Friday, January 30, 2009

Read these before you see the movie...

...because most of the time the book is better!

These are all nominated for the 2009 Academy Awards:

The Reader by Bernard Schlink

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What we're reading this week:

Seeking Whom He May Devour - Fred Vargas

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Child of God - Cormac McCarthy

The Shadow Factory - Paul West and Diane Ackerman

Mason and Dixon - Thomas Pynchon

Dream House - Valerie Laken

Pygmy - Chuck Palahniuk

Monday, January 26, 2009

Staff Top Reads

Interviewing avid book readers about their favorite books is something to behold - mainly because everyone seems to get freak out when you ask on the spot about their favorite anything.

Well today I went around to all of the workers of Shaman Drum and asked them this question:

"What are your top favorite books of all time and/or top favorite reads now that you would recommend to someone"

And here is the list:


NightElie Wiesel

Special Topics in Calamity PhysicsMarisha Pessl

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseJonathan Safran Foer


Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris

The Post-Birthday World Lionel Shriver

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway


The Erasers – Robbe Grillet

As I Lay DyingWilliam Faulkner

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? – Joyce Carol Oates


Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar WaoJunot Díaz

Platter of FigsDavid Tanis and Alice Waters

The Devil of NankingMo Hayder


The Crying Lot of 49 – Thomas Pynchon

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce

Coming Up for Air – George Orwell


Johnny Got His GunDalton Trumbo

Le Petite Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger

100 Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Glare – A. R. Ammons

Grey Is Color of HopeIrina Ratushinskaya

100 Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings – Abolqasem Ferdowsi

Midaq AlleyNaguib Mahfouz


The Sister – Poppy Adams

Something Wicked This Way ComesRay Bradbury

Ms. Hempel ChroniclesSarah Shun-lien Bynum

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
Plainwater - Anne Carson

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Hercules - Jeannette Winterson
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg


House of Rain Craig Childs

Say You’re One of ThemUwem Akpan

War and PeaceLeo Tolstoy


The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez-Reverte

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton


The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Father – Sharon Olds

The Drowned Life – Jeffrey Ford


Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte


Ubik – Philip K. Dick

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis


The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

Stiff – Mary Roach

Brain Dead Megaphone – George Saunders


The Castle – Franz Kafka

Lifting Belly – Gertrude Stein

The Abortion – Richard Brautigan


Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki

Mountains and Rivers Without End – Gary Snyder

Babar and Father Christmas Jean De Brunhoff


Ender's Game Orson Scott Card

Jitterbug Perfume Tom Robbins

Arcadia Tom Stoppard


Women of Brewster Place Gloria Naylor

Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey


Sula - Toni Morrison
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
The Sea - John Banville

And the winners seem to be 100 Years of Solitude and Jane Eyre which were both mentioned twice.

I guess it's time I got some reading done....

Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn Visit

Channel 7 news goes up close.

Fox News interviewing some people in the "audience"

Said "audience"

Karl, Bill and Bernardine

Frank (from U of M News Service), Bill and Bernardine.

Karl and Alan

People crowding around to see the scene

Emily watching the events unfold on our cameras.

Window display

Fox News! Ahhhh!

Check out Karl's blog about today's events.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slow Reading Vs. Fast Reading

At a recent holiday party an old friend was going on about a hilarious drunken scene in The Great Gatsby and I called her out. No such scene. Clearly she had drunk too much of the special egg nog. She insisted and like any good former English major had her copy to hand in a matter of moments. I was humbled in good spirits.

This was not an isolated incident. Many times I’ve had the embarrassment of claiming to have read and enjoyed a book but am unable to recall any but the most primary characters or scenes.

I blame this on a skill I used to take pride in – being a “fast” reader.

Fast readers are heaped with rewards in school. I was praised for it from a very young age. Our entire system of formal education is based around cramming as many books (for enrichment!) as possible into every term while requiring only that the major ideas are picked out and discussed for 50 minutes. And so it was with Gatsby.

Now that I’m years past grades and reading is simply a pleasure, I’ve begun to wonder – does my ability to read quickly really just mean that I skim even when I don’t have to?

Karl Pohrt, owner of the Shaman Drum and himself a self-described “slow” reader, mentioned the other day a new movement of Slow Bloggers. These are writers who choose to carefully select topics to write about and so post only occasionally, randomly - whenever an idea comes and the writing is complete. Think Slow Food for the mind.

Doing anything slowly is an act of revolution in our culture. Slow Blogging, Slow Food, Slow-anything are movements that are stopping folks in their frantic tracks and asking them to pay attention to what is happening. Take pleasure in your leisure time already! Slowness asks that you focus on just one thing and that you care about it. Reading should do this as well.

So I tried a little experiment – I reread Gatsby (a slim volume that I probably could’ve polished off in a couple of hours previously) over the course of several days. It was very hard. I had to stop myself many times and put down my metaphorical fork between bites.

But it was like reading it for the first time.

You can see where this is heading – another Slow movement. In 2009 I’m challenging myself to begin rereading all of my favorite books, slowly. I’m going to ration myself to maybe 50 pages per day. Yes! – going back and rereading. I’m going to waste hours and hours reading and reading books I’ve already passed my eyes across. Amazing!


Cristina's Currently Reading...

An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks

First off, I realize this is an older book (published in 1996) but I've only recently been introduced to the works of Oliver Sacks, A Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He's written Awakenings (yes, the movie was based off this book), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and most recently Musicophilia (which is currently on the NYTimes bestseller list).

I've only read the first chapter and it's already drawn me in. It's in the same vein as Man Who Mistook His Wife in the way it's a series of neurological case studies he's encountered. The first chapter is about a relatively well known abstract painter who is in a car accident - and afterwards he has lost the ability to see color. It's like he's watching a black and white TV set all the time. Even if he tries to remember what things look like (or even his dreams), in his mind they are all in black and white. Since his whole life has been about color usage in his paintings, he is devastated by this loss. He stops eating foods of color, and opts to eat rice, coffee or other black and white foods. He attempts to keep painting but has to completely adapt to a new way of approaching his art.

If you are interested in bizarre neurological case studies, this book is definitely the way to go. The writing is not dense, and easy to read. The foot notes are equally interesting - did you know Anton's Syndrome is a form of brain damage that causes blindness, but the person fails to recognize or admit that they are in fact blind?

Read it.

"Myspace is sooo last year"

Myspace seems to be a dying fad. Unfortunately, that was the only location for our intensely stimulating blogs about books and all things literary.

So, Shaman Drum introduces to the interwebs our new and improved blog space.