Over at our sister store, Underground Books, Miranda is our bonfire-building, southern drawling biblio-goddess and has been with Underground Books since before we opened, helping Josh prepare the space for books and book lovers. She’s been with the bookshop through the purchase of the building and our expansion and had complete charge of the bookstore for nearly 3 weeks while Megan and Josh were on their dream biblio-honeymoon. Fortunately for us, she’s on the 10 year bachelor’s plan for her psychology degree at UWG, so we get to keep her as our bookselling rockstar. She’s been the real genius behind our book-crafting operation, for all those fans of our vintage book journals, buttons, and magnets. Miranda’s not just a keystone in the bookstore’s foundation, she’s one of our very best friends in the world!
Written by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, this novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow. Little did I know when I first picked up this book I was about to experience one of the most interesting and engaging stories I’d ever read. I was blown away by Gaiman’s ability to effortlessly fuse old concepts of myth and gods with our modern world. With each page I got more drawn in and by the end I was left aching for more.
This partially autobiographical account of the life of Carl G. Jung was hugely influential in my decision to study psychology. As an eager young freshman at Georgia State I was assigned to read this book in a creative writing class and I still remember the “Oh wow!” life-changing moment I experienced while reading it in a park in downtown Atlanta. Jung opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about old concepts and ideas in this account of his life, spiritual experiences, and growth as a man. Definitely worth the read for those interested in a unique understanding of human nature and one man’s beautiful attempt to make sense of it all.
Often described as Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories. If books can be described as amusement park rides, this one would be a roller coaster (“I’m on a roller coaster of emotion!”) as it often had me laughing, crying, outraged and jubilant all in the turn of a few pages. I remember finishing it and just thinking, “Wow”.
Robbins pulls no punches with his sharp wit, hilarious dialogue, and curious philosophy in this self-described epic. The major themes of the book include the striving for immortality, the meaning behind the sense of smell, individual expression, self-reliance, sex, love, and religion. Beets and the god Pan figure prominently. Robbins masterfully navigates this funny, often absurd, saga with four distinct storylines, one set in 8th century Bohemia and three others in modern day New Orleans, Seattle and Paris. If you enjoy your philosophy with a good belly laugh, then this is the right book for you.
Though at first glance this book can come across as “just another self-help book,” Owning Your Own Shadow delves much deeper into the reasons why people behave the way they do. Johnson explores the concept of the “Shadow” and sheds light (ha!) on this mysterious beast lurking inside us all. By recognizing and owning our shadow, we begin to accept others and ourselves more fully.
Written in the beautifully poetic style of “magical realism”, Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude leads the reader on an enchanted journey spanning generations. This book is no fairy-tale, however. A dominant theme in One Hundred Years of Solitude is the inevitable and inescapable repetition of history in Macondo, the Latin American town in which the book is set. A wonderful read for those who enjoy complex, interwoven themes and storytelling.
This is a must-read for the summer. Set in south-central England, the story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphized, possessing their own culture, language, proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel follows the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way. Every time I finish this book I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost some very dear friends.
Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the “spice” melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted — and dangerous — undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its “spice.”
Graphic novels (or in this case, a graphic memoir, technically) are not a genre in which I often indulge. However, if there was ever an exception to the rule, Art Spiegelman’s Maus is it. The book uses “postmodern” techniques to tell its story of Germany during WWII—most strikingly in its depiction of a race of humans as different kinds of animals: Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and non-Jewish Poles as pigs. Spiegelman’s fiercely honest account of his father’s experience as a Jew during the Holocaust, and later as a prisoner at Auschwitz, is so engrossing, real, and touching that it is often a challenge to put the book down.
I remember a few books from my childhood that really affected me in a profound way, and the His Dark Materials trilogy is among them. An epic trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, it follows the coming of age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes. From witches and armored bears, to physics, philosophy, and theology, these books deliver hard truths mixed with magic and mystery. Though Pullman’s publishers have primarily marketed the series to young adults, Pullman also intended to speak to both older children and adults. I cannot recommend them enough to young and old readers, alike.
Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is a hauntingly beautiful work of fiction that follows a Southern Baptist missionary family living in the Congo during the country's fight for independence and the aftermath of that struggle. Be it through the eyes of the "crooked" Adah, headstrong Leah, naive Rachel or innocent Ruth-May, each of the Price daughters offers a unique glimpse into this world of hunger, hope, ruin and redemption.
The Orphan Master’s Son tells a captivating, humorous, and heartbreaking tale of life in the reclusive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Set to themes of propaganda and identity, we follow the story of Pak Jun Do, an orphan whose journey takes him from fighting in tunnels for the North Korean army, to a seafaring kidnapper, to a spy in Texas and subsequently to a work camp where he must summon all his wit and courage to survive. It’s his life after the camp, however, that is the most fascinating of all. This is a great book for those who may share my morbid curiosity about one of the most mysterious and isolated countries in the world.
Through this enchanting graphic novel we get a glimpse of life in Iran as told through the eyes of a intelligent young woman, Marjane Stratrapi, who comes of age during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. After Islamic fundamentalists take over the country, Marjane struggles to come to terms with the new oppressive rule of law. When the war becomes too dangerous, Marjane is sent to Austria at 14, where she receives a Western education. Upon her later return to Iran, Marjane must learn to reconcile her conflicting identities and find her true self. Persepolis is a beautiful and powerfully human account of the lives, struggles and dreams of the Iranian people.
Like an old familiar smell, or the first cool day in fall, this books yanks you right back into high school in all the best ways. Simon and his friends are charming, smart, and genuinely funny. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the book you find yourself pining once again for that crazy time in life where it feels like you age a decade in a week. Set in the suburbs of Atlanta, Becky Albertalli does an amazing job of telling a delightful, endearing, and achingly beautiful story of love and “coming out” in the South.