Where we’re going

The first time I wrote this, it was full of witty phrasing and fantastic links. The second time, the wittiness was decreased but the links remained.  This time, I’m rather annoyed and I’m quite certain that all wittiness will be gone and the number of links diminished…I’ll do my best, though.  In other news: WordPress, why do you hate me today?

There’s a question reminiscent of the age-old chicken-or-egg conundrum here: did we pick our locations because they fit well with our books, or did we pick our books because they made sense with our locations?  The answer is, a little bit of both.  When we were brainstorming, we came up with a long list of possible titles to discuss and a long list of possible locations to visit.  Then we came up with some of our top choices and began contacting owners and managers.  Nobody said no – this, I think, speaks to how awesome this program is going to be, and also makes me really hope that this program is a roaring success so we can go to some of the other places on our list!

Our first discussion, in July, will be held at Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2011 Chef of the Year Kevin Sousa’s newest restaurant, Union Pig and Chicken.  Sousa’s first restaurant, Salt of the Earth, has been receiving rave reviews since it opened in 2010.  Molly and I checked out Union Pig and Chicken for dinner last night and were blown away by the ambience, delicious food, and ridiculous portion sizes — there’s a reason everyone’s buzzing about it.

In August, we’ll be visiting Polish Hill’s Lili Coffee*Shop.  Lili shares a building with Mind Cure Records and Copacetic Comics, and it was the coffee + comics equation that led to our selecting a graphic novel set in Seattle as our discussion title here.  Word on the street is that the food and the atmosphere at Lili are both amazing. It’ll be a great place to get our Book Buzz – and caffeine buzz – on.

September’s location is one of my personal favorite local watering holes, Remedy.  Located in Lawrenceville, Remedy has a great food menu, awesome dance parties, and some of the best bartenders around.  And the first-class beer selection (warning: the draft selection changes more often than that blog) can help contribute to a third kind of buzz.

Can’t wait to see you and start the Buzz going!

What we’re reading

The books we’ll be discussing this summer were very carefully selected.  The major criteria? They couldn’t be boring.  They also couldn’t be the kind of books that one normally thinks of as “book discussion books.” (That’s not to say that we think traditional book discussion books are bad.  We just wanted to do something different.)

Other things we thought about: what genres should we read? Should we include alternate formats?  Should the books relate in some way to the discussion locations?  How risqué can we really get in a book discussion that’s Library sponsored?

In order to maintain our own enthusiasm, we picked genres, formats and titles that we know and love: memoirs, graphic novels, zombie books.  We also tried to tailor the selections to the locations, so we’ll be discussing an acclaimed cooking memoir at an acclaimed restaurant, a graphic novel at a coffee shop that’s affiliated with a comic book shop, and a zombie book at…well, we’re discussing a zombie book at a bar. Because that’s where the best zombie conversations take place.  As far as content goes, well, here’s an example of one of the books we considered that we didn’t pick:

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Sexual icon Jenna Jameson, the most famous female adult entertainment star in history, steps further into the mainstream spotlight with this beautifully written, designed, and photographed tell-all sexual autobiography. With the help of writer Neil Strauss, porn superstar turned mainstream sex goddess Jenna Jameson has created an unforgettable autobiography that is many things at once: a titillating sexual history, an insider’s guide to the secret workings of the billion-dollar adult-film industry, and a gripping thriller that probes deep into Jenna’s dark past. The tales begin in the underbelly of Las Vegas, a cesspool of strip clubs, tattoo parlors, murder and shoot-outs that turned the gawky  Jenna Masolli into the bombshell Jenna Jameson, one of the most recognized women in the world. Most of these stories Jenna has never told before, for fear of having to spend the rest of her life living in their shadow.

 

I guess I should admit, though, that the biggest reason we’re not talking about that book is that it really didn’t fit in with any of our locations.  Who knows, maybe we’ll discuss this one sometime in the future?

Anyhow, I digress.  Basically, we felt unconstrained enough to pick books that we think you’ll love, if you love things that are a little less mainstream and a little more awesome.  So, without further ado, here’s a little more about what we’ll be reading.  Our next post will have a little more about where we’ll be meeting!

7.16 | Union Pig & Chicken | 220 N. Highland Ave. 15206

Blood, Bones and Butter Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family – the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends. Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work. Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion. By turns epic and intimate, it marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.

 8.20 | Lili Coffee*Shop | 3138 Dobson St. 15219

Black Hole Black Hole by Charles Burns

The setting: suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back. As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape. And then the murders start. As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying, Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it – back when it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird. To say nothing of sprouting horns and molting your skin…

9.17 | Remedy | 5121 Butler St. 15201

World War Z World War Z by Max Brooks

Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result.

A Book Discussion With a Twist

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh wants to connect with you, where you are.  This summer, join us for a new kind of book discussion: Book Buzz.

What makes Book Buzz different? We’ll still be discussing great books and encouraging lively conversation about them.  But the books are a little different: edgy memoirs, graphic novels, contemporary horror.  And the locations are very different: bars, restaurants, coffee shops.  We hope you’ll grab a great book, pull up a bar stool, and get your book buzz started.

Request your copy of the book by clicking on the link below.  Limited copies will also be available at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – East Liberty and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Lawrenceville.

Third Monday,

7.16 | Union Pig & Chicken | 220 N. Highland Ave. 15206

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

8.20 | Lili Coffee*Shop | 3138 Dobson St. 15219

Black Hole by Charles Burns

9.17 | Remedy | 5121 Butler St. 15201

World War Z by Max Brooks

And don’t forget to tip your bartender!