Gene Yang: American Born Chinese
From Matt: I read this before it became a National Book Award finalist and found it stunning and elegant in its simplicity.
Nathaniel Philbrick: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
From Meredith: If you can handle the grisly details, this book offers a rich account of the adventure and tragedy that inspired the ending of Melville’s Moby Dick. Philbrick’s version of this famous true story is packed with fascinating historical anecdotes, medical facts, and psychology that truly bring home what happened to the crew aboard the Nantucket whaleship sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific in the early 1800s.
Ivan Turgenev: Sketches from a Hunter's Album
From Mina: As I’d long wanted to read the entire collection of Turgenev’s Sketches (and as I was in the frame of mind to read stories involving samovars and meals of dark bread and kvas), I did just that this weekend. The lapidary beauty of the stories will take your breath away.
Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon
From Carey: A short, but haunting classic read that investigates the benefits of having a superior IQ or is ignorance truly bliss. Through his reflective journal entries, experience Charlie’s transformation from a mentally retarded adult to a lab-made genius. An honest story on the cruelties of life and society.
Steven Levy: The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness
From Jeff: Really great history of the iPod, from conception to rise and ultimate influence of a generation (or rather, lots of generations; there aren't many appliances that both my stepmom and I agree we can't live without) I've liked Levy since his last book about Apple, "Insanely Great." Where that one was, well, great, this one's, uh, perfect.
The Hard and the Easy: Great Big Sea
From Matt: One of those wonderful internet finds, The Hard and the Easy mixes traditional Newfoundland folk songs with modern pop - great for those days when you wish you were a pirate.
Zox: The Wait
From Meredith: This indie band’s music is a blend of rock, reggae, punk, balladry, and classical, among other genres, and their signature sound comes from the electric violin. Their sophomore album is a great sampling of their style. After touring hard for two years, Zox will begin writing their next album this winter – I’m excited to see what’s next.
Marvin Gaye: What's Going On
From Mina: I am always into this album. As socially, politically, and musically relevant today as it was when it was issued in 1971 as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know of too many songwriters who can successfully incorporate “fish full of mercury” into the lyrics for a song.
Joni Mitchell: Blue
From Carey: Joni may be an old folk favorite for many, but she’s a relatively new discovery to me. Her simple acoustic accompaniment and distinctive melodies allow the listeners to explore the graceful highs and sultry lows of Joni’s voice. Get ready to tap your foot and sing out loud.
Sparklehorse: Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
From Jeff: Really, really great stuff from mostly one-man band Mark Linkous, here getting help from producer Danger Mouse and Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips. However, my favorite songs are the ones that Linkous recorded by himself, playing all instruments, like "Shade and Honey." Contender for best record of the year.
From Jeff: I bought this Australian duo's first CD back in 1999, and hadn't thought of them in years--and didn't even know they were still around--until I saw this last week, which is their new record. Their sound hasn't changed much in almost a decade, and that's mostly a good thing; it's still quiet, calm, and really good.
Beck: The Information
From Jeff: Wow, this CD is just plain awful; it sounds like a bad Beck impersonation, except it's really him. Five or so years after his majestic and perfect Sea Change, he's going back his Mutations-era white-boy funk, and it's just not working.
- The Prestige
From Matt: The scriptwriters made quite a few changes from the book, but they were all for the best - and booklover though I am I have to admit that its better to see magic than to read about it.
- Mon Oncle
From Mina: I adore this film. Monsieur Hulot’s very modern sister and brother-in-law don’t know what to do with Tati’s charmingly untidy and bungling protagonist, who inhabits a world where meaning is still more important than appearances.
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky
From Carey: A must see Hayao Miyazaki’s anime is Laputa: Castle in the Sky, originally released in 1986. A fantasy film that explores the altruistic and compassionate nature of humans, aspects lost through repeated exposure to power, technology, and the complexities brought by the combination of the two.