What We’re Reading: Hillbilly Elegy

Title: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Author: J.D. Vance

cover of book Hillbilly Elegy

Genre: memoir

Why did you choose to read this book?

I am a member of a two-person book club and the other member suggested this book.

What did you like about it?

It was a quick read. J.D. Vance details his upbringing in the Rust Belt as the descendant of Appalachian migrants to Ohio. He details the culture and communities of Scots-Irish people in West Virginia and Middletown, Ohio.

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What We’re Reading: Meal

Three figures hold cooking implements surrounded by meal worms.
Get it? Meal

Title: Meal

Author: Blue Delliquanti with Soleil Ho

Format: Graphic Novel

Genre: Fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

The cover drew me to it at first. I like food and I like books about food and the images of the characters looked fun. Then, once I realized it was about eating bugs I was even more fascinated. 

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What We’re Reading: The Feather Thief

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century 
Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson

Genre: Social Science, True Crime [against a museum and the historical record], History [of animal specimen collection and feather fashion], Ethics

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A social science book; A book by a person you admire; A book that features college or higher education

Check out our blog post on the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge


Why did you choose this book? 

I read a lot of book lists and this one popped up sometime last year. Plot-wise, I like museums and true crime, and a museum heist was immediately something interesting to me. I don’t fly fish, but you don’t need to in order to enjoy this book.

Really, The Feather Thief is kind of about a lot of things– recovering after personal and professional disappointment, Victorian fly fishing lures, the role of museums and museum specimens in the historical record and preservation, the ecologically destructive power of fashion, and what can happen to an insular community when something illegal impacts them.  At its core, it’s about a young man who, realizing he has an opportunity to make some money in a niche community that he is a member of, breaks into a natural history museum, steals a lot of rare bird carcasses, and then sells the feathers. He gets caught (not really a spoiler). A portion of the fly fishing community reacts (or refuses to acknowledge their participation). People justify the bad behavior as not so bad and ignore the parts that don’t impact them directly. Reflection ensues. 

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

It reminded me a little of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (available through the OCC Library) and there’s this movie on Amazon Prime I watched a while ago about a man who forges (copies?) famous paintings and then donates them to art museums called Art & Craft. Both of them examine how people justify or try to hide behaviors that are bad or ethically just not right, but in different ways. I guess that’s a topic that interests me. Who knew? 

Who would you recommend this book to? 

Anyone ready to be surprised by an engaging nonfiction book that may not perfectly align with their own interests. Anyone looking to fill their social science checkbox in the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge. People who like true crime, but want to avoid the murdery ones. 

Also, people who like to tie their own fly fishing lures. This book talks your talk, unless you’re sensitive about buying authentic feathers for Victorian-era lures– then you may feel exceptionally called out.  

What We’re Reading: The Influencing Machine

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media. Written by Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Main Campus Library.

Title: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
Author: Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

Genre: Social Science, Graphic Novel, Historical Overview

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A social science book; A book about technology; A book that will help you with one of your personal goals [if increasing your media literacy is one of your goals]

Check out our blog post on the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge


Why did you choose to read this book?W

Meredith: Well, Courtney recommended it to me. Since this book is about the history of the press/media and how it gets made and influenced in our modern world, I was especially interested from an information literacy standpoint. I mean, knowing how our news gets made matters, right? [Spoiler: The argument made in this book is yes.]

What did you like about it? 

Meredith: In general, I’m interested in learning about the history and contexts of things and this book really goes into (in a pleasant visual format) how media and government have this push-pull (repeat) relationship. I really like how Brooke Gladstone (an NPR journalist) investigates things that go into our modern media marketplace like money, bias, and information overload. She also calls out problematic practices in journalism. 

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Meredith: It left me feeling optimistic, actually! I genuinely believe that the world is full of the capacity for positive change and being informed and aware of the biases and structures around us matters and can help contribute towards making those positive changes.  

Image from page xxii of Brooke Gladstone's The Influencing Machine (illustrated by Josh Neufeld): Back in 1922, Walter Lippman wrote..."Let him cast a stone who never passed on as the real inside trugh what he had heard someone say who knew no more than he did. For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it." But now, with most of the media's resources at our fingertips, we can seek beyond mediated interpretations of events. We can choose how much to simplify our worldview. When coverage is contradictory or confusing, we can read the original documents, or track down a dubious claim to its source... ...or seek sensible views outside out comfort zone. It's risky. John Dewey once said, "Anyone who has begun to think places some portion of the world in jeopardy." But, as Spider-Man once said (quoting his Uncle Ben), "With great power comes great responsibility."

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.”

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What We’re Reading – There Is No Good Card For This

There is no good card for this: What to say and do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to the people you love

Title: There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say And Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, And Unfair To People You Love

Authors: Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

When someone you know is hurting, you want to let her know that you care. But many people don’t know what words to use—or are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This thoughtful, instructive guide, from empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting card maverick Emily McDowell, blends well-researched, actionable advice with the no-nonsense humor and the signature illustration style of McDowell’s immensely popular Empathy Cards, to help you feel confident in connecting with anyone experiencing grief, loss, illness, or any other difficult situation. –Goodreads.com

Why did you choose to read this book?

In the past year I have seen people I love and care about lose people they love and care about five times. Each time I felt helpless in the face of their loss, unable to think of anything I could say or do that would make the person feel even incrementally better. I was also afraid of saying something wrong and somehow making them feel worse than they already did. This state of uncertainty and powerlessness made me feel like a bad friend/daughter/coworker and I didn’t like it.

So, as I tend to do, I found a book to apply to the problem. And this book delivered.

What did you like about it?

I liked that this book actually did what it set out to do since I was skeptical when I picked it up. It comforted me while explaining how to best be comforting to others. There are helpful tips on various situations with background on why these things are helpful. They have a ton of examples and it’s written very conversationally with lots of graphics so it never feels overwhelming. They also have the book laid out in such a way that you can skip directly to the Just Help Me Not Be A Disaster section to find concrete dos and don’ts when talking to someone going through a crisis. All this and the book managed to sprinkle in some funny bits as well!

What feeling did the book leave you with?

I finished this book feeling more confident about my ability to support someone. And, a clearer idea of what I’m willing to do to support them. There are a variety of available support roles to someone going through a hard time and I was able to identify the roles I feel like I would be best at filling. The book also left me feeling like I will be able help my friends and family in the future with more grace than I have in the past.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Everyone. Unless you’re some kind of interpersonal relationship savant, then maybe you could skip it. But, really, the holidays are coming up and chances are we all know someone who had something bad happen to them in the past year. What do you say? Do you mention it? Do you say the stock “I’m sorry” and leave it at that? Would even bringing it up make things awkward? Will they think you don’t care if you don’t bring it up? What if they are the ones who bring it up? This book can help you figure out the answers to what to say in each situation and that is valuable for both you and the person you’re talking to.

What would you pair this book with?

This book would go well with a good hug and a hearty casserole of your choice.

What We’re Reading: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

The rise and fall of the dinosaurs: A new history of a lost world by steve brusatte

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
Author: Steve Brusatte

Genre: Popular Science, General Dinosaur Awesomeness

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A popular science book; A book that takes place during or is about a historical event 50 years or more in the past [this historical event took place a few million years ago]

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.


Why did you choose to read this book?

Because dinosaurs are awesome?

Seriously though, I have a four-year-old friend who was telling me about all these dinosaurs that I never heard of. When I saw this book was coming out, I thought, “Self, if this isn’t a dragging and dull science-y book, you should pick that up because you’re not interested in watching Dinosaur Train (the PBS Kids TV show), but you do want to learn more about dinosaurs.” It was AWESOME, although I listened to the audiobook, so I missed out on the pictures. [The OCC copy is in print and full of pictures. I’d recommend this format over the audiobook for even more enjoyment.]

What did you like about it?

I’m going to make a list here:

  1. It’s an engaging history book–in this case, the history of the Earth through its prehistoric times and then after the extinction of the dinosaurs, which I knew very little about. 

  2. It goes into all the newer discoveries about dinosaurs that additional fossils have brought to light, especially regarding how dinosaurs differently evolved after the splitting apart of Pangaea. There are even vignettes where the author goes into, based on fossil evidence, that show how the dinosaurs likely interacted with each other.

  3. It has stuff about the fossil record and how paleontologists use it to draw conclusions and also how fossils are/were discovered and used.

  4. It has an international perspective of dinosaurs, which is cool because while T-Rex’s arms actually were used for something (though, yes, very short), a Brazilian big guy actually did have pretty much non-functional arms. Evolution is fascinating!

  5. It highlights a field in science I wasn’t that familiar with and name drops all these cool paleontologists that I’d never heard of before, but I’m super glad I know of them now.

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

Am I allowed to say Jurassic Park here? Because of course. [Yes, I am allowed to say Jurassic Park.]

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Well, I’m really excited about dinosaurs.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Anyone who likes science or scientists and delving deeper into what people who “do” science actually do to gather their research. Anyone looking for a grown-up book about dinosaurs. Seriously. It was great. I’m going to buy it for several people for the holidays (and upcoming birthdays… and all occasions I can think of).

What would you pair this book with?

A continued appreciation of those awesome inflatable T-Rex costumes and how so many layers of knowledge and expertise go into scientific discovery. In honor of the East Coast (not us) getting some of our first snow, I’d like to share the following awesome video of an inflatable T-Rex ice skating in case you haven’t seen it.

[No transcript available, but to summarize: A person in an inflatable t-rex costume and white ice skates performs surprisingly well on an ice rink. Occasionally, the t-rex trips on its own tail. Hilarity insues.]

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.

What We’re Reading-Starless

 

An image of multiple stars falling at night over a dark landscape.Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

Goodreads

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