The Front Blog

Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Posts Tagged ‘Good Reads

The Front Blog Retires!

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Well it’s been a good run for The Front Blog. It was created out of a need to communicate in a more flexible, immediate manner than our content management system for news allowed. We’ve used the blog to announce the past two election cycles, all-night emergency updates, to introduce you to new music and great books, to give you the news in under a minute. We’re pleased to announce that these great features will continue on our new, expanded content management system, using NPR Digital Services’ Core Publisher platform, which you can browse here:

news.wkms.org

The new platform is not unlike the blog-style format we enjoyed here on “The Blog.” And better yet, it merges the content produced here and in the News Room into a more concise, user-friendly format. The Morning Cram and Datebook are some our favorite features created for the web, and we’ll continue to post them every day on news.wkms.org. We’re also introducing Afternoon Update, creating a more complete round-up of news produced by WKMS. We want the new site to be as interactive as possible, so commenting will soon be added to all of our news stories and cultural content. Check out the new site, let us know what you think. We appreciate the feedback!

Morning Cram: news.wkms.org/term/morning-cram

Afternoon Update: news.wkms.org/term/afternoon-update

Datebook: news.wkms.org/term/datebook

Good Reads: news.wkms.org/term/good-reads

Music Reviews & Cultural Links: news.wkms.org/term/culture

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Written by Matt Markgraf

February 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Good Read – Bossypants by Tina Fey

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Bossypants
by Tina Fey

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Product Description:

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Jenni Todd says:

If you like to laugh, then please, read Bossypants! It’s Tina Fey’s “kind-of” memoir published last year. While I loved the show biz highlights about Second City, SNL, and 30 Rock (and cutie Alec Baldwin), I really connected (and laughed hysterically) with her reflections on being a young woman, a wife, and a mother. Near the end of the book there is a chapter titled, “The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter” that had me rolling in the floor unable to breath. It’s three pages of comedy gold for men and women, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers.

Book’s now in paperback. Here’s last year’s interview with Terry Gross.

Click here to check out more Good Reads.

Written by Matt Markgraf

January 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Good Read: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan
by J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan is the popular character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Indians, fairies, pirates, and (from time to time) meeting ordinary children from the world outside. The most popular story, the most often reflected in movies, is “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”/”Peter and Wendy”– Peter brings Wendy and her brothers to Never Land, where he has a climactic showdown with his nemesis, Captain Hook.

Kala Dunn says:

I started reading Peter Pan because I heard it was going to be a topic of discussion on the Diane Rehm Show.  I finished reading Peter Pan because I fell in love with the delicate and finely-woven world J.M. Barrie creates.  Often adult readers overlook the value of books classified as “children’s literature,” though in actuality Peter Pan is not a children’s book.  It’s a book about the nature of humankind, about a confrontation with mortality, about putting away our darker thoughts and finding illumination through our personal light.  The storyline is fantastic—flying children, vindictive alligators, and smart-mouthed fairies—but the meaning is true.  Witty and fun, bittersweet and beautiful, Peter Pan offers us a chance to explore a fairyland in which we will ultimately discover ourselves.

This “good read” was inspired by a recent conversation on The Diane Rehm Show.

Click here to check out more Good Reads.

Written by Matt Markgraf

October 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Good Read: A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

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A Sand County Almanac
by Aldo Leopold

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Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac has enthralled generations of nature lovers and conservationists and is indeed revered by everyone seriously interested in protecting the natural world. Hailed for prose that is “full of beauty and vigor and bite” (The New York Times), it is perhaps the finest example of nature writing since Thoreau’s Walden. The heart of the book remains Leopold’s carefully rendered observations of nature. Here we follow Leopold throughout the year, from January to December, as he walks about the rural Wisconsin landscape, watching a woodcock dance skyward in golden afternoon light, or spying a rough-legged hawk dropping like a feathered bomb on its prey. And perhaps most important are Leopold’s trenchant comments throughout the book on our abuse of the land and on what we must do to preserve this invaluable treasure.

Lauren Taylor says:

Here you are, this collection is a way to reconnect with nature through the eyes of a conservationist/ minimalist. Leopold speaks to the natural rhythms of the land, and shows the reader patterns humming about us, widely unnoticed. It’s like taking the most wonderful expedition without leaving your favorite reading nook. 🙂

Click here to check out more Good Reads.

Written by Matt Markgraf

October 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Good Read: Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

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Every Thing On It
by Shel Silverstein

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Shel Silverstein, beloved author of the acclaimed and bestselling poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, will have a brand-new book of poetry published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in September 2011. This is only the second original book to be published since Silverstein’s passing in 1999. With more than one hundred and thirty never-before-seen poems and drawings completed by the cherished American artist and selected by his family from his archives, this collection will follow in the tradition and format of his acclaimed poetry classics.


Matt Markgraf says:

I grew up surrounded by video games. So why read a book when I can interact with a story on the screen? An exception can be made, says my 6-year-old self, for Shel Silverstein. I distinctly remember huddling in a group with other kids over a copy of Where The Sidewalk Ends, or A Light In The Attic, or Falling Up. We loved the dark humor, the daring whimsy and the off-beat illustrations. When I saw NPR’s feature on a new collection of poems, of unpublished work his family had gathered, I literally danced on the WKMS balcony (after pre-ordering the book).

As with other posthumous collections of unpublished things, there’s always the risk of quality. The question forms in my mind: “Why are these unpublished? Because they weren’t good or because the chance simply hadn’t come about?” To be perfectly honest, this collection soars and dives. The poems that seem unpolished are quite obvious, yet the poems that soar are absolutely fantatsic – like finding a diamond ring in a chocolate cake. If you’re willing to forgive a little and enjoy this surprising gift from Silverstein’s family, it will feel like a great bit of closure to a great body of work. Some of my favorite poems are the title poem, “Every Things On It” about a kid who regrets asking for a hotdog with everything, “A Giant Mistake” which posits a very profound ethical question, “The Clock Man” about placing a value on mortality, and the very last poem, of which all I’ll say is quite moving.

As a writer, growing up with Shel Silverstein on my bookshelf has been as much a joy as an asset. He teaches a timeless lesson of thinking for yourself, questioning everything, not taking life too seriously, finding joy in the mundane and delight in the wild.

Click here to check out more Good Reads.

Written by Matt Markgraf

September 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Good Read – A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin

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Product Description:

Here is the first volume in George R. R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

 

Tracy Ross says:

In 2005 Time magazine famously called George R.R. Martin “the American Tolkien” based on his A Song of Ice and Fire series.  After one reads A Game of Thrones, it’s clear that Martin deserves at least that much praise.  Tolkien’s chief talent as a writer was his ability to build worlds.  Martin shares Tolkien’s talent for creating an expansive world that his readers can and will get lost in.  However, whereas Tolkien’s characters were quite clearly good or evil, Martin’s occupy the rather large grey area that exists between the two extremes.  As you read this book, you’ll be transported to the world of Westeros, where the seasons last years rather than months, and powerful families wrestle for control of a great iron throne made from the melted swords of the conquered enemies of a long-dead king.  Martin does not treat his characters well.  There’s plenty of incest, rape, betrayal and murder to be found in Westeros, but also a surprising amount of honor, courage and duty.  In short, the characters in A Game of Thrones talk and act like real human beings.  Characters commit horrible acts out of self-interest and self-preservation rather than to fulfill some grand evil plot.  Finally, don’t assume that your favorite characters will be around at the end of this series.  Martin has consistently shown the willingness to kill any character at any time if it advances the greater story.  And what a story it is; once you start reading A Game of Thrones, your biggest challenge will be putting it down long enough to work and sleep.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

August 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi

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In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.

Matt Markgraf says:

I’ve always been in love with the idea of Steampunk, but finding a decent novel in this superb sub-genre is hard. The turn-off for me is in the self-awareness of the author in the constructing of the nuanced world, where the gimmick takes over plot and character development. Paolo Bacigalupi, while hard to pronounce, is certainly a name to remember as an example of “doing it right.” I discovered Paolo with the tremendous adventure in The Windup Girl, and was drawn to his award-winning YA novel Ship Breaker.

The only thing YA about Ship Breaker is its young characters. Aside from that it’s a gritty, grimey, post-apocalyptic and almost perceptibly political adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. What struck me was the fast-paced and chlautrophobic narrative. The novel begins with Nailer, the main character, climbing through the tight ventilation ducts of old ships, tearing out copper wiring and other metal with any kind of worth. Paolo doesn’t waste any time with flowery steampunk descriptions, but dives right into the dirty depths whether the reader is ready or not.

The second half of the book is where the politics regarding the catastrophic results of harvesting fossil fuels and the insurmountable division of class warfare come into the forefront. When Nailer discoveres a wrecked “swank” ship full of “riches” (things we may take for granted), and later when they struggle to get by in a very different New Orleans were memorable moments.

The character development is top notch, interactions are carefully written and the world will leave grit in your teeth. Ship Breaker is a quick read, and a substantial one.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

July 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm