Books to Film: Summer ’18 Edition

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot by John Callahan

609364DontWorryOfficialPoster.jpegMovie: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
When it comes out: July 13
What the book is about: In 1972, at the age of 21, John Callahan was involved in a car crash that severed his spine and made him a quadriplegic. A heavy drinker since the age of 12 (alcohol had played a role in his crash), the accident could have been the beginning of a downward spiral. Instead, it sparked a personal transformation. After extensive physical therapy, he was eventually able to grasp a pen in his right hand and make rudimentary drawings. By 1978, Callahan had sworn off drinking for good, and begun to draw cartoons. Over the next three decades, until his death in 2010, Callahan would become one of the nation’s most beloved—and at times polarizing—cartoonists.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

394255The Wife (2017 film).pngMovie: The Wife
When it comes out: August 3
What the book is about: “The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage.” So opens Meg Wolitzer’s compelling and provocative novel The Wife, as Joan Castleman sits beside her husband on their flight to Helsinki. Joan’s husband, Joseph Castleman, is “one of those men who own the world…who has no idea how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derives much of his style from the Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette.” He is also one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award to honor his accomplishments, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.

 

Meg by Steve Alten

105744The Meg teaser poster.jpgMovie: The Meg
When it comes out: August 10
What the book is about: On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean’s deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he’s sure he saw but still can’t prove exists – Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds. Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub. Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he’s never imagined.

 

Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

37901607A black man wearing a white hood, holding up a hair pick with his right hand and raising his left fist.Movie: BlacKkKlansman
When it comes out: August 10
What the book is about: In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city, Police Detective Ron Stallworth. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man. In the process he battled internal departmental politics to successfully pull off this “sting.” Black Klansman explains how he overcame these obstacles and accomplished this almost unbelievable unique achievement.

 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

18373213Crazy Rich Asians poster.pngMovie: Crazy Rich Asians
When it comes out: 
August 15
What the book is about: 
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellström

9292518Image result for three seconds movie posterMovie: Three Seconds
When it comes out: August 17
What the book is about: Piet Hoffman, a top secret operative for the Swedish police, is about to embark on his most dangerous assignment yet: after years spent infiltrating the Polish mafia, he’s become a key player in their attempt to take over amphetamine distribution inside Sweden’s prisons. To stop them from succeeding, he will have to go deep cover, posing as a prisoner inside the country’s most notorious jail. But when a botched drug deal involving Hoffman results in a murder, the investigation is assigned to the brilliant but haunted Detective Inspector Ewert Grens–a man who never gives up until he’s cracked the case. Grens’s determination to find the killer not only threatens to expose Hoffman’s true identity-it may reveal even bigger crimes involving the highest levels of power. And there are people who will do anything to stop him from discovering the truth.

 

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

184355Image result for little mermaid 2018 movie posterMovie: The Little Mermaid
When it comes out: August 17
What the book is about: There was once a little mermaid that fell in love with a human… This beloved story has been told and retold (and reworked) time and again, but the original is the story of a young mermaid who is willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity as a mermaid to gain the love of a prince and a human soul. A deal with a sea witch makes pursuing these dreams possible, but not without enduring a great deal of pain and, ultimately, heartache.

 

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

6224826Juliet, Naked PosterMovie: Juliet, Naked
When it comes out: August 17
What the book is about: Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

 

Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

538757Down A Dark Hall Poster.jpgMovie: Down a Dark Hall
When it comes out: August 17
What the book is about: Why does the exclusive boarding school Blackwood have only four students? Kit walks the dark halls and feels a penetrating chill. What terror waits around the next corner?

 

Papillon by Henri Charrière

6882Papillon 2018 poster.pngMovie: Papillon
When it comes out: August 24
What the book is about: Henri Charrière, called “Papillon,” for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: escape. After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison, Devil’s Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped . . . until Papillon. His flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance ever undertaken.

 

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

319388Film poster for La librería, 2017.jpgMovie: The Bookshop
When it comes out: August 24
What the book is about: In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop – the only bookshop – in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors’ lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence’s warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn’t always a town that wants one.

 

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger (film).pngMovie: The Little Stranger
When it comes out: August 31
What the book is about: One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Traveler’s Tales of Magic, Terror, and Adventure

Will you be taking a vacation this summer? No? Well, we’ve got the next best thing. Enjoy these ten traveler’s tales of magic, terror, and adventure.

The cover of the book Moontide and Magic RiseMoontide and Magic Rise

SEAN RUSSELL

Magic is very nearly a thing of the past, and what is left of it is being rapidly replaced by science. Tristram Flattery is a naturalist, a practitioner of this new and modern discipline. When the ailing king summons Flattery to his court to nurse a dying plant to health — a plant with what appears to be magical properties — Flattery sets out on a grand voyage of discovery: one that will usher him into a conflict that will determine the course of civilization.

 

The cover of the book The Grand EllipseThe Grand Ellipse

PAULA VOLSKY

The republic of Vonahr is locked into a bitter battle to the death with a fanatical invading army, and their only hope of survival lies with Sentient Fire: a fire that follows the commands of its wielder. Unfortunately, the invention is in the hands of the king of Low Hetz: an eccentric leader intent on keeping his nation out of the conflict. Desperate, Vonahr sends an agent to change his mind. First she’ll have to gain an audience with him, though, and the only way to do that will be to win the Grand Ellipse: a grand journey that will test her strength, endurance, and ability to think on her feet.

 

The cover of the book The OdysseyThe Odyssey

HOMER

The story of a warrior’s long journey home, The Odyssey is the world’s greatest tale of travel and adventure. Follow Odysseus as he bests witches, gods, and magical monsters alike on an epic quest to find his way home and into the arms of the wife he left behind.

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

CORMAC MCCARTHY

The Earth is dying, burned to cinders and plunged into perpetual winter by an unknown catastrophic event. With nothing but a pistol and a little food, a father and son set out on a journey to the coast. Cannibals and thieves, choking ash, and aching cold stand in their way, but the light of civilization must be maintained.

 

The cover of the book Invisible CitiesInvisible Cities

ITALO CALVINO

Marco Polo regales the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with the tale of his travels to the great cities of the Khan’s empire. These are more than simple urban centers, though: The cities of Polo’s stories are tied inextricably to life’s greatest mysteries: death, desire, memory, and more.

 

The cover of the book A Natural History of DragonsA Natural History of Dragons

MARIE BRENNAN

Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon scholar, set out on an epic journey to the mountains of Vystrana to learn all she could about these magnificent creatures. This is her journal. Follow Isabella as she risks life and limb on a journey into dangerous dragon territory.

 

The cover of the book The Land AcrossThe Land Across

GENE WOLFE

A visit to a small Eastern European country turns into an absurdist nightmare for an American travel writer named Grafton. His passport confiscated, Grafton becomes a prisoner of bureaucratic, corrupt, and possibly supernatural forces. Is Grafton simply an innocent victim of a Kafkaesque conspiracy, or is there a very good reason for his detainment?

 

The cover of the book Move Under GroundMove Under Ground

NICK MAMATAS

Jack Kerouac is at the very tail-end of his career, washed-up and drunk in Big Sur when he learns that the city of R’lyeh is rising from the sea, and with it the ancient god Cthulhu. Shaken, Kerouac and his crew of writers and poets set out on a cross-country trip to stave off the Old Ones and save humanity — at least for a little while.

 

The cover of the book InfernoInferno

LARRY NIVEN AND JERRY POURNELLE

Newly deceased science fiction author Allen Carpentier has been sentenced to Hell, but he’s determined not to stay there. With the help of a mysterious guide named Bennie, Carpentier sets out on a journey into the underworld to meet Satan himself. Along the way, they’ll meet some of history’s greatest sinners and witness the tortures devised for them. If he’s lucky, Carpentier won’t join their ranks.

 

The cover of the book American GodsAmerican Gods

NEIL GAIMAN

A newly released con named Shadow accepts a job with a mysterious trickster named Mr. Wednesday. Now his bodyguard and driver, Shadow learns that a war is underway between the old gods of myth and the new ones of the modern era.

Literary Primer to Intersectionality: 11 Essential Texts for Every Feminist

Intersectionality might be a new concept to some, but for most, it’s an essential feminist tenet. Defined as “what happens when forms of discrimination combine, overlap, and intersect,” the term was coined by civil rights activist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Since then, the concept of intersectionality and the discourse behind it has become pivotal in centering the experiences of underrepresented women within the feminist movement. It’s become a corrective lens to the limited  scope of mainstream feminism and a way to dispel the shadow of the second wave.

Often spotted on Twitter feeds, t-shirts, and yes, even tote bags, intersectionality hasn’t just become a widely celebrated concept, but a buzzword. In attempts to keep the term from being misinterpreted or misused, we’ve crafted a primer of feminist texts that best illustrate what intersectionality means, whose lives it impacts most, and the reason why you should think twice before using the term flippantly.

The cover of the book How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River CollectiveHow We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, celebrates the pioneering voices of the women whose coalition in the 60s and 70s paved the way for Black feminism and women’s liberation today. Comprised of compelling interviews with Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, Alicia Garza, and Barbara Ransby, How We Get Free opens with the Combahee River Collective statement which perfectly sets the historical and ideological context of the collective’s goals and legacy for its audience. Each of the women featured in this book are feminists whose work continues to move the voices of Black women and women of color from the margins. A crucial addition to any feminist’s library, How We Get Free is a testament to why we persist.

 

The cover of the book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorThis Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa

One of the most quintessential feminist anthologies to date, This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, showcases the voices and stories of women of color with an unflinching boldness. A seminal contribution to the birth of the third wave, This Bridge Called My Back uplifts the narratives of those previously excluded by mainstream feminism. Through poetry, first person accounts, critical essays, and illustrations, writers like Donna Kate Rushin, Mitsuye Yamada, Cheryl Clarke, and Genny Lim share their truths seamlessly. Each of their voices ring out with unwavering strength. This is the sort of book you’ll return to again and again, and each time it will give you hope to continue fighting for justice.

 

The cover of the book Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New MillenniumSisterhood Is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for a New Millennium

Robin Morgan

Like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Feminism is for Everybody, Robin Morgan’s trailblazing anthology Sisterhood is Powerful was an essential contribution to feminism’s second wave. In Sisterhood Is Forever, Robin expands on the countless conversations her 1970 anthology fostered while celebrating solidarity’s capacity to transform communities and foster change. Sisterhood Is Forever, as Morgan writes in her introduction, “gleams with the vision of a New World,” a more just world, a world where equal rights isn’t merely a dream, but a reality. This anthology affirms that “feminism is the politics of the twenty-first century.”

 

The cover of the book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of FreedomTeaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

bell hooks

In her essay “Holding My Sister’s Hand: Feminist Solidarity,” the legendary bell hooks articulates why solidarity is vital with the following illuminating words: “We need to examine why we suddenly lose the capacity to exercise skill and care when we confront one another across race and class issues.” Within this essay and throughout her collection, hooks gives readers the vocabulary and praxis required to subvert the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and move towards freedom. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom is the perfect companion text to Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and is a necessary touchstone for activists of all stripes. Its pages push us to “collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries” and to above all “transgress.”

 

The cover of the book Women, Culture, & PoliticsWomen, Culture, & Politics

Angela Y. Davis

In the introduction to Women, Culture & Politics, the iconic Angela Y. Davis writes, “My… work over the last two decades will have been wonderfully worthwhile if it has indeed insisted in some small measure to awaken and encourage… new activism.” This 1990 collection of essays and speeches—much like the rest of her bibliography—will awaken the activist within every reader and sustain them for years to come. As always, her words shake us from our complacency and force us to examine the way our national and personal politics impede progress. Her insights ring as true today as they did decades ago. She confronts us to reckon with the movement’s failures as a way to ensure its future. She reminds us that “the women’s movement cannot afford to repeat its mistakes of the last century or even of the last decade.”

 

The cover of the book Sister OutsiderSister Outsider

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is a required text for all readers. Originally published in ’84, Lorde’s collection of essays and speeches examine the ramifications of patriarchal oppression while challenging the violence of systemic issues like homophobia, classism, and racism. Lorde unapologetically asserts her identity and the way who she is—a Black lesbian mother warrior poet—impacts the way she is treated by others. What makes Sister Outsider such a life-altering read is Lorde’s anger, wisdom, and vulnerability throughout the collection. Her words aren’t fenced in, sanitized, or palatable. There’s no hesitation in the way she shares her experiences. Each sentence is truth in the purest sense of the word. If you’ve already read Sister Outsider, make sure to gift a copy of it to a friend.

 

The cover of the book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual RevolutionHeadscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution

Mona Eltahawy

Social justice activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution doesn’t just reveal the dire need for feminism in the Middle East, it reveals the dire need for feminism everywhere. With fiercely impassioned prose, Eltahawy condemns the patriarchy’s detrimental impact on Middle Eastern politics, religion, and culture. She wields her pen like a warrior swinging a double edged sword, cutting through centuries of silence and misogyny to exalt the stories of women like Huda Shaarawi and Doria Shafik alongside the story of her own feminist awakening. As the Gloria E. Anzaldúa epigraph to her book suggests, Eltahawy is a truthsayer. Her words will spark revolution.

 

The cover of the book Women Who Run with the WolvesWomen Who Run with the Wolves

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD

To say that Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype is an essential read is an understatement. This widely celebrated text is a riveting meditation on the folklore, myths, and fairy tales that reveal the intuitive power that women possess. Whether it be the role of healer or divinator, Estés’ examination of the female psyche honors the Wild Woman‘s, and all women’s, need to be free. With the discernment of a seer and the wisdom of a sage,  Estés’ bestseller is a liberating and life affirming feminist tome.

 

The cover of the book Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist StudiesCritically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

Joanne Barker

Edited by Joanne Barker, Critically Sovereign Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies unearths the impact of colonialism and Western imperialism and feminism’s potential to subvert the patriarchy’s detrimental treatment of Indigenous communities. Each essay uncovers the capacity of feminist ideologies to confront, deconstruct, and heal historic wounds inflicted by the aftermath of colonization. Through a collective of brilliant voices, the essays in this book grapple with the significance of gender, sexuality, and politics with searing wisdom. Critically Sovereign gives readers a reason to hope for a decolonized tomorrow.

 

The cover of the book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much MoreRedefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More

Janet Mock

The debut memoir by New York Times bestseller and award-winning activist Janet Mock recounts her journey towards adulthood and the many lessons she learned while growing up as a trans person of color. With heart wrenching honesty and unflinching courage, Mock recounts the ups and downs that go hand in hand with finding oneself and the moments that taught her how powerful owning the vulnerability of sharing your personal truth can be. She urges readers to ask themselves the same question she reflects upon in the introduction to Redefining Realness: “How do I tell my story authentically without discounting the facets and identities that make me?” Each page offers her audience the answer.

 

The cover of the book Unruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with DisabilitiesUnruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with Disabilities

Susannah B. Mintz

In Susannah B. Mintz’s groundbreaking book, the narratives of women with disabilities take center stage. Far too often overlooked within feminist discourse, Unruly Bodies looks at the lives of writers like Eli Clare, Nancy Mairs, Georgina Kleege, and May Sarton in order to reveal why it is important for the truths of all bodies to be not just celebrated, but documented on the written page. Unruly Bodies proves the importance of “texts [that] ‘talk back’ to dominant cultural paradigms” and the power that can be found in their ability to “work to validate unrecognized categories of identity and experience.” If you consider yourself a feminist, this book should be on your shelf.

Guides for Better Living From Around the World

Nishant Choksi

Right now, I’m a bit embarrassed to be an American. Not usually. But now. If I see a tourist on the street looking lost, it’s all I can do not to blurt, “I’m sorry about what our president said today and will say tomorrow,” along with directions to the No. 6 train.

I must have a lot of company. How else to explain the staggering pile of self-help books where Americans are offered the path to a better life via the rituals and outlook of other countries? Last year there were lessons in happiness and well-being, via hygge from Denmark. And this year? Japan is teaching us to seize the day (humbly). Sweden is showing us how to find balance and simplify our lives. And France is showing us, well, everything else. Naturellement. Just because they invented Camembert and guilt-free sex, they think they’re soooo perfect.

A FRENCHWOMAN’S GUIDE TO SEX AFTER SIXTY, by the psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel, immediately catches your attention because the cover shows a woman of a certain age glancing coquettishly over the bedsheets. But that age isn’t 40. It’s perhaps 75. So this isn’t the American version of old; it’s the French version, which is to say: old. And that’s what makes this volume uniquely French: It’s deeply un-American in its realism. Aches and pains, medications that reduce libido, a diminution of hormones that mean friction is tougher on our naughty bits and of course the occasional urge to cover all the mirrors in the house: Aging ain’t pretty, Hennezel admits. Yet for many of us, Eros lives, and Eros wants its due. What’s called for, then, is a revolution in the way we look at sexuality: a de-emphasis on orgasms in favor of kissing and caressing, more solo play to connect with our erotic selves and “making affection” as an alternative to making love. Feeling good through exercise and a healthy diet is paramount; looking younger through plastic surgery is mentioned not at all. Reading the stories of septuagenarians and octogenarians who are finding love or intimacy or sometimes just sex, one is reminded that the very French concept of joie de vivre — a sense of joy that comes from curiosity and playfulness, from looking outward instead of inward — is its own form of Botox.

This joie is very much at the heart of Jamie Cat Callan’s lively PARISIAN CHARM SCHOOL: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy and That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi. Maybe “Parisian Charm School” seems so thorough because Callan, who has written several previous books on various aspects of French life, is an American; she approaches her subject with anthropological rigor. Here that subject is French charm, which is some combination of intellectual curiosity, spontaneity, style and a soupçon of reserve. Charm, she points out, can’t be Googled; it must be cultivated. Yet, at its heart, it’s a tangle of contradictions. As a fashion consultant Callan interviewed put it, “Never be too feminine, too girlie. Never be too complicated. Too obvious. Never look like you’re trying. But you must try!” Being French seems kind of exhausting. Still, we clumsy Americans can worship at this shrine and maybe pick up a few tricks. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be like the woman in this line Callan quotes from Colette: “When she raises her eyelids, it’s as if she were taking off all her clothes.”

Perhaps Sweden was a little jealous of all the lifestyle-giving attention its Danish neighbor received, so this year brings us Linnea Dunne’s LAGOM: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Loosely translated, lagom means “not too little, not too much, but just enough,” making Sweden the Goldilocks of nations, one that earned an article on the website of the World Economic Forum called “Why Sweden Beats Other Countries at Just About Everything.” The reason, it seems, is that Sweden makes the concept of “the greater good” practically into a religion. You start with free education and universal health care and end with great pastry (and the regular coffee breaks — fika — to enjoy it). Fairness and moderation are basic cultural values: “Lagom is accepting an invitation to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, but bringing your own bedsheets because it’s fair to share the burden of laundry. … It’s wearing bright-red lipstick, but leaving the rest of your makeup perfectly understated.” There’s a reason Gianni Versace founded his luxury fashion empire in Italy and H & M was born in Sweden: “There’s this inherent celebrating of frugality in Sweden. We like affordable clothes because it’s a bit vulgar to splash out.”

If anything sums up the gestalt of this book — and Sweden — it’s this: Swedes are rated among the world’s top 10 happiest people, but not the happiest. That would be excessive. The aim isn’t ecstasy but “sustainable happiness,” the sort of equilibrium that’s achieved through small moments of calm and bliss in your everyday routine. So, to live the lagom way, invite your friends round for fika, spend time in nature, give away items that don’t add to your pleasure in life — and, most important, help a neighbor.

The primacy of the common good extends to everything in Sweden, including shuffling off this mortal coil. Reading THE GENTLE ART OF SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter, I couldn’t help thinking of my own parents, who were mild hoarders. When they were in their 80s and I meekly suggested that maybe they should get their home in order, my father’s response was: “Why? Soon it’ll be your problem.”

Margareta Magnusson is writing for people with families like mine — and maybe yours. Americans are just too much, she gently suggests. Swedes embrace consideration and minimalism, and the practice of “death cleaning” (which can start in your 30s — why wait?) embodies those values. “Let me help make your loved ones’ memories of you nice — instead of awful,” she says, and proceeds to do just that in this short, practical guide to getting rid of stuff. You categorize, normally going from large objects to small; you give things away or sell them, particularly if you have a family you know is going to bicker. And you never, ever start with photos or other items of great sentiment because you’re likely to get stuck. And oh, how right Magnusson is. After my parents passed away, my own death cleaning consisted of looking at old photos, then immediately giving up — taking everything they owned and putting it into a massive storage unit that has sucked up money for seven years. I may have to reread her book.

In Japanese, iki means “to live” and gai means “reason” — in other words, the reason to live and how you define it. Ken Mogi begins AWAKENING YOUR IKIGAI: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day with a story meant to illustrate the importance of this concept to the Japanese. He describes a famed sushi chef whose Tokyo restaurant is visited by President Barack Obama during a state visit and who is told by the president that his sushi was the best he had ever eaten. No big deal. “Ikigai resides in the realm of small things,” Mogi explains. “The morning air, the cup of coffee, the ray of sunshine, the massaging of octopus meat and the American president’s praise are on equal footing.”

Not really! Can I skip No. 4?

Mogi, a celebrity neuroscientist and broadcaster who has written more than 100 books, describes the five pillars of the ikigai way of life: “starting small,” “releasing yourself,” “harmony and sustainability,” “the joy of small things” and “being in the here and now” (what we might call “mindfulness”). And he demonstrates how some of the rituals most important to Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to sumo wrestling, are based on these tenets. I admit that certain principles he espouses utterly baffled this Westerner, particularly the notion that in Japan finding purpose and joy in work, even work that requires great individuality and creativity, comes from a sublimation of the ego. He cites the example of the great anime artist Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is so repetitive and painstaking. Wait, if we all know who he is, how is he subsuming his ego? In work, Mochi explains, you have to be like a child, because “a child has no definite idea of the past or the future.” Seriously? Tell that to a 5-year-old screaming, “When will we get there?” in the back seat of a car because “there” involves ice cream.

I’m not sure if I could live in Japan for more than a week, what with all the appreciating of teeny porcelain objects and self-abnegation, but “Awakening Your Ikigai” is really quite a delightful look at sometimes mystifying Japanese traditions. (Spoiler alert: There’s a lot more to sumo wrestling than chubby dudes with man buns and diapers.) I can’t resist noting that in 2009, Mogi was charged with violation of Japanese tax laws for failing to report several million dollars in income. See? I guess America does have something to teach the citizens of other nations.

By Judith Newman, Jan. 23, 2018, first appearing in NYT > Books

Editor’s Note:

Judith Newman’s “To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines” was published in August. Her column appears every eight weeks.

Happy Father’s Day!

What can we say about dads?

It is hard to sum it all up, so we’ll take the easy way out and let other people try. 

Here are 15 quotes from books and authors about fathers.

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”

—Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

“He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay. That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.”

—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

 

“There’s no shame in fear, my father told me, what matters is how we face it.”

―George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

 

“[…] never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”

—Jane Austen, Emma

 

“… out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, [he] adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.”

—Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

 

Tie“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

—Mark Twain

 

“Perhaps that is what it means to be a father – to teach your child to live without you.”

—Nicole Krauss

 

“He was a father. That’s what a father does. Eases the burdens of those he loves. Saves the ones he loves from painful last images that might endure for a lifetime.”

—George Saunders, Tenth of December

 

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

—Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

 

“A father is the one friend upon whom we can always rely. In the hour of need, when all else fails, we remember him upon whose knees we sat when children, and who soothed our sorrows; and even though he may be unable to assist us, his mere presence serves to comfort and strengthen us.”

—Émile Gaboriau, File No. 113

 

Dad Mug“Listen, there is no way any true man is going to let children live around him in his home and not discipline and teach, fight and mold them until they know all he knows. His goal is to make them better than he is.”

― Victor Devlin

 

“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.”

― Lydia Maria Francis Child

 

“At sixteen, you still think you can escape from your father. You aren’t listening to his voice speaking through your mouth, you don’t see how your gestures already mirror his; you don’t see him in the way you hold your body, in the way you sign your name. You don’t hear his whisper in your blood.”

― Salman Rushdie, East, West

 

“Being a dad is quite rewarding and even magical at times. It is our greatest chance to do something right in our lives that will keep making the world a brighter place even generations after we are gone.”

― Timothy Pina, Bullying Ben: How Benjamin Franklin Overcame Bullying

 

“[My father] taught me that there is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it.”

― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

10 Horror Books That Prove War is Hell

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Writing horror fiction that revolves around war can be a difficult task. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story centered around warfare itself, situated on its edges, or examining its aftermath: when you’re dealing with real events that have taken countless lives and affected even more, finding the right way to show awareness of the human cost of these events is crucial.

When done well, the addition of horrific elements into stories of warfare can accentuate certain themes, and can magnify the most chilling aspects of war. Here’s a look at ten works of fiction that add a dose of the supernatural into real-life horrors, creating something that blends the visceral power of history with the terror of the uncanny.

The cover of the book Frankenstein in BaghdadFrankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

As its title suggests, Ahmed Saadawi’s novel is set in the city of Baghdad. The year is 2005: American troops occupy the city, suicide bombings punctuate the landscape, and the abuses of the Baathist regime still haunt the memories of many. Into this landscape steps an ominous figure: a man created from the bodies of the dead, who seeks revenge on those who murdered the people whose limbs and organs now comprise him. As he replaces bits of himself, though, his quest for revenge grows murkier, leading the narrative into a complex and haunting place.

 

The cover of the book Blood CrimeBlood Crime

Sebastia Alzamora

The Spanish Civil War has been the backdrop for many tales of the supernatural: Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” both come to mind. Sebastià Alzamora’s novel Blood Crime sets up a morally tense situation from the outset, with different factions circling one another in a besieged town. The presence of a vampire lurking in the shadows ups the tension further, as the narrative moves from the surrealism of war to something akin to a nightmare.

 

The cover of the book She Said DestroyShe Said Destroy

Nadia Bulkin

The aftereffects of war and political unrest abound in the stories contained in Nadia Bulkin’s collection She Said Destroy. Key among them is “Intertropical Convergence Zone,” which draws its inspiration from the thirty-plus years when Hajji Suharto was President of Indonesia. The political crackdowns and repression that characterized his regime are, in this story, turned into something more surreal and ominous — and yet the weight of history gives it an increased power as well.

 

The cover of the book KokoKoko

Peter Straub

Some of Peter Straub’s most unnerving fiction takes readers far into the uncanny; others focus on a more human variety of monster. In Koko, the aftermath of the Vietnam War provides the backdrop for a harrowing story of memory and murder. Its central characters are a group of American veterans, reunited by the horrific actions taken by someone with whom they served. What emerges is a winding tale of shifting identities and secret histories, an unsettling novel with a sprawling scope.

 

The cover of the book The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous GeographiesThe Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

John Langan

The title story of this collection from John Langan blends a host of elements: a story of several friends being stalked by a sinister supernatural figure, with a science-fictional spin on a familiar figure from horror literature thrown in. The fact that this story centers around a group of veterans with PTSD, and that it thematically lines up with its larger themes of perception and violence, gives it an even greater weight.

 

The cover of the book DeathlessDeathless

Catherynne M. Valenti

There’s no shortage of conflict when looking at the history of Russia in the 20th century. In her novel Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente gives this history a supernatural spin, incorporating elements of Russian folklore that accentuate the sinister aspects of totalitarianism under Stalin. Think omnipresent ever-watching beings, immortal entities making sinister bargains, and the moral bargains ordinary people make in order to survive. Here, the presence of the otherworldly is far from escapist.

 

The cover of the book Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red BaronAnno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman

The Bloody Red Baron is one of several novels by Kim Newman set in an alternate timeline blending history from the 19th century onward with characters from the literature of the period. (The title of the first of these, Anno Dracula, might give you a sense of who’s at the center of this.) The Bloody Red Baron reimagines the First World War, leaving the very human horrors in place but adding in a layer of disquieting supernatural menace.

 

The cover of the book Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel

Josh Malerman

The middle of the 20th century found the United States military involved in a number of actions overseas, from combat to covert operations. The novel Black Mad Wheel involves a small group of musicians summoned by the military to investigate a strange sound in the desert. What ensues is an unsettling story about the nature of time and the unanticipated perils of conflict.

 

The cover of the book When the World WoundsWhen the World Wounds

Kiini Ibura Salaam

Conflicts abound in the stories found within Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds, from tales of aliens clashing with the rules of their society to a surreal account of post-Katrina New Orleans. Among the most gripping works in the collection is “Hemmie’s Calenture,” about a woman who escapes from slavery only to find herself caught up in a long-running supernatural conflict set against the backdrop of the War of 1812. Here, questions of power and the human cost of warfare remain in the forefront of the narrative.

 

The cover of the book The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Laird Barron

Laird Barron’s forays into horror rarely shy away from the phantasmagorical or the ominous, but he simultaneously never loses sight of the human scale at which these works play out. That blend of psychological veracity and imaginative terrors makes for deeply compelling reading. The protagonist of the story “The Men From Porlock” has seen unspeakable things in Europe during the First World War; after returning back to the United States, he finds himself witnessing uncanny echoes of that time and glimpses of the impossible.