Reading List: November/December

I am a huge fan of the New York Public Library. With 87 branches and more than 53 million items, its the second largest in the country behind the Library of Congress. I can borrow physical books as well as ebooks, which really helps me cover my literary bases and access titles quickly. There are also frequent events - book groups, author talks, exhibitions, activities for kiddos - at various locations that are open to the public. 

My favorite part of the system, as unsexy as it is, is the efficiency. I request a book online to a specific library location, confirm the request, and receive an email as soon as it's at the desk. If using a tablet or phone, I simply request the download and have it automatically delivered to my device. Ta dah! Efficient amazingness!

It will come as no surprise, then, that I have checked out all* of this month's books from the library. Looking forward to starting in on the stack!

* Honesty note: all but one. Critical Conversations is part of my work's Book Club and is now a permanent part of my library.

November 2014 Book List

1. Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

Amazon Rating: 4.4/5

Genre: Fiction

Set in the midst of the late 1980s AIDS epidemic, the story is of a girl dealing with the loss of her uncle to the disease. As she drifts apart from her family, she finds understanding and friendship in her uncle's partner as they begin to navigate life without their common key player. 

2. Casebook, by Mona Simpson

Amazon Rating: 3.7/5

Genre: Fiction

A family drama, as told through the perspective of a boy intent on discovering his mother's personal life. He ends up learning more than he had originally planned, and finds deeper insight on his parents and himself in the process.  

3. The Fever, by Megan Abbott

Amazon Rating: 3.3/5

Genre: Fiction

Teenage girls are getting sick in a small town, and no one has an explanation. Honestly, I picked this one up because I like Megan Abbott (not because the plot line seems especially compelling), and am regretting the decision having read through some of the reviews. Oh well!

4. Blindness, by José Saramago

Amazon Rating: 3.9/5

Genre: Fiction

A 1998 Noble prize winner, Blindness is regarded as one of the preeminent explorations into epidemics and the devolution of man in times of hardship. After a mysterious white blindness spreads among a city, a doctor, his wife, and a small crew they've assembled navigate the new world of basic human instinct to which their city has been reduced.

I consider white blindness to be ebola-adaptable.

5. Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler, and Roppe

Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Nonfiction - Interpersonal Relations

As I mentioned earlier, this book is a part of my work book club. I'm excited about this pick! Persuasion and negotiation is a critical part of any business deal, and tips I can glean from this highly regarded text will be helpful for both professional and personal use.

Mel Bochner: Strong Language

The Mel Bochner: Strong Language exhibit closed last month, but I was able to squeak in just before the end. It has been reviewed by Ken Johnson of The New York Times, who undoubtedly does a better job of describing the collection than I ever could. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, let's just look at some pretty pictures of pretty pictures! 

'If The Color Changes', 1997-2000

This series, painted between 1997-2000, features a quote by German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: "To observe is not the same thing as to look or to view. Look at this color and say what it reminds you of. If the color changes, you are no longer looking at the one I meant. One observes in order to see what one would not see if one did not observe." (That's... yeah.)

Bochner paints with different colors and patterns to emphasize different words--are you seeing the color he meant, or not? 

From the entry, the gallery flows into his 'Thesaurus' series. Bochner sees the thesaurus more in terms of its own synonym, a 'warehouse of words.' Here are a few of my favorites--

Die (2005)

Oh Well (2010)

Going Out of Business (2012)

Voiceover (2006-2012)

The gallery features four works that have never before been displayed, three of which are grouped on the same wall together:

All or Nothing, Amazing, and Babble. 

All or Nothing (2012), Amazing (2011), Babble (2011)

There also were a few pieces of Bochner's sketches and older works. I thought it was interesting to see the way that he arranges text before ever putting paint to canvas.

Finally, one of my favorite pieces was Self/Portrait, 1966 and 2013. The 1966 image is below, printed in ink of graph paper. The left column is devoted to synonyms of 'Self', and the right to 'Portrait'. The most interesting combinations come when you read the pairs across... anybody up for a self portrait, I mean spirit mirror?

via (1966)


After making my way through this exhibit, I wandered through some of the upper floors of The Jewish Museum--it's a really neat space! Worth a stop in if you're on the UES post-Met and Guggenheim. Adult tickets are $15.

P.S. - Russ & Daughters coming to the museum in early 2015! Holla at ya lox.