On My Bookshelf, January 2016

WhoWhatWhenThe Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History (2014)

My first book of 2016 was a Christmas present from my parents – sneakily purchased after my mom saw it in this list I shared on Facebook. The book gives you short bios of sixty-five lesser-known (or more like unknown) people who supported, helped, inspired, or worked with the people we think of as “big players” in their respective fields. Each page spread had the bio on one side and a unique illustration on the other. I looooved the illustrations. The bios? Well, I found some better than others, but that is just par for the course with this many authors.

My favorite secret sidekicks? Julius Rosenwald and John Ordway

From Amazon.com: “In the bestselling tradition of The Where, the Why, and the How, this offbeat illustrated history reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbors, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors—such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers, and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.”

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987)

Hmm. . .this is the first Murakami book I’ve put down disappointed. I knew going in that Norwegian Wood was going to be more straightforward than some of his other books, but I didn’t realize that would make me feel so unsatisfied with the ending. At this point, I’m not sure if the missing surrealism is the reason I didn’t love it or if I didn’t love the story in general. Either way. . . I guess I wasn’t disappointed really, just not as overwhelmed and electrified as Murakami usually leaves me.

From Amazon.com: “Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. A poignant story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.”

BarkBark: Stories by Lorrie Moore (2014)

I’d give this books of short stories a 5/10. I enjoyed one of the stories a lot, a couple enough, and the rest were blah. This book has rave reviews, but I’ve always felt short stories are one of those things that are very personal. This just didn’t do it for me.

From Amazon.com: “Here are people beset, burdened, buoyed; protected by raising teenage children; dating after divorce; facing the serious illness of a longtime friend; setting forth on a romantic assignation abroad, having it interrupted mid-trip, and coming to understand the larger ramifications and the impossibility of the connection . . . stories that show people coping with large dislocation in their lives, with risking a new path to answer the desire to be in relation—to someone . . . Gimlet-eyed social observation, the public and private absurdities of American life, dramatic irony, and enduring half-cracked love wend their way through each of these narratives in a heartrending mash-up of the tragic and the laugh-out-loud—the hallmark of life in Lorrie-Moore-land.”

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