• Lyra’s Oxford

    Philip Pullman

    Mr Pullman may call this a “stepping-stone,” but I call it an all-out tease. It’s a short story and some objects and an intro that explains it all… well, a little bit. The story is just long enough to drum up some excitement and then it ends. At the very least it relieved any notion that continuing the story might lead down disappointing...

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  • The Amber Spyglass

    Philip Pullman

    The last installment in this trilogy is epic and amazing. Overall the group of books is incredibly nuanced and well-paced, and about the only thing I found lacking through it all was the absence of the status of one character at the end of the second book, not to be heard from again until the seventh chapter in this one. Otherwise the story builds to an...

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  • The Subtle Knife

    Philip Pullman

    I remember when I first read these books years back, I didn’t enjoy The Subtle Knife as much as The Golden Compass, but it must have been misguided Lyra obsession. This book starts off with a whole new character and a new world (“our own world,” a note clarifies), which is kind of unexpected and jarring from the all-out fantasy of The...

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  • The Golden Compass

    Philip Pullman

    I realized that it’s been 8–10 years since I first read this book! When talking about the upcoming movie, I couldn’t keep characters’ dæmons straight (the outward projections of characters’ personalities in animal form) and realized I’d forgotten lots of details, as well as major plot points. The plus of that being that reading it again was...

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  • Never Let Me Go

    Kazuo Ishiguro

    I like the meandering, digression-laden style of this story, though it might have made many of the eventual revelations a bit less powerful. There were enough veiled clues that lessened any impact, but then it’s not really meant as a suspense novel. It’s kind of a science-fiction story, but also not so much since the details of those mechanical aspects are left for your imagination. But overall...

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  • This Life She’s Chosen

    Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

    I found it funny when one of the characters in an early story described a play as “very subtle … very oblique” — as it’s a pretty apt description of the stories in this collection. At first I felt annoyed that each one seemed to leave out a key detail I was wanting to know. But either I got used to it or the missing pieces were absent/less obvious. There’s a little...

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  • Optic Nerve 10 & 11

    Adrian Tomine

    I finally got around to hunting down the second and third issues of this three-part story, and re-read #9 since it had been a while. It’s interesting how these issues manage to be very much like the Optic Nerves of the past while feeling far more developed at the same time. The artwork has relaxed from the rigid precision of earlier issues and is all inked,...

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  • Hardboiled and Hard Luck

    Banana Yoshimoto

    Several people told me how disappointed they were in Goodbye Tsugumi that I haven’t read anything of Banana Yoshimoto’s since Amrita, even though I liked that book a lot. The last time I read...

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  • The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

    Nancy Farmer

    Toby mentioned this in the midst of recent Pottermania as one of the YA sci-fi books he would suggest to Potterfiends at the children’s bookstore he worked at in Boston years back. Set in 2194 Zimbabwe, three overprotected children of a general sneak out for an adventure and get kidnapped. Their parents bring in a trio of detectives, each with a...

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  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

    Rebecca Solnit

    Two good friends gave this the highest of ratings, so I took notice. A copy came through at the library just in time for a short trip down to the bay area, and it was pretty much the perfect reading for traveling, both in the subject matter and in the length of the essays. Every other one is called “The Blue of Distance,” and I love all the different ways Solnit explores this...

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  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem

    Joan Didion

    Sometime in the spring, I was looking for used copies of Didion’s books and instead impulsively bought the Everyman’s Library volume of her collected nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. It’s taken only brief journeys off the shelf since it’s so darn unwieldy, and I tend to grab something else for on-...

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  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    J.K. Rowling

    In the realm of contemporary YA fantasy, the HP series isn’t quite as well-written or nuanced as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (which will hopefully get a bit more attention from the masses this winter with a big film version of...

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  • Here They Come

    Yannick Murphy

    I took advantage of last month’s store-wide McSweeney’s sale to buy a few things. Though I’m not necessarily a fan of everything McSweeney’s, this book has a nice cover (which, you know, is always a swaying influence) and said it was about a teenage girl in...

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  • Ex Libris: confessions of a common reader

    Anne Fadiman

    I got this book out from the library the same day as The Book of the Bookshelf, and Petroski makes several references to this book, so that was a kind of odd coincidence. I can’t remember now what made me seek out these two books specifically. Then I was also thinking about “books about books” and whether I...

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  • The Push Man and other stories

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    If I’d paid better attention, I would have waited to read Abandon the Old in Tokyo in order to be properly anal and read the books in sequence. The introduction by Adrian Tomine is both a personal and technical opener to the series and how it came to be, including a note on the difficulty of translating the comics from Japanese — not...

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  • The Book on the Bookshelf

    Henry Petroski

    Possibly you’ve read something by Henry Petroski before, as he is quite prolific: writing about the pencil, useful things in general, as well as more abstract concepts like Success...

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  • Scrapbook

    Adrian Tomine

    This collection of Tomine’s “uncollected work” from 1990–2004 is divided into three sections: miscellaneous comics — either unpublished, drafts, or work that appeared in places other than Optic Nerve; (mostly commissioned) illustrations; and selections from his sketchbook. While these represent distinctly separate aspects of his work, they blend together nicely and given a well-rounded...

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  • Abandon the Old in Tokyo

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    I haven’t been keeping up with Adrian Tomine, or the last few issues of Optic Nerve for that matter. So that might be why I also missed hearing about this series of translations of Tatsumi’s work, which Tomine is editing/designing/lettering. This book represents work originally published in 1970 and the...

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  • After Dark

    Haruki Murakami

    This reads like it could have been a screenplay, and I spent most of the book thinking what a great movie it would be — a little David Lynch in all the good ways.


    As a novel it’s a little bit flat, but I still enjoyed the experiment in perspective. It seems as if there are a lot more characters interacting on one storyline, so while...

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  • The Passion

    Jeanette Winterson

    After reading Lighthousekeeping back in March, I had a feeling I’d come back to this again. Sure enough I was waiting for some things from the library and pulled my copy out — the top spine corner of the paperback is bent in from being shoved into boxes each of the five hundred times I’ve moved. This is probably one of the few books I’ve had since...

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