Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Love List #1: Marilyn Smith

This time of year is flooded with end-of-the-year lists. Year's Best! Year's Most Popular! Year's Worst! Everyone, it seems, wants to enumerate their likes and dislikes and skin them down to a tidy collection that can fit onto a piece of paper (or webpage!). There's the New York Times list of the "10 Best Books of 2011." There's the delightful "A Year in Reading" from The Millions. There are lists for the best movies, the worst television shows, the most popular baby names. If you venture onto the internet or listen to the radio, you can't make it through the month of December without bumping your eyes or ears against these lists at least once a day.

And we're about to add our own.

Why, you ask?

We recently ran across the Literary Geek Gift Guide that the lusciously witty Maria Dahvana Headley is posting on her blog. And after admiring her gorgeous, unusual, and utterly tempting selections, it became obvious that the reason these end-of-year/gift guide/best of lists are so popular is that they can be a whole lot of fun. Treasure maps to offer you aid and succor on your search for the next thing that you, or a friend, or loved one can fall head-over-heels for.

So, in the next few weeks, you'll be hearing from our own brilliant Keplerites and some of our favorite local authors on the books they loved in 2011 and think you might love too.

Marilyn Smith often manages to point me to books that I've heard of, but haven't quite been tempted to pick up yet. And then her enthusiasm and descriptions propel me over the edge and I find myself emerging with several new favorites. Her reading rides rough and tumble over such piddling distinctions as "genre" or "age level," and she can almost always recommend a book for almost anyone. It's impressive. She very kindly sent me an impressive list of her favorite titles, organized by age level.

This is Marilyn.


For me, a day that I don’t wear earrings or read is a cryin’ shame of a day! Both things are as necessary as breathing for me. And since I’m curious about nearly everything, the daily quest for the newest, next beauty is always dangling as a shiny promise just around the corner.


The Conductor
by: Laetitia Devernay

The forest conductor has regal, stately trees for his orchestra – each with its own sound and voice for this symphony’s magic. He perches atop the tallest tree, his arms spread, baton ready, and the forest music starts! Swoops and leaps of leaves take flight to dance and create new patterns and sound in the great sky. 

This lyrical wordless tale shares the graceful beauty of the forest symphony. Take a bow, maestro, then please - Encore, Encore!

Over and Under the Snow
by: Kate Messner
Illustrations: Christopher Silas Neal

The little girl and her dad ski through wintry woods. They see the snow crust is laced with animal tracks: the quiet rabbit, a pouncing fox. But where are all the other animals? The clever illustrations show all kinds of forest creatures tucked in their dens and nestled in sleep. I love that this book celebrates the magic of a snowy forest wonder land.


The Crowfield Curse
by: Pat Walsh

By chance, Will rescues an injured Hob and quickly finds his once dull life brimming with spooky adventure and daring battles. If you love fairy tales with hobgoblins, angels, and the like--you're sure to love this book!

The Inquisitor's Apprentice
by: Chris Moriarty

Early 20th century Lower East Side New York pulses with people and magic in this exciting tale. The air is abuzz with invention and industry – and magic. But it seems powerful political forces are trying to control the magic market. New NYPD Inquisitor Apprentices Sacha Kessler and Lily Astral find  more danger and excitement than any kid dreams of! Funny and inventive, this book is perfect for magic lovers!


The Scorpio Races
by: Maggie Stiefvater

Thisby Island is home to the infamous Scorpio Races held every year in early November. That’s when the mythical carnivorous water horses jump onto land, terrorizing unwary citizens and animals with their insatiable hunger. Thisby Island is where the brave, hardy, or foolish ride these awesome beasts to fame and glory or agonizing death. And this year, Kate Connolly will join those riders –against all odds. What a marvelous book – I absolutely love the action and tension!

by: Ilsa J. Bick

Ellie has a growing tumor that’s hiding, but it will be back and she needs to make a trip for her parents before she no longer can. She heads into the Michigan wilderness with her parents’ ashes while she can still walk and function. Then the morning is smashed by shattering jolts of energy that throw Ellie and her companions to the ground in explosive pain. Terrified animals stampede past, escaping something unseen and deadly. Ellie knows the world has changed drastically and she learns how she’s changed in ways that both interest and threaten the survivors she meets. Ashes, a high-octane fueled book with plenty of plot twists and wicked surprises, is perfect for action fans.


The Cat's Table
by: Michael Ondaatje

Three boys set off for school on a three week voyage bound for England. They have slight supervision and are left to pursue their own interests and intrigues. At the first dinner aboard ship they sit at the “cat’s table” far from the captain’s glittery table and open to endless possibilities of adventure. I reread whole sections of this book for the story’s beauty and the elegance of Ondaatje’s writing, and I will, of course, read it again with pleasure.

The Chicken Chronicles
by: Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s random sighting of a lone chicken while traveling starts her quest to reconnect and revisit points in her life. What more fitting start to her project than getting her own chickens to raise not for food but for their unique “chicken-ness”? I love Walker’s dialogue and the wisdom that is gathered here is like fresh eggs in a basket.

Rin Tin Tin
by: Susan Orlean

A newborn pup rescued by an American G.I. from shattered battlefields in France grows to be a superstar of film and TV named Rin Tin Tin. Susan Orlean writes this wonderful biography of both dog and trainer’s shared lives. Rich in detail, Rin Tin Tin is endearing as well as entertaining.

Travels in Siberia
by: Ian Frazier

Siberia. The very name creates a stir in your mind -  vast blankness, endless frozen land, remote in every conceivable way. The idea of Siberia, with limitless vistas stretching into grayness, dwarfs most people’s ideas of the geographic boundaries that root a place, giving it a manageable grasp and shape. Ian Frazier expertly guides readers through the enormous landmass that is Siberia and its people – excellent!

Fiction Ruined My Family
by: Jeanne Darst

A truly gutsy, honest and brash biography – my favorite kind of book.  Author Jeanne Darst is well placed being the youngest of four daughters, quick to hear, see and note all her artistic family’s adventures as well as her own. Darst’s book isn’t so much a series of family events but more a carousel of changing fortunes, direction, wildly divergent interests, and whimsy.

The Night Circus
by: Erin Morgenstern

Imagine a circus, brilliant in design, sumptuous with whimsy, delight and intrigue. Add a love story and you have a most delicious book to savor!

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