Buzz in Brookline: 2014

It’s a new year and a fresh chance to get a jump start into your weird, strange choices of reading materials. Don’t be alarmed, this is exactly the kind of things we want to you to be reading with us, The Buzz. For 2014, the Brookline Buzz has completed their reading list for the year, divided up into four categories.

To start things right, the first category will be entitled as “Strange Happenings.” What does this mean, you ask? These are the books where strange events occur and the characters are forced to accept the reality of the situation as they try to live. As before, we will be doing a nice mix of graphic novels, fiction, and non-fiction reads to spice it up.

First up, “Black Hole” by Charles Burn!

Black HoleMany may be familiar with this arguably creepy book, in which a bunch of suburban Seattle teens in the mid-1970s start experiencing not only their own personal dramas, but also the realization of strange mutations passed around through sexual encounters. This inexplicable plague causes a range of mutations, from horribly grotesque to mildly odd and easily concealable, but still causes all of the teenagers to rethink their life decisions.

In February, we will be tackling “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales” by Oliver Sacks.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a HatOliver Sacks, a neurologist interested in both people and disease, takes on the fascinating world of neurological disorders. While this book tells stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations, Sacks remains deeply human in his interactions and recording of his patients. An eye-opener, this book allows us to step into another world and take on a whole new understanding of the patient’s worldview and how one copes with these struggles.

In March, for the last book of this category, we will ready “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player OneIn 2044, the real world is total trash and people are expected to escape to the alternative virtual world OASIS, where you can be anyone you want to be, live in any place on ten thousands of planet, and fall in love with the person of your choice. On top of being a part of this virtual world, the creator hid a series of fiendish puzzles within based off of late twentieth century pop culture, in order for a chance to win the ultimate prize. Our hero, Wade Watts, found himself stumbling across the first puzzle and finds himself racing to the end in order to survive against powerful and vicious competitors both in the virtual and real world.

Getting pumped? Brookline is too, and this is just the first batch.


Sorry, Lawrencevillains.

I know, Lawrenceville Book Buzzers, I’ve been slacking. It’s not that we haven’t been meeting — I’ve just been neglecting the blog.  I could give you all kinds of excuses, but I won’t.

Over the past couple months we’ve talked about the Jazz Age, religion and flowers.  Personally, I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the books – several of which were new to me.  Particular favorites were Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose, and the absolutely beautiful Language of Flowersby Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Next Tuesday, 9/24, the intrepid buzzers will be meeting at greenSinner to talk about Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart.

From the library catalog:

We buy more flowers a year than we do Big Macs, spending $6.2 billion annually. We use them to mark our most important events, to express sentiments that might otherwise go unsaid. And we demand perfection. So it’s no surprise that there is a $40 billion global industry devoted to making flowers flawless. Amy Stewart takes us inside the flower trade-from the hybridizers, who create new varieties in the laboratory, to the growers, who produce flowers by the millions (often in a factory-like setting), to the Dutch auctioneers, who set the bar (and the price), and ultimately to the neighborhood florists orchestrating the mind-boggling demands of Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. There’s the breeder intent on developing the first blue rose; an eccentric horticultural legend who created the world’s most popular lily; a grower of gerberas of every color imaginable; and the equivalent of a Tiffany diamond: the ” Forever Young” rose. Stewart explores the relevance of flowers in our lives and in our history, and in the process she reveals all that has been gained-and lost-by tinkering with nature.

Stay tuned next week, and I’ll reveal our October selections!


Brookline Wants to Know Your Feelings

After many sessions of reading items from early 1990s teenage cruelty in comic form to exploring presidential assassinations, we are now moving on to even weirder, but probably awesome, reads. So far, we have seen and heard various emotional feedback; that is, having stories that make people angry, sad, happy, and confused. Luckily, this is exactly what we have been aiming for to make this Book Buzz group a true success.

How do this make you feel?!

How do this make you feel?!

Having said that, our next book happens to be a heavily debated novel, “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart, where all the reviews (professional and personal) are solidly split between ‘best book I’ve ever read’ and ‘this is the worst thing I could have ever picked up.’ We can’t describe exactly how excited we are to hear about everyone’s reactions to this particularly questionable choice since it’s expected to receive everything from disgust to delight, and those silly feelings in between. You may question why we are seeking these strange feelings that are not just of simple delight and pleasing satisfaction following a good read, but let’s face it: Shouldn’t a read that is truly worth the effort make you think and cause you to react emotionally in all sorts of manner? If the book you have read only makes you smile peacefully or be bored by the end, then you are not experiencing the amazing worlds of literature in the right way.

A brief overview of “Super Sad True Love Story” (which is technically not a love story) from Publishers Weekly: “Mired in protracted adolescence, middle-aged Lenny Abramov is obsessed with living forever (he works for an Indefinite Life Extension company), his books (an anachronism of this indeterminate future), and Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American. Eunice, though reluctant and often cruel, finds in Lenny a loving but needy fellow soul and a refuge from her overbearing immigrant parents.” A tip of the iceberg summary, this book is a mess of political takeovers, a cartoon otter in a cowboy hat, alternating points-of-views (diary entries vs online correspondences), and the nightmare of tomorrow. We don’t know what to expect, we don’t know how you and we will feel, and we just don’t know what’s to come.

Join us at Cannon Coffee down the still-intact Brookline Boulevard to talk about how this book made you react while gulping down angry mugs of coffee, happy shots of espresso, and sad cups of tea. Check you later!

– Brookline crew

The Buzz comes to Beechview and Mt. Washington

The Buzz comes to CLP–Beechview and CLP-Mt. Washington!  Quarterly book discussions will be held outside of the library at coffee shops and restaurants in Beechview and Mt. Washington.  The first book discussion was hosted by Brew on Broadway in Beechview.  (They have the best iced chai that I ever tasted!)  The next discussion will be hosted by Grand Brew on Saturday, June 22, 2013 @ 10:30 AM.  Grand Brew is located at 122 Shiloh Street in Mt. Washington.

So, what’s on the buzz meter this month?

The Influencing MachineBrook Gladstone On The Media illustrated by Josh Neufeld.

Let’s talk about media biases:

  • commercial bias
  • bad news bias
  • status quo bias
  • access bias
  • visual bias
  • narrative bias
  • fairness bias

Something to think about:  (p. 78)

“Out of the Civil War emerges the template for future war journalism–use and abuse of new technology, press releases, censorship, passive reporting…Reporting of dazzling clarity and reporting warped in the heat of high ideals and love of country.  Oh, and something else comes out of the Civil War…Bylines!  Before the war, reporting is anonymous.  The founding fathers used pseudonyms to attack each other in print.  But General Joe Hooker, enraged by the press, demands reporters sign their work.  Then they can abuse or criticize me to their heart’s content.  In future wars, the military contains the media through the skillful deployment of carrots and sticks, and an irresistible force–patriotism. It’s said that Senator Hiram Johnson, opposing America’s entry into World War One in 1917, first uttered the words that have resounded ever since…The first casualty when war comes is truth.


Other buzz-worthy titles:

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff.

Big Data:  A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think  by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier.

Masters of the Word:  How Media Shaped History, from the Alphabet to the Internet  by William J. Bernstein.


Get Your Coffee Buzz On

Sitting in a coffee shop with coconut macaroon cookies, cup of coffee (or tea or mocha or americano…), and a good book with people does sound like a great time, right? Luckily, we of CLP-Brookline found some like-minded comrades in our quest for alternative reading this past Thursday at the local favorite, Cannon Coffee, as well deciding on our first two reads!

This book will blow your mind.

This book will blow your mind.

First up, by an unanimous vote, the just-got-to-know-ya book group have selected our April book to be Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, an eye-opening graphic novel memoir about a young girl’s complex relationship with her father growing up while having to help out with the family business of running a (fun)eral home. She discovers things about her father she never knew until after his death, and strangely enough, she develops a stronger connection to him than ever before.

Do you enjoy graphic novels? Then you will love this.

Never read a graphic novel before? This is worth the chance. You should take it.

Heck, already read this a million times? You should probably come.

This book will also make you question everything you have ever done.

This book will also make you question everything you have ever done.

If this isn’t enough to sway you, our May book will be Downtown Owl (and on CD, how delightful!), written by Chuck Klosterman. While Chuck is usually the guy behind heavily intricate essays on pop culture and the what-of-it notion of understanding, this is his first fiction novel. Set in a fictional town of 1983 Middle America, he spins a story of several characters who eventually become intertwined due to a historically accurate snowstorm that led to a few deaths. While this is not a graphic novel, you will still become immersed with his affectionate irony and modern humor.

The next meeting for Brookline Book Buzz is scheduled for April 25th at 6 PM at Cannon Coffee, the hippest coffee shop off the I-79 corridor. Coffee is produced by Commonplace Coffee Co., and let me just throw this out there: They have a sweet outdoor patio in the back. Don’t you want to sit outside in warm weather, drinking your iced coffee, and talking about awesome books? I know you do.

The sweetness that awaits you

The sweetness that awaits you

Wide Awake by David Levithan

Wide Awake by David Levithan is the Book Buzz selection for November.  David Levithan is an award-winning author and editor of books for teens and young adults.  He is a publisher and editor at Scholastic and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint.  Along with Wide Awake, he is the author of Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Nick & Norah’s infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), Love is the Higher Law, The Lover’s Dictionary, Every Day, and many more.  So, to whet your appetite, here is a sample of great lines and funny words from Wide Awake by David Levithan.

“Because words mattered.  Winning the words was a good part of the battle.” (p7)

“School is its own country.” (p7)

” ‘The personal is political’ Jimmy said to me one of the first nights I sneaked over to his house, ‘and the political is personal.  We vote every time we make a choice.  We vote with our lives’.” (p21)

“I also wanted to give him something he could hold in his hand.  It didn’t have to be expensive, only valuable.”  (p43)

“It’s not the end of the world until it’s the end of the world.” (p50)

“Even my voice had seen.” (p57)

“I thought I might change my mind about changing my mind.” (p88)

“I knew he was going to think less of me, but I hoped to minimize the lessness.”  (p90)

“Scorn.  I hit the vein of scorn.” (p91)

“I’ve seen facts get harder and harder to hide–and easier and easier to manipulate.”  (p102)

“My voice was a bare whisper, a pencil mark in the air.”  (p107)

“There was an ounce of further caution in our comfort.”  (p119)

“I knew right away he was rainbow spinkles and he hasn’t proven me wrong yet.”  (p129)

“Most were Stein/Martinez supporters experiencing the power of arrival.” (p134)

“Bodies and banners and signs, clothes of all colors, faces of all ages.”  (p140)

“Once again it felt like history.  But this time our piece was even bigger.”  (p140)

“It was if the air became so saturated with our voices that we were breathing sound.”  (p158)

“It was something beyond a standing ovation–it was a living ovation.”  (p158)

“To add to the thereness of the moment.  To say we would not be moved.”  (p160)

“We’d watched as its first leaves turned the yellow of raincoats.”  (p174)

“She looked like her thoughts hadn’t slept at all since she left.”  (p189)

“I was there.  Just one young gay Jew in a sea of people.  Just one lone voice in an enormous body of sound,  Just one unique person at one unique moment, there to witness something monumental.  I was part of history.  We are all part of history.”  (p221)

Funny Words

sniggering  (p33)

happy zoom  (p40)

thrumping  (p53)

gnashed  (p71)

chainmarts  (p133)

foolio  (p140)

gripple (p150)

hinky jinky  (p181)


Black Hole Almost-Likes (Kinda’ Sorta’.)

Coming up with honest-to-goodness ‘read-a-likes’ for Black Hole was difficult for me as I’ve never read anything really like it, and I don’t  know anything about the surrealist genre, or being a teen in the 70’s, or being infected with, well…whatever.

However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. So with that caveat in mind. Here are two things that I came across which tread at least similar waters:

Perfect Example by John Porcellino

Graphic Novel about a teen trying to figure out the world, and his place in it, during the summer of 1986, before going off to college. For John, friends, girls, and even Heavy Metal don’t seem to be what they once were. He’s just sad all the time. The message seems to be about the realization that you are no longer a child, but not yet an adult either, and you don’t know what to do about it. Pocellino’s ‘school notebook doodle’ artwork style puctuates the desire to want to simplify the world at that age, but finding out that it’s not that easy.

The Ice Storm by Rick Moody

It’s Thanksgiving weekend 1973 in the ex-urbs of Connecticut, just a train ride away from New York City. The Hood family are your guides through the pre-disco, Nixonian era, with American involvement in Vietnam ending, and suburban excess and cynicism destroying the memory of the idealisitc 60’s. While Benjamin Hood is paying frequent visits to his neighbor Janey, and Stepford wife Elena devours self-help books, son Paul heads to NYC in an attempt to win the heart of the out-of-his-league girl from school, and daughter Wendy gets into the bottles, and pants, of her neighbors.

Did I mention the massive early winter ice storm that paralyzes the area?

A very well done film adaptation was released in 1997 staring Kevin Kline (Benjamin), Joan Allen (Elena), Christina Ricci (Wendy), Sigourney Weaver (Janey), and a pre-Peter Paker Tobey Maguire (Paul).  There’s also appearances by a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood, and a pre-everything Katie Holmes.

Umm, Paul? Why are you hanging from the ceiling…and what’s that stuff on your hands?








It really is a good film – even with the Nixon mask make-out scene.