To give you an idea of the flavor of each contributor to STACKED, we thought we’d offer our introductory posts in the way of sharing our 3 of our favorite reads, as well as tell you a little about what we’re reading right now. If you want to know us personally/professionally, you can read our longer bios.
Picking three books is quite painful since there are so many great ones I could rave about. I’m just going to offer three very different books that I liked to give a sense of my wide range of tastes. In no particular order, here they are!
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett.
This is a story about love and family. After the untimely death of Parsifal the magician, wife Sabine is left to tie up the loose ends of his life. What unravels is a story of discovering that much of Parsifal’s past has been hidden from her. As Sabine splits her time between her present in Los Angeles and Parsifal’s past in Alliance, Nebraska, she discovers the importance of family, love, and magic.
While the story is captivating, it is the writing that dazzles in this story. Patchett is able to describe place and relationships with a sense of immediacy and beauty that I just have not found in many other books.
This book was so powerful for me that when my husband and I took a trip through Nebraska, we planned our overnight stay in Alliance. Although many of the places Patchett describes do not exist there — or at least no longer did when we visited many years after this book’s publishing — it is overwhelming just how perfectly she was able to describe and embody the differences in people and in life between those in Alliance and those in Los Angeles.
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
This short story collection is one of the most bizarre I’ve ever read, and I say that with total affection. Bender’s collection is certainly unlike any I’ve read before.
The book’s stories do not have a central theme but instead each stand on their own. Bender’s style can best be described as surreal, though I think the best manner in which to describe it is what one reviewer said on GoodReads: “if the Brothers Grimm had been a little more attuned to the pleasure principle, their fables might have boasted at least a family resemblance to Aimee Bender’s.”
What I loved most about this collection was that some of the stories are still with me more than 6 years after I initially read them. The imagery, particularly in the story entitled “The Ring,” is just luscious. I’ve been disappointed in much of Bender’s other publications, but that certainly hasn’t stopped me from recommending and rereading this one again and again.
The End of Education by Neil Postman
What I love about this Postman book, as well as many of his others, is that they’re very optimistic books — while the central thesis revolves around why the current American educational system is not working, Postman offers very simple ideas of how we can get back on track and inspire students.
In this book, Postman discusses how education has lost a real purpose for students; rather, education focuses on an end product now, infusing kids with the idea that by getting educated, they’ll be able to go on to college, get great jobs, and make bank. He argues this is a disservice, though, since it leaves many behind and is quite unsustainable. Instead, Postman offers a number of alternate narratives for education which will inspire students to learn for learning’s sake. One which always sticks with me is the idea of the earthship narrative, where we teach students the purpose of education is so that they can become true citizens of the planet; this narrative teaches students to respect and honor one another, their planet, and their ability to be change agents.
I love a good piece of non-fiction, and all of the Postman I’ve read has been satisfying.
On My Bookshelf
I don’t exaggerate when I say there are always at least 15 books in my crate from the library raring to be read. As of this moment, some of the ones I’m digging into include:
This books explores what makes people successful. I’ve liked Gladwell’s books before, though I don’t think they’re necessarily ground breaking or well-sourced. I like them because they are very easy to digest and worth thinking about. I would definitely recommend his books for people interested in a good non-fiction read that will get their brains jogging and thinking about success (personal and professional).
Rumors by Ann Godbersen
This is a Gossip Girls-esque novel set at the turn of the 19th century. It’s pure leisure reading. Rumors is the second book in Godberson’s Luxe series, which begins with the book Luxe. The third book in the series, Envy, came out earlier this year and the final book will come out in late October of this year. The first book in this series was a very quick read, and I’m looking forward to Rumors and Envy following in the same style. Lies, deceit, and love all seem more classy when they’re set in 1899.
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Admittedly, I don’t know much about this novel, but it sounds interesting — the non-fiction story about a zoo destroyed during World War II and how the zookeepers used their facility to help shelter many of the Jews.
I decided to pick this book up because it is my undergrad’s second choice for their “one book, one campus” program. Their first choice was Debra Marquart’s The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere, which was a memoir I really, really liked about growing up in North Dakota. I’m excited to read this one, but I’m a little unsure how much I’ll enjoy it. The concept and story sound very interesting, but it’s quite long so I’m hoping that the writing holds my attention enough. It has mixed ratings on GoodReads, which is something I actually really like seeing when I pick up a book, since it gives me an opportunity to neither be pleased nor disappointed.