It's Day 2 of 28 Authors, 28 Variations on a List, and we've got a lively and versatile list from Boise author Anthony Doerr. In addition to being an eloquent book recommender, Doerr is the author most recently of Memory Wall, which was a New York Times Notable Book, winner of The Story Prize, and winner of a 2011 Pacific Northwest Book Award. Doerr's local store is Rediscovered Books. Here's his list:
Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish. (And, ahem, Herman Melville.) This book is Total Awesomeness. Kish’s eccentric, colorful illustrations, usually created on top of schematics or instruction manuals or pages torn out of books, somehow both illuminates and complicates what might be my very favorite novel. Plus, the project was produced by the creative souls at Portland’s own Tin House, so it’s a Northwest project to boot. If you really, really love the person you’re buying it for, and if that person likes sentences such as, “But look, Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl?” buy him or her this book in hardcover.
Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will. This is a thin blue hardcover containing hand-drawn maps of fifty real-life super-isolated islands, paired with whimsical, unsettling prose poems about each by a German woman who has never been to any of them. “It is high time for cartography to take its place among the arts,” Schalansky argues in her introduction, “and for the atlas to be recognized as literature, for it is more than worthy of its original name: theatrus orbis terrarum, the theatre of the world” (23). A nice gift for anyone who likes to travel, whether corporally or through language.
Alan Heathcock’s Volt. Volt consists of eight dark and electrifying (can I use that adjective to describe a book called Volt?) short stories that all center around a mythical town of Heathcock’s own invention: Krafton. Fans of stern, poetic, neo-Biblical, super-vivid writing who are looking for something different—something painstaking and devoid of smirky ironic angst—will dig this book. Plus, Heathcock lives in Boise. More Northwest Bonus Points for you.
I have a story in The Best American NonRequired Reading 2011, so they sent me a contributor’s copy, and I just finished reading it (I skipped my own piece, I promise) and it’s a very fun read. Every year a bunch of high school students, under the tutelage of editor Dave Eggers, read heaps of magazines, literary and not-so-literary, and select their favorites to include in a book. In the 2011 version, there’s a ridiculous profile of pop-star M.I.A. by Gary Shteyngart, a hilarious excerpt from Sloane Crosley’s How Did You Get This Number, and a moving profile of a suicide-catcher in Nanjing by Mike Paterniti. Probably the best thing in here is an engrossing speech William Deresiewicz gave to a plebe class at West Point called “On Solitude and Leadership” that every American should read. If you know someone too busy to pore through most of the country’s periodicals (um, everyone?), this book might make a nice gift. P.S. Proceeds benefit 826 National, Eggers' youth literary programs in eight cities around the country.
Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis by Cynthia Barnett. We Americans are churning through freshwater at an unsustainable rate (yes, even in the Northwest). Unfortunately most treatments of environmental crises read like screeds in which a lonely Cassandra shouts at the reader about impending catastrophe. But in Blue Revolution Barnett offers an evenhanded, calm and inspiring plea for a new water ethic, something that, in her words, will “help Americans see that our future ecological—and economic—prosperity depends on how well we take care of the water flowing under our feet, down our rivers, and through out wetlands” (19).