|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
books (143 posts)
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale now, the lovely enlightening art book:
by Stephen Taylor
Some books show you how to laugh, some show you how to think, but, every once a while, one will show you how to live. The exquisite Oak: One Tree, Three Years, and Fifty Paintings follows of the story of artist Stephen Taylor who decided to paint the same oak tree in the English countryside every day for three years. The titles of his ensuing works reveal the detail with which he pursued his vision: Oak With Crows, Oak After Snow, Oak At Night in Winter, Oak in Early Spring. There are no abstract oaks or evocative splashes of ink meant to suggest an oak. The trees are realistic, some with an almost photographic precision—revealing the larger point. As the oak changes by the month or hour, the surrounding environment changes. Barley field are cut down and rise again; jets stream by through the sky; blue tits forage in the leaves; and damsel flies swarm below the branches. A singular plant becomes a talisman for the passage of time and seasons—and you, as viewer—begin to change too, becoming more observant and aware of the tiny yet enormous natural transformations that take place each day and minute. Seeing—in the truest sense—is the lesson here, one that's taught with such elegance that you'll be bewitched into stopping and contemplating the birch or maple in your own yard that's serving—as T.S. Elliot once described trees—as "the still point of the turning world."
The Entire Oprah Book Club List (Read it now!)
Last week's book: Scenes from A Village Life
Advice for Aspiring Writers...from Toni Morrison.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale tomorrow, the riveting short story collection:
Scenes from Village Life
by Amos Oz
In fiction, there are usually two kinds of mysteries. The first is when we, the readers, don't understand what is happening because it defies the logical course of reality (example: a woman flies over the town) but eventually we get some kind of a explanation by the author (oh! she's an angel). The second is when we don't understand what is happening (example: a woman is flying over town) and we don't get an explanation, which can be very frustrating, enough so to put the book down—except in the case of a master storyteller such as Amos Oz who knows how to leave the mystery in the mysterious, while still breaking your heart.
Take his first story, Heirs, in which a greasy, wheedling cousin shows up at a man's door and tries to get him to sell his elderly mother's house. We're never sure if this cousin is real or just some kind of psychological ghost who represents all the less-than-admirable daydreams of the son. The same goes for a digging sound that a schoolteacher hears under her house at night: Is she going crazy? Or is she being haunted by the past? Either explanation works—due mostly to dreamlike prose which slides you right into these seven tales as if you'd spend your whole life in a country village in Israel, dotted with fig trees, dusty sunlight and roaming cats.
The same characters turn up again and again—each dressed in the kind of details that make you remember them as flawed but lovable friends, like Danny Franco "who looked like wardrobe set on stick legs" or Adel the young Arab student who "walked around the yard wearing a Van Gogh straw hat and an expression of wonderment." One of the most moving is Gili Steiner, the town doctor, who wanders through one foggy night, searching for her nephew who was supposed to arrive on a bus from the city but who did not, or who was perhaps never supposed to arrive—yet another case of the unexplained. The point, luckily, is not what actually happened to her nephew. The point is: The nephew is not there. And Gili Steiner's disposal of the baked fish dinner which she had cooked for him, her few rough minutes sitting at the kitchen table with his childhood stuffed kangaroo, crying until the moment she abruptly "stopped, took the laundry out the dryer, and...ironed and folded everything and put it way," is one of the most realistic portraits of the mystery of love and loneliness ever written.
This fall's freshest new books.
The newest, don't miss non-fiction.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the novel:
By Colson Whitehead
Imagine this: Michelangelo drawing a graphic novel where exquisitely painted super-hero angels rule reality. That in a nutshell is what novelist Colon Whitehead has chosen to do by writing a zombie novel—apply his virtuosic literary talents to a horror genre novel—except that, the novel is anything but genre and the horror revolves around the same kind of thinking that has produced thought-provoking post apocalyptic novels such the The Road.
Our narrator is one Mark Spitz who works as a sweeper, cleaning out a Manhattan building of "skelts" (i.e., flesh-eating zombies) or what are known as "stragglers" (individuals stuck in a particular moment in time, say, making copies at their office or inflating party balloons) all of whom were infected with a plague several years prior. As he and his team work on reconstructing the city in order to make it habitable again, he thinks about his past (our present) society, reflecting on everything from sitcom stars' haircuts to chain eateries with fake memorabilia to leather sectionals in the average American living room—not to mention how "public relations" shape our collective view of the world (sadly, PR still has a place in this ash-covered universe). As witty and spot on as this commentary is, however, it's Spitz's moments of reflection that elevate this story into the compelling. How has he survived when so few others have? And what is it about living that people all prize so much, even in the face of total destruction? "It happened every so often that he recognized something in these monsters, they looked like someone he had known or loved," writes Whitehead. Humanizing even your human-eating enemy—it's a point so clever it's almost funny. Except that it makes you re-think how we look at our non-zombie foes, the ones in real life who we sometimes have such trouble understanding as, well, human.
Every impressionable young woman who's ever hefted on a backpack and secured a Eurail pass in her sweaty travel belt (am I showing my age here? Do they still issue actual paper tickets that they actually stamp?) has encountered dozens of classic Grand Tour narratives. And while reading about the adventures of Lord Byron and Ernest Hemingway is great fun in its way, it's nice to know there will soon be a new female addition to the traveler's canon, when Harper Collins releases a collection of unpublished letters and photos documenting the year-long, round-the-world adventure of Agatha Christie. Yes, that Agatha Christie.
According to the Guardian, Christie traveled to Hawaii, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in 1922. She particularly enjoyed learning to surf in Honolulu, of which she wrote: "Oh, it was heaven! Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seemed to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; all the way in from the far distant raft, until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves." (You must see the photo of Christie surfing!) Miss Marple this is not.
The article also casually mentions that Christie left behind her 2-year-old daughter in order to embark on this adventure, which I admit is the detail that sticks with me after reading. She did...what? Huh? Here is the mystery I will be reading this book to solve.
Publisher David Brawn told the Guardian that the travelogue would show a "new side" to the famous, best-selling crime author, as well as providing some insight into her writing inspirations.So intrepid travelers everywhere will have another exciting Grand Tour tome to stuff in their ergonomic backpacks. I'm kidding! To download onto their lightweight e-Readers, of course.
Read more about finding your way in the world:
Can't-miss travel advice from the experts.
How to be a travel genius.
Don't get me wrong, I love zombies as much as the next person. I even like them when they're inserted into Jane Austen and eating brains hither and yon across the English heath. But sometimes, it's enjoyable to read a novel about living, breathing, car-washing, human-being-type people, such as the characters who populate The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides, reviewed in O magazine.
Last Sunday, to my pleasure, Eugenides, who was profiled in the New York Times, engaged in a conversation, not with a reporter but with the fiction writer Colm Toibin, during which he discussed his recent fascination with plain, old-fashioned characters (my translation: people made of words) "We know that we might be 'mocked' for persisting in writing realist fiction," he says. "But we keep on doing it! Because we think there is something about reality, and especially about human consciousness, that can be accurately described and that the novel is the best way to do it."
I couldn't agree more. There is something about human consciousness that comes so naturally (versus supernaturally) alive in a novel—and about human feeling, too, be it sadness, pain or delight.
What to read this fall
Our book pick of the week
Read the full article in the Times.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the powerful, passionate novel:
The Forgotten Waltz
by Anne Enright
Why we picked it up: We'll never forget Enright's painful but exquisite Booker prize-winning, The Gathering, which explored how a family secret (involving a young child) can ripple through the generations.
The beginning that will make you gasp: Nine-year-old Evie claps with delight as her father kisses a woman (Gina, our narrator) in her bedroom, while, downstairs, completely unaware, her mother calls for her—ouch.
Where you'll travel: From the snow globe of Dublin to windy Irish seaside.
The moment that explains adultery: "'When can I see you?' he said. The pain I felt was so sudden and unexpected, it was like being shot. I looked down the length of myself, as if to share the news with my body."
What O reviewers learned (as we all do at one time or another in our lives): Love can be miraculous—and still destroy everything in its path.
The full review of The Forgotten Waltz.
This fall's must-read books.
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
*In case that doesn't satisfy your Thursday handsome man craving, perhaps you would be interested in this gallery of George Clooney and Ryan Gosling goofing off on the red carpet? (BuzzFeed)
* Did you watch last night's baseball insanity? Bill Simmons, a.k.a. The Sports Guy kept a running diary while watching his beloved Boston Red Sox epically lose to the Baltimore Orioles. (Grantland)
* "The problem was, as with most things in my life, I turned something that should have been a sweet memory into yet another self-generated humiliation."—Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and creator of Freaks and Geeks, remembers his first kiss in the delightful essay, "A Super-Classy Gentleman’s Guide to Being a Classy Fellow." (Rookie)
This week is Banned Books week and, as a country, we're all supposed to be discussing what fate befalls a culture when books are destroyed or banned. I'm as afraid of ignorance and hate as the next guy, and so apparently is Ray Bradbury who (along with his camera-loving kitty ) made this short film for the National Endowment for the Arts about book burning...supposedly. What really comes across is why we all should love libraries. "All the people are waiting for me," Bradbury says, about his excitement upon entering one and how he thinks of books as friends. "Libraries are people."
Sadly, I know what awaits me at my local branch—little kids running wild as their babysitters chat and a long row of computers where people put together resumes. Our local library has become part-daycare facility and part employment center—and looks like an IRS office, minus the charm. The trainings and child-friendly crafts classes are much needed by the community, but listening to Bradbury talk I had such a longing for the library of my youth—filled with big globes and polished wood and, in the children's section, a goldfish pond with a mural of Alice in Wonderland.
"You go into the library and discover yourself," Bradbury says. Considering the pace and demands of this life, it would behoove us all to venture over to the downtown of our towns and visit the main branch where books rule the day and the librarians still "hush." I keep thinking that a massage by a professional (instead of me rubbing my own neck) or an appointment with a therapist (instead of a rambling rant to my ceiling before bed) will help me discover something, but perhaps I need a few hours with a different kind of person—like Anna Karenina or Billy Budd or even Ray Bradbury, as since as he claims, one of characters in the novel Fahrenheit 451 is, in fact, Ray Bradbury.
5 books everyone should read once
Award-winning books—how many have you read?
Walker told the Associated Press that her reason to go digital was due to "a sense, lacking often in publishing, of connectedness with the author, of all of us being in this adventure together, wanting it to be the best."
For those of you who need a Walker fix immediately, check out this GalleyCat video of Walker talking about her life's work or just go hug all your old tear-stained paperback versions—and read them one last, wonderful time (cry, sniffle).
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the revolutionary (gut-wrenching) memoir...
Mighty Be Our Powers
By Leymah Gbowee (with Carol Mithers)
At her high school graduation party, beautiful 17-year-old Leymah is surrounded by music, family, friends and a glittering pile of gifts (including gold bracelets and a pair of rare Dexter boots). Six months later, her country, Liberia, is torn apart by tribal conflicts and overrun with rebels and government troops who rape, loot and kill at random. Separated from her family and struggling, Leymah gets involved with an older, seemingly safe man, who gives her plenty of beatings and four kids, at one point leaving her to sit in a hospital corridor nursing her newborn preemie, with no money for even an incubator. Worse, however, is her emotional destruction—emblemized by her own children, who, in imitation of their father, begin to call her "stupid" and refuse to share any of their rice with her. "When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss," she writes, "it's as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally there is nothing left but bone."
Broken, Leymah somehow finds the strength to start training as a social worker (studying at night in bed with her babies, reading by candlelight) and rises to become the leader of the women of Liberia, who, as a group, overturn their powerless roles and march their country toward peace with a national strike that includes denying their husbands lovemaking until the fighting stops. So many memoirs focus on the story of a single person who inspires us all with her story and language, but Mighty Be Our Powers is a different, larger, more universal kind of book that tells the story of both Leymah and an entire generation of girls-turned-women-turned-world leaders. Read it—and be inspired.
18 fresh new books to read this month
How to help women and children in Africa