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books (143 posts)
Today marks the end of National Short Story Month (NaShoStoMo for short—and yes, this exists, in addition to May being National Bike Month, National Hamburger Month, and National Moving Month. Who knew?) Some of our favorite works of fiction this past year were story collections (plus: remember Oprah’s 2009 Book Club pick, the short story collection about children in Africa, “Say You’re One of Them”?), and while looking for a way to celebrate them, we stumbled on Storyville, an app that lets you keep up with the newest ones out there without purchasing a library's worth of different collections. Every Tuesday, you receive a single fresh story right to your phone or ipad—ranging from tales by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors like Jennifer Egan to those by up-and-comers like Emma Straub and Tania James.
“Every year, hundreds of wonderful short stories are published, but readers have no idea they exist,” says Paul Vidich, one of Storyville's co-founders. “We’re trying to engage fiction fans in a new conversation. And with the stories on your phone or iPad, they’re always with you—on the bus, at the airport, in your bed. (Paul is right about that: I got so caught up reading writer Ana Menendez’s Traveling Fools, a whimsical yarn about a man who flies away on a weather balloon while waiting in line at Starbucks that I didn’t even hear the cashier call my name three times!)
Here’s a few more fast, easy ways to delve into short stories that should hold you over until NaShoStoMo 2013:
Unrequited love stories
John Irving's new smash novel
As I watched the movie, I wondered if there were any possible way I could be an eensy bit more like Martha Gellhorn. Leggy, blonde, and effortlessly glamorous? I effortlessly choose to put on pajama pants around 5:00 pm every day, if that counts. Courageous and restless? Eh, not really, though I do restlessly peruse the internet, sometimes for many hours at a time. Prone to torrid affairs with wild men? Gosh, no! A world-traveler? Well, maybe not so far, but hey, life is long, and Colleen Kinder has conveniently provided a cheatsheet over at National Geographic: Martha Gellhorn's Top 5 Getaways.
Here are the 5 places, from Cuba to Wales, where this intrepid traveler went when she wanted to get away from it all. We may not all be recovering from, say, reporting on D-Day, or recuperating after divorcing a Nobel laureate, but everyone needs to recharge sometimes. And these off-the-beaten-path travel destinations -- snorkeling in Kenya, anyone? -- seem like they would be just the place to get reacquainted with that eminent personage, yourself.
What Every World-Traveler Needs
Books for the Armchair Traveler
With the First Lady's vegetable garden practically a subject of national envy, more and more of us are rolling up our sleeves and following suit. If you're put off by the idea of actually rolling up your sleeves, though, this helpful article explains that raising your own sun-ripened fruits and vegetables isn't the backbreaking, budget-busting hassle you'd think. The piece lays out four easy rules-- such as "pick a spot, any sunny spot. It doesn't have to be large"--and reminds us that a few rows of tomatoes and lettuce don't have to be managed with the same precision as a graded college chemistry lab, despite what all those gardening books say. The White House's garden may be 1,100 square feet, but you can get just as much pleasure from one a fraction of the size.
3 kale recipes you'll actually love to eat
An easy plan for a food-centric summer
8 things to do before summer ends
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're in love with the blockbuster novel:
By John Irving
Imagine a small town in rural America where Grandpa is a cross-dresser, the town female librarian isn't female, and the 15-year-old hero, Billy Abbott, is adamantly bisexual. Sounds a lot like...most real-life small towns, except that in John Irving's fictional version, everyone ends up admitting their various preferences (at last), and all of them perform regularly at an impossibly pastoral village theater that shuns crowd-pleasing musicals in favor of Shakespeare productions. What transforms the story from a predictable novel about private secrets into the story of a young man understanding his identity in the context of his family and past is Irving himself. Warmth, love, humor and the unexpected are displayed by just about every character, even as they move on to larger, more urban pastures. The tone of the latter chapters deepens and darkness as Billy grows up and the age of AIDS-related dying begins, but the scenes astonish, full of the kind of compassion and wisdom that made A Prayer for Owen Meany such a life-changing experience. "We are formed by what we desire," announces Billy Abbot at the beginning of the book. But we are also formed by what we make and what we lose—including, sometimes, those we love.
New Thrillers That Do More Than Chill
Mysteries for the Thinking Reader
On worthiness: "Because the mighty and the strong don’t hold women in high regard, we feel that we’re not worthy of being held in high regard. So we miss one of the greatest steps a woman can take, which is the chance to be on her own side; to be her own health advocate. You really have to believe you’re worthy. That is the first step."
On fear. "So many of women don’t trust authority. They’re afraid of the mammogram machine. They’re afraid of the Pap smear. But those of us who know must show! Really, it is imperative that we not stop talking. We must not become impatient. And we must not think that we can lecture women into thinking better of themselves and their health. What we do is we love them. A person knows when somebody really cares."
On colds. "I think quite often the mind can heal the body. In fact, if
I’m traveling and in a hotel, and I wake up with a little scratch on my throat,
I get up and begin to shout, “Get out of my body! I don’t need you! Get out!
Get out of my body! Now, now!” Later, I go outside and the maids will
be in the lobby and they look around like, “Who tried to get into that woman’s body?”
It’s funny, of course. But you have to give your body permission to heal itself.
Author and food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule, who writes the blog 5 Second Rule, is here with inspiration. She's matched seven of the most popular ways to serve chicken--from barbecued to marsala--with sides from her new cookbook, Ripe, that are anything but snooze-inducing.
Rule has a hang-up, you see, that's a powerful defense against boring salads or pilafs: color. She and photographer Paulette Phlipot are so obsessed, they arranged their book into sections on red fruits and vegetables like beets and pomegranates, orange ones such as apricots and yams, and so on. Check out this Oprah.com slideshow for her creative ideas (the fried chicken go-with, Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing, is reason enough). And next time you feel like chicken (tonight?), you can make an accompaniment that just might steal the show.
4 glorious potato dishes for any occasion
More non-boring sides
11 healthy ways to make chicken
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're in love with the intricate, sensitive historical novel:
By Jo Baker
What is the legacy of four generations of loss? For Americans without a direct link to the current conflicts overseas or who get their war news from TV and Twitter, the question can seem like a distant concept. Oddly enough, however, this tightly crafted English novel, tracing a family from World War I to Iraq, brings it to life. Jo Baker's story begins with William, a young factory worker, on the eve of the Battle of Gallipoli, and then skips forward in time to his now-adult son, Billy, who serves on D-Day. The action, though, focuses less on the battlefield and more on the parallel lives of their two families—the everyday hunger (when the men go missing, so does the paycheck), the undiscussed loneliness and extramarital affairs, the overwhelming desire of wives for something both as mundane and luxurious as a tube of red lipstick. In the '50s, Billy's son, Will, grows up in the peacetime and succeeds as an academic at Oxford, only to fail as a husband due to his penchant for coeds. "You know what your problem is, boy?" says his now elderly father. "You never had a war to go to." Out of context, this may sound like a callous comment, but considering the layered perspectives throughout the narrative, which include everyone from mothers-in-law talking to the ghosts of their dead husbands to an 8-year-old boy aching for the love of his father, but unable to get it, it reflects what has been handed down in this family—grief and silence and private forbearing, as long-past violence stains every present-day interaction. Hope arrives at the end of the novel with Billie—a daughter named after the preceding William, Billy and Will—an artist who is unable to keep her little half brother from volunteering in Iraq. While in Malta (the last place her great-grandfather was seen alive, though she doesn't know it), looking at a painting of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist, she says about the dying man on the canvas (and perhaps about the difficult, defining moments in all our lives): "You can't switch it off. You can't walk away. You have to look."Read More
Thrillers to make you think, love, dream and scream
I don't know how the rumor got started that children are sweet and innocent, but it was probably by someone who had very little contact with actual children. Kids are raw. Kids are wild. And kids know that the world is scary, they just don't know how exactly. Maurice Sendak, who died on May 8th at the age of 83, knew this. As he told The Atlantic last September, kids "are immensely courageous. And they sacrifice a lot. And they try to play mute and dumb because--well, it's kind of the expectation of their parents." This sense of respecting children and their capacity for the mysteries of life are why his books, from Where The Wild Things Are to In the Night Kitchen to his last, Bumble-Ardy, had such energy and darkness in them. And it's why kids love them.
The great children's literature blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a lovely tribute to Sendak: an image of one his more moving pages. The blog also quotes Sendak, talking about death: “you come on a wisp of air and you go on a wisp of air.” Spoken like someone who has come to terms with the scariness of life.
So, yes, for terrifying our children, for acknowledging the wildness in them, and for giving grownups a way to tell our little wild things, "I have to try to civilize you, because that's my job, but don't worry, I get it" -- Maurice Sendak, you grouchy, irascible soul, we thank you.
Great Books for Kids of All Ages
Encourage Kids to Love Reading
The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food by Ian Knauer
The gist: A former Gourmet test kitchen cook uses common ingredients to make modern versions of classic American dishes.
The "wow" recipe: Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie
The recipe she'll make again and again: Brick Chicken with Corn and Basil Salad
Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater
The gist: A British food writer combines cookbook, produce/gardening guide, and ode to his own backyard garden.
The "wow" recipe: Crisp Pork Belly with Sweet Peach Salsa
The recipe she'll make again and again: Baked Rhubarb with Blueberries
How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman
The gist: Bittman gets down to the nitty-gritty, with 1,000 photographs of everything from dicing vegetables to recognizing when meat is done.
The "wow" recipe: Vanilla Peach Smoothie
The recipe she'll make again and again: Skillet Pork Chops with Apples
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're in love with the thoughtful debut novel:
By Thad Ziolkowski
In Thad Ziolkowski's aptly named first novel, Wichita, Lewis Chopik, a recent graduate from Columbia University, leaves New York City for his hometown of Wichita, Kansas. He's escaping the pain from a recent breakup with his girlfriend, Victoria, who left him for a Rhodes scholar, and he's avoiding the Ivy League future of his professor father, Virgil. Lewis quickly settles into the home of his New Age mother, Abby, whose house functions as a sort of commune, housing his bipolar brother, Seth; Abby's two boyfriends (earnest Donald lives inside, while eccentric Bishop sleeps in a tent in the yard and operates the basement drug lab); and a bevy of drifters who float in and out. Abby's latest venture is a feminist Ponzi scheme called the Birthday Party, the cash from which funds her career of the moment—storm chasing. Her business, Grateful Gaia Storm Tours, brings tourists into the eyes of tornadoes, and when Lewis and Seth accompany their mother on her first storm tour, everything gets blown open in ways you'll never expect. What ties this book together, however, is Ziolkowski's honest and raw look at brotherhood and what it means to rediscover your family.