Hello, and welcome once again to our corner of the world where there are lots of books. Some of them are stacked up, gently peep-peep-peeping to be read. Some of them are on shelves, where they are constantly jostling to get in your line of sight. Some of them are books you didn't know existed, and who are tripping over themselves to get your attention. Books are like that, you know. Pesky books.
And let's start this week's coverage with Lama Rod Owens's Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation Through Anger. Now, we're not going to pretend that we haven't been angry once or twice during these past few months, and we suspect we're not the only one. Owens, who self-identifies as a "black, queer, cisgender, male-identified, fat, mixed-class, Buddhist teacher and minister, yoga teacher, and sh*t-talking Southerner," freely admits he's been a bit touchy a bit lately as well. However, Owens, who is a Lama in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, has been using that incandescent rage for good. "You gotta let it go," he says. It's the only way to reach "neutral ground," that mental and spiritual place where healing can happen (both yours and of the world that you move through).
This reminds us of an article we read a few months back which argued that divisive thinking, while therapeutic in some ways, was ultimately destructive. It perpetuates the "us vs them" mindset, and if that gets ossified in your brain, you're always going to be angry. You're always going to be in a mild state of anxiety. Frankly, having written out those two sentences, yeah, we'd like to not have those be our defaults, you know?
So, here you go. Empathy! Self-improvement! Acting for the betterment of society!
And speaking of building better tomorrows, we're delighted to see Ibram X. Kendi has cleverly put out a baby board book. Timing is everything, and nothing happens overnight in book publishing, which makes the arrival of Antiracist Baby this week a marvel. Kendi, whose Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and How to Be an Antiracist are this year's required reading, has written a marvelously simple book as much for caregivers as it is for tots. Keep it simple. Start 'em with the right mindset.
We'd also like to point out Jason Reynolds's Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a young reader's edition of Kendi's Stamped.
Additionally, we'd like to point you toward Kim Wehle's What You Need to Know About Voting And Why. Wehle, a law professor and constitutional scholar, has written an engaging and useful guide to the simplest and purest expression of democratic action: the individual vote. It's kinda spelled out in the first three words of the Constitution, after all—that "We" in the "We the People."
Tara Isabella Burton's Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World has an interesting premise: while organized religions may have fallen out of favor (and let's agree with that opening point for the sake of this discussion), our desire for community-based spiritualism has not declined. Burton suggests "new gods are everywhere," from Harry Potter fandom to cults of personality to hyper-realized niche belief systems. Looking for answers is still a vital part of our consciousnesses; it's merely the communities that are cha-cha-changing.
And speaking of rituals and orthogonal thinking, the first volume in the Dark Horse Comics Neil Gaiman Library is out this week. Four of Gaiman's classic graphic stories are presented in a deluxe, oversized edition. We're getting A Study in Emerald (Sherlock Holmes meets Lovecraftian monsters), Murder Mysteries (even gods can be murdered), How to Talk to Girls at Parties (like it sounds, but quirkier), and Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desires (which is a satire, in case the title didn't give it away). Fabulously illustrated, volume 1 of the Neil Gaiman Library is one of those graphic novel collections you didn't know you needed until . . . right about now. You're welcome.
And speaking of books you didn't know you needed, here's Joseph O'Connor's Shadowplay. Why do you need it? Oh, it's just a behind-the-scenes story about London's Lyceum Theater in the late nineteenth century. Why do you care about this theater? Well, it's general manager was a dude named Bram Stoker, who, when he wasn't dealing with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, the pair of tempestuous celebrity actors who put butts in the seats, was writing a book about a Transylvanian bloodsucker. Oh, there's lots of scathing bitchiness, passive-aggressive writer channeling, and scenery-chewing by narcissists—er, "actors." Oh, and Oscar Wilde even has a bit role. He was never one to pass up a chance to deliver stinging witicisms from the balcony, after all . . .
And speaking of imagined histories, Max Brooks is back with Devolution. Brooks, whose World War Z was equal parts found history and horror disaster novel, has sets his sights on the Pacific Northwest this time around. Devolution starts with the eruption of Mount Rainier, which cuts the high-tech community of Greenloop off from the rest of civilization. While the residents struggle to survive without their weekly grocery delivery, they discover that other creatures are having similar issues with ready access to eats. That's right. Sasquatches need to eat too, and this cut-off community of fleshy humans looks mighty tasty!
Hey. We haven't checked in on James Patterson for a few weeks. We should—oh, three books in the last two weeks? Okay, well, apparently he's not waiting on us. Let's see what he's got . . .
Here's Hush, the fourth book in the Harriet Blue series. Once she was a top cop and a devoted sister. Now she's Inmate 3329—a former cop caught in a prison-wide lockdown. And if that wasn't bad enough, the man who put her in prison wants to make a deal . . .
And here's the seventh book in the Treasure Hunters middle-grade series. Subtitled The Plunder Down Under, this one has the Kidds facing off a wily pirate queen who wants to see the entire family thrown in jail forever! Will the four intrepid siblings manage to outwit the pirate queen?
Let's not forget The Summer House, which has grisly murders, a group of killers known as the Night Ninjas, stonewalling local enforcement, and a sweltering Georgia summer. Can our ex-NYPD cop solve the case before everything explodes into a summer of fiery violence?
And for something completely different, here is Marie-Helene Bertino's Parakeet, the story of a woman who, in the days leading up to her wedding to an elementary school teacher (who's most attractive quality appears to be that he "doesn't have to be drunk to dance") is visited by her grandmother. Now, this is normal for a wedding, frankly. Grandmas like to be around when the kids get hitched. In this case, however, grandmama has been dead awhile, and the body she comes back in is that of a rather talkative parakeet. Naturally, the story gets stranger from there, but Bertino manages to suck us deeper into the life of her protagonist. It's the sort of book that challenges expectations at every turn, while still managing to speak quite plainly about the foibles of human relationships.
And finally, here's Wendy Williams's The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World's Favorite Insect. The sub-title says it all, really.