Recommendations

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BOOKS

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll –

Lori Says:Yes, yes. This is related to the thesis, too, but it’s also a delightful story and both an easy and a complex read. I suspect it’s one of those books that people think they’ve read, because they know the story, but haven’t. Try and get a copy with the original illustrations by John Tenniel if you can.

Pete Says: I have always been of the opinion that Carroll’s works should be read as a child, in some form or another (I sincerely doubt I read an original as a boy) and then should be read again, as an adult. They do different things, because you are bringing different things to the story itself. It’s also worth noticing that it’s a rare example of the “…and then she woke up, and it had all been a dream” ending that actually works (and it was not, you suspect, really a dream, not a normal sleeping one) and, moreover, you get to puzzle out the peculiarity that is Alice. She is not even a little bit normal. (C.S. Lewis said that Wonderland only works because Alice is normal. If she were odd, then it would be “an oddity too much.” But of course, Alice is miles and miles away from normal.)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – I first discovered and read this book when I was a Freshman in High School. I read it at every education level, either by choice or requirement, after that until I received my Bachelor’s degree. I got something new out of it each time. (Recommended by Lori)

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett – It’s what I call a perfect novel. Perfectly paced, the dialog is tight, as are the characters, and the plot just tightens and tightens until it is gleefully humming. I re-read it every few months. AND the audio book is worth a listen in addition. Wonderful jobs on voices by Stephen Briggs. Once you’ve heard the audio book, it’ll influence how you hear the characters from then on, when you read the book. (Recommended by Pete)

Polaris by Jack McDevitt – Honestly, McDevitt is the perfect person to be reading if you grew up a fan of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and the other classics. He write smooth, clean, easy to read and really good SF. Pure fun. (Recommended by Pete)

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow – This is one of those books that reaches out and stays with you. It transcends the time it was written about, the time in which it was written, and speaks straight to the human condition. (Recommended by Lori)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Read this one for many reasons. One, it’s just a fun read. Two, to see how you can take something simple, have fun with it, while simultaneously giving it more depth. (Recommend by Lori)

Sphere and Congo – both by Michael Crichton. Ignore the films, hopefully you haven’t seen either, and they won’t interfere with what are two of his best mysteries that kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very end. (Recommended by Kristine)

Superman For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale – Pete Says: Jeph Loeb generally produces rubbish these days. Which is too bad, because he has the capability to produce absolute art. This Superman book is the one that I would hand to anyone uncertain about comics, or Superman, confident that it would give them something interesting. It puts Superman in a different time (not time travel, it just handles a 30’s and 40’s America) and goes for a beautiful, old-school art style. And then, in the course of four chapters (four seasons) it tells a wonderful, human, important Superman story. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that a huge number of the really good Superman stories take place outside of the main continuity of the DC Universe. Superman, by his nature, either cheapens the in-canon story you put him in, or he is cheapened in order to allow it to progress. (Witness the wonderful Justice League cartoon: It was amazing how easy it was to stop Superman by shooting him with a laser gun.)

Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson – Pete Says: It’s always tricky, recommending Superman stuff. I think most people have just enough experience with Superman in some form to know that 99% of it is utter, utter crap. But there’s good stuff. The trick is knowing how to tell a good Superman story. And there have been a few. This one was brilliant, with strong writing and tight characterization, and it all starts from a brilliant premise… when Superman left Krypton and his pod fell to Earth, what if he didn’t land in Iowa, but landed in Communist Russia instead? It’s one of those ideas that make you go “Of course. Perfect.”

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim – Can you say “Lori’s Thesis”? I knew you could. (Recommended by Lori)

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – Pete Says: Watchmen was a vitally important piece of comic book history. It took super-heroes and deconstructed them. It put them into the real world and examined them. It was an argument for why super-heroes don’t work, and it was an argument for why they do. It’s a piece of literature, and there is no way you can process everything that it gives you in one read-through. And that said, it’s a regrettable piece of comickry, in that it was immediately followed by an endless stream of watered-down imitators and in some ways, it caused (without intending to) the loveless, joyless world of super-heroes we’re stuck with today. But it’s still an important, and delightful read. And soon, it will probably be a really crap movie (although I do have hope…)


MOVIES/TELEVISION

Doctor Who – The 21st century update of the well-known British show. (Recommended by Lori & Kristine & Pete)

Shirley Valentine – A housewife rediscovers her identity in this quirky suburban tale. (Recommended by Lori)

Dead Like Me – A girl is killed by a toilet falling from space and becomes the newest Grim Reaper. Who knew death was a day-job? This show will make you laugh, contemplate life, love, family, and if you don’t occasionally cry – you might already BE dead! (Recommended by Kristine)

Pan’s Labyrinth – It’s literature on film. It’s about fairy tales, and when they’re real, and when they’re not, and when it doesn’t matter…and at the same time, it’s an intense movie about being an adult in a very, very dangerous situation. And being a kid in the same situation. And being at war. And being in love. (Recommended by Pete)

MUSIC

Dark Passion Play by Nightwish – This is a very different CD than the other one I recommended. Mostly because they changed female lead vocalists. Different style. A visit to Youtube will get you six thousand people arguing about which singer is teh roxxors. I like them both. I think this is a great CD as well. And to prove my point, here’s a song off it that I never get sick of: The Islander. Make sure you take the time and really watch attentively the video for The Islander, please. It’s a beautiful story, all by itself. And because that one, ironically, doesn’t showcase the new girl singing at all…here’s Bye Bye, Beautiful, which rocks nicely. (Recommended by Pete)

Once by Nightwish – A fantastic, huge, epic CD. Operatic singing, except when it’s a hard rock male singer. Like the soundtrack to an epic movie that’s only in your head. And the lyrics are beautiful. Here’s one music video for the shortest song on the CD, I Wish I Had an Angel. PLEASE NOTE: Pete really wants the hairstyle of the bassist, who is the man singing and looming into the camera. ADDENDUM: And because I recommended two songs for the other Nightwish CD, here’s a second song off this one, with a different feel than the above. This is Nemo, and is gorgeous. Go find the lyrics online somewhere, too. They’re poetry, all by themselves. (Recommended by Pete)

Three Days Grace They’ve been around a while, but right now they’re resonating with me on a deep level (Recommended by Kristine)

Wild Mercy – I first heard them at the 2007 NasFic. It was just what I needed at that moment. (Recommended by Lori)

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