Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s Genius tells the story of Ted Max, a genius weighed down by expectations and overwhelmed in his interpersonal relationships. Once a promising quantum physicist, his life seems to have come to a halt. He cannot think of any new ideas at work and is facing losing his job at a think tank. His wife has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and he doesn’t know how to interact with his budding genius daughter and future frat boy son. And to make matters worse, his crotchety father-in-law won’t tell Ted the secret that Albert Einstein entrusted him with when he was “Bert’s” bodyguard. With no relief in sight, Ted begins to see himself unravel.
There has been a biographical graphic novel trend in publishing the last few years, but despite Albert Einstein’s strong presence in this graphic novel, this is not a biography. Seagle uses Einstein as a memory or an absence in Ted’s life. Kristiansen’s absorbing, lush pastel watercolor illustrations pair well with Seagle’s sparce and straightforward text, and make Einstein’s presence known throughout the novel. There is a sense when you read the book that you’re able to see some of the beautiful inner thoughts of a quantum physicist who has a difficult time voicing his feelings. I was much more touched by this book than I expected, and really felt Ted’s frustration with trying to live in the present when the future beckons and the past haunts. Ted many not be an everyman, but I think that most of us struggle with similar worries and heartbreaks.
Set in rural Appalachia, Flight Behavior introduces readers to fiery haired Dellaboria Turnbow, a 28-year-old mother of two and wife of sweet, but dull Cub. After getting pregnant at 17, she traded college for rural poverty — helping her in-laws on their sheep farm. We meet Dellaboria as she makes her way toward an adulterous rendezvous, which she skips after seeing what “looked like the inside of joy” that she interprets as a sign from God. Her vision turns out to be a sea of Monarch butterflies that arrive in rural Tennessee after changing weather patterns disturb their flight behavior. The butterflies bring in a cast of characters — from environmental activists to scientists to tourists to journalists — that push Dellaboria to challenge her expectations of herself and those around her.
This book reads as deeply personal, with Kingsolver’s fondness for these characters only matched by the urgency in her description of possible near-future effects of climate change. Kingsolver lives in rural Appalachia (and has a background in ecology and biology), and you can tell that she looks on her home with a mix of affection and frustration. She writes Dellaboria and her family and friends with enough respect to make them complicated, thoughtful, intelligent, and flawed. Readers that enjoyed Kingsolver’s other forays into family and politics in The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will enjoy this beautifully written novel.
More often than not, I feel like I read books about people that I either love or hate — heroes (or anti-heroes) or villains. But in life it is rarely that easy. People surprise you, disappoint you, make you frustrated, make you laugh, bore you, excite you — sometimes all in the same day. No person is always valiant and even Saddam Hussein probably told a good joke once in a while. So it is often those books that show people being human that really appeal to me. In The Middlesteins, Jami Attenberg did just that.
The Middlesteins centers around Edie, the family matriarch who has always loved food. Her lifelong memories are tied to liverwurst and rye bread, and she has been able to consume large quantities of food in one sitting since childhood. As she goes from plump to fat to morbidly obese, she marries Richard, raises her children – Benny and Robin, and builds a mediocre career. Her family and career did not meet the high expectations she had as a whip-smart child, and now around 60-years-old, food has become the consistent comfort in her disappointing life. Edie, Benny, Robin, Richard, Benny’s wife Rachelle, and a few additional characters each contribute to this family’s narrative. We see how Edie’s dissatisfaction and deteriorating health effect the family, and how they all deal with trauma and turmoil in their own way.
Just like the characters, the book is imperfect. There are some editing and consistency issues and some of the plot devices feel a little forced, but I would recommend this book for anyone interested in character-driven novels about families.
If you’re looking to start reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn today, you might be out of luck (make sure you place a hold!), but that doesn’t mean you have to leave the library empty handed. Feel free to visit us at the Reference/Information desk, and we can help you find books that read similarly to Gone Girl (or any title that you’re looking to read.) If you’re looking from home, the catalog can provide read-alike suggestions. You just need to search for the book, and select “details” to the right of the title and book cover. Once you are looking at the details about the book, you can scroll down to “Suggestions and More” where you will find similar titles and similar authors. Here are some suggestions for Gone Girl read-alikes.
The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
How is it like Gone Girl? Both books are suspenseful, the story alternates between the husband’s and wife’s voices, and highlight marital woes.
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
How is it like Gone Girl? Both books are suspenseful, have complicated plots, and feature discrepancies between what is being said and what is actually happening.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
How is it like Gone Girl? Both books focus on crime and family, with nimble and smart writing.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
How is it like Gone Girl? Both books are suspenseful, darkly funny, and feature unlikable and unreliable narrators.
Die for You by Lisa Unger
How is it like Gone Girl? Both books are psychological suspense novels that evolve from different perspectives.
It is hard enough to be well-adjusted while raised under typical circumstances, but Annie (Child A) and Buster (Child B) spent their childhood as players in their parent’s mischief disguised as art (or is it art disguised as mischief?). They have spent their adult years attempting to distance themselves from their famous artist parents, but when their new lives start to fall apart, they find themselves back under their parent’s roof.
In his debut novel, The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson introduces us to the Fang family. With disdain for traditional art forms, Caleb and Camille Fang choose unexpected public performance art as their medium and have included their children in all of their greatest pieces. When their children return home, Caleb and Camille plan one final performance, and Annie and Buster are participants whether they want to be or not. The quirky story (think Wes Anderson meets Arrested Development) is bolstered by flash-back chapters that help the reader better understand the character’s motives and gives clues to the final outcome. Exceptionally written and a fun read, this book should please fans of Zadie Smith and Karen Russell.
I went into reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain with a blank slate. I had never read any of Ernest Hemingway’s novels, and I knew only the bare minimum of biographical information about his life. This book is a fictionalized account of Hemingway’s first wife Hadley. It details all of the highs and lows of their complicated relationship, from their first meeting in Chicago in 1920 and subsequent whirlwind marriage to their years of living in Paris and the unraveling of their once happy life together. Their lives seem glamorous on the surface: spending time with the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein, writing in chic Paris cafes, and taking extended vacations to exotic locales around Europe. But boiling below the surface is a host of problems. As attentive and accommodating as Hadley tries to be, she simply cannot contend with Ernest’s ambition, neediness, and thirst for the drink.
The story is told through Hadley’s point of view. She grew up in a very different setting, much more conservative and traditional than the Jazz Age Paris of the 1920s, so we’re learning about this time and place through brand new eyes. The writing is lovely and McLain is very successful in making the time period come alive. Plus, the English major in me got giddy every time a different historical figure popped up in the story. I actually listened to the audio version of The Paris Wife and it was very well done. Even though anyone who knows even a little bit about Hemingway has an idea of how this story ends, it’s still a compelling and engaging read that I would recommend to fans of historical fiction, novels about love and marriage, and Ernest Hemingway.
It’s so lovely when a novel can turn a well-worn trope into a fresh, lively story. Just as she did with time travel in The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger turns cliches into something more in Her Fearful Symmetry. The story follows 21 year old twins Julia and Valentina, who inherit their aunt Elspeth’s London flat and fortune on the condition that they live in the dwelling, without their parents or any other chaperone, for one year. The catch: Elspeth, mute and invisible, has clung to her flat and haunts it – and she’s getting stronger every day. Don’t groan! It sounds horribly cliched – identical twins; an inheritance contingent upon ridiculous demands; London; ghosts – but it’s so much more than it seems. Elspeth is the estranged twin sister of Julia and Valentina’s mother, Edie; the elder sisters have a history of secrets that Niffenegger unravels throughout the tale. Even more impressive is the host of delightful secondary characters: Martin, an obsessive-compulsive neighbor who writes crossword puzzles for a living, and his estranged wife Marijke (pronounced Mah-RYE-Kuh); Robert, a cemetery historian and Elspeth’s former lover; even the white kitten the twins adopt has personality and verve. They call him “The Little Kitten of Death.”
It’s a beautiful, unusual tale that unfolds slowly and doesn’t pander to the reader. Both of Niffenegger’s novels tell the stories of ordinary, although perhaps quite unusual, people who must find a way to navigate a frightening, supernatural situation. She tells the tale at the pace she wants, rather than dropping in action sequences and extra dialog where they don’t belong. If you liked the style of The Time Traveler’s Wife, you’ll be pulled in by this ghostly, ethereal tale. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was excellent in that format; a perfect companion for rainy springtime commutes!
How often do you actually gasp with surprise anymore? Towards the end of Crazy, Stupid, Love, the many plot strands of this movie come together and there is a “reveal” that is truly unexpected.
I applaud director Glenn Ficarra for adeptly weaving together so many relationships and wonderful performances, especially by Emma Stone. She and Ryan Gosling have a chemistry, rivaled only by that between Gosling and Steve Carell. When the last two have a falling-out, it’s almost more upsetting than the breakup of Carell and Julianne Moore. Gosling, as the epitomy of cool confidence, is a pleasure to watch. (There is a scene that will have you running to the library catalog to see if Dirty Dancing is on the shelf)
Go now, and have the time of your life-
Looking for a different way to honor Dad this coming Father’s Day? How about checking out a movie featuring a fabulous father? There’s a lot to choose from — it all depends upon your interests, or perhaps, more importantly, upon the ages of your kids.
For the younger crowd, The Incredibles is a fun choice, and all the people in that family are pretty amazing!
One of my favorites is Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams. This is a good choice for slightly older kids; it’s hilarious, but also quite touching.
If your kids are older — maybe even adults — you may want to check out Father of the Bride. You can chose the popular newer version with Steve Martin, but it might be refreshing to go way back and view the original movie starring Spencer Tracy. See how things have changed, or possibly, how much has stayed the same!
For those of you who’d rather have a real book connection, why not look into To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch has to be one of the most understanding fathers in the world.
And if you prefer TV shows, you might like watching some true oldies, like My Three Sons or Father Knows Best. Have a Happy Father’s Day!
People! Why haven’t you been watching this show? It is one of the best shows on television – ever. And now this ratings-challenged, critically acclaimed show is gone (episodes originally aired on Direct TV; now showing on NBC, the final season is nearly over) Fortunately, the library has the DVDs – learn from the error of your ways and watch Friday Night Lights now.
Let me make this clear right from the start – Friday Night Lights is not about football. OK, sure, there are several scenes with shots of football games, and life in Dillon, Texas seems to revolve around the local high school football teams and the lead character is a football coach. The truth is, this show is about people – how they live, how they fall into and out of love, how they care for other people, how they try to be the best they can with what resources they have. For the younger people, it’s about how you think high school is the be-all and end-all of your life, only to realize it’s barely the beginning and you have some decisions to make that will affect the rest of your life. For the older people, it’s about how those decisions have shaped you and how you’ve learned to live – or not live – with those decisions. It’s poignant and funny and sad and beautiful – kind of like real life.
Brilliant acting (especially Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton), innovative photography, compelling story lines and characters that you can love and understand (even if you think they’re making dumb decisions), Friday Night Lights is both classic and modern, showing us who we are and what we are capable of. The fifth and final season does not disappoint and includes a bittersweet reunion of many of the characters from previous years. Also included in the DVD is a heartfelt retrospective of the series – there won’t be a dry eye in the house after watching this.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.