I read KFC’s chick[en] lit so you don’t have to

10 May

If there’s one thing I love about today’s feminism, it’s the budding objectification of male brand mascots. Sure, the Brawny Paper Towel Man has been sexing it up in supermarket aisles since 1974, but it took another four decades before America was ready to ogle Mr. Clean’s butt. And Brawny bro was just replaced by a woman anyway.

This Mother’s Day brings with it a new addition to the sexy manscot canon (the sexy manscanon?)—a youthful and dashing Colonel Sanders. In honor of moms everywhere, KFC has released a romance novella called Tender Wings of Desire… because apparently Mother’s Day is big for fried-chicken sales. Continue reading

John Douglas is a murder whisperer, and David Fincher is a very smart man

4 May

As mass-market paperbacks go, John Douglas’ Mind Hunter is a joy to behold. The cover features a soft-focus photo of Douglas, a benign middle-aged white man wearing a trench coat with a popped collar. Half of Douglas’ face is overlaid with thin red concentric circles that emanate from the red eyeball of what might be… a dog? Unclear. Bought used, my copy also has a much-broken spine and yellowing pages. It looks like it came from a supermarket aisle reached via time machine.  Continue reading

Three books for the ladeez

28 Mar

Perhaps by chance, perhaps as some sort of subliminal political backlash, I’ve read a handful of books with fabulous female perspectives lately. Let me tell you about them. Continue reading

Yes, you really do need to read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

2 Mar

colson_whitehead_underground_railroadIf you’re doing this whole “reading” thing right, there should ideally be a shortlist of books that changed your mind/blew your mind/expanded your mind, whether on specific subjects or just in general. They don’t have to be the greatest books ever written, or even particularly literary or influential (though it’s always nice if they are). They’re just the ones you read in the right place at the right time in your life, or in history. They’re the ones you consciously or unconsciously absorbed into your worldview. A shortlist book is one you finish and then think about, constantly at first and then on and off for years, or even decades, afterwards.

My shortlist for books about racism, and specifically slavery, is particularly short, mostly because I’m an asshole who spent at least 50% of her formative years reading Stephen King and Sookie Stackhouse novels (no regrets though, no regrets). Many of the books on that list I’ve only read in the past few years—The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Homegoing, Americanah—and this month I added a new one: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Continue reading

An ode to the pop-fiction palate cleanser

22 Feb

I decided to try it at an airport, because… I was already drinking a bloody, you know? Anyway I loved it, practically inhaled it, and passed it on to a friend. She was looking for a pick-me-up, had been into the hard stuff lately. Pretty soon I found another friend who liked it, and a week later, a third confessed: She’d needed it, needed the break from reality.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a reprieve from life’s daily frustrations, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies is an almost guaranteed conduit to temporary nirvana.  Continue reading

Lessons from The Terranauts: Filter bubbles have nothing on real bubbles

31 Jan

terranauts_tc_boyleIn a world being redefined by xenophobia and authoritarianism, reviewing books has seemed, well, frivolous of late. I read Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler last month, but was distracted by Trump before I could start a review draft. I tore through Han Kang’s The Vegetarian a week ago, but got sidelined by protests before jotting down any notes. I inhaled Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on Saturday, but a murder mystery at sea seems silly when staring down an IRL humanitarian crisis. And don’t even get me started on George Washington’s biography—the man once graciously returned a lost dog to a British general, in the middle of a war. Donald Trump’s broadsides feel pettier than usual after even a few pages with the original founding father.

Still, reading a book—preferably one set in a time/place/galaxy far, far, away—can be a welcome reprieve these days, and I really went into T.C. Boyle’s The Terranauts expecting to forget, for at least a few hours, about the particular brand of America we find ourselves in at the moment. I suppose, in some sense, the book did accomplish that: For a few beautiful hours, I disliked the characters in this novel almost as much as I dislike a certain newly minted leader of the free world.  Continue reading

The ultimate authoritative best books of 2016

22 Dec

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-3-28-45-pmSlavery. Racism. Urbanism. Disease. While 2016 may not have been a banner year for liberal democracy in the world at large, it should definitely go down as a woke time in book publishing.

For dedicated bibliophiles, the low thrum of literary FOMO that bubbles up around May has by mid-December evolved into a full-fledged panic. Every week brings a new “best books of the year” list, each one littered with titles you haven’t even heard of, let alone read. Any nascent new-year confidence is supplanted by fears of intellectual inadequacy or—unthinkable in this age of success micro-steps and wellness lifehacks—unproductiveness.

Take a breath; I’ve got you covered. By combining 36 different qualitative “best books” lists by everyone from the New York Times to The Telegraph to a smattering of celebrities (full list of lists here), I’ve created the Ultimate Authoritative Unimpeachable Top 20 Books of 2016. Here they are: Continue reading