Audio Books for Impromptu Road Trips

This weekend, events have conspired to send me off on an impromptu road trip. Sure, I had to figure out last minute concerns like my route, what to bring, where I’ll stay, and that’s all plenty difficult to figure out at the last minute, but that’s not what concerns me first. The question I focus on first and foremost is just what I’m bringing to read on this trip. Well, actually, for a road trip the question is more often just what book I’m bringing to listen to? Audio books are a must for long days when your eyes have to stay on the road. If you’re alone, the disembodied voice telling you a story might be the only thing keeping you company, maybe even the only thing keeping you awake if you need to do some good old late night driving.

Luckily for me, I already consider having a good audio book handy an essential part of driving around everyday. Sure, anyone can have a favorite book, but I’ve got favorite audio books.  Sometimes the narrator truly gives life to a story, sometimes the recordings are very well produced and/or composed in an intriguing way. I’m here to list some of my own favorite audio books as ideas for your next road trip. With these books keeping you company, you definitely won’t go mad with highyway hypnosis.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

This is actually a pretty recent addition to my list of favorite audio books. It chronicles the making of The Room, perhaps the most famously bad movie of all time. I found out about the movie The Disaster Artist starring James Franco and his boys, (Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, etc.) after seeing the trailer online and I soon also discovered that, like all good movies, it was based off a book. I jumped to find it that book.

Turns out the book was written by Greg Sestero, the actor who played Mark in the Room, (Oh, hai Mark!) and had the closest relationship with Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic disaster artist himself. Sestero reads the story himself, showing off an amazing Tommy Wiseau impression that he probably had time to perfect after know the man for so many years. The story as a whole is so compelling, humorous and strange, and Sestero, contrary to what his performance in The Room might make you believe, is a talented enough actor to make the story come alive in his recording. Check out this audio book not just if you have a road trip coming up, but also if you’re interested in the movie inspired by it.

Word War Z by Max Brooks

This audio book is probably one of the most impressive productions of all time. The book itself follows the stories of multiple people across the world as they describe how they survived the zombie apocalypse. Max Brooks has a certain level of access to Hollywood and show business that many other writers do not because his dad is in fact Mel Brooks, the actor.

Many audio books with multiple character POVs hire multiple voice actors to read different parts. No other audio books that I know of, though, got the likes of Nathan Fillion, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, and even Martin Scorsese to record different character parts. While the terrible Brad Pitt movie almost put me off that story entirely, these names and more drew me towards the audio book. I gave it a try and did not come away disappointed. I actually couldn’t even tell for certain when actors I knew were on or not, because so many people used accents or created personas. This wasn’t some cheap, star-powered grab for attention. This recording showed lots of talented effort in bringing the zombie apocalypse to your ears. If sci-fi and horror are your thing, give this one a try, even if you thought the movie was terrible, especially if you thought the movie was terrible.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Okay, so I kind of want to recommend every single Gaiman audio book ever produced but, because that would take way to long, I’ll recommend one of his more recent ones that makes for a great audio book. Gaiman reads many of his books himself, and his voice alone could be the main selling point for any recording. Listening to him speak, you can tell he’s not merely a masterful writer, but a masterful storyteller as well.

Technically, Gaiman did not originally write any of the material for this book. These are his takes on classic myths from Norse mythology, with Thor, Loki, Odin and the like. Since each of these myths has been told and retold through the ages, Gaiman’s effort definitely doesn’t come off as an appropriation or retreading old ground. Gaiman’s clearly using his own voice to add his own twist to the stories and pass them down in his own special way, an effect that expands when you listen to Gaiman tell the story himself. You’ll feel like a viking reading for story time around the hearth, or whatever vikings had. Bonfires? Cooking pits? iPhones? Well, something warm and glowing anyway.

Well, those are three of my favorite audio books that can keep you company on your next road trip. If you’re looking for more great audio books, check out Audio Publisher’s Association’s Audie Rewards, which highlight some of the best audio books from year to year. You’ll definitely recognize some names from this entry if you look. There’s loads of brilliant listens out there, so don’t ever feel like you have to travel alone again.

Heads Up! Turtles All the Way Down

John Green hasn’t published a book since his last bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars, which came out five years ago. Saying that actually makes me feel kind of old. I’m no long the hip, young, YA target audience his books are written for, only a decrepit twenty-something. Still, when I heard Green finally announce his new book, Turtles All the Way Down, would be released on October 10th, my ears perked up and I have to tell you, I have every intention of reading it, regardless of my age.

John Green’s also taking the interesting step, similar to what he’s done for past books, of signing hundreds of thousands of first edition copies before this new book’s release. I don’t know why the man is so determined to kill the market for his autograph, but he’s going at it with all his heart, which I suppose I admire. Signed and unsigned copies are both available for pre-order. Consider this a call to pre-order a signed copy if you like, or else just keep this book on your radar. It looks promising.

Of course, I’ve been a long time John Green fan, so my judgment is far from objective, but, at the same time, I know more of his story.  Whereas some people will see this as a writer coming out of seclusion after many years of inactivity, I don’t. I follow John’s vlogbrothers videos, his podcast, and other online shenanigans. I know full well that John Green was doing plenty during his five year absence from the writing game, including having another kid, starting a podcast, and overseeing the millions of other projects he does yearly. I haven’t strictly missed him, so to speak, but I have missed reading his work.

Green’s discussed the upcoming book in many of his recent vlogbrothers videos, promising a book that deals with mental illness and the strange, terrifying paradox of not being in charge of your own thoughts, something he’s admitted is extremely personal to him, as a sufferer of OCD. You can’t really writing about the big questions you have in your own life, I suppose. Many of John Green’s previous books were informed by his past. His first book, Looking for Alaska, was heavily biographical, and his time as a chaplain at a children’s hospital played a part in inspiring The Fault in Our Stars, in addition to his friendship with Esther Earl, a young girl who died of cancer by the time the book came out. These past influences lead to great books before, so why not this time around to?

If we’re going to talk about autobiographical aspects of stories, I will say myself that I’m interested in the themes and conflict Green features in his book, as I’ve had problems with anxiety disorders before, and been caught in the same, fear induced death spiral trying to figure out what’s taken over my brain, usually in the dead of night when I should’ve been sleeping. A well written story exploring that subject would be at the the top of my recommendation list for many other reasons besides how much I love the writer. I don’t know if I’ll be leaping after one of the thousands of signed copies, but I’m definitely excited to give everyone a heads about this upcoming new release.

Monstress Vol. 2, Not too Late to Start a Brilliant Series

I picked up the first volume of graphic novel series Monstress, written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda, while ago and was definitely impressed with the beautiful art and fantastic fantasy world building. I had one of those happy, unexpected catches in my chest when I recently saw the second volume out, and immediately bought it. While I’d forgotten some of the more intricate parts of the storyline, as often happens when I read insanely detailed fantasy world-based series, I still got sucked back into the storyline immediately. Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood is a stellar expansion that left me even further addicted to a series that I already found intriguing.

The Monstress series takes place in a largely matriarchal, steampunk era Asia, with different magically charged societies vying for power. We have the Cumea, witches, human women with great magical prowess and skills leading a purely human society in trying to take over and subjugate Arcanics, human and magical ancient being cross breeds. Arcanics can range from full on animals in humanoid form to humans with, say fox ears and tails, or even no noticeable Arcanic identifiers at all. Protagonist Maika Halfwolf must navigate this richly developed world stuck in the throws of conflict as she tries to figure out what to do with an ancient power her late mother thrust upon her.

That ancient power is actually an ancient being, a strange-eyed tentacle monster that definitely echoes the Lovecraftian ancient ones as well as the Japanese influence informing much of the stories mythology and illustration. Yes, the art incorporates opulent Japanese elements on top of steampunk style and decadent, Lovecraftian horror. Does that sound like too much? Well, for me, it was an excess of all my favorite aesthetics, and reviewers definitely agree the effect is fantastic. Each panel feels rich with a magical, antiquated, and sometimes sinister level of detail. This is a series  you can enjoy by casually flipping through the pages, letting the strange and wonderful atmosphere conjured up by the story wash over you in passing.

Getting into the nitty gritty of the story too, though is just as rewarding as glancing at the amazing art, not something that can be said too often today, mostly thanks to Hollywood movies I suppose. Books lifting the heavy weight again, as per usual. Maika must try and resolve her relationship with an already deceased and far from perfect mother, while also grappling for control over the dark, blood thirsty entity that lives inside her. That intimately explored internal conflict set against the amazing back drop of such a fascinating world makes every part of Monstress feel absolutely full to the brim of something you’d be lucky to find even a sip of elsewhere.

There’s also the amazing diversity of the characters in the story, and I’m not just talking about the variety of furries walking around. Main character Maika Halfwolf has only one arm, (remember when I complained last week about how hard it is to find a story featuring a disabled person just last week?) Numerous people of different skin tones appear, fighting that fantasy trope of monogamous racial cultures, where magic and dragons can be real, but a brown hobbit cannot. Just reminding myself that the society is matriarchal is a sort of giddy feeling, every time I read it. I think in my head, “oh wow, this comic does a great job of including so many different women in positions of power,” then remember “oh, duh, because that’s how they designed the societal structure. It would be weird if they weren’t all female.” Is this what straight white men feel like all the time? Oh wow, it’s amazing, so roomy, liberating! The world is my oyster! I feel compelled to make some immaturely aggressive comments about a man’s place on twitter now!

So yes, I very much want to live in the world Liu and Takeda created for Monstress, even with the wars and ancient tentacle-god monsters. I cannot, unfortunately, so I’ll just wait for the next book to come out, and the next, cherishing every glimpse into this fantastical world and story. I recommend you do the same, my friend.

Scribbled in the Dark: Humble Title for a Quality Poetry Collection

So there were a couple reasons I picked up Charles Simic’s  (pronounced Simich due to his Serbian roots,) book of poems Scribbled in the Dark. The “Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet” subtitle’s usually a good sign, and of course we have the cute little cover featuring a charming illustration of an old man feeding pigeons.

Perhaps what drew me the most, before I cracked it open and saw the quality poetry inside of course, was the amusing image conjured up by the title. Oh crap, my new collection is due at my editor’s in an hour, what do I do? (sees pile of scribbled on post-it notes by bedside,) Okay, I can make this work. I’m Pulitzer Prize holding former poet laureate, right? That’s is like poet tenure. I could teach a class in just my underwear and they wouldn’t fire me.

In all seriousness, I connected with Simic’s work, and his chosen title. It’s a very humble name for sure, and I found that refreshing an laid back, not at all like the many pretentious efforts I’ve seen that think themselves superior because they’ve mastered superfluous line breaks and swallowing most of the page with blank space. I remember tutoring too many high school students in English, and groaning as they try to impress their teacher on the poetry assignment by

stretching

out

 

the

 

 

lines and

 

white

 

 

space.

 

They may have also been trying to meet a page requirement. Some seemed like they just wanted to finish the assignment and figured this looked long and poetic enough, and some seemed to think they were exercising their legitimate poetic prowess. Even today, whenever I see a poet relying heavily on line breaks and blank spaces, I think back to my agonizing days as a peer tutor and get a phantom headache. Still, there are poets that know how to use these traits well, and Simic shows he’s one of those artists with this collection, and maybe also all those awards listed in his bio, too.

These pieces are a study in how to actually use brevity and open page space superbly, not just to play at looking poetic.  This whole collection’s clearly grown from the concept hinted at in the title. No, not a last minute idea for the editor, but a so many small little phantoms floating onto the page from a pen, freely in the darkness. See? I only just read Simic and now I’m all waxing poetic. It’s inspirational on top of educational.

Most of these poems are short, small little things that definitely seem like they were all scribbled in the dark. They read like those little thoughts or moments of clarity that you can only have when your brain is half asleep, half awake, the cover of night allowing it to exist as both at once. That’s an annoyingly creative state for me too, and probably many others as well. (I say annoying because really I’d rather be sleeping in many of those moments, but I can usually force myself to jot some short something down, in the dark. So reading these pieces feels familiar. I’m sure they’ve been carefully drafted and edited again and again, but they each echo the way ideas slide so easily out of your head when “scribbled in the dark.”

Lily and the Octopus: A Dead Dog Book Worth Reading

So I’m reading a really amazing book right now called Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley, and I’m enjoying it enough that I really want to recommend it to my friends and family. The only problem is that the plot largely centers around this one guy’s relationship with his dog Lily, and of course, as with waaay to many dog books, Lily is dying. Specifically, she’s dying of a tumor on her head that looks like an octopus. Yeah, turns out that cute and whimsical sounding title is a warning of just how much heartbreak you’re in for if you try and read this book.

I had someone at work recommend this book to me first, and I didn’t want to read it right away myself. “What? A dog slowly dying of a painful medical condition? Her owner is a single 40 something man that could very easily be undone by her passing? Yeah, sign me up!” After I left work, I politely put the book very far down in the massive stack of recommendations people give me.

Still, something about the story (spoiler, it was the dog. I’m always a sucker for dogs, even terminally ill ones) drew my interest enough that, when I saw it was available at the library, I checked it out and mentally prepared myself to cry a whole lot.

I was pleasantly surprised though. I didn’t feel emotionally baited to ball my eyes out every ten minutes while reading. Rowley writes about a man trying to save his dog an illness he barely understands, something I could relate to on an all too personal level. I thought this personal connection would be the thing that made this book impossible to read, but instead, that connection is what made me connect to the story so readily and actually feel uplifted.

Ted, the human protagonist, definitely faces down one of the most tragic things that could possibly happen to him in this book, but he does so not only with an unflinching determination to fight it to the end, and no small amount of humor and imagination too. I saw a whole lot of myself in Ted. I may not be an aging gay man living alone in LA with my beloved dachsund, but when Ted described his Monopoly Night with Lily, where he had to play the banker and also handle all of Lily’s transactions for her because she was a dog, I definitely saw more than a bit of myself in him. Of course, I never played Monopoly with my dogs. That would be ridiculous. I hate Monopoly; we usually played Clue instead.

I also recognized that steadfast determination, the visceral need to hang onto Lily no matter what that characterized Ted’s approach to her illness. Lily is twelve years old when the octopus hits, so some people give Ted a bit of side eye and suggest that she is pretty old after all, and maybe it would be in her best interest if… But Ted makes them leave the end of that sentence unspoken because putting her down is simply out of the question.

He recognizes, just like many dog owners, that keeping Lily alive could turn into something just as brutal, if not more so, than killing her if he does not make the right decisions, if he doesn’t work hard to make sure she has the best quality of life possible. These parts reintroduced the same feeling of panicked exhaustion I had when my family had to make the same decisions.

Perhaps because I could identify so strongly with Ted, I never felt like the book was trying to take advantage of my emotions or manipulate my tear ducts in a way some other tragic books have. I will definitely not say I didn’t cry while reading this book, but the humor, the magical realism, and for me, what turned out to be a very relatable protagonist made the journey feel like more than another doggie sob story.

If some cruel psychopath comes up to you and says you have to read a book about a dying dog in the near future, you can go ahead and laugh in their faces, because now you’ve got the perfect way out of that situation. Happy sad reading!

Dear Reader, the Epistolary Novel

Okay, high school literary vocabulary time. An epistolary novel is a novel that’s told through letters or a collection of similar documents. Bram Stoker’s Dracula? An epistolary novel composed of letters, medical notes and journal entries. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? Classic epistolary form. The Diary of Anne Frank? Epistolary, but nonfiction, so it’s not a novel. Those books that retell Shakespeare’s plays through texts peppered with emojis? Arguably epistolary novels.

Maybe the word epistolary sounds so stuffy and old fashioned, or maybe the idea of sending and receiving letters sounds even more old-fashioned, either way you’d be forgiven for wondering if this sort of form still has any place in the modern book world. Well, there are actually loads of brilliant contemporary books that use this form effectively and make for great reading. I recently, mostly accidentally, found myself reading a couple epistolary books in a row, and they are brilliant, so let me lay down some recommendations for you.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

Yes, you’ll have to right that title down if you want to remember it, as it is a bit long. This book tells the story of Guernsy Island, an English Channel island occupied by the Nazis in World War II. Technically, the story is told through letters shared after the war, as there were strict rules against any communication with the outside world during the occupation.

The story follows an author looking for a new book idea who starts to correspond with natives of the island. They tell her how forming an initially fake, then real literary society helped them all survive the war. As most stories featuring Nazis, things can take a rather dark turn, but there’s also light, humor and hope in this story as well.

This is an era when telephones and the like technically existed, but email and computers did not, so it makes plenty of sense that written correspondences would still be a huge part of everyday life. Can we expect a story of similar depth in the modern age, when letters and exchanges through writing seem to grow ever shorter, more tweet-like in length? Brett Wright’s venerable work on YOLO Juliet aside, what would an original, modern epistolary novel look like? Probably something like these next couple of books. Boom! Segway into…

Dear Committee Members By Julie Schumacher

I probably couldn’t have fully appreciate this book until I entered college and was first introduced to the unending gauntlet of letters and proposals to project committees, playing email tag with professors and other staff, and of course, the oodles of cover letters you have to write for internships and eventually, hopefully, paying jobs.

Dear Committee Members is composed entirely of letters, memos, etc. surrounding main character Jason Fitger, a creative writing professor sick of putting in more time writing these unending mind numbing letters than into his own creative writing. A lot of reviews praise Julie Schumacher’s work by saying something more or less like, “Yes, finally someone’s made fun of this nonsense! I might have a slightly easier time making it through the school year with this book in my head.” In other words, it’s a parody that needed to be made, one that shows the place the epistolary novel has in the modern landscape.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette By Maria Semple

This book is actually getting adapted into a film, so it’s probably the most well known of the bunch right now. I didn’t even realize it was an epistolary novel when I picked it up. My mom loves the book, and has pushed me to read it for ages. Bernadette is a severely overtaxed suburban mother who suddenly disappears one day right before Christmas. The book tells the story of the days leading up to her disappearance and afterwards, as her daughter Bee tries everything to find her mother.

Actually, describing this plot  now makes me feel like I really need to go and talk to my mom and make sure everything’s okay. She really liked this book… Mom? you know we can talk about this, right?

The book has, again, a great sense of humor and effectively skewers the general upper-middle-class suburbia mentality, something I always enjoy as a lifelong suburban citizen. Passive Aggressive emails, annoyingly gung-ho PTA fundraising announcements, and petty backstabbing messages aplenty do the storytelling here, and it’s all to great effect, creating something like a mystery you need to piece together just like Bee as she looks for her mom.

Congrats, you now have one new vocabulary word and three amazing new books to read. I hope you enjoy them. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Did I miss one of your favorite epistolary books?

2017 Printers Row Festival is LIT(erary)

Okay, I apologize for the terrible pun title, but if I have to take on the wrath of livid pun haters to spread the word about the Chicago Printer’s Row Literary festival this weekend, then so be it.

I’m always excited when the Printer’s Row festival rolls around each summer. So many brilliant writers from different genres and markets come together for panels, presentations, and talks appealing to any book lover attending. I found a vast and varied number of my own interests represented on this year’s guest list. Cory Doctorow, one of my favorite sci-fi writers who’s also dabbled in activism and column writing, will be there. Local poet Kevin Coval, who I’ve previously posted about, will be there, and even Gillian Flynn, the master thriller writer, has a panel too.

Printer’s Row doesn’t just feature guests appealing to hardcore book lovers though. They’ve got some big names that could draw in anyone. Kareem Abdul-Jabar will host a talk regarding his time as an NBA champion, which he wrote a book about. I will not pretend to know a whole lot about the professional sports ball here, but my more athletic friends are definitely excited about that one. Senator Al Franken will promote his own autobiography in one presentation, and TV’s Chopped judge Amanda Freitag will discuss her book The Chef Next Door. From my own experience, a Chopped judge on the guest list should draw moms and aunts from miles around. My mom loves reading anyway, but if you could see how many episodes of the show are currently clogging our DVR, you’d understand what a big deal this is for her.

Beyond all these appearances, there’s what’s perhaps my favorite part of the Festival, the vendors. Booksellers upon booksellers set up tents in the street offering books and paper goods old and new, antique and new release, handmade and mass produced. I’m drafting up my yearly bookshelf contingency plan for when I bring home, yet again, more books than I could ever read in the next year, or even make enough room for. It’s the Sunday sales that always get me. On Sunday, the last day of the festival, booksellers get increasingly desperate to offload their merch, offering  books, even brand new ones, as two-for one deals, and other ridiculously appealing sales meant to move as much books as possible. It just so happens I will be attending the festival this Sunday afternoon, so this could be another record-breaking year for my To Be Read pile. Wish me luck.

There’s a whole lot to draw anyone in the Chicago area to the Printer’s Rows festival this year. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there. If you’re trying to find me, I’ll be the woman hidden by a pile of books so tall it’ll tower over my head.

Wonder Woman in Print

Watching the reviews for the new Wonder Woman movie pour in, I’m equal parts relieved and overjoyed that people responded positively to the film. For me, this will be the first time I’ve ever seen Wonder Woman on the big screen, or any screen in a live action show. I’d fallen in love with her in print without ever seeing her in anything bigger than Saturday morning cartoons. Here’s hoping Wonder Woman’s success will make studio execs realize they need to bring to life some other heroines stuck only in print. Maybe Marvel might finally be cowed into giving Scarlett Johansson a Black Widow movie when they see their rival DC starting to climb out of the gloomy crater created by Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman and Suicide Squad failing so badly.

Until then, now what? If you liked the movie, maybe you want to see it a couple more times, get your Wonder Woman fix, but remember what I said about meeting Wonder Woman in her print domain first? If you liked the movie, let me help you out by showing you a couple different books to check so you can spend more time with your favorite Amazonian warrior princess.

First off, I recommend a book that isn’t even a Wonder Woman comic book. Crazy! The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore gives you a peek at the strange life of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, and the circumstances surrounding Wonder Woman’s creation. Marston was a strange genius who is commonly noted for helping to invent the polygraph machine, the lie detector, and having a notable fixation on bondage, which definitely seeps into many of the early Wonder Woman comics. Yeah, Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth has a stranger origin than you probably imagined, and now you’ll never be able to see that thing on screen again without remembering Marston the weirdo scientist.

If that sort of interesting back story doesn’t repel you, definitely check out Lepore’s book for more. The story only gets more compelling from there. You can learn all about Marston’s mistress, and how Wonder Woman bears a striking visual resemblance to her. The historical emergence of the women’s suffrage movement and early feminism play a huge part in the story, on a wider ideological scale.

But maybe you don’t want to read about kinky scientists and world history. Maybe seeing comic book heroes getting into epic battles on screen made you want to see epic battles in print. Yeah, punching and Nazis and stuff! Wonder Woman started out in WWII, so yeah, punching Nazis and stuff was pretty much the soul focus of the earliest comics, beyond the bondage stuff.

Actually, for my next suggestion, I recommend you check out collections of the early Wonder Woman comics, like the Wonder Woman Chronicles. Vol. 1, for example, presents a collection of the many adventures Wonder Woman had in the 40’s. Reading those stories offers a really interesting contrast to the super dark, brooding and serious tone super hero movies, and even some comics have today.

There’s ridiculous b-movie plots like going back in time to fight dinosaurs, or the sinister plot make milk too expensive. For real, you guys. I couldn’t make this stuff up. These writers weren’t afraid to come up with wonky, outlandish stories, stories that contrast incredibly with the current comic landscape, where everything is taken so seriously. Reading these older comics reminds you of the lighter side these stories can have, and also all the incredibly intense casual racism. I mean, I get we were at war but Wonder Women was too happy to degrade “Jap” soldiers for modern audiences to just read through the early issues uncritically. Hmmm… maybe a more mature and modern Wonder Woman wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

If you’re looking for an introduction into Wonder Woman’s current comic world, I suggest trying out the New 52. Wonder Woman’s New 52 has a a genuinely great arc that turned me onto the talented Brian Azzarello, and it’s a part of DC’s franchise wide reboot. You can read these comics without having any prior knowledge of a million recurring secondary characters or villains, the part of trying out new superhero comics that’s always the most daunting for me.

Other writers and artists have done more with Wonder Women since, but if you’re just starting out, I say the New 52 is the ideal way to sample what today’s Wonder Woman comics have to offer. If you really like those, you can check out titles written by Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, and even Jodi Picoult, yes, that Jodi Picoult, for some reason.

Well, I hope these recommendations are enough to hold you over until Wonder Woman’s next appearance on screen. Maybe you’ll even find a favorite new book or series to enjoy. Let me know you’re favorite books, comics or otherwise, that feature Wonder Woman in the comments below.

Stuff About Stuff I’ve Been Feeling by Alicia Cook

It takes ingenuity and creativity to even get published in the poetry industry. To stand out, it takes even more. I stumbled upon Alicia Cook’s Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately and found a poetry collection innovative enough to stand out as playful, fresh and earnest. I’d first heard mention of Cook’s book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry in 2016. Cook’s book was beaten out by Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One that year. Lovelace definitely deserved the win for her work, no doubt. Cook, though, also created something stand-out and special.

Her book, like the cassette tape drawn on the cover, has two sides. First there’s Side A, her poems, each accompanied by a footnote mentioning what song Cook listened to while creating the piece. Side B holds the “Remixes,” erasure poetry created out of her own work, and separate musical inspiration for that piece as well.

To clarify, erasure poetry is when someone creates a poem by blacking out or erasing all the other words in a pre-existing chunk of text, everything from other poetry to newspaper articles, and creating a new piece of art out of the words you choose to leave. Generally, this form creates a short poem with an air of the strictest essentials laid bare. Most times, the erasure poem’s message is something completely new or else not apparent in the original piece, but the careful selection of each word shows that essence was, in a way,  present the whole time.

There’s something really clever in creating erasure poems with one’s own work. Typically, a poet creates with found pieces, making something of someone else’s. Cook going over her work again does something interesting. It partially plays off the way music informs the structure of this cassette tape masquerading as a poetry collection, that remix element. These poems are songs on a playlist, someone’s favorites and all the remixes.

On another level, we have the writer always eager to continue fiddling with her work and what it says, an impulse that I and just about any writer ever is all too familiar with. It’s the marrying of these two artistic themes, the remixing and the urge to continually self-edit, say something different with the same words that form Stuff I’ve Been Feeling’s unique atmosphere and message. There’s always more to say, and sing, even over what’s already been put down to paper. Many facets of emotional power lay locked in the same set of words.

Cook pieces together this lesson on artistic repetition with a homey, almost handmade air. The poem “tracks” relay intimate personal content, and then that content and it’s remixes create a sort of mix tape bound into print, a small gift that gives you a  truly stand-out poetic work to enjoy.

23 Book Salute

Hey guys, I recently celebrated my tiny human body living through yet another rotation of the earth around the sun. In other words, I turned twenty-three this week, and for my birthday I definitely got plenty of books, more than my already stuffed full bookshelves are telling me I should be getting, but birthday books must be welcomed onto the shelf. It’s a pretty strict clause in my book collection bylaws. I have a lot of strict bylaws that require I always allow myself to buy more books, even when I have too many already, now that I think about it.

If I’m a bit of a book glutton, it’s only because I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without books. They’ve been comforts, opportunities for growth, windows into worlds I’d never seen before. As such, I’d like to use this time to give something of an award acceptance speech, a chance to thank all the books that brought me here today. I could mention humans too I suppose, but mostly I’d just be thanking them for giving me books, so let’s just cut out the middle man here.

Hello everyone, I’m just so honored to win the award of somehow being allowed to continue my life for another year, despite many instances of gross incompetence on my part. I couldn’t have made it through my 22nd year without so many books, and I’ll try to thanks them all before the band starts playing me off. I’d like to thank:

  1. Mary Oliver’s Upstream, for introducing me to some of the best essays I’ve ever read, written by the best poet I’ve ever read.
  2. Thanks to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for giving me the answer to life, the universe and everything.
  3. Thank you Saga, a beautifully written and illustrated sci-fi graphic novel series for showing me more alien genitalia than I ever really thought I’d need to see. Lot’s of variety there.
  4. Thanks to the Game of Thrones series, for jump starting the trend of killing off characters with abandon. Truly, none of my favorite protagonists are safe anymore, thanks to you. (This may be a partially sarcastic thank you.)
  5. Thank you Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instrument series, for addressing the serious dearth of quality gay warlock characters in my life and the genre at large, and surviving far too many attempts to be made into a a film, TV series, etc. Stay strong.
  6. Thank you to Lumberjanes for creating touching, realistic friendships in an outlandish setting that almost made me wish my parents had sent me to summer camp.
  7. Thanks The Rosie Project for being one of the funniest books I read in a while and having a character on the autism spectrum depicted tenderly and without gimmicks.
  8. Thank you Pretty Deadly, for proving that Fantasy and Western are indeed compatible genres and making something truly strange and beautiful.
  9. Thank you R.H. Sin’s Whiskey, Words and a Shovel I-III for proving the best strategy is to find the perfect title and stick with it.
  10. Thank you to that one battered copy of Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist for finally making it into my hands during a Christmas Party White Elephant gift exchange this year, so I could at last read this classic.
  11. Thank you Hamilton: The Revolution, for allowing me to be an even more insufferable Hamilton snob than ever before.
  12. Thanks, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, for concluding a series I love without breaking my heart, except for that special way that any a writer with power over characters you truly love can, which is mostly good in a strange way.
  13. Thank you a Study in Charlotte, for coming at the “Sherlock Holmes revamped” concept in a fresh way that didn’t have me breaking my eye-rolling muscle, like I did when someone tried to make me watch Elementary.
  14.  Thank you Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek for your fun and nerdy premise. It was the perfect excuse to cuddle in bed and keep reading during that streak of terrible weather.
  15. Thank you Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, for finding a way to make over a poem which includes an in depth description of a tree’s biological anatomy.
  16. Thank you original Harry Potter series, for remaining a solid rock in my book life, for staying solid and true, even with each subsequent amusement park and frivolous movie adaptation trying exploit
  17. Thanks, Dragons Love Tacos, for restoring my faith in the future of children’s picture books and fine literature with that title alone.
  18. Thank you Wonder by Emma Donoghue, for proving that a book about a quaint Irish farm village can be the farthest thing from a cozy Celtic romance or mystery, if the woman who wrote Room also writes it.
  19. Thank you Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey for tricking the general public into caring about poetry by getting on the New York Times Bestseller list.
  20. Thanks books about Pokemon for existing, so I had something for the large number of younger male cousins with birthday parties I don’t remember getting invited to. Thanks, also, for letting me peek inside you to see what a Litten is so I could kind of understand what they kept going on about.
  21. John Lewis’s March, for inspiring me to travel to the Women’s March on Washington and take part in history.
  22. Thanks so much The Wicked + The Divine for being yet another reason I need to get the Image Comics logo tattooed on my forehead.
  23.  Finally, thank you that one “cozy mystery” book Above the Paw. I still have not read you, nor do I plan to, but every time I see that cover of a dog in a police uniform, looking ready to deal out some justice, along with that title, still sitting there on that shelf at my local bookstore, my day always gets a little bit better.

I’ve had a lot of books make my year better in a lot of different ways. Truly, I can feel so many of the books I read impacting me, changing the person I’m every day, usually for the better. Thanks to each and every one, and here’s to even more books make this coming year better too.