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Jim's Picks

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev
Troy
Troy
A Thousand Ships
A Thousand Ships
The Dead Are Arising
The Dead Are Arising
Just As I Am
Just As I Am
Fool for Love and Other Plays
Fool for Love
Plain Bad Heroines
Plain Bad Heroines
The Office of Historical Correction
The Office of Historical Corrections
Pronto
Pronto
Just Kids
Just Kids
No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
On the Road
On the Road
The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep
1984
1984
Make Trouble
Make Trouble
Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
The Alienist
The Alienist
Slouching Toward Nirvana
Slouching Toward Nirvana
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus
Churchill & Orwell
Churchill & Orwell
The Great God Pan
The Great God Pan
Still Life with Woodpecker
Still Life with Woodpecker
Slaughterhouse Five
Slaughterhouse-Five
White Noise
White Noise
The Blessing Way
The Blessing Way
God, War, and Providence
God, War, and Providence
Helter Skelter
Helter Skelter
Wicked
Wicked
The World Broke in Two
The World Broke in Two
Wasteland
Wasteland
The Bughouse
The Bughouse
The Tsar of Love and Techno
The Tsar of Love and Techno
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Sidewalk Ends
A Wild Sheep Chase
A Wild Sheep Chase
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
The Devil's Dictionary
The Devil's Dictionary
A Long Petal of the Sea
A Long Petal of the Sea
Willie
Willie
Hopscotch
Hopscotch

 

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The Final Revival of Opal and Nev - Dawnie Watson

A talented young music journalist is given the opportunity to write what will be the definitive story of one of the Seventies most interesting Duo's in rock. This amazing pair of musicians, one working poor African American female singer and the other a middle class English white male musician and songwriter have a confusing and dark history that most people were only dimly aware of.

Presented as a series of interviews, remembrances, and news stories, the reader is carried along with great joy and even greater anger at the machinations and delusions of the producers and others involved in the duo's history. You will wish as I did that Opel and Nev had been a real act, and that their music was available to the modern reader.

 

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Troy: The Greek Myths Reimagined - Stephen Fry

More "Greek Myths Reinvented" from the brilliant and funny Stephen Fry, although less reimagined, than presented in a combined educational and informative manner.

Okay enough boring words, to describe an anything but boring book. Mr. Fry shows his Cambridge education chops while continuing on the path that has led him to something like fame and fortune.

The author gives us all the players, both male, female, Gods, Goddess, Demi-Gods, Titans, and even Nymphs. Do not worry, there is no A-Level exam after it is all done, just the joy of learning something from someone who enjoys telling a grand story well.

 

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A Thousand Ships - Natalie Haynes

You've read the Homeric Epics (or not), you've seen one - or a dozen - films or TV shows about Troy (or not), and you are still missing part of the story, the women of Troy and Greece.

This wonderful toam moves between the reactions of each of the surviving women, as the reality of the fall of Troy settles upon them.

The "glories" of the victory are seen for what they really are, the petty squabbles of petty men.

 

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The Dead Are Arising - Les Payne and Tamara Payne

A massive tome, as befits, a massive, but tragically shortened, life. This book is more than a recitation of known historical facts, it is also a dive into the history of, not just Malcolm, but his family and the struggles they all faced.

The meticulous research that went into this book leads to insights and stories that many have never had the opportunity to learn. The authors place Malcolm's life in more than the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, but in the broader story of the African-American struggle throughout history.

 

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Just As I Am - Cicely Tyson

Ninety-six years is a long time to wait for an autobiography, yet it was worth the wait. Ms. Cicely Tyson gives the reader a wonderful story of her faith, in her God, and in herself. She is not shy in laying out the broad strokes of a spectacular carer, but also the small details of life full of joy, sorrow, love and loss. While some of the stories are missing small elements, this just adds to the feeling that she really did just decide to write her story, because she "finally had something to say."

Just as amazing as her talent on the stage, screen, and television, is the powerful life that she led, and the amazing people who crossed into her path.

 

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Fool for Love and Other Plays - Sam Shepard

Fathers, sons, intriguing women, cowboys, myths (made and in the making), loneliness, and finally redemption (of a sort), these are the things one can find in one, or more of the plays included in this volume.

These plays are the high water mark of his broad stroke style. With an occasional light touch thrown in, to keep you on your toes.

Best read at night, with minimal lighting and a willingness to read it outloud.

 

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Plain Bad Heroines - Emily M. Danforth

At the turn of the last century, a pair of young women died in an apple orchard that is part of the exclusive girls boarding school that they attend, in Little Compton, Rhode Island. The buzz of the deaths spirals into more death and confusion.

Meanwhile in modern Hollywood a young writer from Connecticut, who's family friend owns the land that was previously the site of the school, writes a book about the deaths and mystery. The hot horror director of the moment, decies to make a movie from the book, and goes to great links to build a buzz behind the upcoming film.

The two stories are told from multiple points of view, side by side in a book filled with stinging humor and buzzing sadness.

The author Emily M. Danforth lives in Rhode Island and teaches creative writing at Rhode Island College.

 

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The Office of Historical Corrections - Danielle Evans

Author Danielle Evans gives the reader a small group of stories that deal with racism, both historic and in the present day. The emotional resonance of each of the stories is belied by their size. Ms. Evans uses language brilliantly, to make the characters spring to life, as they deal with racism and its effects.

 

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Pronto - Elmore Leonard

It's a perfect Elmore Leonard novel; funny, gritty, rude, and filled with honest, well written dialogue.

 

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Just Kids - Patti Smith

A heartbreaking little book about love, loss, music. art, New York, the '70's, AIDS, fame, photography, and just being.

 

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No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

What should you do if you find a pick-up filled with drugs and money, surrounded by dead men? What ever you do don't do what Llewellyn Moss does, unless you are prepared for a lot of trouble.

 

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On the Road - Jack Kerouac

Two friends with one typewriter and one really long roll of paper, search for the America that most Americans didn't know was there.

 

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The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

Phillip Marlowe tries to help a rich young lady avoid trouble, while trying to avoid it himself. He's only half successful. The real star of the story is 1930's Los Angeles.

 

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1984 - George Orwell

A story of two people trying to find love and live their own lives in a world controlled by an oppressive totalitarian State. Never leave the same way you came in.

 

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Make Trouble - John Waters

A few years ago, bad boy director, author, and actor John Waters gave a Commencement speech at RISD, one of the Graduates did some doodles while listening to the speech, this is the result.

 

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Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

Parallel stories of code breaking and encryption. One working for the Government during WWII and the other, avoiding the Government in the modern day.

 

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The Alienist - Caleb Carr

A Late 19th Century psychologist is drawn into a series of shocking murders of children in New York City. Filled with colorful characters, both historic and fictional, it is a wonderful read still.

 

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Slouching Toward Nirvana - Charles Bukowski

Poems written by a storyteller looking back over his life, and simultaneously looking forward, past death. The best reason to read these poems, is that they were written by Charles Bukowski.

 

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The Myth of Sisyphus - Albert Camus

An essay about the absurdity of life, presenting the ways humans live as if to ignore the inevitable, while reminding us of the inevitable. In the end there is happiness.

 

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Churchill & Orwell - Thomas E. Ricks

 

 

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The Great God Pan & Other Classic Horror Stories - Arthur Machen

Another collection, this time by an English "weird tales" author who inspired others. Oh, and by the way, these stories will scare you, even if you have no dream of being a famous writer.

 

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Still Life with Woodpecker - Tom Robbins

A love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It deals with activism vs. romantic individualism, royalty, pregnant cheerleaders, the purpose of the moon. In other words it's a Tom Robbins novel.

 

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Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

While a prisoner of war, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Flashbacks (and forwards) told to us by a narrator who may or may not be reliable.

 

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White Noise - Don DeLillo

The story of a professor and his dysfunctional family and equally dysfunctional college told in bits and pieces. The first book I read of his and still one of my favorites.

 

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The Blessing Way - Tony Hillerman

In the high rocks of the Navajo tribal lands in New Mexico, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn finds a crime scene complete devoid of clues. While everyone sees old Navajo spirits, Leaphorn knows there are more human devils at work.

 

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God, War, and Providence - James A. Warren

 

 

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Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi

The man who prosecuted Charlie Manson and his rag-tag "family" tells the story of the nights of fear that they put LA thru in August of 1969. The first "true crime" book that I read, and still the one that I compare the others to.

 

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Wicked - Gregory Maguire

The first of his retellings of famous stories for adults. A great twist of the story that we all think that we all know.

 

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The World Broke in Two - Bill Goldstein

In 1922 British literature exploded behind a phalanx of new writers who's experimentation with words, topics, and styles influenced by the events of the First World War, would redefine literature.

 

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Wasteland - W. Scott Poole

World War One didn't just effect "literature" it also had a profound effect on the nascent movie industry in both the US and Germany. The horror of war and the stench of death would be visible on the movies screens of the world hidden in the images of Nosferatu and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.

 

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The Bughouse - Daniel Swift

 

 

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The Tsar of Love and Techno - Anthony Marra

Six short stories that take place in Russia, from the early years of Stalin right up to an unknown date in the future. People, themes, and music move back and forth between the stories. One of the beat group of stories written about Russia by a non-Russian.

 

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Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Silly poems are not just for children.

 

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A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami

A postcard with a photo of a mutant begins a wonderful Murakami story. More info than that will spoil the story.

 

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The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allen Poe

This book is filled with the classics that you expect, and that's a good thing. Each of these stories inspired someone later to write something that you read and enjoyed.

 

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

This is not the Disney world, it is a place that should scare most young girls who fall asleep with the cats, out on the lawn.

 

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The Devil's Dictionary - Ambrose Bierce

Sarcastic definitions of important words and phrases, here is the definitive weapon against complacent misuse of language.

 

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A Long Petal of the Sea - Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende's latest, follows a star crossed couple, from the brutality and hope of the Spanish Civil War, a new life in a Democratic Chile, through the brutality and fear of Chile under General Pinochet, and eventually the promise of the transition back to Democracy.

The people who move across this canvas are distinct and entertaining, from the amazing poet Pablo Neruda, a simple yet fiercely loyal servant, a young "intellectual" who grows (?) into a bureaucrat, and even the author's second cousin Salvador Allende.

Yet it is the relationship between Victor and Roser Dalmau that holds the reader across time and distance, across the ocean that Neruda called "A Long Petal of the Sea!"

 

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Willie - Willie O'Ree and Michael McKinley

Do you want to read a book about a Professional Hockey player, whom you probably never heard of?
What if I were to tell you that the NHL's Boston Bruins signed him, as the first Black player in the NHL one year before the Boston Red Sox finally signed their first Black Player (making them the LAST MLB team to do so)?
What if I were to tell you that although he may have only played a total of 45 NHL games he played Professionally in various Canadian and American minor leagues until he was 45?
Finally, what if I told you that he was blind in his right eye? That he played Left Wing and most Left Wingers use their right eye to see the open ice?
Now do you want to read this wonderful book?
Well, you should.

 

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Hopscotch - Julio Cortazar

Two, maybe even three, novels, in one book, this "counter-novel" moves between Paris and Buenos Aires, between first person, third person and stream-of-consciousness, and even between a straight read through, a "hopscotching" method laid out by the author, and a possible self guided tour across the pages. Enjoy, wear comfortable slippers.

 

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