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The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds is about a young veteran of the Iraq war. Everyone I knew who had read it was comparing it to Tim Obrien’s imperishable novel The Things They Carried.

I can safely say that I love them both. Things is a book I wouldn’t ever want to do without, but Kevin Powers is a writer with real gifts.

The story unfolds in fragments. What we know at the outset is that the young narrator survived the battle of Al Tafar, but something happened. An eighteen year old named Murph is dead. We don’t know how. I don’t want to say more than that; the method by which Powers lets the story unfold–with subtlety, something missing from far too many books about wars–is one of the novel’s greatest pleasures.

The Yellow Birds isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s a powerful story, and there are innumerable tragedies just like the one it describes. There are lines and pieces and scenes that I’ll remember for a long time.

Give it a try!


On Not Receiving Prom Invitations

Joe Biden just got invited to prom by someone. He said no, but sent a corsage.

Seems like this happened last year as well, but it was someone else. Some celebrity.

I just drove by a Chili’s this weekend and saw about fifty kids with optimistic mustaches and pastel colored vests killing it with their frilled and corsaged ladies.

Prom season is here. There’s no way around it.

Someone at the library recently told me I’m totally a celebrity. “I know,” I said, “and the best part of that is that I’ll finally get to go to prom again.” And yet…no invites.

What does Joe Biden have that I don’t?

Do not answer if you are Leslie Knope



Happy Weekend, Reading Update

Hey folks, I finally got done with a round of server migrations, so all is back online, running smoothly, and I’m happy to back for the foreseeable future.

I’ll have a longer post coming on Monday, but for now I wanted to check back in and tell you what I’ve been reading:

Watership Down by Richard Adams

It’s been too long, which in this case only means two years. No surprise here, but WD is every bit as beautiful as I remembered. The appearance of Cowslip still gave me the chills, I still love the rabbits’ lore, and General Woundwort remains a great villain.

The Unpersuadables by Will Storr

Interesting look at various elements of pseudoscience. I thought this book would have an anti-religious bias, but, while it is an appeal to reason, it’s not a screed that should be off putting to people of faith.  Some of the most interesting stories about mental breakdowns and mishaps in recent memory.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution In Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

This book proved to me that there reading about a scientist who observes a few hundred finches on the Galapagos Islands for twenty years is way more fascinating then I ever could have guessed. Also, this book won a Pulitzer.

That’s it for now! Happy to be back.






Paperback Release Date

Hi all, the paperback of The World’s Strongest Librarian will be released next Tuesday. The designers at Gotham Books did a lovely job and it’s a good-looking pile of pages.

You can view it over in the sidebar on the right side of this very screen. You can even click on it. And then, if it is the will of Odin, you can even buy it. 

And it’s totally less than the hardcover!

Also, a thought for today. Someone recently asked me what I thought would make the world better. As if I know.

But I tried my best.

Here’s what I wish I had said.

If every single one of us was just a little bit nicer, more often, I don’t think it would hurt the situation any. It might even help. It might even help a lot.

An easy experiment to try!

I’m going to try.



Catching Up On Reading

Hey all, just popping back in between a mountain of travel and work.

Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Some of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer books. If you like tough guys and dames, this’ll do.

Just read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut again. Never get tired of Bokonon and those calypsos.

Roughing It by Mark Twain. This time through I’ve been paying more attention to the many illustrations, which I have just glanced at before. Worth it.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Beyond bizarre, beyond irresistible (not possible, but I wrote that anyway and can’t figure out how to edit it to just “irresistible”)

How about you? Any gems you’ve encountered recently?


Another Week of Reading

Howdy all, it’s been another busy week of reading and writing. A few observations and recommendations:

  • If there has ever been a perfect book, I think it is Lonesome DoveI’d predict that this is at least the tenth time I’ve read it. It makes me happy, instantly. Gus and Call are as or more fully realized than any other fictional creations I have ever encountere


Speaking in Minneapolis this weekend.

Hi all, if you’re in the Minneapolis area, I’ll be speaking at the RH Stafford branch of the Woodbury Public Library. The World’s Strongest Librarian was chosen as Washington County’s “One County, One Book” selection, and this is going to be a great event.

Details here! Hope to see some of you knuckleheads, particularly if I haven’t met you yet.



Overheard – Femininity At The Library

Perhaps this happened to someone like me, in a library very much like the one where I work:

I watched a man try very hard to compliment my manager one night.

“You look different somehow. What is it?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “What do you mean?”

“You just look more feminine than usual is all. I mean it as a compliment.”

“Oh. Well, thank you I guess.”

“Hey wait, did you used to have a mustache?”

That was how the conversation ended.





Why I Read Fiction

This is a post I’ve written before in a few ways, but the question does keep coming up. “Why do you read fiction? Isn’t it a waste of time? Isn’t the ‘real world’ interesting enough?”

As I grow older, I’ve been more drawn to non-fiction. Not sure why, and I honestly don’t spend much time wondering why. I read what I read and then I read whatever’s next. I still read a lot of fiction, and I think it will always matter, because stories will always matter to me.

Consider this:

Suppose you tell me an inspiring story. “I need to tell you about something that happened to me.” And it galvanizes me. [click to continue…]