Non-Fiction

  • Persepolis 2

    Marjane Satrapi

    The highly anticipated follower to Persepolis!; I am very lucky that Steve had requested it from the library early and then let me read it first when he got it. This book starts with Marjane arriving in Vienna, the first one having ended with her leaving Iran, and her transition into a life in a Western country, away from her family is rough. Eventually she decides to return to Iran, which turns out to be equally, if not more, difficult after her time away.

    This book is less about Iran’s history, one thing I especially appreciated about the first book, but for the obvious reason that she is disconnected from her family and her country for half of the book....more

  • We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

    Philip Gourevitch

    the may 2004 issue of harper’s included a letter from Congo titled “In the Valley of the Gun: A massacre unfolds in eastern Congo” by Bryan Mealer — a very intense witness of the violence in the Republic of Congo. in talking to my roommate about it, she mentioned how it is tied into what happened in Rwanda and recommended this book. it’s pretty devastating (much like that article), but an important read.

    my knowledge of Rwanda was limited. though i picked up elements about what happened here and there, i still remember seeing news about the Rwandan refugees in Zaire (before it was renamed the Republic of Congo) in the mid-90s, but no context of what they were refugees from...more

  • About This Life

    Barry Lopez

    an excellent collection of largely personal essays, the topics run from traveling to memories to animal studies. the introduction alone is worth a read by itself — an explanation of sorts of Lopez’s background, as context for the essays that follow.

    there were a few parts that i wasn’t so into, but “A Short Passage in Northern Hokkaido” is a beautiful essay about Japan’s northern island, its “frontier”; in “Flight” Lopez rides cargo planes for days on end to see what sorts of things are shipped around the world; “Apologia” finds him on a long car ride, stopping to pull roadkill off the asphalt; and the final section “An Opening Quartet” is a fine collection of essays based in his past. highly recommended....more

  • The Poetics of Space

    Gaston Bachelard

    this book wasn’t exactly what i was expecting; it’s not so much “one of the most appealing and lyrical explorations of home,” as the 1994 Beacon Press edition describes it. there is a lot in here about images of home but the focus is more generally on “intimate spaces” analyzed through (mostly French) literature/poetry.

    in the end i took away more of a literary critique on how writers use images, particularly contrasted from metaphors. it would have been helpful to have more of a background of the texts Bachelard references — i wish there were a volume dedicated to drawing out similar images from the canon i was taught.

    it’s a pretty dense, phenomenological book, definitely not a casual read. i skimmed a few...more

  • Girl, Interrupted

    Susanna Kaysen

    while i was reading Wintering, i had a few conversations about books about young women in mental institutions. i think i read The Bell Jar once, but i read this book a few times, drawn to the non-linear narrative with a confessional tone, quirky humor, and heavy intimacy. Kaysen spent almost two years in McLean Hospital in her late teens and wrote this memoir over twenty years later. that distance extracts a lot of the angst and melodrama that might be expected.more

  • The Book of Tea

    Okakura Kakuzo

    i loved this book when i read it several years ago, using it as a first page for the last issue of my zine pink tea (see below); it was a nice counterweight to Catch-22 to read it again now. it’s a very layered look at the history of tea and tea ceremonies, digging deeper than one may expect in such a short work.

    … it is less a book than a (sometimes political) pamphlet. Westernization, it suggests, is not all it’s cracked up to be, and in any case the West made only a feeble effort to understand the East but a vigorous effort to misrepresent and destroy it. review by Kenneth Champeon

    you can read the full...more

  • Blankets

    Craig Thompson

    i thought i would be with this book — which clocks in at nearly 600 pages — for at least a few days. but then it turned out i could have breezed through it in one long sitting. it’s hard to put down and the art often takes advantage of the full page, so it reads pretty quick.

    the coming-of-age story is well-constructed; even amid the jumps back and forth between childhood and adolescence it keeps a steady forward pace. the art is incredible, graceful and lush without becoming florid.

    Craig Thompson has been receiving some grand reviews....more

  • Palestine

    Joe Sacco

    Joe Sacco spent two months in the occupied territories in 1991–1992 interviewing people and gathering stories. like Persepolis this book shows how powerful graphic novels can be with historical and political subjects. Palestine is a direct chronicle of his time there, a comic of him making the comic basically. it seems like the best way for this work to be presented as, unlike Persepolis, his is an outsider experience. that distinction is important as people occasionally turn the tables and question him about what the good is of them talking to him and other journalists, has media attention done anything for them? in Sacco’s 2001 foreword he acknowledges, “While Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded, no major outstanding issues...more

  • Persepolis

    Marjane Satrapi

    amazing memoir of growing up in iran during the islamic revolution — i was unfamiliar with iran’s history and this gives a good overview from the perspective of being a girl from a resistant family, growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. the drawings are stark black and white, there is a lot of humor amid the painful parts. i really loved this.more

  • Fast Food Nation

    Eric Schlosser

    incredibly in-depth and well-focused, this bestseller looks at the influence of fast food in the US (and, to a certain degree, beyond). Schlosser starts with a solid foundation of the history of fast food companies and afterwards builds a framework of how the companies and the companies they control run today. only a small amount of this is about the food itself and why it’s unhealthy. most of it is really the role the fast food industry has played in the corporatization of the US — and why that is unhealthy.

    i’m impressed by the scope of this book and how neatly and securely it is nailed together. Schlosser’s gigantic research is well-narrated in plain, clear language. all that may be...more

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