Author and Chaplain Steve Stockman argues that Christians have been too judgmental of U2, “Many have been so obsessed with the cigar hanging out of Bono’s mouth that they are missing the radical biblical agenda that has fired his life and work.” Through painstaking research and interviews, Stockman puts together an in-depth picture of U2’s Christianity in their own words. This updated version of the original 2001 publication covers Bono’s emergence as an ambassador for social justice issues, which Stockman shows to be an outgrowth of his religious beliefs.
Why I picked it up: I am about to cross off one of my life goals this June, when U2 comes to Seattle and I get to see them live. Also, as a practicing Christian, I wanted to reconcile my idea about U2’s Christianity with some interesting behaviors I had seen from the band in public, like when I witnessed Bono choosing to say, “F--- the mainstream!” live on the Grammys when U2 won Best Alternative Album for Zooropa in 1993. My neighbors are fans and had this on their coffee table, so I borrowed it.
Why I finished it: It caters to Christians who are U2 fans. There are lyrics and Bible verses on nearly every page. Stockman’s research about the band’s early days was diligent, and his interviews with its members are revealing.
I'd give it to: My friend Alan, who claims that all overtly Christian bands suck by definition. (Suck that, Alan!) Beck and Jonathan, big fans who would appreciate the thoughts behind the lyrics they sing at the top of their lungs.
Squid are smart and graceful in the ocean, and a little creepy when out of it. Williams brings these misunderstood creatures to life, showing their importance to ecology, medicine, and our knowledge of the ocean. In addition, she profiles marine biologists who work with these creatures, trying to understand their intelligence.
Why I picked it up: I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a kid, and remember the giant squid taking on the Nautilus, grasping men with its tentacles and throwing them willy-nilly into the ocean.
Why I finished it: Amazing facts. The aggressive, six-foot long Humboldt squid (called the Red Devil by Mexican fisherman) can travel in packs of up to 1,000. I had no idea that several Nobel prizes and notable biomedical achievements were made because of the squid’s oversized axons and neurons. There is now evidence of a colossus squid which is even larger than the giant squid. And octopus sex.
I'd give it to: Mark , a science teacher I work with who would love the gross-out facts about octopi, like that they sometimes bite off and eat their own arms (and then regenerate the limbs).
Beppo, Superman’s pet monkey, fights Gorilla Grodd at a carnival with the help of the Wonder Twins blue monkey, Gleep.
Why I finished it: “Form of...an ice corral!” brought back all of the Superfriends cartoons I watched as a kid.
I'd give it to: My new nephew, Layton, for his first birthday, along with this awesome Green Lantern toy. He won't be ready to read it for years, but since his dad is going to teach him about cars, I've got to start turning him to the geek side early.
After their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie Kane were separated by a court ruling and have grown up on opposite sides of the world. Their grandparents have raised Sadie in England, while Carter has travelled the world with their father, a famous Egyptologist.
On Christmas Eve, Carter and their father visit Sadie and take her to the British Museum. There, they see him use a wand to write glowing hieroglyphs on the surface of the Rosetta Stone. The stone explodes, their father battles the fiery being who suddenly appears, and then he disappears.
Their father’s friend Amos tells them that ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses have been released into the modern world. And they, like their father, possess magical powers (which they’ll learn to use so they can try to rescue their father).
Why I picked it up: I loved Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
Why I finished it: The banter between Sadie and Carter. They never miss a chance to crack a joke at the other’s expense, but as their relationship develops it's easy to see that this brother and sister care for each other very much.
I'd give it to: My friend Anna, who is obsessed with hieroglyphs. They appear throughout the book, and she would enjoy trying to remember what they mean. Mark, who would get a laugh out of the two disparate types of magical transportation available to modern Egyptian magicians -- they can teleport or ride a reed boat.
Photographs of the outsides and gorgeously furnished interiors of vintage trailers in the UK, plus short interviews with the owners.
Why I picked it up: Steve handed me a copy, since we share a love of cool vintage stuff.
Why I finished it: Each trailer is a perfect little world with small appliances (some even had tiny wood burning stoves!), vintage fabrics, built-in wood cabinets, and adorable retro decor. I don't think I'd want to spend the time required to fix up one of these, but I sure wouldn't turn down a vacation by the woods in one. In the meantime, I'm planning to make a paper model of one of the caravans from the pattern I got by emailing the authors.
I'd give it to: Angelina, who likes to arrive at her destinations in style, for the 1950s bar set in one trailer. Each piece of glassware is carefully set into a slot in a birch cabinet so that it will stay stable on the road.
A picture book in which a little boy learns about his grandma, his Choctaw heritage, and handling painful surprises in life.
Why I picked it up: The title intrigued me, and the picture on the front, of a happy boy feeding chickens, is warm and inviting.
Why I finished it: I wanted to find out how a bee sting, checking for fertile chicken eggs, and a rock thrown at a young mother would fit together.
I'd give it to: My friend Jane. We've been talking about honest and non-threatening ways to start conversations about racism and stereotyping with our adopted children of color. The author subtly touches on both topics by gently challenging American ideas of "Indians" with pictures of regular people having regular lives. And the "How Much Can We Tell Them?" section in the back of the book, directed at adults, invites us to see our cultural biases and to teach our children to see and understand the truth of the people around us.
Binky is a space cat. He hunts aliens. But once while he is chasing one he falls out the window and Ted (his mousy) falls out with him. And when the humans bring him in and he is ready for his nap he realizes that Ted is gone.
Why I picked it up: I liked the first Binky book.
Why I finished it: Because I liked the part when Binky paints himself camouflaged so he can go outside.
I'd give it to: Eleanor, because she would like the part when Binky brings his space helmet out of his litter box.
Helpful, multi-page comic guides including 8 Reasons to Keep a Canadian as a Pet (“They’ll make you look tan.”), How to Pee Like a Champ, Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling (for “Loose”: “Pretend the extra O is a hemorrhoid on the word. Hemorrhoids are never tight.”), 14(ish) Things You Need to Know About Cheese (this one may turn you vegan), How to Track, Hunt, and Kill a Unicorn, and 6 Reasons Bacon is Better Than True Love.
Why I picked it up: Friends forward The Oatmeal to me all the time. The first one I ever saw was about working at home.
Why I finished it: Here are some elements that are overrepresented in the informative guides: poop, hookers, genitals, cannibalism, violence, dinosaurs, cursing, bears, and coffee.
I'd give it to: Me. I tried and tried to read a pixelated electronic galley of this. The smaller fonts were unreadable, but the headers and illustrations convinced me to buy the book. I’ll file it on the back of my toilet with Sh*t My Dad Says and Girls Don’t Poop.