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Recommendations for Friday, June 25, 2010

Stuff : Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost , Gail Steketee

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged nonfiction

Unshelved strip for 6/25/2010

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged history

In the 90’s, Wall Street discovered payday loans. Instead of trying to put the sleazebags charging a 391% annual interest rate out of business, the big banks purchased a stake in this rapidly growing business.  Aggressive fees and fines associated with these loans milked even more money out of those least able to pay them.  Rivlin goes into great detail about the people and politics behind the explosion of payday loans across the U.S.  The poor most affected by the loans are often their biggest supporters.  But through the efforts of advocates, payday loans have become a toxic idea to politicians, so the pendulum is finally swinging toward regulation.

Why I picked it up: I always thought that payday loan businesses were predatory and I wanted to know more about them.

Why I finished it: I wanted to see Allan Jones, a man who built a $200 million fortune from payday lending, get his comeuppance.  I wanted to know how those who run these businesses can sleep at night, and what their flimsy justifications are for being involved in this “business.”

I'd give it to: My friend Liz who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, though it would make her irate. Libertarians and free market advocates like Bill who would, I hope, be appalled at what a lack of regulation can bring.

Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2 by Suzanne Collins

Link to this review by moonshadow tagged coming of agescience fictionthriller

(SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST VOLUME IN THIS SERIES, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.)

Everything in District 12 has changed. Katniss returned home with Peeta after they won the Hunger Games together, but Peeta has barely spoken to her. Katniss’ closest friend, Gale, has grown cold and distant in her absence. Katniss lives apart from the rest of District 12 in the Victor’s Village.

Soon Katniss and Peeta have to work together again. President Snow pays Katniss a personal visit before the requisite Victor’s Tour. He speaks of the national unrest fueled by Katniss and Peeta winning the Hunger Games together. Katniss is told do her best to convince the populace that she and Peeta are in love, or else.

Katniss has to make a choice: to protect those she loves or to risk everything and rebel against the tyrannical President Snow.

Why I picked it up: I was looking forward to the next book in the series.

Why I finished it: Katniss discovers a pair of refugees from another district in the wilderness, heading to District 13. Katniss is confused because District 13 was destroyed in the last rebellion. After having spotted some irregularities in the television coverage, they are going there to discover the truth.

I'd give it to: Benjamin, who enjoy it for the anticipation that builds on every page. Andrea, who would enjoy the uncertain love triangle formed by Gale, Peeta, and Katniss.

Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged mystery

Griff Carver is hallway patrol through and through. Every day, he puts on the uniform, straps on the badge and does his best to keep late students and the unauthorized out of the halls.  His sharp eyes miss nothing. Sent to a new school, he must earn his stripes all over again. Within a few days, he has the lay of the land. With the help of his assigned partner, a by-the-book rookie, he goes undercover to bring down a corrupt student official. Things go badly. Griff, accused of being a dirty hall monitor, must work without his badge to clear his name.  

Why I picked it up: Required book for my ALA committee, Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Why I finished it: This is a hardboiled police procedural for kids.  Some of the jokes will go over their heads, but even the most irony-proof kid will know that Griff is taking it a bit far.  Griff, stripped of his badge, drowns his sorrows in sugared soda at a local arcade.

I'd give it to: Parents looking for a book to read aloud with their kids, because this would be so much fun to perform. My daughter Grace, who is on safety patrol at school, even though she doesn’t take herself too seriously. 

Halo: Uprising by Brian Michael Bendis , Alex Maleev (Illustrator)

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelparanormal

A captured human soldier warns the Covenant (aliens) that if they destroy Earth’s cities, they’ll never find the Key of Osanalan. They don’t know what the key is, and they’ve never heard of it, but they make the soldier tells them where to find it.

On Earth, a concierge finds himself in the middle of the alien invasion. He realizes he’s the only person on the planet who knows what the Key is.

Why I picked it up: Bendis talked me into trying Powers at his booth at SDCC in 2002. I’ve never forgotten the effort he put into booktalking it, and I’ve never been disappointed in anything he’s written. Halo? I don’t even play the game. But it was at the library and I picked it up...

Why I finished it: …and I was not disappointed. I wasn’t expecting much from a Halo comic, even one by the Bendis/Maleev team whose run on Daredevil I enjoyed so much. But this is a good hard SF graphic novel with a lot of funny, character-based moments and stunning art. I didn’t always see how the scenes of the Spartan blasting aliens fit in with the story on Earth, but the violence was beautiful, too.

I'd give it to: Dave, who enjoys hard science fiction and futuristic vehicles. My friends Liz and Fred who made it through Pitch Black and its sequels -- I think this would be a good bridge for them between action movies and good super hero comics.

Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture by Ishikawa Masayuki

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged graphic novelscience

A manga series about a guy from a family of sake brewers and fermentation starters. He goes to agricultural college in Tokyo and is shanghaied by a food microbiology professor who knows his secret.

Why I picked it up: His secret: he can see microbes without a microscope! Can you imagine how interesting and gross the world would be?

Why I finished it: There's heavy coverage of the fermented foods -- fermented skate, rotting seal, and Japanese yogurt which is made with a different microbe than European yogurt. Every character is peculiar, as you might expect from people drawn to fermentation. One decides to brew sake in the really old fashioned way, with human spit as the biological starter!

I'd give it to: My mom, who is willing to try almost any Japanese food, to see if she'll help me eat the natto (fermented soybeans) I bought after I finished the book. My dad, who home-brews apple cider. Anyone who might find microbes adorable. Kawaii desu-ne!

Radiator Days by Lucy Knisley

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged biographygraphic novelliterary

Anthology of fictional and autobiographical comics by the author of French Milk. Many of the stories deal with comics, art school, and grad school at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Interspersed with her fiction, these comics give a real sense of her take on life and her approach to her work.

Why I picked it up: Lucy Knisley had a table at Stumptown, and it was the biggest book on her table. I bought it and had her sign it for me.

Why I finished it: The short comic toward the front, My Addiction, is mostly about Humboldt squid. I love squid as much as I love the simple yet expressive way Knisley draws people, especially their eyes and hair. The inclusion of some very short, very adult comics surprised me, too.

I'd give it to: Adults who enjoyed Raina Telgemeier’s Smile because I think this book also has an overwhelmingly positive tone. Sarah, who enjoyed DAR.

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jethá

Link to this review by billba tagged science

A new theory on what makes the human libido tick based on recent research in anthropology, evolutionary biology, and applied anatomy. It contradicts the distasteful conventional wisdom that men are born to be cheaters and women gold diggers.

Why I picked it up: Hilarious title, plus maybe I can convince my wife to give me a harem for my birthday.

Why I finished it: Just the kind of applied research I really enjoy. The authors make a convincing argument that, like our simian cousins the Bonobos, pre-agricultural humans lived in small hunter/gatherer communities where key parties were the norm.  I laughed out loud at the experiment they used to demonstrate the evolutionary value of larger penises.

I'd give it to: Liz, who laughed during my book talk every time I said the word "Bonobos", and anyone who appreciated the against-the-mainstream science journalism of Good Calories, Bad Calories.

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