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: 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.
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 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.