None of our intros this week are nearly as clever as the subtitle of Thomas C. Foster’s new book, and so we’re just going to roll right into the books. Maybe something will come to us later, and we’ll loop back around and pretend that was our plan all along. 

Anyway, Foster’s new book is How to Read Poetry Like a Professor and the subtitle is A Quippy and Sonorous Guide to Verse. We snack—remember last week? Okay, good!—the whole up-front presentation that poetry is something that is simultaneously quick on the tongue and prone to filling the room with echoes. Because that is the magic of well-cultivated language, isn’t it? Every word counts and each word has its proper place where it does the best job it can, not like the words in this sentence which are all crammed together in a long string that verges on being run-on, but not quite because we’re going to throw in a semi-colon in a second and save everything. Or not. 

Anyway, Foster’s previous book How to Read Literature Like a Professor made us unafraid to tackle the hefty texts, and now, Foster is ready to help us tackle the sestina, the villanelle, and the rhetorical  axiomatic ur-texts. 

And speaking of engaging with the improbable, Maime Fennimore says it is quite possible to make dessert without having to turn on the oven. We’re not entirely convinced but—hang on a sec—S’mores Icebox Cake, Ambrosia, Berry Compote, Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons!—never mind. We’re totally convinced. In fact, we’ll be in the back room, shoving shredded coconut into a mason jar and smothering it with caramel. 

And speaking of sugar-bomb perfection, the frosters, spreaders, and fondant-molders in America’s Test Kitchen have issued their latest encyclopedic rundown of the Perfect Cake. We should dwell on the first few chapters where they walk us through some basic good practices for building the perfect cake, but hey, there's dozens of hundreds of recipes that all look amazing. We’re going to be over here trying a couple (read all of them). 

And speaking of exotic fruit—what? Pomegranate Walnut Cake (page 188) to Tangerine, the new novel by Christine Mangan; it’s not a total non-sequitur—here’s something a little sharper on the palette and definitely less sugary. Mangan’s book arrives with all sorts of effusive praise attached to it. Comparisons to Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn. Optioned by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures already, with Scarlett Johansson attached. Phrases like “a sharp dagger of a book,” and “tightly wound debut,” and “will leave you absolutely breathless.” 

That sort of book, you know? 

And speaking of things that leave us breathless, Myth Match tackles the tried-and-true model of splitting creatures of mythology and fiction in half and letting you play monster-maker with them. The art is phenomenal, and the descriptions are cleverly designed to take advantage of the split page. 

And speaking of colorful mix and match, Lisa Mason Ziegler’s Vegetables Love Flowers is a marvelous book that shows us how to plant a garden full of happy vegetables. That’s right. Not only do plants like being talked to, they like growing in a colorful environment. It’s like extending kindness and affection to the whole world around you and creating some sort of zone full of gleeful ions or something.  Actually, it’s more about holistic environments where each part compliments and extends other parts, like how bumblebees facilitate the pollination of tomatoes and snapdragons attract bumblebees. 

And speaking of holistic environments, design expert Joan Osofsky’s Love Where You Live shows us how to turn those dull and uninspired living rooms into cozy chambers. You don’t have to live in the country to feel like you’ve escaped the gritty bustle of the city; you just have to design like the country is in you. 

And speaking of bottomless bounties of love and affection, Narwhal and Jelly are back in their third adventure. Narwhal is totally obsessed with peanut butter; in fact, he’s thinking of changing his name to “Peanut Butter.” Jelly’s not so sure this is a good idea, and not just because it’ll mean endless jokes about the two of them being snack food, but that’s not going to stop Narwhal!  

Ben Clanton’s series of kid’s books about these two characters continues to make us smile. Never didactic in its messaging, Narwhal and Jelly—er, Peanut Butter and Jelly—is a great early reader series filled with whimsey and positive messaging. 

And finally, here’s a book about dogs. The noble dog has been domesticated a long time, and Sarah Albee’s new book, The Dog Days of History, trace the history of our eternal sidekick with a lot of humor and delightful commentary. Not to mention highlights about some of history’s most famous pooches.

Meanwhile, Out in the Woods »»

HODGE: Did you meet Leonard, the letter duck?


HODGE: Did he have a letter for you? 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. Glom glom glom-glom. 

HODGE: Oh. I see. I didn’t know that moose weren’t very good at correspondence. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. Glom-glom-glomglom. 

HODGE: An industrial accident? Fascinating. Tell me more. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. Glom glom glom glom glom—

HODGE: No, wait. Never mind. 


HODGE: I, uh, I’ll take your word for it. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. Glom glom glom? 

HODGE: Us lutrinae have short attention spans. 


HODGE: I know. It’s quite tragic. I’ll never be able to read Tolstoy. But I understand it’s just like E. E. “Doc” Smith, but with more characters and less ray guns. 

GLOM-GLOM:  . . . glom. 

HODGE: Oh, and yes, the winters are critical to the plot. Right. Russian literature. Weather is always the character to be named later. 


HODGE: What? Like you’ve read War and Peace


HODGE: Oh. Just last week? Oh, my apologies. I didn’t—well, anyway, I got a letter. I mean, it’s not addressed to me, but Leonard says that he has to deliver all of the mail. There’s no dead letter office when we’re deep in meta-contextual land, is there? 


HODGE: Er, what? 


HODGE: No, I thought you said something else. 


HODGE: Before that. Don’t shrug at me like that. I heard it! It was a very different initial sound. Much harder. Like you were cracking a nut or something. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom. Glom glom glom-glom-glom. 

HODGE: Don’t get linguistically perambulatory on me, moose. 


HODGE: Now you’re just changing the subject. 


HODGE: Fine. But don’t think I’m forgetting this. Oh, look. Butterflies! . . . What we were talking about?

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom-glom-glomglom. 

HODGE: Oh, right. I got a letter. Yes, yes. I’ll open it. Here we go. *ahem* "Dear Pru—I have translated the second part of the narrative I discovered last year, and it’s even more unbelievable than the first portion. As you may recall, at the end of the first portion, Quee was impersonating a court reader and had just been called upon by the Marquis of Fish to recite the Marquis’s—" Oh, dear, this goes on for some time. Are you sure you want me to read it all?


HODGE: Okay, okay. "Now, the Marquis’s family was quite circular in its recircularity—which is to say, filled with all sorts of tangling in the branches of the family tree—and proper recitation of the Marquis’s mother’s side of the family was a test for even the most adept of tongue-twisters, and Quee . . . "


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