Not Your Average Book

Title: Winterdance (The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod)
Author: Gary Paulsen
Don’t think this is some boring biography like the ones we read about historical figures in high school. If you ever enjoyed Jack London books, you should pick this one up as soon as possible. If you’ve never heard of Jack London, this book will probably give you a taste for that kind of literature.
Paulsen’s story-telling technique is excellent, though sometimes he describes experiences a little out of order. While Jack London’s books are largely written from the point of the view of the dog, Paulsen’s book is very much from a human perspective. His trials and tribulations trying to prepare for this crazy race with a crazy bunch of dogs almost trump the actual experience of the race itself.
My copy of the book declares on the front how it inspired the motion picture “Snow Dogs”, but the striking difference between the two mediums is almost ridiculous. Snow Dogs is a comedy, a chuckle and a heartwarming ending at best. Winterdance is an exploration of the human condition and our individual relationships with nature and the universe with natural-feeling humor and beautiful honesty sprinkled evenly throughout the story. The dogs, humans, wild animals, and nature are all savage as hell but there is an incredible innocence to it all. The race is crazy, a killer, hard to finish and even more difficult to win. It is, indeed, a fine madness.
I was doubtful about what the tone would be like, but it is very far from scientific and despite the constant descriptions of below-freezing temperatures, Paulsen is a warm writer that draws you in and lets you experience the wonder of it all right alongside him. He is full of good humor and determination even through circumstances that would have most of us intelligibly cursing the heavens and everything that exists, and he leaves nothing out - including embarrassing amounts of ignorance and just plain physical embarrassments.
I almost wish he’d lingered more on the actual Iditarod (which all told, only took up about the last fourth of the book), but I don’t feel at all unsatisfied by all the things this book gave me to think about. This isn’t the kind of book that changes you in one big crazy way - it’s the kind of book that changes you in dozens of tiny inconspicuous ways.
I still find it very hard to imagine zero degrees as a balmy temperature, though.
-Kate

Title: Winterdance (The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod)

Author: Gary Paulsen

Don’t think this is some boring biography like the ones we read about historical figures in high school. If you ever enjoyed Jack London books, you should pick this one up as soon as possible. If you’ve never heard of Jack London, this book will probably give you a taste for that kind of literature.

Paulsen’s story-telling technique is excellent, though sometimes he describes experiences a little out of order. While Jack London’s books are largely written from the point of the view of the dog, Paulsen’s book is very much from a human perspective. His trials and tribulations trying to prepare for this crazy race with a crazy bunch of dogs almost trump the actual experience of the race itself.

My copy of the book declares on the front how it inspired the motion picture “Snow Dogs”, but the striking difference between the two mediums is almost ridiculous. Snow Dogs is a comedy, a chuckle and a heartwarming ending at best. Winterdance is an exploration of the human condition and our individual relationships with nature and the universe with natural-feeling humor and beautiful honesty sprinkled evenly throughout the story. The dogs, humans, wild animals, and nature are all savage as hell but there is an incredible innocence to it all. The race is crazy, a killer, hard to finish and even more difficult to win. It is, indeed, a fine madness.

I was doubtful about what the tone would be like, but it is very far from scientific and despite the constant descriptions of below-freezing temperatures, Paulsen is a warm writer that draws you in and lets you experience the wonder of it all right alongside him. He is full of good humor and determination even through circumstances that would have most of us intelligibly cursing the heavens and everything that exists, and he leaves nothing out - including embarrassing amounts of ignorance and just plain physical embarrassments.

I almost wish he’d lingered more on the actual Iditarod (which all told, only took up about the last fourth of the book), but I don’t feel at all unsatisfied by all the things this book gave me to think about. This isn’t the kind of book that changes you in one big crazy way - it’s the kind of book that changes you in dozens of tiny inconspicuous ways.

I still find it very hard to imagine zero degrees as a balmy temperature, though.

-Kate

Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
For Nerdfighters, this is not an unfamiliar book. For everybody else, however, this book is quite the mystery. Reading the short blurb inside the front cover, you might think “a cancer book? I don’t want to read a cancer book! People with cancer tend to die! This book must be depressing.”
It is a little depressing, but believe me when I tell you that it’s much more than that. It’s invigorating and soul-searching. It’s insightful, thoughtful, and hopeful. It’s about the beauty and life that two sick kids find in each other and full of funny moments that anybody can relate to. This book is not about death - it’s about life.
This book is so jokes and I promise that if you don’t like it, you can track me down and punch me.
If you’re at all curious about the book, get a taste of it before you read it by watching the author read the first two chapters.
-Kate

Title: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John Green

For Nerdfighters, this is not an unfamiliar book. For everybody else, however, this book is quite the mystery. Reading the short blurb inside the front cover, you might think “a cancer book? I don’t want to read a cancer book! People with cancer tend to die! This book must be depressing.”

It is a little depressing, but believe me when I tell you that it’s much more than that. It’s invigorating and soul-searching. It’s insightful, thoughtful, and hopeful. It’s about the beauty and life that two sick kids find in each other and full of funny moments that anybody can relate to. This book is not about death - it’s about life.

This book is so jokes and I promise that if you don’t like it, you can track me down and punch me.

If you’re at all curious about the book, get a taste of it before you read it by watching the author read the first two chapters.

-Kate

Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
I’m still discovering the power of books that are written for adults rather than for teenagers. I spent most of my childhood and teen years reading, quite understandably, books for which I was the target audience. Fantasies, mostly, Nancy Drew, Narnia, and any novel about horses that I could find. All good and dandy, educational and entertaining, sure. But now that I’m older, they’re not enough. I don’t need to just learn some vocabulary or be entertained - I want to learn something about myself and other people.
I found this book in my grandparent’s house when I stayed over for the night - simply picked it up and started reading it. My grandma had promised it to a friend but she diligently mailed it to me when her friend was done with it - even placing a bookmark on the exact page where I left off. The books is about a middle-aged Harvard professor with a husband and three kids who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is well-written and easy to read without dumbing anything down, and it is very easy to put yourself in Alice’s shoes and experience her breakdown of memory and cognition, having to resort her priorities, reconnecting with her more free-spirited daughter, holding her first grandchildren before she forgets they’re hers, and learning how to show people that despite her dementia, she is Still Alice. 
This book presents a lot of what ifs to the reader, like what if it were you? Who would you spend your last cogent years with? Who would be there when your memory fails you? I don’t think that being young means a reader can’t empathize and connect with a character much older that them. Many of the problems Alice faces are only barely connected to her disease - reconnecting with family, relearning how to love whole-heartedly, and accepting yourself even when you can’t live up to your own standards. She discovers that the brain with all it’s intelligence, knowledge, and even language can’t begin to measure up to the importance of the heart’s unconditional love and finding pleasure in simple things.
-Kate

Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

I’m still discovering the power of books that are written for adults rather than for teenagers. I spent most of my childhood and teen years reading, quite understandably, books for which I was the target audience. Fantasies, mostly, Nancy Drew, Narnia, and any novel about horses that I could find. All good and dandy, educational and entertaining, sure. But now that I’m older, they’re not enough. I don’t need to just learn some vocabulary or be entertained - I want to learn something about myself and other people.

I found this book in my grandparent’s house when I stayed over for the night - simply picked it up and started reading it. My grandma had promised it to a friend but she diligently mailed it to me when her friend was done with it - even placing a bookmark on the exact page where I left off. The books is about a middle-aged Harvard professor with a husband and three kids who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is well-written and easy to read without dumbing anything down, and it is very easy to put yourself in Alice’s shoes and experience her breakdown of memory and cognition, having to resort her priorities, reconnecting with her more free-spirited daughter, holding her first grandchildren before she forgets they’re hers, and learning how to show people that despite her dementia, she is Still Alice. 

This book presents a lot of what ifs to the reader, like what if it were you? Who would you spend your last cogent years with? Who would be there when your memory fails you? I don’t think that being young means a reader can’t empathize and connect with a character much older that them. Many of the problems Alice faces are only barely connected to her disease - reconnecting with family, relearning how to love whole-heartedly, and accepting yourself even when you can’t live up to your own standards. She discovers that the brain with all it’s intelligence, knowledge, and even language can’t begin to measure up to the importance of the heart’s unconditional love and finding pleasure in simple things.

-Kate

Title: Godmother (The Secret Cinderella Story)
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Don’t let the whimsical cover and title fool you. This book is a book about introspection, regrets, fessing up to your mistakes and learning from them. It’s about learning to accept yourself and where you are in life, no matter how bleak life might be. It is a fairy tale story for adults that pulled me steadily along for an entire evening until I had the book finished, and I sat, unsatisfied, thinking about mortality and the mind and my own dreams and fantasies. 
The book is about Lil, an old fairy who is cursed to live a human life, her only solace being her job at a small bookshop and a small rare tome there about fairytales, with an inscription on the inside that says “All my loves will be returned to me.” As she struggles with hiding her true self and spending an eternity away from her fairy friends, she dreams often of the previous life she had with her fairy friends, before she was chosen to be Cinderella’s godmother and messed everything up. Before she fell in love with the Prince and it all fell apart.
Generations later and she feels she has the chance to make up for her mistake. The young gentleman who owns the bookshop and lives in the apartment above is starting to feel like he’ll never meet the right girl when a beautiful young woman bounces into the shop to sell Lil some used books - including a small book with old photographs of some young girls and their fairy friends, written off as a hoax, but Lil recognizes her fairy friends and her hope is renewed. The woman strongly reminds Lil of her younger sister, and her newfound strength allows her to see that the quiet book-keeper and the exuberant hairdresser are meant for each other. 
The furthest thing from a romantic Disney story, this book is sometimes about true love but it is mostly about human nature and self-forgiveness. If you’ve only ever read books from a young person’s point of view, you are missing out. And if you like dark or twisted fairy tales and haven’t read this book, you are also missing out. 
And if you only read love stories, you are the one who is missing out the most. 
-Kate

Title: Godmother (The Secret Cinderella Story)

Author: Carolyn Turgeon

Don’t let the whimsical cover and title fool you. This book is a book about introspection, regrets, fessing up to your mistakes and learning from them. It’s about learning to accept yourself and where you are in life, no matter how bleak life might be. It is a fairy tale story for adults that pulled me steadily along for an entire evening until I had the book finished, and I sat, unsatisfied, thinking about mortality and the mind and my own dreams and fantasies. 

The book is about Lil, an old fairy who is cursed to live a human life, her only solace being her job at a small bookshop and a small rare tome there about fairytales, with an inscription on the inside that says “All my loves will be returned to me.” As she struggles with hiding her true self and spending an eternity away from her fairy friends, she dreams often of the previous life she had with her fairy friends, before she was chosen to be Cinderella’s godmother and messed everything up. Before she fell in love with the Prince and it all fell apart.

Generations later and she feels she has the chance to make up for her mistake. The young gentleman who owns the bookshop and lives in the apartment above is starting to feel like he’ll never meet the right girl when a beautiful young woman bounces into the shop to sell Lil some used books - including a small book with old photographs of some young girls and their fairy friends, written off as a hoax, but Lil recognizes her fairy friends and her hope is renewed. The woman strongly reminds Lil of her younger sister, and her newfound strength allows her to see that the quiet book-keeper and the exuberant hairdresser are meant for each other. 

The furthest thing from a romantic Disney story, this book is sometimes about true love but it is mostly about human nature and self-forgiveness. If you’ve only ever read books from a young person’s point of view, you are missing out. And if you like dark or twisted fairy tales and haven’t read this book, you are also missing out. 

And if you only read love stories, you are the one who is missing out the most. 

-Kate

Title: Ella Minnow Pea
Author: Mark Dunn
Ella Minnow Pea is a deceptively charming little book. Reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon and Swimming With Dolphins, the book’s story is told solely using the letters of the people living on a fictional island off the east coast of the US. Said island is the imaginary place of origin for Nevin Nollop, the man who wrote the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The island in the book is named after him and there is even a statue in town with the famous sentence inscribed on tiles.
When the tiles start to fall from the statue, the island’s linguiphiles are in for a shock. The island’s council begins a campaign that will have serious repercussions for the inhabitants, for by decree the letters that fall are banned from use in both written and spoken language. Nollop is deified and their very way of life is threatened. Eliminate the lost letters, or face public punishment and eventually banishment - on threat of death if you return to the island. Thus begins a war against crazed fanaticism and daily censorship. The majority of the correspondence in the book are letters written between a girl named Ella and her cousin, who is also her best friend. The reader follows along as entire words must be eliminated from vocabularies, months and days of the week are renamed, and the islander’s lives fall apart. A people that once loved language, letters, and writing above all else fold up into a collection of people that dare not talk or write too much, for fear of a slip-up that might result in banishment. The only way to end the madness is for an islander to write a pangram that is shorter than Nollop’s famous phrase, to prove that he was not an unmatchable genius or a god in any form. 
I can only imagine the challenge of actually writing this book, and admire the unique way it was written. It would have been one thing to describe the happenings on the island without restricting yourself. Instead Dunn gives the reader access to the islanders’ personal and private letters, giving an up close and personal experience of the frustration, fear, and determination. This is a book that deserves to be a classic, read in schools for years to come, to be analyzed and applied to daily life. A whimsical yet dark picture of government run amuck, while emphasizing the importance of our letters, words, and language to communicating and expressing ourselves.
An outstanding book and one that appeals to any reader, as I imagine if you like reading books, you have an inherit appreciation for words and language.
-Kate

Title: Ella Minnow Pea

Author: Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a deceptively charming little book. Reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon and Swimming With Dolphins, the book’s story is told solely using the letters of the people living on a fictional island off the east coast of the US. Said island is the imaginary place of origin for Nevin Nollop, the man who wrote the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The island in the book is named after him and there is even a statue in town with the famous sentence inscribed on tiles.

When the tiles start to fall from the statue, the island’s linguiphiles are in for a shock. The island’s council begins a campaign that will have serious repercussions for the inhabitants, for by decree the letters that fall are banned from use in both written and spoken language. Nollop is deified and their very way of life is threatened. Eliminate the lost letters, or face public punishment and eventually banishment - on threat of death if you return to the island. Thus begins a war against crazed fanaticism and daily censorship. The majority of the correspondence in the book are letters written between a girl named Ella and her cousin, who is also her best friend. The reader follows along as entire words must be eliminated from vocabularies, months and days of the week are renamed, and the islander’s lives fall apart. A people that once loved language, letters, and writing above all else fold up into a collection of people that dare not talk or write too much, for fear of a slip-up that might result in banishment. The only way to end the madness is for an islander to write a pangram that is shorter than Nollop’s famous phrase, to prove that he was not an unmatchable genius or a god in any form. 

I can only imagine the challenge of actually writing this book, and admire the unique way it was written. It would have been one thing to describe the happenings on the island without restricting yourself. Instead Dunn gives the reader access to the islanders’ personal and private letters, giving an up close and personal experience of the frustration, fear, and determination. This is a book that deserves to be a classic, read in schools for years to come, to be analyzed and applied to daily life. A whimsical yet dark picture of government run amuck, while emphasizing the importance of our letters, words, and language to communicating and expressing ourselves.

An outstanding book and one that appeals to any reader, as I imagine if you like reading books, you have an inherit appreciation for words and language.

-Kate

Title: Till We Have Faces (A Myth Retold)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Three years ago a friend gave me an old marked up copy of this book imploring me to read it. I was never a huge fan of C.S. Lewis so it was easy to put off its reading until recently, when I finally decided to get it out of the way.  I was pleasantly surprised. In the beginning it reads like many other “old tales,” but as the narrator, Orual, continued, I realized it is something more. The book is a reworking of the Cupid and Psyche myth of Greek mythology, set in a small barbaric country. The narrator reveals herself to be very different from the princess characters seen in other novels of this time. Referred to by her father as “Curd face,” she is a character who must handle being dealt “the face of a goblin” and her virginity in a house with two beautiful sisters, an abusive father, and no mother. However, these are petty matters in light of the rest of the plot.  Essentially this book is a complaint against the gods, an accusation for a court made by a mortal to challenge deity. It is about love, the love of an outwardly asexual woman for her sister-child, her love for the people that surround her, which never seems to satisfy them.  Orual is a jealous, self-centered and stubborn character in amounts appropriate to her barbarian pedigree but she is also noble in her own way and single minded with such devotion that it is hard to tell if she is an obsessive glutton for the love she wants or completely selfless.  Is to love something to devour it?This is a book that is not for all readers.  Of the three people I know who have read this book two loved it and say it is far better than any of the Narnia books and the other said it was tedious and he could not even complete it. (But he also said he rarely enjoys a book where the leading character is female, if I may discredit him.)  In the latter half, the book does become somewhat philosophical and spiritual, following along as Orual fights an battle to decide if she is god or will declare war on the gods. In the end, I would recommend this book to people who feel they are not limited to modern fiction and want more than just an easy no-think read. You do not have to be C.S. Lewis follower to enjoy this book, in fact even if you are slightly frightened of Lewis you may still enjoy this read and find it provoking. Many Christians overlook this book because of its roots in mythology while many adult secular readers wouldn’t even pick it up after seeing who wrote it, so it has become a hidden treasure. Till We Have Faces explores what it is to be human, and it is a profound and thought provoking book. -Erin

Title: Till We Have Faces (A Myth Retold)

Author: C.S. Lewis

Three years ago a friend gave me an old marked up copy of this book imploring me to read it. I was never a huge fan of C.S. Lewis so it was easy to put off its reading until recently, when I finally decided to get it out of the way.  I was pleasantly surprised. In the beginning it reads like many other “old tales,” but as the narrator, Orual, continued, I realized it is something more. The book is a reworking of the Cupid and Psyche myth of Greek mythology, set in a small barbaric country. The narrator reveals herself to be very different from the princess characters seen in other novels of this time. Referred to by her father as “Curd face,” she is a character who must handle being dealt “the face of a goblin” and her virginity in a house with two beautiful sisters, an abusive father, and no mother. However, these are petty matters in light of the rest of the plot.  Essentially this book is a complaint against the gods, an accusation for a court made by a mortal to challenge deity. It is about love, the love of an outwardly asexual woman for her sister-child, her love for the people that surround her, which never seems to satisfy them.  Orual is a jealous, self-centered and stubborn character in amounts appropriate to her barbarian pedigree but she is also noble in her own way and single minded with such devotion that it is hard to tell if she is an obsessive glutton for the love she wants or completely selfless.  Is to love something to devour it?

This is a book that is not for all readers.  Of the three people I know who have read this book two loved it and say it is far better than any of the Narnia books and the other said it was tedious and he could not even complete it. (But he also said he rarely enjoys a book where the leading character is female, if I may discredit him.)  In the latter half, the book does become somewhat philosophical and spiritual, following along as Orual fights an battle to decide if she is god or will declare war on the gods.

In the end, I would recommend this book to people who feel they are not limited to modern fiction and want more than just an easy no-think read. You do not have to be C.S. Lewis follower to enjoy this book, in fact even if you are slightly frightened of Lewis you may still enjoy this read and find it provoking. Many Christians overlook this book because of its roots in mythology while many adult secular readers wouldn’t even pick it up after seeing who wrote it, so it has become a hidden treasure. Till We Have Faces explores what it is to be human, and it is a profound and thought provoking book.

-Erin

Hello and Good Morning!

This blog should be up and running in a couple of months. The authors are a couple of bibliophiles who want to share many of the less advertised and lesser known books with other people! Pretty much any book goes, though we’ll be featuring mostly novels - as long as it’s not a current bestseller or one of those books that everybody already knows about! (Examples of well-known are Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, etc)

Really looking forward to running this blog and hope to keep it going for a long while!

If you want to suggest books for us to read, use the submission page or ask box. We have plenty of book piled up already but we love ideas of what to get next!

Our current book sources include: the internet, goodwill, and used bookstores.