About Stephen Brooks

Stephen is a reference librarian at Durham Tech. He has blogged previously at acqweb.org and for American Libraries magazine online. He enjoys reading 20th and 21st century literature, biographies and books about sports.

What We’re Reading: The Nix

Title: The Nix

Author: Nathan Hill

Genre: literary fiction

Read Great Things (2019) categories: A book about or that features college or higher education

Why did you choose to read this book?

book cover: The Nix

I believe it is important to support independent bookstores. Last summer, when I was traveling to western Kentucky, my family and I stayed in Crossville, Tennessee, and found The Book Cellar. After browsing their shelves for the better part of an hour, I selected The Nix. They had a hardcover edition in great condition for around $3. The review excerpts on the dust jacket include one by an author I like (John Irving) and another citing two other authors I like: “as good as the best of Michael Chabon or Jonathan Frantzen.”

Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading: Leaving the Sea: Stories

book cover: Leaving the Sea

Title: Leaving the Sea: Stories

Author: Ben Marcus

Genre: short stories / experimental fiction

Read Great Things Challenge 2018 category: a book you chose for the cover; a book with a supernatural creature, occurrence, or event (maybe)

Why did you choose to read this book?

I was drawn in by the cover art at first. The reviews on the back of the dust jacket also made the stories sound interesting to me. One of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, has a blurb on the back of the book praising Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet (which I haven’t read).

This “themed” collection is of short stories that feature young-to-middle-aged men in crisis. Otherwise, the stories are not related. A divorcé struggles to keep his job and resolve joint custody issues with his ex-wife; a struggling professor teaches a creative writing class aboard a cruise ship; a young man with a mysterious illness seeks treatment in Germany and examines his relationships with his girlfriend, father and a stranger he meets in a hostel; a man worries about his family during a routine evacuation drill in his community; et cetera.

Many of the stories take place in alternate realities: a world in which one can choose to be a baby for one’s whole life, for example.

What did you like about it?

I did not like reading this book. I was motivated to finish it solely to write a thoughtful review.

I found a lot of the book to be interesting, but in many of the stories I felt like Marcus was playing with language for the sole purpose of doing so. Ranging into pure experimental fiction, this book was often either beyond my understanding or it felt like I was being manipulated into feeling stupid for not understanding what is going on, only because the author omitted details I felt would have improved my access to the book.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Another collection of experimental fiction is David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion. The freedom with which Marcus uses language and imagery reminds me a little bit of e.e. cummings’s poetry as well.

What feeling did the book leave you with?

In spite of my frustrations with the most experimental stories, this book is memorable and left me wishing I could write fiction with such imagination and confidence in bending language to my will.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Fans and writers of experimental fiction will appreciate this book. Someone who needs a creative spark and doesn’t mind reading some dystopian fiction might find use in this book.

What would you pair this book with?

Even though I don’t keep one myself, a reading or writing journal would be a valuable companion.

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Did you know that, since 1995, September 19 has been International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Wikipedia gives a brief history of this weird occasion, which originated between two friends playing a game of Racquetball.
So, I know you’re asking, “How do I learn to talk like a Pirate?” Good news! You’ve come to the right place. Your Durham Tech library has just the tool for you: Mango Languages. Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading: She’s Come Undone

Title: She’s Come Undone

Author: Wally Lamb

Genre: fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

She’s Come Undone has been on my to-read list and I saw it on the library’s display of books for Mental Health Awareness Month (May).

What did you like about it?

I thought it was well-written and a compelling portrait of a fictional character, Dolores Price. The novel is told from her perspective and follows her through her 30s. Continue Reading →

Textbook Costs Got You Down? You’re Not Alone. Help Is on the Way.

anatomy and science textbooks on a desk

New desk in use” by brewbooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

NC LIVE recently announced that it is wading into the Open Educational Resources waters with a new initiative, Open Education North Carolina. NC LIVE’s initiative “aims to reduce the cost of higher education for North Carolina students by providing free, open e-textbooks for 30 of the most frequently-taught courses across North Carolina’s colleges and universities.” Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading: Righteous

Title: Righteousbook cover: Righteous by Joe Ide

Author: Joe Ide

Genre: mystery

Why did you choose to read this book?

I enjoyed reading the first book in this series, IQ.

What did you like about it?

Like IQ, this is a fast-paced detective story featuring Isaiah Quintabe (“IQ”), a self-made private investigator in Los Angeles. IQ uses a combination of reasoning, cunning, surveillance and lock-picking skills and Krav Maga in his pursuit of justice. Several characters return from Ide’s debut novel in this sequel. Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading: The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem book coverTitle: The Three-Body Problem

Author: Cixin Liu

Genre: science fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

I am participating in Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge. Having read The Three-Body Problem allows me to check off the category “A book of genre fiction in translation.” Also, the book has been on display on the Special Collections area of the main campus library and I’ve walked by it many times. The cover jumped out at me; this qualifies it for the library’s Read Great Things Challenge, category: A book you chose for the cover.

What did you like about it?

It is difficult to describe this book without giving anything away. Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading: Get in Trouble

Title: Get in Trouble: StoriesGet in Trouble

Author: Kelly Link

Genre: short stories: magical realism, science fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

According to the book’s back cover, one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, called Kelly Link “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

What did you like about it?

The book delivered “dark playfulness” as promised! I don’t read much magical realism or science fiction, so both of these elements in her writing were refreshing. I think some of the stories are allegorical. Each story contains a thread of humor and absurdity. Continue Reading →