This is one of the most engaging, intelligent and thoughtful film books I have read but that really shouldn't be a surprise coming from Quentin Tarantino. Cinema Speculation is not merely a film criticism book but a collection of essays on what Tarantino argues are some of the best and most important films of the New Hollywood era. His writings are rich with facts and he includes criticism from the period to bounce some of his arguments off of but what really makes his book stand out are the personal stories he shares throughout making this part-memoir too. This book is like sitting down with Tarantino himself and getting his rundown as to why these particular movies matter and the power of the cinematic experience. I cannot recommend this book enough!
TCM Underground (sadly cancelled) was the best late-night Turner Classic Movies Series spotlighting all those weird and shocking movies that once graced video store shelves and were championed by its employees. This book (co-written by its programmer de Chirico) celebrates fifty cult and late-night movies they argue are must sees including some you hopefully know (John Waters' Polyester and David Cronenberg's The Brood) and others you will be glad to now know all about (1973's The Baby - the trailer on YouTube is a must-see). A great library addition for that geeky cinephile in your life!
Percival Everett is one of America's most prolific and talented authors. Before picking up his more recent novels The Trees and Dr. No, I highly recommend So Much Blue Everett's masterpiece about a middle-aged painter obsessively at work on a painting he's keeping secret in his barn. Everett skillfully interweaves and brings together three story lines, the present with "1979" which chronicles his trip to El Salvador to find his friend's brother and "Paris" his affair with a much-younger watercolorist. A perfect novel!
Quickly working its way up through the literary canon and into conversations about not just the great American novels but the greatest is John Williams' Stoner. William Stoner is a quiet and unassuming professor but his prosaic ups-and-downs, minor regrets and Quixotic battles with his dean are all rendered in a way that feels both universal and deeply American. Considered a perfect novel by many, in its couple hundred pages you will feel like you have lived a full but unfulfilled lifetime.
Kazuo Ishiguro is the master of the slow burn and Never Let Me Go may have the most shocking revelation of any of his novels - it is so well-crafted that you almost cannot tell exactly when he first revealed it. You will live so completely in his characters' world and voice that you, just like them, will fully accept the reality before you.
My family are dog owners so picture books including dogs are always popular in my household but Doug Salati's Hot Dog is a particularly exceptional one. A little wiener dog is overwhelmed by the summer heat and bustling crowds of the city so his owner treats them to a day at the beach. This is one of those perfect picture books for kids to engage with because the author uses a few words to set the scene then allows the incredible illustrations to tell much of the story. This is a great book for those long hot days of summer or in anticipation of them.
Introduce your kiddos to one of our best women writers, Emma Straub, who has written her first children's book Very Good Hats. Everything can be a hat: The lid to a pot is a hat! The roof to a house is a hat! Even books can be hats! This is a great read-aloud book with wonderful collage illustrations by Blanca Gomez. This has been a big hit with my preschooler who is accessories-obsessed!
Bathe the Cat is another one of those perfectly silly children's books that my kids love to read then re-read while laughing throughout. Grandma is on her way to visit and there is lots to get done with chores designated to each family member using magnetic letters on the fridge. These chores include bathing the cat who slyly evades the bath by scrambling up the letters sending the family rushing around doing zany, mixed-up tasks. The illustrations are fantastic and my kiddos enjoy adding sound effects while "helping" the cat scramble up the letters on the corresponding pages.
Everyone's Awake is the perfect anti-bedtime book to add to your family's bedtime reading. In this Wes Anderson-esque lighthouse-mansion on its own island, the young narrator is restless due to their large family's nighttime shenanigans - personal faves include "My brother's staged a coup d'etat and overthrown the state while my sister's joined the resistance (they never got on great)" and "The cat is giving poke tattoos while prank calling the cops." Meloy, of the band The Decemberists, has written musical text that builds in action and absurdity and it is one of those books (like a great Pixar movie) that is just as fun for the parents as it is for the kids.
This Maurice Sendak classic is one of my other favorite bedtime books to end an evening of family reading on.
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