Hello, and welcome to a more classically outlined A Good Book newsletter, which is to say that we're going to talk about books this week. Because, well, why not?
Firstly, we have Alix Harrow's Ten Thousand Doors of January, which has dropped in paperback. This edition is neatly inscribed with "National Bestseller," which we think is a nice thing to put on a book, especially when it's a debut novel and the hardcover earned this note. What's it about you ask? Well, it's about a girl who loves stories, and she finds a door. The door leads elsewhere, and once she has passed through this door, all manner of delightfully inventive and marvelous adventures happen. This book is for all of us who have been inside all too much these past *mumble mumble* weeks, and who yearn (secretly or not) to get out of *all of this* for a few days.
The easiest way is through a book, of course, and Harrow's enchanting debut is a sure ticket.
Meanwhile, in the "Shameless Cash Grab We Totally Understand" category, Suzanne Collins is back with a new Hunger Games novel. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place during the 10th Hunger Games (which is a far cry from the 74th, which is where Katniss and pals have their day), and the protagonist appears to be a young Coriolanus Snow. Now, we've seen the movie and we've read our Shakespeare, so we're kinda wary of this narrative setup. We're not quite sure how young Snow is going to be a character we can get behind, but you know what? Collins has earned the right to play with our expectations a bit, and as we categorically mentioned previously, we don't mind.
And hey, if you've seen last year's Oscar-winning Best Picture, why not read the storyboard adaptation that goes along with it. No, wait. That's not quite right. It's not an "adaptation," it's the actual storyboards. Bong Joon Ho is one of those directors who draws every single frame of the movie he is planning on shooting. There's planning, and then there's planning, right? Needless to say, Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards contains spoilers for the film. Plan accordingly.
And speaking of fascinating reads, how about The Book of Eels? It's a big book of—wait for it—talk about eels. Do you know where this book gets filed? Right on the border between our ichthyology section and our herpetology section. We bet you didn't know we had such granularity on our life sciences shelf, did you? [Ed note: Neither did we, actually.] Anyway, we suspect Patrik Svensson, the author of The Book of Eels, suffered through one too many dinnertime arguments during those long Swedish winters ("It's a fish!" "It's a snake!" "It's a fish!" "It's a snake!"), and decided to write a book about it and be done. Svensson, who nominally writes about art and culture, peppers an otherwise dry discourse on ichthyology and herpetology with lots of fascinating tidbits about historical folks who were also obsessed with eels.
If all this talk of wiggly things that might be fish or might not is making you a little anxious, we understand. That's why we've also got copies of James Nestor's new book, Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art. We suspect Nestor's dinnertime conversations growing up were not the same taxonomical minefields as Svensson's. Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art is a fascinating exploration of how we breathe, why we breathe, and the ways in which we can breathe better.
No, we won't give you the short answer. Nestor volunteered for a lot of rigorous scientific experiments to reach his conclusions. We applaud his efforts. Also, we could all use a few moments of thinking about our breathing these days, right?
And speaking of clearing the bars we've set for ourselves, here is Cassandra Calin's I Left the House Today, a collection of wry and amusing comic strips that—hoo boy!—speak all too plainly these days. This one speaks for itself, frankly.
And yes, the news these days is extremely troubling, and we can imagine that it is difficult to explain the images and arguments to the smaller ones in our households. We'd like to offer two suggestions.
The first is Together We Grow by Susan Vaught and Kelly Murphy. When a bad storm sends all the animals into the barn for shelter, they have to figure out how to deal with each other. It's not a big barn, after all, and some of these critters aren't very good at sharing their space. They're going to have to make some compromises, aren't they? Hmmm. Metaphor . . .
Also, Superman Smashes the Klan is a update of a Golden Age radio drama that writer Gene Luen Yang and illustrator Gurihiru have updated to the modern age. Superman is an immigrant, by the way, and an orphan. Oh, and he's an alien. So, yeah, the big blue schoolboy has more in common with the disillusioned and outcast than you think. Sure, he's a superhero and all, but again, metaphor, you know?
You know what's not a metaphor? Authoritarian villainy. That's just evil. Laser Mouse and Baryshnikov have some things to say about that, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Anyway, speaking of heroes, Stephen Fry is back with a second volume of his witty retelling of those hoary old chestnuts of Western mythology, the Greek heroes. Hey kids! Come read the origin stories of all those characters from the Percy Jackson novels!
Fry's Heroes is in companion with his Mythos from last year. You left room on your shelf for this one, didn't you?
Speaking of wild monsters and mythological retellings, this week's shelf-busting young adult novel is My Calamity Jane, a root-tootin' sharpshootin' tale of the wild west, complete with werewolves, outlaws, and razor wit. The authors (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows) have been re-imagining strong female characters with a healthy dash of fantasy for a few novels now (My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane, for instance), and they're in fine form for My Calamity Jane.
And speaking of being in fine form, Joe Lansdale has a new collection of Hap and Leonard stories out. Of Mice and Minestrone covers some of the earliest stories of these two lovable Texas private eyes. Now, Hap and Leonard are as mismatched as they come, but they understand the value of honor and duty to family, and as you'll see in these five stories (four of which are original to this collection), folks don't understand that bond very well. Silly folks.
Also, and we never thought we'd say this in connection with a Lansdale book, there are recipes. Go figure.
And speaking of tasty treats, we're going to close with Marissa Mullen's That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life. We can only hope this will be the case. That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life offers fifty dizzyingly sumptuous plates, each one detailed across four pages. We know you'll find something that you can put out for your next social—oh, wait. Whatever. Make it for yourself! It's okay. We're doing the same thing.