On the surface, Thrown is a nonfiction book about mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, but author Kerry Howley takes the story into strange waters. The book begins with “Kit”/Howley, a graduate philosophy student, attending a conference on the topic of Phenomenology. Bored, she leaves and wanders into the adjacent MMA conference next door. As she witnesses men pummel each other in a cage, she describes feeling a sense of philosophical ecstasy. Wanting to delve deeper into the intellectual side of the violent spectacle of sports, she becomes something like an MMA groupie, attaching herself to two fighters, Sean Huffman, the waning old-timer, and Erik Koch, the young prodigy.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Friday, February 26th, 2016||No Comments »|
W. Bruce Cameron’s beautifully woven novel The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog is a fascinating tale of how canines became the loyal, domesticated pets they are today.
More than 30,000 years ago in a world where our ancestors fought to survive in a brutal landscape, one of the keys to becoming the dominant species on Earth was our relationship with dogs. Cameron’s novel weaves in several different stories to explain the domestication process that turned wolves into obedient dogs.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, September 17th, 2015||No Comments »|
Jennifer Wright’s new book It Ended Badly shares some of the most dysfunctional breakups in history. We’re talking beheadings, prison, life-size dolls, and so much literary snark about thinly-veiled “fictional” characters. I was already hooked on the subject matter, but the narrative’s conversational tone really adds to the stories of historical heartbreak.
If you don’t love Henry VIII through reams of historical fiction, here’s a refresher on his famous six marriages. When the Pope refused to grant Henry’s request to divorce his first wife, Henry started his own religion (with himself as the head, obvs) and ignited the infamous chain of wives that went in the order of: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Not even the king who married three Catherines, two Annes, and a Jane is the worst offender in this book. Makes a little late-night scrolling of your ex’s Facebook seem downright mature and healthy!
These awful breakups don’t need embellishment. I was pretty familiar with the stories of Nero and Henry VIII going in, and I knew that Byron wasn’t exactly a good and faithful boyfriend, but many of these stories of ex-couples were new to me. Even the ones where I barely cared about the characters (Elizabeth Taylor isn’t great at marriage, pass it on) were lively, darkly funny, and dramatic, reminding readers that love makes complete idiots of us all.
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Wednesday, September 9th, 2015||No Comments »|
Ever been scolded by a parent or teacher during your childhood for being shy? Ever felt out of place because you found it hard to jump into a conversation with new people? Ever become overwhelmed when you’re surrounded by too much activity? Well guess what… you’re not alone.
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking does something that the American society seems to be doing just the opposite of: defending the introverted spirit. And you know what? It’s an entirely refreshing and rewarding read.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Thursday, August 13th, 2015||No Comments »|
German filmmaker and novelist Alexander Kluge had cinema figured out with his first feature-length film, Yesterday Girl, back in 1966. And guess what? He did us all the favor and decided to put his experience into words (beautiful ones, at that). Prepare yourself, and then go find a copy of Cinema Stories, stat.
In this glorious text Kluge doesn’t take on the topic of filmmaking in a technical manner—oh no, of course not—he instead uses the form of the short story to embody that magical thing we call cinema. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Kluge’s chapters range from discussions with a “blind director” (bonus points if you know who Fritz Lang is) to a mysterious death of a silent screen siren, Olive Thomas. His stories will stick with you for life, haunting in their telling but also so full of knowledge. I guess what I’m trying to say, in the most layman of terms, is that this man knows how to write.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Wednesday, July 8th, 2015||No Comments »|
“If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V.C. Bird International Airport. Very Cornwall (V.C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him — why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument? You are a tourist and you have not yet seen a school in Antigua, you have not yet seen the hospital in Antigua, you have not yet seen a public monument in Antigua.”
And so begins A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid’s beloved and abruptly blunt essay on Antigua. Kincaid isn’t afraid to “go there” as the text continues, explaining the terror and repercussions of her homeland being “conquered” by the British. She points out injustice in a way that’s insightful and stomach-turning all at once. While the subject matter is difficult, Kincaid’s voice manages to be anything but—making for an enthusiastic and energetic read that is filled with passion, history, and many, many lessons.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Thursday, June 25th, 2015||No Comments »|
This is the question author William Powers poses in his memoir New Slow City.
After living in a 12 x 12 home in North Carolina for an entire year, Powers finds himself overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of New York City. His resolve? To see if he’s able to live a life worth living amongst the chaos. Between cutting back his work week to two days a week and moving himself and his new wife into a micro-sized studio apartment, Powers records not only how his own thought process changes over the course of a year, but also how the his lifestyle also affects his career.
Focusing on the idea of “slow living,” self-sustainability, and absorbing what’s happening around oneself, New Slow City is a memoir that is so well-written you won’t even realize you’re learning along the way.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015||No Comments »|