Unique selections of books from our book buyer Paul Ingram. He compiles great lists of books on varying topics.
If you have any requests for recommendations, send Paul an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 14, 2016 - 3:53pm
Miss Jane Chisolm was born in rural Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century to poor farmers. She was born with a congenital birth defect which prevented her from what was considered the central “uses” of a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. She figured out early on not only her limitations, but also her own brilliance and wisdom. She befriends an alcoholic country doctor, who writes to Johns Hopkins to try to get help for her. Reconstructive surgery, unfortunately, was rather a new discipline at this time. Her life contains many joys, and Brad Watson’s beautiful prose delivers them to his readers, with enormous grace.
“You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful. Early on she acquired ways of dealing with her life, with life in general. And as she grew older it became clear that she feared almost nothing—perhaps only horses and something she couldn’t quite name, a strange presence of danger not quite or not really a part of the world.”
Here is a novel with more joy and fascination than you’re likely to find in anything else you read this year. I read it twice. The character of Miss Jane is based on Watson’s great aunt, who obviously made a deep impression on him.
July 1, 2016 - 7:17pm
Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide
Charles Foster is an English veterinarian, zoologist, and lunatic who longs not simply to understand the animals that are the foci of his life, but to do his best to become them, physically, mentally, and emotionally. He believes with Frans de Waal that animals live complex emotional lives, but he feels we cannot understand these lives until we live the lives they live.
His book, Being a Beast has been called “wilderness porn” by his English reviewers, follows Foster through badgers’ tunnels, living mostly on worms, the taste and texture of which he describes in considerable detail. He becomes dirty by human standards in ways that might make many humans cringe.
He admits to disliking the ever popular otter, despite its reputation for frisky jollity. Foster dons a wet suit and searches the small rivers of England for eel and brown trout. Does he eat them? Yes he eats them. He does what he can to become various animals in the wild, discovering the kinds of personalities they must develop to survive in their ecological niches.
I know this sounds extraordinarily gimmicky, but when you read it there is little sense that this odd veterinarian is any kind of jokester at all. He wants to know. He NEEDS to know. When you read his book, you’ll want to know too and you’ll be delighted that someone else wanted to know badly enough to find out, while telling you the fascinating details. Read the book. You don’t have to eat the worms.
“Being a Beast is a strange kind of masterpiece: the song of a satyr, perhaps, or nature writing as extreme sport”—Financial Times
“Otters are land animals, who dabble, impressively but precariously, in the water. They are much more stoat than seal. Evolution has just begun to tinker with these primordial stoats, flattening their skulls, shifting their eyes and nostrils to slightly more advantageous positions, and giving them thicker coats, tails like hairy outboard motors, an some half-hearted webbing between their toes. And with these modest bequests, evolution threw otters into the deep, cold end and told them to get on with it, tyrannized by horrific thermodynamic arithmetic.” — Charles Foster
June 29, 2016 - 8:00pm
Long Long Way
And all the boys of Europe born in those times, thereabouts those times, Russian, French, Belgian, Serbian, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Italian, Prussian, German, Austrian, Turkish, --and Canadian, Australian, American, Zulu, Gurkha, Cossack, and all the rest—their fate was written in a ferocious chapter of the book of life, certainly. Those millions of mothers and their millions of gallons of mother’s milk, millions of instances of small-talk and baby-talk, beatings and kisses, ganseys and shoes, piled up in history in great ruined heaps, with a loud and broken music, human stories told for nothing, for ashes, for death’s amusement, flung on the mighty scrap heap of souls, all those million boys in all their humours to be milled by the mill-stones of a coming war.
--A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
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