Books for Winter Hibernation

We have only three more weeks until the end of the fall semester. After that, we have a month-long break, in which I plan to hunker in (sans homework) and create my own little hibernation retreat of writing, reading, and hula-hooping (natuurlijk). (Fun fact: When I was in third grade, my best friend, Connor, and I used to play this game on the playground called Hibernation, where we would burrow our winter-suited bodies down into the snow-covered hill and “hibernate” because we were bears. All of the other children playing on the hill were unknowingly part of the game. They were the villains: the poachers. Our goal was to “kill” (with our minds) the poachers before they “killed” (with their minds) us, but of course, they didn’t know they were playing in our game, and we were too shy and probably frozen to move out of our hibernating locations. Now that I think about it, this game was actually quite the complicated mental inception. Also, this is not the kind of hibernation I plan to have this winter. My fingers and toes were not made to withstand hours of cold.)

To fully prepare myself for the *real* winter hibernation, I have laid in a supply of reading material: a mix of genres, nothing terribly recent. I have a lot of books from the past few years to catch up on. Here are links and info since the internet makes it so easy to love even more books. The list is in no particular order.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I frequently spotted this book on the Staff Recommendation table at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, but had never carved out a time to read it. When my boyfriend mentioned he had just listened to the audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton) and enjoyed it, I went straight to the Montpelier local library and checked it out. It’s labeled as YA, and while it does have a YA-coming-of-age-never-kissed-before feel, it definitely was written for adults who love all 80s pop culture, especially cult movies, rock music, classic video games, and fantasy novels. I meant to wait until winter break to read it, but the story sucked me in immediately and now I am done and can tell you all to read it!

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. Okay, so this is cheating because this book was assigned to me for class, but nevertheless, I wanted to include it in this pile. Also, bonus points: Chee is visiting VCFA next week and giving a reading! I am super excited to meet him. His 500-something paged book looks daunting, but once you’re enthralled in Act 1, the plot moves and twists and you keep turning pages because oh my god, what’s going to happen to the soprano Lilliet Berne? I’m still reading, but I’d describe it as a cross between Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. Makes me wonder what a Queen of the Night musical would look and sound like!

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I found this book on a whim of the internet, and also checked it out of the library’s YA section. I have to say, I usually don’t go for Young Adult books, or at least am very cautious about which ones I pick up. This one, though, has me excited to start. Lanagan based her novel on Grimm fairytales and explores dark matters of sexual violence through fantastical settings, parallel worlds, and transforming bears. If anything, this review on The Guardian will convince you, too, to pick this book up!

The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar KeretVery excited about this one. If the cover image doesn’t pull you in first with its pathetic cartoon man in a pink bunny suit, holding a rifle in a field surrounded by dead birds, I’m not sure you even have eyes. Haven’t started yet, but I imagine Keret’s short-short stories will be as brutally honest and weirdly fantastical as Ben Loory and Amelia Gray.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman. Once in a while, I like to mix up my brain matter with a nonfiction book, usually about history or science. And to a writer, learning about the brain is like finding gold nuggets. After all, the psychology of people and how their minds work is our business. The back cover of this book presents a paragraph of questions: “Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Is there a true Mel Gibson? How is your brain like a conflicted democracy engaged in civil war? What do Odysseus and the subprime mortgage meltdown have in common? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin with J? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret?” I’m a question-asker myself, and so Eagleman, you had me at “Why can your foot…”

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan.  I remember hearing about this book as a young girl and imagining it to be a biblical meditation on fish. And perhaps in some way, it is! Flanagan’s “novel in twelve fish” is an epic of 19th-century Australia and features a main character who happens to be a convict painter setting out to construct an Audubon-like book celebrating the wonder of fish. I’m looking now at the words on the praise page describing Flanagan’s novel: “phantasmagorical” “brilliant or crazed or both” “mesmerizing” “slippery and outrageous” “a baggy monster of a book that does literary cartwheels on a tightrope.” SOLD!

In the meantime, I am working hard on revisions for my final portfolio and delightfully devouring the terribly addictive and sensuously witty Netflix series, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!” Excuse me while I don a flapper dress and Charleston my way through a small-town caper.

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