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Now more than ever it is important to read up on our country’s history, and the political trends that led up to where we are now. This book gives honest accounts of the events in history that we may not be particularly proud of, and may have even expunged from the textbooks. From Columbus landing in the new world, on through the Revolutionary War, Vietnam, and the Bush era (when it was last updated before the author’s death), read about the civil rights advocates, union organizers, anti-war protesters and many others who fought for freedom and liberty who you may have never heard of. On the other end, read of the reactionaries, robber barons, feudalists, and oligarchs who have continually opposed them along the way.
This is one of the great war novels of our time, and one of my favorite books. It deals with the psychological aspects of Vietnam, from the widespread use of psychoactive drugs to the horrors of PTSD. On the surface, it is a sort of CIA intrigue thriller. Beneath the surface, With its dark and gritty realism with occasional insanity, it is reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket. Many ungodly, unforgettable scenes. Recommended.
The gorgeous and ghostly, but fast flowing prose of this Norwegian Nobel Prize nominee makes it an eminently readable book, and one that is hard to put down, despite its sensitive subject matter. And beneath the story itself lies a beautiful mystery known only to the protagonist.
Harsh, exuberant, dark, dreamlike, bursting with life (and death). These are some of things I would say about In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, and about William Gass as a whole. In the haunting midwestern landscape of this book, everyday life is constantly giving way to the dormant fears and pains that lie beneath its thin exterior.
A truly poignant and relevant book, chronicling the lives of three separate people in post 9-11 Afghanistan, and the pervasive brutality and folly of the war that raged around them.
Denis Johnson is one of my favorite modern authors. He writes in a style reminiscent of William Burroughs and other stream of consciousness style beat authors at times, but is also capable of heart rending tenderness. In this book, which uses lyrics from The Velvet Underground’s song Heroin as its title, we step inside the chaotic mind of the unnamed narrator, a paranoid drug addict living somewhere in the Midwest. It is written in the form of short stories, stark and often terrifying scenes within the young man’s life as he struggles to live. I would highly recommend this lovely hardcover edition.
Bruce Catton is one of my personal favorite authors, his having crafted a beautifully flowing within his many historical writings, mostly on the Civil War. He won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for these. This book, however, is about growing up in his (as well as my) hometown of Benzonia, Michigan, around the turn of the century. It is both a memoir of his own life, filled with many fun and interesting stories of life in the pioneer days, and the story of Northern Michigan itself, with all its ambitions and failures.
\Written in Williams' sparse yet shimmering prose (think somewhere between Hemingway and Steinbeck), this book is an epic, ideologically encompassing tale, chronicling in a microcosm the ending of the Old West era.
One of my favorite halloween books as a child. It contains many spooky pictures with cleverly arranged objects hidden inside. At 24 it is still fun to scan through this book, and still somewhat challenging.
Winner of the best of National Book Award for 1950-2008, this collection of stories rivals the best of Faulkner in it's intensity, eeriness, and quest for social justice in the old Deep South.
Doctor Zhivago is a book of unflinching moral intensity, set within a landscape of incredible beauty and desolation. It is the story of doomed love during the Bolsevik Revolution and the ensuing civil war. It is a sort of companion piece, in my mind, to the seminal And Quiet Flows the Don (even though Sholokov later became a Soviet apologist), with many similiar themes. The meaning of life, the soul changing effects of violence, and the sense of moral ambiguity during times of suffering each have their place among the central themes of these two novels.
Cormack McCarthy is an author I have been meaning to use for a staff pick for some time. He is an all time American great, and one of the giants within the southern-gothic genre. In this tale of darkness and depravity, McCarthy uses his hallucinogenic prose as a tool, prying into the mind of a killer as well as our own.
And Quiet Flows the Don
As Harrowing and powerful a story of war and suffering as has ever been told. It follows the Don Cossacks during the first World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, as they struggle with the powers of the polarizing ideologies of the time. It Sweeps in and out of darkness with a soaring prose, at times jarringly dark and stunningly beautiful. Underlying is the theme that violence begets violence, and that beneath that violence, we are all human after all. For, as fellow Russian Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
It's Walden! What more needs to be said? It is perhaps the single most widely celebrated nature book of all time. Filled to brimming with wit and wisdom, these profound musings encompass the meanings of life and death, our complex relationship with all living things, and includes day to day nature observations. It's a classic American summer read.
Get into the spring spirit by learning how to identify all of your favorite trees as they bloom! Hopefully that's soon, but who knows? This particular book highlights only Michigan trees, to make it easier to find just what you're looking for regionally.
Taken off the shelves originally because of the controvercy it incited, this meticulously researched book is key to understanding the crisis of modern Native Americans and what their future holds. Heartbreaking, violent, and harrowing as it is, it is something that we, in Indian country, must be made aware of in order to stop the atrocities that take place even today.
Winner of the National Book Award, Shadow country is a huge, sweeping story of the Florida Frontier. To me, it is one of the great American novels, as it encompasses the violence, hardships, and beauty of the time in a wise and incredibly poetic prose particular to Matthiessen. A must read.
As we enjoy the post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas holidays, it is important for us to remember a piece of our society that is slowly fading away. That is to say, memories of the tremendous influence the Native Americans had in the founding of our country. The Story of Yellow Leaf follows a young Sioux girl as she grows up on the North Dakota plains. She matures, plays outside, and learns to ride a horse, the descriptions of which are very traditionally accurate (and have interesting flip out bits). Things take a turn for the worse near the end. She eventually encounters the Battle of Little Big horn, and sees many of her people slain, the remainder sent to live in poverty on government reservations. It is a sad and beautiful book, and a way of life children should all be aware of, so that they can understand and move forward.
In Charles Dickens’ first (and, I find, most endearing) book, we follow the ludicrous Mr. Pickwick and friends as they ramble about England to “observe things” for the club that they are a part of. Along the way they meet up with the quintessential Dickensian array of insane characters. The format of having them wandering about without a clear purpose besides observation really gives Dickens the chance to stretch his legs comedically. hilarious, even for Dicken, though it is equally wise. I would not recommend it on that basis alone. It contains some of his best social commentary, a thing which he became well known for, mocking a decadent aristocratic class that is just a blown up version of those we see today.