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Staff Picks: Books

Kim & Kim

Kim & Kim is a vibrant and humorous adult comic series that stars butt-kicking female bounty hunters Kim Quatro and Kim Dantzler, who favor as weapons a blue guitar and a pink gun respectively. The Kims really just want to make enough money to pay their rent, without having to ask their parents and friends for hand-outs. The series takes place in a futuristic, outer space setting, and exudes color and imagination. The first volume, titled This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life, contains issues 1-4. Magdalene Visaggio is the writer; Eva Cabrera pencils and inks; colorist Claudia Aguirre adds bubblegum brightness; letterer Zaak Saam and editor Katy Rex complete the team. I expect that fans of NimonaRat Queens and Scott Pilgrim will take a shine to Kim & Kim.


Flying Couch

 There’s something about graphic memoirs that allows them to resonate with me in a way that normal memoirs do not. When a person’s life story is illustrated in frames that capture snapshots of their life, it’s even easier to put myself in their shoes and feel their experiences.

 

If you’re looking for a particularly beautiful graphic memoir, look no further than Flying Couch, by Amy Kurzweil.  This book encompasses two stories: it is centrally focused on Kurzweil, and her experience finding her identity as a Jewish woman, and along the way, the memoir is interlaced with her grandmother’s story of surviving the holocaust by assuming the identity of a Polish gentile girl. I loved learning about a culture so different from my own, and traveling with Kurzweil as she goes from Michigan, to New York, Israel, and Germany.  I heartily recommend it.  


Princess in Black

I have new reader in my life and their favorite book right now is any title from Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's Princess in Black series. The writing is great and the books are entertaining for kids and adults. KPL owns so many books by Shannon Hale and they are all just as excellent. Some are novels and others are graphic novels. She writes for kids, teens, and adults. Other favorites of mine include the Books of Bayern, a retold fairy tale series for tweens and teens, Real Friends, a graphic memoir about middle school, and Dangerous, an action packed dystopian fantasy for teens.


Deep Look at Universal Basic Income

Unfortunately I stopped reading this book because the writing was dry and academic. I don't mean it had a lot of data, graphs, and analysis - of course it did - I just mean that the writing wasn't smooth, entertaining, exciting, or narrative-driven in any way.

Oh, what have I become! I used to love these books! Apparently my college days of reading are gone.

I also got a little bogged down in the economics, which is frankly over my head.

Anyway, this is a very deep look into the concept, theory, and practice of Universal Basic Income. See my previous post for a more accessible, American-centered book on UBI (which I did read from cover to cover).

The book ends of proposing what they call a "partial basic income." In this model, every citizen gets a monthly paycheck from the government. This amount is "partial" because it doesn't lift a person above the poverty line. Other welfare programs are kept intact and used to get people over the poverty line. It's more complicated than other UBI models, but the authors go into great detail on why they think it's the right call.


Bee & Me

Alison Jay has illustrated a wonderful, wordless picture book, Bee & Me.  The first time I "read" it, I named the little girl Alice.  Alice meets a tiny Bee that happens to enter her world through her bedroom window in the big city.  The two become inseparable as Alice learns to care for her friend the Bee.  It wasn't until the second time I read the book that I realized I had to give Roger a name (and then I changed Alice's name to Mariah).  The best thing about wordless picture books is the endless adventures that can be created with each reading.  The next time I read it, Laura, Nigel and Horace (that’s the Bee) will share a new adventure.

 


Understanding the Southern White Tea Party

The author, a liberal Berkeley sociologist, goes into the deep south and follows around a handful of Tea Party advocates. Although the premise of this book is noble - to empathize with the far right - I really wonder if this book accomplishes that goal. Or worse, backfires. I feel that Republicans might be offended that these people are giving them a bad name, especially after reading the book. And I feel that Democrats, especially liberal ones, might be horrified at what these people saying - verifying their worst fears and creating even more distance between them.

The overarching political narrative of the book is about poverty, lack of education, environmental disaster, corporate greed, and politicians who don't care about the people they serve. I'm talking about Louisiana, and all of these forces hit the people very hard. The personal stories of how these Tea Party people were affected by politics and things beyond their control is disturbing indeed and that, to me, is where a lot of compassion kicks in. In the end, you get a sense of where they're coming from.

Still, there is an undercurrent of racism in the background, lingering and festering; the idea that white taxes are going to those lazy, poor urban people "cutting in line". The author doesn't want to judge, so she remains silent. That needs to be addressed.

I would really love to hear other thoughts about this book, from people with various political views.


1971!

Never a Dull Moment: 1971, the Year That Rock Exploded is the title of this 2016 book that puts forth the assertion that 1971 was a pivotal year in popular music. There are 12 chapters, one for each month of the year. Many musicians and groups are discussed, such as Don McLean, Sly and the Family Stone, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Carpenters, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, and many, many more. For readers under say, 55, this could be an introduction. For others like myself, who as a freshman and sophomore at WMU experienced 1971 firsthand along with lots of its music, it will be a review of the music complemented with stories of the musicians. These accounts are given a backdrop of the political, social, and economic climate of the time, adding to the interest of this book.


Solving poverty by giving people money

What happens when all semi trucks are self-driving? Heck, Uber even has it in their business plan. What about robots that flip burgers (already exists)? And software that makes investments? And 3D printers that can build a house in 24 hours (already exists)? Some experts (not all) have predicted that the future holds the elimination of jobs (blue collar and white) that we have never seen in human history.

Universal Basic Income - i.e., giving every citizen $1,000 dollars a month, no questions asked - was a new concept to me until a few months ago. Since then, I've watch some TED talks, heard about it in the news (Hawaii is considering it apparently), and read this nice book by Andy Stern, former labor leader turned UBI proponent.

The idea is very simple (albeit expensive). Rather than have welfare programs, we simply give all citizens enough money to get them out of poverty. The "universal" part is also simple: everyone gets the money, no matter if they work or not. Even rich people.

What really impressed me about the book is how it convinces the reader that both ends of the political spectrum - progressives and libertarians - have solid reasons to get behind UBI, and therefore it might even get support. Martin Luther Jr. supported UBI, but so did Richard Nixon. The book is enjoyable, easy to read, and is full of interviews from a spectrum of various thoughts. 


ONE BABY BUNNY WITH TICKLISH EARS SO FUNNY

"Tickle My Ears" is a very sweet and simple interactive board book for toddlers. Young readers help a little rabbit prepare for bed by getting him into his pajamas, fluffing his pillow, tucking him in, etc.

A book with expressive, irresistible illustrations and words by Jorg Muhle, it is meant to be read and reread for the delight of every young child.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of our very smart bunny named Patrick, who lived in our household about seven years . He died in late April from kidney failure at the age of ten. Patrick, you will never be forgotten!


Jim Harrison Redux

When Jim Harrison passed away last year it was not necessarily a big surprise to anyone, the 79 year old's health had been declining for years and his unrepentant overindulgent lifestyle was the thing of legends, yet rereading Harrison’s work this summer has given me a heightened sense of what has been lost with his passing. Novelist, smoker, drinker, glutton, hunting/fishing enthusiast, force of nature, and personal friend to the notorious Hunter S. Thompson, these all describe Harrison, but you also must add poet, devoted husband, bird watcher, gourmand, and naturalist to this list in order to get a more complete picture of the Michigan native. Harrison also happens to be responsible for some of my absolute favorite book jacket bio photos, which themselves give you a sense of the man's distinct lack of care for what anyone thought of him. A new collection, A Really Big Lunch, of 47 previously published rambling essays dating from between 1981 and 2015 about food, writing, life, and much more, is a great way to get to know Harrison. I can almost guarantee that reading some of these essays will compel you to explore more of Harrison’s work, of which there are copious amounts of novels, novellas, nonfiction, and books of poetry to enjoy. Like the legendary 37-course, 11-hour lunch from which the essay collection gets its title, delving into Jim Harrison’s bibliography can be a time commitment, but in the end it proves deeply satisfying.