Pop Culture Picks for November

The following items reference well-known pop culture characters but reinterpret them in a fresh new way, for a new generation.

Miller, Frank. Superman – Year One. DC Black Label, 2019.

superman

Available via the Hoopla app

This is an exciting retelling of the Superman mythos by the same author as the groundbreaking Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One.  It is drawn by John Romita Jr, another longtime comic book artist who has previously drawn Superman as well as just about every character in the Marvel Universe.

The title may be a bit misleading, as this yarn is more than just Superman’s first year in action.  While his origin story reads as familiar territory, it is updated to modern day.  The story then takes a twist as Clark joins the navy and later discovers the underground city of Atlantis.  Later, after his arrival in Metropolis, he meets Lois Lane and dukes it out with Batman.  This graphic novel grows darker in tone as the story progresses and it’s a compelling read.  As this is only Part One of the series, I am looking forward to seeing where these two veteran cartoonists take this.


 

Cobra Kai Season 1 & 2.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD, 2019.

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Now available on DVD.

This TV series originally appeared as a YouTube original series.  It continues the story from the original 1980s films and is set in our present time, 30 years later.

Daniel LaRusso is now married with children and manages a successful car dealership. Meanwhile, Johnny Lawrence, his high school adversary, has taken a turn for the worse and is bitter about his past.  In this version, we see more of Johnny’s turbulent history, making him less of a loathsome character and actually sympathetic.   He trains a new protégé, Miguel Diaz and takes a fatherly role towards the vulnerable boy.  Daniel, worrying that Cobra-Kai has evil intentions, fights back by training his teenage daughter in the lessons he leaned from Mr. Miyagi.  Things become more complicated though when first, she befriends Miguel and later, Johnny’s estranged teenage son. All of these characters’ lives inevitably become intertwined and the harsh rivalry is reignited, setting forth the next generation of “karate kids.”  What ensues is full of humor, pathos and plenty of action in the spirit of the original.

The Most Important Thing by Avi

avi

I recently read The Most Important Thing by Avi which was just released in paperback.  This is a collection of short stories centered around the theme of father/son relationships.  Avi is well-known for his historical fiction including the Crispin series which won several awards.  The stories in The Most Important Thing take place in a contemporary setting and a are similar in tone to Avi’s previous short story collection What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything?*

All of the stories in this book are both short, straight forward and emotionally powerful.  Avi has been writing for over five decades and his writing is as sharp and on-point as ever.  I think this book would be an ideal choice for boys who are reluctant readers.

For more about this book check out this short interview with Avi here on Book Page here.

*The audio for What Do Fish Have To Do With Anything is available to listen to via the RB Digital app.

We Recommend…The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
Andy Weir
Crown Publishing, 2014

The MartianAstronaut Mark Watney – stranded alone on Mars, 140 million miles from earth. Read his daily logs and learn how he is surviving on Mars, then discover what’s happening on earth once NASA realizes he survived the accident that everyone thought had killed him. You will be amazed at Watney’s tenaciousness and ingenuity as he tackles one problem after another with grit and humor. You’ll identify with the people on earth, as they are all pulling for him to not only survive his ordeal but to be returned safely home…to earth.

8 Tips for Surviving on Mars from Andy Weir
So you want to live on Mars. Perhaps it’s the rugged terrain, beautiful scenery, or vast natural landscape that appeals to you. Or maybe you’re just a lunatic who wants to survive in a lifeless barren wasteland. Whatever your reasons, there are a few things you should know:

1: You’re going to need a pressure vessel.
Mars’s atmospheric pressure is less than one percent of Earth’s. So basically, it’s nothing. Being on the surface of Mars is almost the same as being in deep space. You better bring a nice, sturdy container to hold air in. By the way, this will be your home forever. So try to make it as big as you can.

2: You’re going to need oxygen.
You probably plan to breathe during your stay, so you’ll need to have something in that pressure vessel. Fortunately, you can get this from Mars itself. The atmosphere is very thin, but it is present and it’s almost entirely carbon dioxide. There are lots of ways to strip the carbon off carbon dioxide and liberate the oxygen. You could have complex mechanical oxygenators or you could just grow some plants…

For more of Andy’s tips on how to survive on Mars, go to Crown Publishing

On the web:
Andy Weir
Science Friday: Interview with Andy Weir
Book Trailer
Wall Street Journal: A Survival Guide To Mars

Book Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
Booklist Online
Publisher’s Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
International Business Times: Book/Movie review

Read-alikes:
Mary Roach: Packing for Mars
Geoffrey Landis: Mars Crossing
Gregory Benford: The Martian Race
Kim Stanley Robinson‘s Mars trilogy (begin with Red Mars)
Iain Banks‘ Culture series (begin with Consider Phlebas)
Ben Bova: Mars Life
Joe W Haldeman: Marsbound

The Movie opened October 2, 2015

Movie Trailer:

We Recommend…Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2015

UprootedUprooted, Naomi Novik’s newest novel, is based on Polish folklore and is reminiscent of a Grimm fairy tale. Agnieszka, the daughter of a woodcutter, finds herself unexpectedly taken from the security of her home in the village and thrust into a world she never imagined existed. Lush descriptions will draw you inexorably into a world of magic that is both despised and revered. A world comprised of villages living in fear of the Wood yet helpless to defend themselves. And a world driven by politics that are shaped in part by the Wood and the desperate fear it generates. Allow yourself to luxuriate in the complex world of Uprooted, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the bonds of friendship, love and loyalty can never be taken for granted.

On the Web:
Naomi Novik
Author Interview
Publisher’s Weekly

Read-alikes:
Robin McKinley: Spindle’s End, Beauty, Rose Daughter, The Blue Sword, and The Hero and the Crown
Juliet Marillier: Heart’s Blood
Catherynne Valente: Deathless
Kate Elliott: Cold Magic

Other Resources:
Folklore and Mythology
American Folktales
SurLaLune Fairy Tales
English Fairy Tales: Audio recordings of 43 fairy tales in the public domain.

Video book trailer

Super Pi Day!

This Saturday, March 14th, 2015 is Super Pi Day!happy-pi-day

Pi Day is the celebration of the irrational number that calculates the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Commonly expressed as 3.14159 or simply 3.14, the ending of Pi has actually never been determined. Some mathematicians have calculated up to billions or even trillions of decimal places! Here, the Pi Day website shares one million digits of Pi. Even more fascinating, these numbers are said to continue infinitely without repetition or pattern! The theory lies in understanding that squaring a circle would be impossible, thus calculating an ending to Pi would be equally unlikely. Educator Reynaldo Lopes explains the nature and applications of Pi in his TedEd lecture:

 

This Saturday is considered “Super” Pi Day because the date precisely reflects the first few digits:

3/14/15

3.1415

To get even more precise, if one notes the time at 9:26 a.m., 54 seconds, it’s even more super!

3/14/15, 9:26:54

3.14159265359

That is exactly what the University of Arizona plans to do during their Science City event this weekend, held in conjunction with the Tucson Festival of Books. Right before 9:27 a.m., Science City will host a Super Pi Kickoff, at their “Super Pi Zone.” Details here.

If you can’t visit our neighbors in Pima County this weekend, but still want to learn more about this fascinating number, here are some links and books in our collection.

Happy Super Pi Day everyone!


On the Web:

Exploratorium – Pi related crafts, activities, and links
Tucson Festival of Book’s Super Pi Day Official Facebook Page
NationalPiDay.org Activities page

Books:

indexThe Joy of Pi
by David Blatner
1997
“No number has captured the attention and imagination of people throughout the ages as much as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi is infinite and, inThe Joy of pi, it proves to be infinitely intriguing.” – Walker & Co Publishing
pi a biography

Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number
by Alfred Posamentier
2004
“We all learned that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is called pi and that the value of this algebraic symbol is roughly 3.14. What we weren’t told, though, is that behind this seemingly mundane fact is a world of mystery, which has fascinated mathematicians from ancient times to the present. Simply put, pi is weird.” – Prometheus Books


index (1)Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure

by Cindy Neuschwander
1999
“When Sir Cumference drinks a potion which turns him into a dragon, his son Radius searches for the magic number known as pi which will restore him to his former shape.” – Charlesbridge Publishing
index (2) Why Pi?
by Johnny Ball
2009
“This entertaining follow-up to DK’s popular Go Figure!, Why Pi? presents even more mind-bending ways to think about numbers. This time, author Johnny Ball focuses on how people have used numbers to measure things through the ages, from the ways the ancient Egyptians measured the pyramids to how modern scientists measure time and space.” – DK Publishing

download The Joy of Mathematics: The Great Courses DVD

by Lawrence Lessig
2007
“Ready to exercise those brain cells? Humans have been having fun with mathematics for thousands of years. Along the way, they’ve discovered the amazing utility of this field—in science, engineering, finance, games of chance, and many other aspects of life. This course of 24 half-hour lectures celebrates the sheer joy of mathematics, taught by a mathematician who is literally a magician with numbers.” – Teaching Company Publishing

We Recommend… The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Seasonbone-season-samantha-shannon-bloomsbury-cover
Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury, 2013.

Imagine the year 2059, in London.  It is a city where a Grand Inquisitor reigns, and anyone with any kind of clairvoyance or psychic ability has to hide it away, because the normal people call them “unnaturals”.  They are in constant danger of being taken by the guards and sent to a secret city that is ruled by human-looking extraterrestrials. Paige Mahoney is a special kind of clairvoyant, a dreamwalker, and she works for one of the criminal lords with a close-knit group of clairvoyants.  Then a day comes when she is kidnapped and taken to the secret city, where the Rephaim treat humans as slaves.  Paige fights the evil Rephaim, and also the strange creatures that feed on both humans and Rephaim, while constantly hoping to escape.  The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is the author’s debut novel and also the first in her series, followed by The Mime Order.

*Bonus: If you are attempting the “2015 READING CHALLENGE”, The Bone Season fulfills the challenge to read “A book written by someone under 20″, or “A popular author’s first books”, among other possible categories.

On the Web:

Official Book Series Website

 

Post by Eileen Jaffe, Pinal County Library District Cataloger

We Recommend… Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?download (3)
Roz Chast
Bloomsbury, 2014.

This book has been passed around the Library District Office, and I am the third of my co-workers to read it. It has been greatly enjoyed by all of us! If you have never read a Graphic Novel as an adult, or wondered why an adult would read a ‘comic book,’ this book is an opportunity for you to try this genre.

The story is relatable for anyone who has worried about their aging parents or who may find themselves facing this situation in the future. While the subject is serious, it is balanced by hilarious drawings and conversations that often made me laugh out loud.

In this memoir, Roz Chast uses colorful sketches and humorous anecdotes to illustrate her relationship with her aging parents. She feels guilt over the fact that both of her parents can still drive her crazy even though she is now an adult with children of her own. She is particularly concerned that her parents, now in their 90s, continue to avoid discussions about death or what kind of arrangements they would prefer regarding nursing homes and funerals. As an only child, she is on her own as she navigates the confusing world of her parents’ insurance and mounting hospital bills. Her father’s dementia makes him an easy target for her mother’s overbearing nature, yet the relationship between the parents is one of the most amusing aspects of the book.

The graphic novel format adds lightness and humor to the challenges of family relationships. A nice addition is the photos revealing her parents’ pack-rat nature and the accumulation of items over decades, such as eye glasses and kitchenware from the 1950s.

*Bonus: If you are attempting the “2015 READING CHALLENGE”, this book fulfills the challenge to read “A Graphic Novel”, and I am also listing it under the challenge to read “A book that scares you”. I was scared that the topic would be depressing, but it really was funny, true, and fantastic.

On the Web:

Roz Chast’s Offical Website
Jewish Book Council Book Club Reader’s Guide

Post by Jodi Griffith, Pinal County Library District Cataloger

We Recommend… Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Downtown Owl: A NovelDowntown_Owl_(Chuck_Klosterman_book)
Chuck Klosterman
Scribner, 2008.

The small, fictional town of Owl, North Dakota is the setting for Chuck Klosterman’s novel which questions how much the place where we live truly affects the course of our lives. Does the outcome of our lives depend on where we have settled and carry out our daily routines? Would we really have made different choices if we lived elsewhere? Or would our lives still turn out more or less the same no matter where we lived?

The chapters cycle between 3 narrators. Mitch is a high school student, whose enthusiasm for football outweighs his actual ability to pull his weight on the team. Julia has just moved to Owl to fill a position as the new high school teacher. She connects with Owl residents most fully (and copes with small town life most successfully) when she is drinking at the local bars. Horace, a seventy-year-old widow, drinks coffee with other retirees at the town diner promptly at 3:oo pm every afternoon to exchange town gossip. Through the stories of the three main characters, we also find out the stories of the other citizens in Owl. Klosterman’s clever use of language perfectly conveys the wide range of personalities and characters who populate the town.

Klosterman is most well-known for his essays on pop culture. Although I have not read his essays, I will keep my hopes up for more fiction from Chuck Klosterman.

*Bonus: If you are attempting the “2015 READING CHALLENGE”, Downtown Owl fulfills the challenge to read “A book set in a high school” among other possible categories.

On the Web:

Simon & Schuster Reading Group Guide
Chuck Klosterman Official Web Page

Post by Jodi Griffith, Pinal County Library District Cataloger

We Recommend… The Fever by Megan Abbott

The FeverThe Fever
Megan Abbott

The Fever by Megan Abbott is a psychological thriller that keeps us wanting answers.  We follow the inner dialogues of Deenie, her brother, Eli, and their father, Tom, along with Deenie’s two best friends.  When her friend Lise suddenly is struck down with a terrible seizure in class, and remains in a coma, and other girls in the school also seem to be struck with a strange illness, the whole town erupts in accusations, first about the toxic lake that glows in the dark, and then about the HPV vaccine that most of the girls were given.  Almost until the very end we cannot be sure what is causing the strange illnesses, but, finally, there is an answer, and it is a complete surprise.  This novel is a fascinating look into where desire can lead, wreaking havoc on the lives it touches.

On the web:

Author Website
Publisher Website
New York Times Book Review

Post by Eileen Jaffe, Pinal County Library District Cataloger

We Recommend… Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin

woman with a gunWoman With A Gun is the newest novel by Phillip Margolin.  This is a murder mystery, plain and simple.  Well, not so simple since there are numerous suspects and the original murder is not solved until the very end of the book.  The photograph of the woman with a gun on the front cover is a photograph that the author saw in a restaurant, and he was so taken with it that he bought it and wrote this novel around it.  There are a number of main characters, one of whom is the young woman novelist who sees the photograph at the Museum of Modern Art and is so excited by it that she wants to write a novel about it.  Yes, just like Margolin!  We are taken back in years to the original murder when the photograph was taken, and then the author dips into the lives of the different characters here and there through the years, finally returning to the young writer who probes in just the right places to solve everything.   This novel is well written and totally engrossing and the photograph really is begging to tell a story.

Post by Eileen Jaffe, Cataloger, Pinal County Library District