Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 5:35 pm
By Jean Zimmerman
I fell into a state of dazed puzzlement at the start of this book, whose first chapter includes a remote century's bitter winter, "sour ale" in an "undercroft tavern," the stink of Newgate Jail, French secret agents, a wild-haired preacher and conversations in Italian and French as well as English.
I read Pam Ribon's Notes To Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share In Public in a few sittings, but the longest stretch I consumed where one should ideally read this book: in a bubble bath. The calming atmosphere is good for the anxiety that comes from seeing a woman excavate her teenage brain, the vulnerability builds the empathy it takes to understand how terrified all these boys she was writing to must have felt, and if you get too mortified for her, you can always elect to go down the drain with the bathwater just to escape.
If you can barely swing a hammer, you can still build your own home.
Builders at the Maker Faire in New York City proved this point last fall, with something akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising.
The event celebrates the do-it-yourself aesthetic, particularly when it comes to digital fabrication and open-source construction plans. Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail.
The works of Henry David Thoreau have influenced generations of readers, but Thoreau himself wasn't always celebrated. His schoolmates and neighbors found him standoffish and regarded his fascination with plants and Indian relics as downright odd.
Every year, students come into my office and say, "I don't know what I want to do with my life." Of course, plenty of people in the world don't have the luxury of such cluelessness, but my students don't look like they're enjoying their privilege; they look scared and depressed, as though they've already failed some big test of character. They might find some comfort in Michael Sims' new biography of the young Henry David Thoreau called, simply, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau.
Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 8:03 pm
By Nicole Cohen
These <em>Grapes of Wrath</em> copies may <em>look</em> well-loved, but don't be fooled. A lot of us are opening them up for the first time.
Credit Jim Tuttle / NPR
John Steinbeck's Dust Bowl saga has been on required reading lists for decades, but somehow a lot of us at NPR Books have never read it. (We know! We know!) So when we realized the 75th anniversary was coming up on April 14, we thought: What better way to pay tribute to Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic than to actually crack it open?
That is to say: We're hosting a Grapes of Wrath book club and you're all invited to join.*
Fantômas begins as many a good tale begins: with listeners crowding around a fire. In this case, guests of the venerable Marquise surround a retired magistrate who, with relish, tells of the terror that is Fantômas. Fantômas, the criminal mastermind — I would love the book just for the mystery of the name, though in fact, the name isn't even his: it is given to him by rumor, or maybe the police. We know nothing of Fantômas: he is believed to take on the identity of others, sometimes famous others, sometimes several at once.