Month: August 2012

Check It Out Blog

LISTS: Novels of Ancient Greece

Gates of Fire book coverIf you like the movie 300, about 300 Spartans fending off overwhelming hordes of the Persian army at the strait of Thermopylae, then you’ll probably enjoy the similarly-themed novel Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. But your ancient historical fiction reading spree doesn’t have to stop there…

Click here for more novels set in or tied to ancient Greece.

A Love/Hate Relationship with Seattle and Life

Where'd You Go Bernadette book coverBernadette Fox is a genius, an architect, a mother, and a recent transplant to Seattle. Seattle is nothing like L.A., and Bernadette doesn’t like it. Her anxiety issues go into overdrive, agoraphobia becomes her norm, and then she suddenly disappears. Bee, Bernadette’s fifteen-year-old daughter, knows that her mother wouldn’t disappear without a good reason, especially right after she’d promised to go on an Antarctic cruise. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, is a modern epistolary tale told through memos, emails, notes, and other random ephemera that Bee has gathered about her mother’s disappearance. If you like Arrested Development or Mad About You, you might like Where’d You Go, Bernadette, as Semple was a contributing writer to both shows.

Colleen’s Pick: Grace

Colleen staff picks photoDue to Jeff Buckley’s untimely death in 1997, we are only left with one complete studio album. Grace gives a sense of the great potential in Buckley’s vocal, guitar, and songwriting abilities. Songs range from sweet vocal melodies to hard guitar-riffing rock that will leave you craving more.

Fiercely Solitary and Terribly Elegant

The Hedgehog DVD coverSometimes a prickly exterior hides true refinement, and young Paloma suspects this may be true of Madame Michel, the concierge of her family’s luxury apartment building. This intrigues Paloma, and that’s unusual, especially since she is already weary of life’s pretensions and thinking of ending her life on her twelfth birthday. While she documents her final weeks and the empty hypocrisy of those around her, she realizes that Madame Michel may be a kindred spirit. The arrival of a new tenant, a Japanese gentleman, surprises both with new possibilities and deeper understanding. Based on the exquisite novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, The Hedgehog is a gentle, bittersweet ode to the treasures of the soul.

Political, Philosophical, and Action-Packed

By all practical reasons, Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, should not be made into a movie. It consists of six interconnected stories, set in six different eras, written in six different genres.

A timeline spanning 1850 to a post apocalyptic future didn’t scare three directors – the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer). You can see their adaptation of Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, and Halle Berry, in the fall, but first, check out the book.

LISTS: Famous Writer Biopics

Quills DVD coverHunter S. Thompson was known to shoot typewriters. Dorothy Parker drank more than she wrote. Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin’s relationship was equal parts eros and literature. There are even rumors that the Marquis de Sade wrote a manuscript in blood.

Click here for movies on the strange and passionate lives of famous writers.

The Immigrant Experience Seen Through a Twenty-Something

How to Get Into the Twin Palms book coverAnya is a Polish immigrant living in a Russian neighborhood of L.A. She doesn’t know who she wants to be anymore. Anya isn’t even her real name. On her search for self, Anya obsesses over the Twin Palms, an exclusive Russian nightclub. She tries to shed her Polish roots and assimilate what she believes to be Russian mannerisms and fashion. Finally, Anya finds Lev – who has prison tattoos and makes a shady living – and she has to decide how far she’s willing to go to mingle in the elite Russian club scene. How to Get Into the Twin Palms, by The Believer’s assistant editor Karolina Waclawiak, is Anya’s story of loneliness and fitting in.

Cynthia’s Pick: Party Down

Cynthia staff picks photoIt’s L.A. and everyone’s an aspiring something. In the meantime, they cater. Six struggling artists wear pink bow ties for Party Down, a catering company. Party Down, the show, is two seasons of hilarious catering malaise, romance, rivalries, and the mishaps of being close to, but not quite invited to the party.

Fun with Maps

Maphead book coverAt seven years old, Jeopardy!-champion-to-be Ken Jennings saved his allowance for months to buy a copy of Hammond’s Medallion World Atlas. He would regularly lose himself in the complexity of tongue-twisting names, baffling shapes, and fascinating details of places all over the world. By ten, Jennings owned an entire collection of atlases, and his devotion hasn’t lessened with age. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks is his effort to clue the rest of us into the wonders of maps. Embark on a journey encompassing everything from parchment cartography to Google Earth, from geocaching to mapping fictional lands. Filled with trivia, tales, and the joy of discovery, Maphead is a road trip worth taking.

The Funniest Guy You’ve Never Heard Of

Dave Hill is a comedian, writer, and musician. You’ve probably never heard of him, but don’t worry, he’s funny. If you like David Sedaris but want less cynicism, more self deprecation, and spades of bravado, Dave Hill is for you.

Have a look at the socially awkward trailer for Hill’s debut memoir, Tasteful Nudes…and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation. It guest stars Dick Cavett and Malcolm Gladwell.