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Recommended Reading: South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby is one of the best novels I've read in 2017. It's funny, lively, stressful, aggravating - everything you want in a novel.

The protagonist is thirty-year old Cooper Gosling. Gosling was an art prodigy as a teen, but circumstances changed. Trying to get her life and career back on track, she applies to the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program for a fellowship position at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. I'm not spoiling any surprise by telling you that, yes, she gets the gig, and we are then off with her on an adventure.

The crew at the South Pole falls into two camps, the scientists and the support team. (Cooper and the other artists, appropriately and predictably, are outliers). Author Ashley Shelby zooms in and out on these folks, providing interesting stories about unusual individuals who find that they are well suited to working at the end of the Earth.

There are also a couple of scientific battles u…

Recommended Viewing: Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Caught the documentary Finding Vivian Maier yesterday and absolutely loved it. The film raises interesting questions about just how much we know, or make an effort to know, about other people. Vivian Maier (1926 - 2009) took amazing photos during her lifetime, but she never shared her work. The documentary traces the discovery of her film and the subsequent search to find more information about Maier, who spent her working years as a nanny for various families. The central question the filmmaker presents is, why didn't this extraordinary talent show the world her art?

This central question is, of course, entirely conventional and learning about Maier's life is very interesting. However, it is also fascinating to look at and consider the perspective of the filmmaker - John Maloof, who discovered Maier's material in a box he purchased at an auction - as well as that of the people he interviews who knew Maier. The perspectives they bring make for interesting reflections on th…

Recommended Listening: Joan Osborne "Songs of Bob Dylan"

Singer and songwriter Joan Osborne selects some gems from the Bob Dylan oeuvre, applies her interpretative magic, and delivers a terrific album with Songs of Bob Dylan. Osborne's beautiful voice is warm and the arrangements are fresh and engaging. It is a great pleasure to listen to this music.

Osborne honed the smooth and polished sound of these tracks during two, two-week residencies at New York City's Café Carlyle. Café Carlyle is an intimate space which features jazz and cabaret performers and the sound created by Osborne and her fellow artists reflects that space. If you want rock amphitheater versions of Dylan, then this is not the disc to buy. This is bluesy and soulful singing born in a club. Osborne's singing is supported beautifully through restraint from the other excellent musicians playing on the album.

Finally, Dylan's amazing lyrics, delivered clearly and cleanly by Osborne, shine. To listen again to a song we've heard often over many years, such as 

Adrian McKinty on Why You Should Read Widely and Freely

Check out Irish author Adrian McKinty's lively and interesting essay, "Class, Race and the Case for Genre Fiction in the Canon." McKinty addresses the topic of books that people are supposed to read, such as winners of the Booker Prize, as opposed to "books that people actually want to read" such as genre fiction - science fiction, romance, and so on. McKinty also offers an explanation as to why "high falutin' American literary fiction" is often dull, reminds us of the joy in reading books we connect with, and emphasizes why we must read widely. It's a very good piece, which is no surprise as McKinty is an exciting author.

In fact, if you enjoy good writing and good fiction, try McKinty's series featuring Detective Inspector Sean Duffy, which is set in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s. It's a terrific series.

The first book in the DI Sean Duffy series.

Can't get to a protest? Then read a banned book!

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. "2 Live Crew, Decoded," 1990
It's Banned Books Week once again, just when First Amendment issues are in the news more than ever. Recent news stories are focusing on the many people who are courageously speaking out to oppose racism. Here at Something Good to Read, we support those speakers and join them in opposing racism and the violence and injustice that are driven by racism. In the area of censorship and challenges to books, more than half of all banned books are by authors of color, according to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom. (Robert P. Doyle, 2015 - 2016 Books Challenged or Banned).
If you are looking to read a book that has been the subject of a challenge, here is a list of the top 10 books challenged in 2016. Or you can check out this document from the American Library Association listing frequently challenged books; there are many excellent reads lis…

Welcome Autumn

It's a beautiful morning for the first day of fall, 2017. Outside it's 72 degrees and sunny, the beautiful sunshine of fall that looks more golden than yellow. The dog has had her walk. A pile of leaves, acorns and walnuts has been raked out of the driveway. Now it's time to sit down.

My Danny O'Keefe station on Pandora is playing a mix that includes Marshall Tucker, Dave Mason, and Leon Russell. An espresso is ready, the papers arrived, and soon I'll resume readingThe Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio De Giovanni.

Hope you have a great day, a fun fall season, and a good book to read

The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky.

The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky is mystical literature featuring a killer car. The novel's protagonist, Leah, is a young woman and aspiring novelist, bouncing around life as she attempts to stay focused on her writing goals rather than falling haphazardly into a different career. Her life is grinding and a bit dreary until two things happen: She finishes her book and inherits a red sports car from a friend and former boss. An odd adventure follows as she abruptly leaves her husband behind and heads to California to collect her inheritance. Leah is apprehensive about owning the car, a vehicle she finds threatening. But what is death but transformation?

Although I found Leah to be an annoying character, The Red Car turned into a unique story and rather memorable.

Highly Recommended Reading: News of the World by Paulett Jiles

News of the World is a terrific novel by Paulette Jiles. Set in the year 1870, it is the story of a 400-mile journey through dangerous Texas territory by 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd to deliver a 10-year-old girl to her family.

The girl, Johanna Leonberger, had been a captured by a band of Kiowa in a raid in which her parents and sister were killed. Johanna lived with the Kiowa for four years and fully assimilated into the band. She was returned by the Kiowa under pressure from US Army, but to the great dismay of her Kiowa mother.

They brought her in and sold her for fifteen Hudson's Bay four-stripe blankets and a set of silver dinnerware. German coin silver. They'll beat it up into bracelets. It was Aperian Crow's band brought her in. Her mother cut her arms to pieces and you could hear her crying for a mile.  Her Indian mother.  Yes. . . .

The U.S. Army subsequently determined who Johanna was and where her surviving blood relatives lived. Those relatives, an a…