Battle Royale

Based on the recommendation of a coworker, I recently picked up the English translation of Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, a thriller about 42 junior high students stranded on an island and forced to kill each other until one survivor remains. Consider that premise for a moment, then consider that BR has since been turned into an entire franchise of graphic novels, film adaptations, and even miniature figurines.

As you can imagine, the #1 buzzword surrounding the mass popularity of BR, both here in America and in Japan, is “controversial.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Spending time in Djelibeybi

Terry Pratchett is absolutely fascinating. No matter which book you pick up in his endless Discworld series, you will find yourself chuckling with each page. From politics to wizardry and everything in between, Pratchett satires whatever he can wrap his head around (and doubly so for what he can’t).

Recently I’ve become rather fond of Death, who appears in every book to some degree and even has a couple of books centered entirely on his quest for purpose in his, er, existence. However, the range of characters and genres that Pratchett light-heartedly jams into the pages of his books are so varied that it’s hard to call any one person or theme a favorite. There’s romance, mystery, suspense, horror, and of course fantasy all mixed up into one jumbled mess that somehow gets sorted out, more or less, by the end of each tale. Woo!

Again a Child, Reading by Lamplight

Though a notorious bookworm, I have managed to overlook some of the greatest classic children’s literature ever written, a wrong that I mean to correct as quickly as possible. My reading list includes:

  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  • The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Peter and the Starcatchers

Have you ever wondered how Peter Pan arrived in Never Land? Why Captain Hook relentlessly pursues the Lost Boys? How mermaids, fairies, and indians became Peter’s close friends?

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s upcoming book, Peter and the Starcatchers, tells the fast-paced, adventurous backstory of J.M. Barrie’s classic fairytale. It’s one of those books that you wish would continue long past the last page.

I just finished reading it (the benefit of working at a bookstore), but the rest of you will have to wait for it to be released in September, so keep an eye out for the book!

I Dream in Helvetica Bold

For a few months now, I have been a fan of Chesire Dave’s Judging Books by their Covers, particularly because I actually see these books every day at work. He not only nails the good and bad designs, but also the details of why — layout, typography, color selection, and more.

Apparently he’s not the only critic of cover design, either.

American Gods

I just finished Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a book too controversial to recommend yet too intriguing to put down. His premise centers around the idea that men create and destroy gods by the presence or lack of their worship. Oddly, he rarely mentions Christianity, choosing instead to focus on pagan deities.

Though his worldview throughout the book is at turns unsettling and downright obscene, he does make a good point about the constant worship of one god or another by everyday humans, who don’t even realize it: money, sex, media, all deities with their own followers. He even refers to them at times as demons, hitting on the true reality behind the scenes without giving it a second thought.

However, regardless of the number of gods in America, he describes this country’s climate as one that stifles and eventually rejects them. Assuming that statement applies outside his fictional world, I would suggest that it is the strength of Christianity here that has created that climate, and I hope it continues.

Mapmakers of Fantastical Fiction

“[Bilbo] loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red ink.”

- excerpt from The Hobbit

Upon my bedroom walls hang three framed, fully-illustrated maps. Their ancient geographies exist only in the viewer’s imagination, and for that reason are deeply inspirational to me.

Though many authors sketch glimpses of their world from time to time, few illustrators fully realize those visions on canvas. I find this odd, because their very nature is to define the world within which great heros die so innocents may live. From J.R.R. Tolkien’s simple depiction of “here be dragons” to J.M. Barrie’s star-like Neverland, we learn more about their worlds in an instant than in the first hundred words of text.

With that in mind, I have begun a map of my own imagination… who knows, maybe I’ll find a story in there good enough to tell.

Short Story Social Commentary

“This was the first place I ever worked but I already had picked up things about the way people feel when you are working for them. They like to think you aren’t curious. Not just that you aren’t dishonest, that isn’t enough. They like to feel you don’t notice things, that you don’t think or wonder about anything but what they liked to eat and how they liked things ironed, and so on.”

excerpt from How I Met My Husband, by Alice Munro

Fantastical Bedtime Stories

As an avid reader throughout childhood, it sometimes amazes me to learn that people haven’t even discovered, much less read certain books. That changes today. For all you kids out there (including those only at heart), consider this a required reading list each night:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    The original fantasy bedtime story, written by Tolkien for his own son.
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
    Similiar only in plot to its 80s film adaptation, this book is so magical, encountering hundreds of different places and characters, that your imagination will carry the story long past the final page.
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
    Two brothers face death and a magical afterlife together, showcasing true agape love like no current story could.
  • Peter Pan by James M. Barrie
    No real explanation needed, except that the book beats Disney’s version and all the stage productions out there, hands down.
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
    Woodlanders, Abbeydwellers, Warriors, Sailors all — all animals, that is. This is the best anthropomorphic fiction to date (yes, it beats Watership Down).
  • Dinotopia by James Gurney
    Written in the style of a castaway’s journal, this simple picture book opens a whole world for you to explore, where dinosaurs still exist, working alongside a very artistic and old-fashioned mankind.
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
    The witty screenwriter of the same-titled film insists that his inspiration came from this childhood book, originally written in Florinese by S. Morgenstern. It contains, as he puts it: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.” So yeah.

Bookstore Gains an Inch

My workplace, a very popular book shop (which shall remain nameless), just broke ground on Sunday with its new renovation. About three days in, our customers are starting to run into some problems shopping… for example, a search for Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice could bring up a plethora of Kama Sutra books instead. I’m not impressed.