was sweet and funny and a really quick and easy read.  Fannie's books always have so much heart in them.  It's the perfect thing to read if you are trying to decompress from something stressful (for me it was an algebra class), or a lovely book to spend a couple of hours reading on a nice afternoon outdoors.
The main character in the story is Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama who has returned to her home town of Birmingham to sell real estate.  On the surface, it looks like Maggie has the perfect life, but things aren't always what they seem.  She is berating herself for a lifetime of missed chances, and feels like life is just not worth living any more.  You will fall in love with Maggie as she makes plans to leave a world she can no longer bear, and darn it if life just keeps interfering with her plans.  My other favorite character from the book is Maggie's boss, Hazel, an eternally optimistic midget who calls herself "the biggest little real estate woman in the world."  There is even a neat little mystery wrapped up in this whimsical tale of a southern belle who has lost her way.
This book is also a love letter to Birmingham and the state of Alabama (my home state, so I share Fannie's love for the place).   When Fannie describes the heyday of the city and those grand old houses on the hill you can almost smell the magnolia blossoms. 

Here's a link to a video of Fannie being interviewed about this book.  For some reason it wouldn't let me embed it for you, but I think if you take the time to view it, you'll see why Fannie is a favorite of book clubs.

I absolutely adored this book, just like I adore and admire the irresistably delightful Fannie Flagg.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Challenged Books 2010

Yesterday, the American Library Association released its list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins made the list this time in "what's become a virtual rite of passage for young adult sensations," the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) reported.

"I've read in passing that people were concerned about the level of violence in the books," Collins said. "That's not unreasonable. They are violent. It's a war trilogy."

This year's top 10 are:

1. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson Reasons
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
4. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
6. Lush by Natasha Friend
7. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Some random comments:

"It almost makes me happy to hear books still have that kind of power," Alexie said. "And there's nothing in my book that even compares to what kids can find on the Internet."

The ALA reported 348 challenges to books in 2010 and at least 53 outright bans. According to Barbara M. Jones, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, some books on the list "reflect current trends and changes in technology, including Hunger Games, inspired in part by reality television; Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World, which anticipates antidepressants and artificial fertilization; and a work of nonfiction: Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's despairing account of trying to get by as a waitress, maid and Walmart worker," the AP noted.

"The closer books come to things that are really happening in a lot of lives, the more they become a reminder of what people don't like to think about," Jones said, adding that Ehrenreich's book "really hits hard what it's like to have a low paying job."

My take: Nickel & Dimed was a great muckraker of a book. Sherman Alexie's book is funny and deserves all the awards it has won. Brave New have got to be kidding. What a joke this whole Banned Books thing has become.

Video Preview of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit"

First of all, if you haven't read The Hobbit--read it. Tolkien's The Hobbit and his Lord of the Rings trilogy are fantastic books. Secondly, Peter Jackson did a wonderful job interpreting the trilogy and everybody is waiting with baited breath for The Hobbit. This film snippet will whet your appetite and prime you for the filmed experience of Tolkien's magical book.

Top Ten Books of the American South

Everyone has their own favorite list of southern books. Southern literature is definitely one of my favorite genres. Here's Glen Taylor's top ten. Harper Lee is no surprise, and I'm gratified to see Rick Bragg on the list. Eight, nine and ten on his list are certainly classics. There are a few new ones to me that I intend to check out. Maybe you should too.
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