Jonathan lost his twin brother in a bus accident. To deal with his grief, he turns to his guitar and award-winning poetry. In danger of flunking out of school, the principal forces him to help write a dying Navy veteran’s memoir. His tight group of friends try to draw him out of his self-imposed exile. They sign him for the school’s talent show and help him perform a musical extravaganza involving a flaming Rickenbacker, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, and a large King Kong statue with a broken foot.
Why I picked it up: Had to. Takes place in Seattle, somehow involves Nirvana, and has a cover blurb from Barry Lyga wishing he had written this exact book.
Why I finished it: Jonathan, a scatterbrained, tired young man with a distinct way with words and a believable wit, immediately became real to me. He has a posse of thicks (his word for his tight friends) who refuse to see him conquered by grief.
I'd give it to: Keegan, who will think of his close band-geek friends when reading about Jonathan’s. Jim, whose encyclopedic music memory would be put to the test with the book’s musical references. The brawny, stream of consciousness writing will also pull in attention-challenged teens like Jacob.
Multi-step instructional diagrams explain basic skills like making a bed, sewing on a button, shooting a basketball, hitching a trailer, and high-fiving.
Why I picked it up: Wanted to see if it was meant to be serious.
Why I finished it: The final step for "Put Down Toilet Seat" is "Remember this moment and how good it feels to do the right thing". I'm still not sure if it's meant to be serious, but it is both hysterical and brilliantly executed. It's amazing what you can learn about everyday tasks when you break them down.
I'd give it to: Our house guest Steve, a college-age soccer instructor from England here to teach Seattle children how to play. Super nice guy, but he can't even cook an egg. This book is also surprisingly entertaining to share at a cocktail party.
Part of the Scientists in the Field series, the book chronicles the efforts by beekeepers and bee researchers to figure out the causes and possible ways to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious syndrome that leaves hives empty of all bees, without any dead insects left behind.
Why I picked it up: I have been hearing news stories about CCD over the past few years.
Why I finished it: While there is no answer yet (the book ends with several ongoing experiments by the investigators), I learned more about CCD and bee biology and behavior than I thought I would as a relatively well-read grownup. I didn’t know why beekeepers used smoke (to mask the scent of bees' panic hormone that alerts other bees to danger) or the spooky aspect of CCD (the creatures that normally take advantage of hive problems by raiding and eating all the honey do not invade CCD stricken hives).
I'd give it to: Stephanie, who will like the part about how the scientists use a funnel and a measuring cup to pour bees into containers for testing. Lisa, who will like the cool pictures and sidebars about the importance of bees in our food chain. Fans of books about our broken food industry will find additional bee-related facts to use to make new converts.
There’s a girl named Mibs. When she turns thirteen she gets her savvy, which is a magical power. Her dad was in a car accident and is at a hospital in Salina, and he’s not awake. Her mom and oldest brother go to be with him. Mibs has an idea -- she thinks her power will help wake her dad up. She hides on the pink Bible bus, which she thinks is going to Salina, along with two of her brothers, her friend Will, and his sister Bobbi. But when it leaves the church parking lot, it turns the wrong way. And she still hasn’t figured out what her savvy is.
Why I picked it up: It was the only book I liked on the recommended shelf at the University Bookstore.
Why I finished it: I wanted to know what Mibs’ Savvy was, because she really didn’t figure out what it was until later in the book.
I'd give it to: My friend Meghan because she likes magical things like fairies and wizards she would like Mibs’ family’s powers.
Scott Pilgrim must face the Negascott, his slacker-’tude, and Ramona’s seventh evil ex-boyfriend, Gideon.
Why I picked it up: I knew Jana (our store manager) was going to want to read the final book in the series, too, so I bought a copy the day before SDCC and surprised her on the plane. (We both finished it before we landed.)
Why I finished it: Knives Chau grows up!
Also, I’m still afraid of flying. I don’t think about it when I’m into a good book. Reading this, there wasn’t room in my head to dwell on crashing in a fiery ball of death.
I'd give it to: I’m determined to get my wife, Silver, to read this series. She may balk at the video game-inspired sequences and she’s not into slackers, but I’ll invoke Strangers in Paradise and True Story, Swear To God when talking about how great this love story is. If that doesn’t work, I’ll have Jana give her a call.
Missile Mouse, the Galactic Security Agency’s top agent, failed to retrieve an old star compass from a wrecked starship. Now it’s in the hands of The Rogue Imperium of Planets. They plan to use it to find the last cache of Dark Plasma and build a doomsday weapon. There’s no room for error when Missile Mouse and his new partner must rescue a kidnapped scientist and beat RIP to the plasma.
Why I picked it up: I loved the Missile Mouse story in Flight Explorer.
Why I finished it: The opening fight scene, between Missile Mouse and the three-eyed creature on the derelict starship. MM gets the compass and is then ambushed by mercenaries, but the best part (because it’s gross) is when he’s swallowed by the creature.
I'd give it to: My daughter’s friends and fellow third-graders Toby and Owen. The action-packed, nearly wordless fight scenes are the best part of this book, and I think those would pull them through the talkier parts. Miguel, who is older, would also enjoy the book, especially after I point out the scenes that recall Star Wars: A New Hope so much.
Reconstruction in the South was a tumultuous time. Many white men were afraid of losing power, money and control. Six men started a social club, the Ku Klux Klan, and named themselves to grandiose positions, like Grand Cyclops. The KKK spread quickly as a way to control newly freed blacks at a time when the United States government couldn’t or wouldn’t step in to protect them. The KKK’s intimidation methods were calculated and effective until the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, despite legislation that targeted their organization and its tactics.
An annotated bibliography and source notes provide more information for those who wish to learn more.
Why I picked it up: I saw a promo for this book about a year ago and finally scored an advance copy.
Why I finished it: I was appalled that our government’s hypocrisy allowed the clan to operate and blacks to suffer for decades because no one could muster the political will to change things. It made me think about inequities we consider normal today, and how they will be looked on with anger by future generations, who will wonder why we allowed them to persist.
I'd give it to: Jon and all the other history teachers I work with, who would appreciate the exhaustively researched, yet eminently readable prose, as well as the primary sources cited. JG, a classic FOX news watcher who thinks everyone that disagrees with him is a poorly informed victim of the liberal media, and whose opposition to programs like Affirmative Action might soften if he's better informed.
Dr. Restak has written eighteen books on the human brain. This one focuses on a practical question -- what we can do to improve and maintain our most vital organ? In a personable style, he discusses how our brains develop, function, and age, then follows-up with practical advice. When it comes to lifestyle, almost everything that is heart-healthy is brain-healthy: regular exercise, an adequate amount of sleep, and a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 oils but low in saturated fats. The book is also packed with ideas and examples of mental exercises and activities that increase concentration, sensory awareness, language skills, memory, logic, and creativity. Restak often cites the latest research to explain why certain activities are believed to lead to better brain health.
Why I picked it up: Being a man of a certain age, I often notice signs of personal memory loss. Just don’t ask me to give you an example as I doubt I could remember one.
Why I finished it: Any book that can help me retain or even enhance my mental faculties is welcome. The conclusions drawn from research on the brain are very optimistic. No matter your age, your brain is a resilient and adaptable organ that can rise to new challenges and reap tangible benefits from new stimulation and mental exercise.
I'd give it to: My friend Heather, who always says, “Welcome to old age,” whenever I can’t remember a book or movie title. Also my friends Dan and Janet who study the brain and love reading Oliver Sacks.