A Student Review

The Literary world is a big one.  There's a lot of reading material to navigate and it's hard to know  where to find the good books--the ones that are memorable and entertaining, inspiring and well-written.  This is where book reveiws, the ones written by readers like yourself, make all the difference. 

A Book Review: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!
"What was Adam and Eve's relationship like?  What was it like for Noah to hear God's directons for building the ark?  Who came up with the idea of worshipping a golden calf? 

In this witty collection of short stories, Jonathan Goldstein puts his spin on such classic Old Testament stores as Cain and Able, the Tower of Babel, and David and Goliath.  Funny and at time poetic, the sories have a quirky twist that will put a smile on your face."

student employee

As the saying goes, "You are what you eat"

Cookbooks, the quintessential source of inspiration in most every kitchen.  The cookbooks that line the shelves of a kitchen say as much about a cook as a bookshelf does a reader.  Cookbooks capture personality and above all, taste. 
Naturally, there should be some representation of BYU in any alumni or current student’s kitchen.  BYU is known for having its own culture, and that definitely extends to culinary matters.
Think of your first BYU brownie.  The countless snacks you prepared for FHE nights.  The ward activities and subsequent feasts, lovingly known as “Break the Fast.”
The Cougar Cookbook captures some of those BYU memories, with recipes for starters, entrĂ©es, desserts and snacks. Recipes for “Tower” breadsticks, BYU-Idaho potato skins, Blue-and-White Chicken Chili, Happy Valley Fudge and of course, BYU’s Famous mint brownies, to name a few. 
The truth is, being a BYU Cougar is more of a lifestyle than simply a temporary status. BYU roots should be embraced in all areas of life, especially in the kitchen. 

Find the BYU Cougar Cookbook at the BYU Bookstore.

In Celebration of Utah

“Those pioneers who broke the sunbaked soil of the Mountain West valleys came for one reason only—’to find,’ as Brigham Young is reported to have said, ‘a place where the devil can’t come and dig us out.’ They found it, and against almost overwhelming adversities they subdued it. They cultivated and beautified it for themselves.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
Utah is known for a lot of things: red rock and National Forests, the highest wedding and birth announcements sold per capita, a predominately Mormon culture, and Jimmer, of all things. Come this weekend, however, our hearts turn to our fathers and we remember the sacrifices and efforts of the first settlers in Utah: the Pioneers.
On July 24th, 1847, Brigham Young looked upon the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the right place."  With this declaration, the early Mormon Saints went forth "beautifying" the land, as President Hinckley said.  They built temples and homes, practicing their faith with relentless devotion.  This year, 164 years later, our state owes so much to these original settlers.  Utah hosts some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country, along with other universally known landmarks.  The pioneers put Utah on the map, so to speak, but also established this state as one of religion and refuge.
In celebration, a few books that highlight some of Utah's best features:
Utah by Fred Hirschmann
This book is of the coffee table variety, with large, glossy photographs and a sturdy hardcover.  The photographs therin feature some of Utah's most breathtaking views, from the "sandstone cliffs of Zion Canyon to the wildflower meadows of the Uinta Mountains."  Utah's natural landscape is one of its most noteworthy attributes and draws visitors from all over the world.  With the outdoors playing such a large role in Utah's culture, this book perfectly captures the grandeur (and at times, desolation) within our state.
Find Utah at the BYU Bookstore

Pioneer stories are well beloved and well used within the Church.  Some stories are so frequently told they feel like more of a legend than an a true account.  This book features Mary Ann Hafen's stories of crossing the plains as only a young girl, freshly uprooted from her life in Switzerland.  For all of the "storytelling" that surrounds pioneer stories, this book takes on a refreshing tone of authenticity and femininity, written by Mary Ann herself. The writing has a "matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life."  The perfect alternative for watching "Legacy," again. 
Find Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860 at the BYU Bookstore

The highlights of this book are the paintings of Eric Dowdel, all of which capture the heart and soul of Utah.  Dowdle, a folk artist, based his paintings on some of Utah's most memorable scenes and places.  Accompanied by a historical and imaginative narrative, as well as a note from Dowdel for each of the paintings, this books makes an excellent collection for anyone who loves art or Utah, or ideally both.
Find Utah at the BYU Bookstore

William Makepeace Thackery, the big 2-00!

Vanity Fair (Soft Cover Book) by William Makepeace Thackeray, Introduction by Joanna Trollope

Satire: the thread connecting Lord of the Flies, Catch-22, 1984, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  As it turns out, most of the greatest novels (and tv shows) in recent history are centered around satire of some kind, usually with the intention of disgracing society into improvement.  

Today marks the 200th birthday of William Makepeace Thackery, the masterful author behind Vanity Fair, a classic work of satire.  Vanity Fair tells the story of social-climbing Becky Sharp, as her ambition to reach the pinnacle of 19th Century English society overshadows any moral or emotional obligations.  She’s cut-throat, basically, and Thackery is less than polite in villainizing her social ambitions.  Maybe he was trying to say something?  (the novel, not the magazine).

Vanity Fair is noted for being an especially harsh depiction of English society during the 1800’s.  Thackery made his opinion clear, as all of his characters are shroud in heavy coats of vanity and all of their ambitions fueled by selfish motives. In fact, his novel was originally titled, Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero. It paints an ugly picture, and yet, it makes for a classic, universally praised story. 
What this story lacks in a happy ending with happy people, it makes up for with honesty.  It was popular when first published and continues to be popular now because it tells a true story, exposing the greed and corruption that took over England during the Napoleonic Wars.  Things appeared pretty, veiled with a bustling social scene, but society was headed towards self-destruction with moral flaws.  Perhaps it was so popular because Thackery addressed these issues in the context of an intriguing work of fiction, which could be nicely enjoyed during a morning cup of tea.  

His 200th birthday is a big one, and we thought there was no better way to commemorate than highlighting Thackery’s most noteworthy, critically acclaimed, fancy-society-party-filled work, Vanity Fair.

(You can always watch the movie, but that’s kind of missing the point)

Happy 200th Birthday, William Makepeace Thackery!

Find Vanity Fair at the BYU Bookstore.

Storm Runners (a book review)

Today's post is a staff pick book review from Diane Roylance, a supervisor in the Children's Books Department at the BYU Bookstore --

When you’re in the storm chasing business, you never stay in one town for very long. That’s why Chase Masters and his father John are prepared to move quickly at the whim of any major storm. 
When we first meet Chase, he and his father are on their way to Florida hoping to beat Hurricane Emily to the town where they think she’ll hit the hardest.  It’s been a tough year; Chase has been in three schools and is starting his fourth in Florida, providing Emily doesn’t wipe it off the face of the earth.
After arriving in town before the storm hits, they all settle quickly into the property where they’ve arranged to stay during their time in Florida. The next morning Chase heads into his new school with Nicole, a girl who lives on the rental property with her family, a family that consists of parents and, several circus animals; we’re talking lions, a leopard, a giraffe, and even a pregnant elephant named Pet, who’s due to give birth any day now.
As the school day draws to a close, a news bulletin confirms that Hurricane Emily is closer than expected and will be touching down soon. The school bus is Chase and Nicole’s only way back to the property.  Chase hops on the bus, along with a few other unlucky students, and hope they make it home alive.
The news bulletin proves accurate as the storm arrives quickly.  Chase, Nicole and a new girl named Rashawn are the last three on the bus as the storm rages outside.  As they use Chase’s GPS to figure out how close they are to home, a sudden gust of wind hits the bus, causing it to roll several times.  As the damaged bus slides into the water, Chase and his friends scramble through the emergency exit, hoping they will be able to make it to land. Even though their GPS tells them they’re a little less than five miles from Nicole’s farm, it might as well be fifty as the storm conditions are the worst any of them have seen.
With Chase’s, Nicole’s and Rashawn’s combined survival skills, will they be able to cover the ground between them and the farm while the storm rages?  Will they be able to conquer gators, fierce wind and rain from the hurricane as well as impassable roads and personal injuries from the bus crash? What will they find if they do make it home?
Author Roland Smith is able to write a story teaming with danger and survival that draws you in and keeps you to the very last page.  Will they make it home in time to save the circus animals?  Are their families okay? Where are they and will they be reunited once again?
I was not disappointed with Storm Runners and I don’t think you will be either.  Have any of you read it?  What did you think?
Diane has worked at the BYU Bookstore for over ten years, bringing her love of reading and children's literature to the shelves of our Children's department. 

100 Extra Books: the power of a book club

Today's post comes from Laurie Clegg, a supervisor in the Religous Books Department at the BYU Bookstore --

I love Book Clubs.  I think that there are few social occasions that I would rather attend than a Book Club.  My Club started 10 years ago, when a well-read friend decided to gather her friends and start reading books together.  Some of my all-time favorite books have come from the titles we have chosen, read, and discussed together.

I have learned about art, science, history, cultures, writers, places, music, medicine, and a myriad of other things from Book Club choices.  Cry the Beloved Country has become beloved to me, and I have passed it on to many other readers, thanks to a member of my Book Club who recommended it one year.  Anne Frank Remembered, The Candy Bombers, Team of Rivals, John Adams are all glimpses into other people, places, and times that I would not have had except for my Book Club.

My palate has been expanded through my Book Club, drinking bush tea from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, or tasting vegemite from Ladies of Missalonghi. I have learned plate tectonics from Krakatoa and molecular biology from The Canon.  And the fiction! Gilead, The Book Thief, My Antonia, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help have all brought joy to me. 

I have read over 100 books that I may not have picked up except for my membership in a Book Club. And the great thing is, I may be out of ideas for what to read next, but my Book Club friends all have books they love and want to recommend.  We have had discussions that have changed my perceptions, and I have learned a lot from their insights. To me, the only thing better than reading a book, is reading a book and then being able to talk, talk, and talk about it!  Being in a Book Club has been a wonderful addition to my life.  From Ender’s Game to Endurance, reading will help you gain a whole range of ideas and experiences, and being in a Book Club can broaden that experience. 

How many of you belong to Book Clubs?  What titles have you read and what are your suggestions?
Laurie works in the BYU Bookstore General Books department and will be a regular contribut0r to this blog. Laurie largely works with distribution ordering, as well as some of the major displays within the Bookstore.  At the recent Utah Festival of Books, Laurie ran the Altered Book Competition, one of the highlights of the Festival. 

American Literature (according to an English major)

In light of today's patriotic holiday, we're featuring our very own, American literature. Guest blogging is a recent BYU graduate, Mandy Voisin. With a degree in English, Voisin's love of books stems from a lifetime of reading, a love of which began with Where the Red Fern Grows, read aloud by her third grade teacher.  Being the only third grader in the class to cry along with the teacher at the end, it only makes sense she majored in English and has pursued literature ever since. 
I entered a writing contest when I was 7 years old. The prompt was, “Wouldn’t it be great if?” and I wrote a short story about a woman who escaped from slavery with her twin daughters. I thought it was terribly adult and tragic although if I remember correctly, there was a talking mouse involved as well as an elaborate description of the slaves’ ball gowns. I was so emotional over this silly story, reassuring myself that I would be the youngest author ever to be published. I think I even forced tears as I wrote the ending. Imagine my disappointment when I received an “Honorable Mention.” The ribbon was green. I hated that infernal green ribbon.
Almost 11 years later, I sat on my dorm bed reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. As I turned each page I thought, “This is what I meant to say in my story!” My seven year old self had understood the pain, the wretched frustration of a slave woman like Sethe. With my limited view of humanity, I understood in a small way the hurt of losing a child and the scars that would never heal as a result of the slavery - but Morrison translated my pain and the pain of millions who felt like I did, into the most beautiful and believable work of fiction I had ever experienced. Without recognizing it, I connected my childish frustration with the horrors of slavery to Morrison’s real, dark place in American history that said what I was trying to say.  It was then that I understood the necessity of American literature. It is not about royalties or book reviews, potential movie deals or awards. It is about learning, and creating individual voices which remind us that we Americans are not so different from each other.   
Since that time I have made dozens of connections to my own American life and the lives of those in American literature. Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior taught me that learning to find one’s voice amidst cultural differences is American.  Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony taught me that ritual, religion and tradition are deeply rooted in America despite what others might say about our lack of values and culture. Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons and Willa Cather’s My Antonia reassured me that true love is not reserved solely for Austen’s British women or Tolstoy’s Russian women, but that true love is also to be found on the prairies of American soil.
We read American literature because it reminds us that we are not alone as romantics and dreamers in this large geography. We read American literature because when we are eight we are all Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and we all get frustrated by our mother. We read American literature because we all feel helpless and misunderstood at times like Adah in Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. We cry over Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women because we love our sisters as much as Jo March too. And through our own, American literature we connect with Ramona, and Adah and Jo because we are all of them at some point in our lives regardless of religion or gender or race.
The beauty of American literature is that it touches us on an individual basis and reminds us that we as Americans need each other. We absolutely need each other.
Mandy Voisin, of Love You Long Time