"This is the book I want everyone to read. You probably know the movie, but this is probably THE greatest case for what film misses when it adapts the written word. You have to read the book to appreciate Gibbons' chops as a parodist, watching her savage the English "pastoral" novel with her melodramatic narrator Flora Poste and the immensely bonkers Starkadder clan. Published in 1932, this book mocks the self-help movement, the film industry, the British stiff upper lip, back-to-the-landers, televangelists (well, radio-vangelists I guess), and the sort of thing Downton Abbey is doing today - all of this in 1932! When I read this book for the first time, I couldn't believe I had missed out on something so funny, and so keenly modern, for so long. Please consider getting the Penguin edition with the Roz Chast illustrations! The only thing that could make this perfect book even better is Roz Chast's drawings on the cover, and the publisher was nice enough to make it happen."
"I have loved Margaret Atwood's writing since I read "The Edible Woman" in high school. I don't think she needs much in the way of introduction or explanation, so I'll just say that this is, in my opinion, her best work. This book tells the story of two sisters from a well-off family, born near the beginning of the twentieth century: Iris becomes the perfect wife and mother, and Laura publishes a scandalous book before committing suicide. Or, at least, that's the official story. Atwood creates layers upon layers in the book, turning the very idea of conventional narrative on its head, not least by interpolating into the story the text of Laura's scandalous book. It's a fun and dizzying experience, and Atwood's incredible flair for storytelling leads the reader one way, only to yank you completely out of your assumptions at the next turn. It also cleverly combines many of Atwood's signature themes and styles: feminist history, industrialization and its effect on the planet, and Sci-Fi tropes, among others. It is, to me, signature Atwood."
"This book was truly life-changing for me. It was the first time that I read something that even remotely captured the vibrant, hardscrabble life I had known growing up in the Philippines. Famously, the New York Times review of the book offered the opinion that there was no way life in Manila approached the frenetic, pop-culture obsessed scenario Hagedorn documents. My well-reasoned response will always be: Ha! The main narrative focuses on Hagedorn's stand-in, Rio, who basically comes of age in a movie theater during the golden age of Filipino cinema. But as Rio's world widens beyond her childhood, it reaches a breaking point that forces her to leave her homeland for America. Her story is about that place and time to which we can never return, and Hagedorn's writing here is beyond beautiful. But Rio's narrative is also peppered with countless other stories, chronicling life in the Philippines during the tumultuous second half of the 20th century, under the "soft" colonization that remained after the U.S. officially withdrew. Dictator's wives and Communist painters, wannabe stars and depraved movie directors, oligarchs and junkies; these are just some of the characters that Hagedorn also uses to paint an unforgettable and essential record of a very particular time and a place."
by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet
"It's probably no great surprise to hear that I love books not just for their stories and their words, but also as beautiful objects. In a world where you hear "print is dead," on an almost daily basis, I really enjoy a book like Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet's "Gnomes." I have shown this book to so many, and no matter their age, I watch them fall in love immediately. The books tells you, through Huygen's wry "anthropological" notes and Poortvliet's amazing illustrations, about the world of the gnome. It's the sort of book that you pore over, not even realizing how long you've been examining the diagrams of gnome homes, or dreaming about the dark Nordic tales Huygen weaves throughout. For some of us, there's an undeniable nostalgic element (the cartoon "David the Gnome" used this book as its inspiration), but this book is breath-taking for any generation. P.S. The "deluxe" edition even comes with prints of some of the best-loved illustrations which you can take out and frame!"
"There are many books that bear testament to the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans during the second World War, but I would love for more people to know about this one. Mine Okubo was an artist who, in 1946, published her sketches and written vignettes of camp life under the title "Citizen 13660," the number assigned to her during her internment. The book was out of print until the 80s, when the University of Washington thankfully brought it back. The book captures small details, which I had never known, that show the confusing and maddening process whereby American citizens were stripped of their rights. Once in the camp, Okubo's sharp eye and expressive drawings really bring to life the indignity and petty abuses she and all internees suffered. But what will blow you away is the uncrushable spirit and creative cooperation these brave men and women showed in the camp, developing a supportive and even loving community at one of our country's darkest points."