Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Look" by Solmaz Sharif

Let it matter what we call a thing

The Poetry is Not a Luxury Book Club January selection is Look by Solmaz Sharif. 

Look is an astonishing first book that asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable losses of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family’s and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed, in America’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discriminations endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.

In Look, Sharif, who was born in Istanbul to Iranian parents who fled the country after the 1979 revolution, appropriates terms from the United States Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, which appear in small caps in a majority of Look’s poems. Through careful juxtaposition of military language designed to disguise and discount human life and of the lives of her family, Sharif makes private moments of everyday life precarious—a “thermal shadow” marks sexual intimacy deadly in “Look” and a “permanent echo” rebounds less divinely than ominously through the acoustically designed domes of Masjid-e Imam in “Break-Up.” In her most powerful political poems, among them “Safe House,” “Deception Story,” and the elegiac “Personal Effects,” the technique tears through the expected discourse put forth by the America government and media, forcing readers to confront the personal realities that grow out of seemingly distant policy decisions.

Below you'll find links to articles and review to help you more fully explore this amazing collection.

Look is:
A Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry
One of The New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2016
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Best Poetry Collection of 2016
One of The New Yorker's Books We Loved in 2016
One of the San Francisco Chronicle's 100 Recommended Books of 2016
Click here for a video of Sharif reading from the collection at the 2016 National Book Awards 
Click here to read the title poem "Look" on PEN America
Solmaz Sharif in an interview with the National Book Award on who she wrote this book for:  
I wrote Look for the dead. For the displaced. For myself and my own outrage and perceived powerlessness. For history, believing that somewhere in our literary record, this outrage, this grief, this Mustapha Mohammad Khalaf, 15 months old must be registered, that the history of the “Wars on Terror” should not be left to the generals and the embedded journalists. read more
Lisa Higgs, in the Kenyon Review Online, writing about Sharif's use of "I" in the poems:
Sharif’s use of first-person in her collection invites readers into points of view that have largely been ignored, with the “I’s” as likely to be an intelligence officer or a battlefield soldier as the poet herself. At first, the effect is disorienting—who is talking, and to whom? Is it the poet as herself or the poet as persona? Am I the intended “I” in these poems? read more

Brandon Amico in The Rumpus on the forms Sharif uses in the poems:
Formally, the poems in Look defy expectation, and in some cases easy categorization—indeed, it appears that a static and predictable form might be seen as a form of creative oppression (“What is fascism? / a student asked me … The sonnet, / I said” – from “Force Visibility”). The poems reflect and channel the energy of a speaker that is agitated, uncomfortable with the way the world is shaped around her, and is actively attempting to enact change. They shift between thin, enjambed columns and prose; they take the shape of definitions or short encyclopedia articles; some have lines that stretch or alternate between the page’s left and right margins, that braid narratives; others make ample use of white space, lists, indentations, even erasure. read more

Friday, January 20, 2017

Community Organizing: Books for Troubled Times, Part 3

A particularly difficult day in difficult times. Here are some of the books people have recommended for action or comfort (or both!) during this inauguration day and a few previous resistance days.

from Lori Tharps:
Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families by Lori Tharps
"Explains so much about race and color in these troubled times."
The Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
"Will make you feel good."

from Gail Mershon:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
"Restores my faith in the goodness of people."

from Jes:
Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook by CrimethInc
"Direct action for everyone."
Alice's Restaurant Cookbook by Alice May Brock
"Cooking with friends makes everything better."

from a customer:
Dylan Thomas: Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas
"They just kind of cheer me up about life."

from staffer Jennifer Sheffield:
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
"It's important right now to know of so many women standing strong in their chosen occupations and to recognize the importance of science in our lives."

from Claudia Ginanni:
The Tea House Fire by Ellis Avery
"This wonderful novel asks important questions about the human cost of art."

from Anne Rubenstein:
Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R. James
"The relationship between the sport of cricket and anti-colonialism in the British Caribbean, beautifully written. How everyday life can get us out of this mess."

from staffer Mariga Temple-West:
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Evil is spreading over the land, but goodness and hope triumph!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bookstore Bestsellers, 2016

Happy New Year! I'd like to present the annual list of Big Blue Marble bestsellers -- the top 25 books sold in 2016, and top 25 overall.

Please tell us in comments: What books have you read and loved over the past year?

Top 25 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble in 2016:

1) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
2) Good Night Wissahickon Valley Park by Adam Gamble, Mark Jasper, and Scotti Mann (local setting)
3) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
4) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5) Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim (local author)
6) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
7) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
8) Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel
9) The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
10) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
11) Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families by Lori Tharps (local author)
12) Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch (local author)
13) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
14) The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
15) I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems
16) Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
17) Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
18) The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow (local author)
19) El Deafo by Cece Bell
20) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
21) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
22) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
23) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
24) The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
25) Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Top 25 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble to Date:

1) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
2) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
3) Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton (onetime local author)
4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
5) Body Trace by D.H. Dublin (local author)
6) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
7) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8) Good Night Philadelphia by Adam Gamble and Cooper Kelly (local setting)
9) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
10) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
11) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
12) Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
13) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
14) The First 1000 Days by Nikki McClure
15) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (somewhat local author)
16) There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems
17) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
18) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (companion book for the 2011 One Book, One Philadelphia program)
19) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
20) Amulet 1: Stonekeeper by Kazi Kibuishi
21) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
22) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)
23) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
24) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
25) The Daring Book for Girls by Miriam Peskowitz (local author) and Andrea Buchanan

Check out our list of young adult bestsellers, posted in the January YA newsletter:
Big Blue YA News -- Series to Read and Reread, Store Bestsellers, and Activism!
And stay tuned for a list of top sellers from our 2016 events!

Happy reading for 2017!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Zivia's Picks for December

The -Ologies books (Candlewick, $21.99-$24.99)
Everything from Alienology to Wizardology. They have a good feel to them, and I like that they're interactive and full of information.

Dungeons & Dragons materials
From Starter Sets ($19.99) to sets of dice ($5.00), from the Player's Handbook ($49.95) to DM screens ($14.95).

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection (Scholastic, $35.96)
These are good both for learning about the game and as a reference for when you don't have everything in your head.

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, starting with Stonekeeper (Scholastic, $12.99)
These graphic novels have great illustrations!

Zivia Avelin, December 2016

Nif's Five New Gifts from Continuum Games

Catan: Trade, Build, Settle ($49.99)
(aka Settlers of Catan) A game of cards, dice, and resources.

Mastermind ($15.99)
A game of guessing and logic, with colorful pegs. A bit like Battleship.

Rubik's Cube ($15.00)
Exactly what it sounds like.

Dolphin Magnetic Sculpture ($5.99)
Big magnetic base, many little metal dolphins to balance and do acrobatics on top.

Floating Color Timer/Liquid Layers ($4.99)
Kind of like an egg timer, only more fun, and with colored immiscible liquids instead of sand.

Jennifer Woodfin, December 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jen's Five New Books of Maps and Infographics

Best American Infographics 2016, edited by Gareth Cook (Mariner Books, $20)
Populations in war and peace, a periodic table of sweeteners, who's fighting whom in Syria, 163 years of Atlantic hurricanes, a literary road map. And so much more.

Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: a Visual Guide by Josh Katz (Houghton Mifflin, $25)
Colorful dialect maps of many, many words and phrases. I was particularly pleased that after my first flip through the pages, I had gathered enough clues to conclude (correctly) that the author is from around here...

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton (Workman, $35)
Now I want to go to some pretty obscure places to see some pretty weird things...

The Way Things Work Now: From Levers to Lasers, Windmills to Wi-fi, a Visual Guide to the World of Machines by David MacAulay with Neil Ardley (HMH Books for Young Readers, $35)
Detailed and friendly diagrams of the way things work. I want to study it. Newly updated version!

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss (Random House, $35)
"...a spellbinding combination of storytelling, art, and science." -from the publisher's website

Jennifer Sheffield, December 2016

Monday, December 05, 2016

Sarah's Seven Dystopian Novels We Might Soon Be Living In

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (Little, Brown, $10.99)

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (HMH, $8.99)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, $10.99)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, $8.99)

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos (HMH, $8.99)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, $11.99)

Matched by Ally Condie (Speak, $9.99)

Sarah Sawyers-Lovett, December 2016

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Community Organizing: Books for Troubled Times, Part 2

More book recommendations from our community. Over the three instances of On Fridays, We Fight Back!, people have been finding space, guidance, and company for the various actions we've taken -- calling representatives and other government officials, writing to electors, sending comfort to survivors of violence. Please come join us, Fridays between 2pm and 6pm!

from Lucas Jaeger:
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
"It's a captivating tale that will keep you entranced for days."

from a customer:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
"A nested series of six stories that will linger with you for years. I've never stopped thinking about it."

from Anndee Hochman:
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
"The Reagan years were no picnic either; Angels in America captures that time with ferocity and hope."

from staffer Mariga Temple-West:
A is for Atom: A Midcentury Alphabet by Greg Paprocki
"Humorous alphabet book with marvelous 'mid-century' illustrations, and so wonderfully inclusive!"

from a customer:
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
"Great book for young people."

from Hillary Kruger:
Delicious by Ruth Reichl
"A great escape into the world of food!"

from Paul Fitzpatrick:
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
"Frankl's philosophy is a survivalist philosophy. Despite staring into the face of evil itself, Frankl reminds us of the importance of meaning and maintaining our own personal freedom."

from Robert Bingham:
The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen
"'Money is a communal delusion.' (Comment I just overheard that is very relevant.)"