Saturday, August 8, 2015

It's all books all the time this week on Okie Geek, and just in case you missed something, we got your back!

...And Episode 10 of Okie Geek Podcast is a wrap, and boy it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys We could have talked for hours. Put a bunch of nerds in a room -- imagine that. Put a bunch of incredibly well-read people with diverse and convergent interests, well -- that's a party.

If you're curious about any of the books we talked about on the show, Here's a list of most of those mentioned, including those added by our kind listeners.

SO, in a sort of particular order, mentioned on the most recent episode (Aug.8 2015 episode  of Okie Geek Podcast, here goes:

(AHEM: *READ LOCAL - Okie writers!)

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Teenagers from the Future by Timothy Callahan, ed.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro (currently four out of a five-book series)

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

The Dresden Files by James Butcher

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

The MANY short stories of R.A. Lafferty*

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien, it comes up a lot.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher

The Flood (Oryx & Crake) Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney*

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Dark Tower Series - Stephen King

Hero for Hire by C.B. Pratt*

Legends of the Lightwalkers by Courtney Cantrell*

UPCOMING BOOKS you heard about here first, possibly:

Armada - Ernest Cline

the Cinderspire Series by Jim Butcher (First book releases 9-29, The Aeronaut's Windlass)

EVERYTHING by Tom Robbins. You're welcome. Start with Another Roadside Attraction and have tissues handy for Jitterbug Perfume.

And just a few that we didn't have time to mention, but put them on your list:

The Book Thief  by Marcus Zusak

Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

Horns and NOS482 by Joe Hill

the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz

His Dark Materials (trilogy) by Philip Pullman

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (and then go read EVERYTHING this woman has written.)

The Psychopath Test and Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd and An Underground Education by Richard Zacks

Agent Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre

... and check back often, there's bound to be more to come!

Meanwhile - Happy reading! We'd love to add your recommendations! You can comment here, or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Okie Geek Podcast consists of our fearless leader, Micheal Cross, along with the so well-respected, erudite and witty they take him out in public Chase Harvick, bookslinging (and writing) badass, Joshua Unruh and the wordslinger-for-hire Devon Green.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Books are an apocalypse in a plain wrapper - A love letter.

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library” - Borges

And oh! The way they smell! When I was a youngster, still in braids, not yet in braces, I vividly remember our weekly trip to the library with my mother. She once told me when I was little that, "if you're a reader, you'll never be bored, but more importantly, you'll never be lonely." As an avid reader herself, I cannot imagine that she thought this to be anything but the TRUTH, and thank goodness, even though I was a child, she caught me at the that magical time when parents know everything, so I took it to heart.

Oh, how right she was. Reading is a magical place to escape and connect simultaneously, and if it weren't for books, well, I would probably be in a rubber room right now. If not somewhere worse. It sounds like hyperbole to non-readers, but you know what I'm talking about. It's that and music. They can save your life. There's this great Smiths lyric that always pops into mind:

But don't forget the songs that made you cry,
                                                    and the songs that saved your life.
                                         Yes, you're older now, and you're a clever swine,
                                          but they're the only ones who ever stood by you. -The Smiths
Swap out "books" for songs, and the simple message is still there. Books DO stand by you. They will never leave you, and they're a tangible thing you can carry with you long after you close the cover because it's an idea. And ideas have the power to change you. I cut my teeth on "Nancy Drew" -- she fed my innate curiosity and a great female role model, looking back. I liked them for that, but I couldn't have articulated it. I just knew that The Hardy Boys couldn't quite hold my attention the same way.
I remember being so riveted by Tiger Eye by Judy Blume that I didn't want to go on some "lame" family outing that day on summer vacation. Before I could even read I remember being captivated by the illustrations in Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey's books. To this day they are still my top two illustrators/artists on the list. Which came first in Devon? The art with the subversion or the subversion that was encouraged by the art? I do know I asked a LOT of questions. And that I still do. And that I learned from the best - Nancy and Blume's protagonists, to name just a small sample.

Another magical thing about books? They tend to appear in your life when you need THAT idea at that particular time. I can't count the number of times that a book has suddenly appeared in my life and did so much to elevate me out of my funk, or shake up my worldview. Time and time again, a book appears and before you know it, *poof*, you're someone just a little bit more clever or informed or just simply NOT ALONE in your thoughts. Which -- especially as an adolescent, spending a lot of time in your thoughts and feeling alone are natural, but too much of a brooding mind can be a very dangerous thing. I've lost count of the time that I felt the author reach across the table and grasp my hand simply to say, "I've been there, and I'm here now." Talk about a powerful, intimate connection. And that's not even taking into account that words are powerful things. The use of language is not to be taken lightly, and in the right hands, can soar higher than the most beautiful hymns by a choir. A choir only for you.

I'll never forget my sophomore English teacher pulling me aside after class and handing me a heavily Xeroxed copy of "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. That simple wisp of a story did more to warp my worldview than I can I even say -- having now read everything in the Vonnegut canon, most of them at least twice, most of them many, it was a crack in a wall between me and the people I went around with at school that just didn't get it. Forget Holden Caulfield, the whiny, privileged little snit. Give me Harrison and his bravery and his decision to be himself any day. It made it okay, in that unique way that adolescence makes you view things, it made it alright that I was different from them. And rather than try my hardest to match them and embrace that type of life -- of fitting in, of conforming, I should embrace my different-ness. It made me special. Let's be clear, I didn't ditch my pearls and throw away my pom poms -- I wasn't trying that hard. But it almost hit me with an audible THUD that not only was it okay to be different, it was something to be celebrated. In a cliche -- it put me on the path. And I never looked back. That way was madness. It was liberation, escape, and validation.
I devoured Vonnegut, Twain and Salinger in a gulp -- his others are so much more lively, loving and much more at ease with themselves. Vonnegut did the most to put things in perspective. Twain, I felt could reach through time and space and reassure me that I could be both a romantic and a cynic at the same time. And it was okay to be broken-hearted about parts of it, too. Not to diminish the fact that he was dead funny. And I once read a critic say that, "Salinger loves his characters more than God loves them." I remain steadfast in my love for the Glass children, and imagine them in my own head-canon as the family that he WISHED he had, and/or could be a part of.
I wrote a senior thesis on Anais Nin and nearly got in big trouble about it. Catholic School - senior with a 4.0, well, I did get a talking-to about "appropriate vs. Inappropriate". My final paper was a heavily edited compromise. It helps the teacher liked me, and it was a damn good paper. Looking back on my 18 year-old self, I wish I could tell myself that IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER. I didn't get Candide the first time around. But by the time that one rolled back into my life? Boy, howdy. I didn't know it at the time, but Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny is an allegory for the soul. BOOM. Another audible thud was Douglas Adams' holy series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's always perspective, and if you want to test a nerd? Just say "SEP" and see their reaction. Margaret Atwood's The Handmade's Tale launched me into her wonderful and erudite vision of the world, concluding with The Flood Trilogy which, to say the least, left me shaken and wanting a WHOLE lot more. The list goes on and on, and I'm a speed-reader at that. I don't skim. I've just had a little practice. Chuck Palahniuk up until Rant, which I admit, I just don't get, is our generation's Hemingway and I never get tired of his tone and brevity, especially in his first three. Beautiful in their simplicity and economy of language is TOUGH. He's masterful. I took his message to heart, perhaps a little too literally at times.
There's a huge dollop of non-fiction, too: Mary Roach, especially Stiff and Bonk, but she could write about toilet paper and I'd be compelled. Anything by Richard Zacks is both elucidating and entertaining as hell. And a special mention for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot -- not just a hell of a read, but a fascinating journey into medicine and ethics, among other toughies. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver will change how you think about your food, and therefore, probably your life.
Oliver Sacks, for whom there is no equal and I recently learned has terminal cancer has so affected my world-view and what it means to be a healer that I cried at my desk when I learned it. You don't know you know him, but you do. Look him up and read EVERYTHING. That should keep you busy for a while. Don't worry, I'm full of them.

And just so there's no confusion -- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is my Tolkien. And yes, I'm admitting it out loud here -- it's better, to me, than Lord of the Rings. Not to mention, almost every single Stephen King book is tied into the universe that is The Dark Tower series. That's a hell of a rabbit hole, and so worth the journey. There's no mad hatter at the end, it's much, much more of a twist.

We will shine, and we will be magnificent. -- Roland of Gilead, the Gunslinger

Benewski's House of Leaves left me so unsettled that I still can't quite articulate it. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave upset me so much I still don't like talking about it. By the time I discovered Hemingway, forget about it. I'm a junkie. I have a problem, and it isn't any problem at all, except if I have nothing to read. And that's not even delving into my addiction to crime fiction/detective stories - I always have two or three I'm reading at once. To name a few -- Chandler's so good they named a trope after him. I have read every single Robert Crais novel there is, and will continue to do so until he up and stops. Which will be a sad day. And probably my favorite mystery writer working today - Harlan Coben, oh, what a delight. Every book is a treasure, and he is a masterful writer. It's hard to balance funny and serious, and he changes tone so smoothly, it appears effortless. That's a feat.

Books keep me sane, brimming with ideas, connected and intimate with a person who put those words on the page and with a sense of kinship that perhaps those words were put down just for you, just that moment. Books are magical things. As I said, they're an idea and they have a power to change you. So, I suppose this is my love letter to them. All of them, and all of those that had the courage to lay themselves naked on the page for all to see. Look close enough, and if you're lucky you'll see yourself reflected in the whites of their eyes.

Our upcoming podcast, which you can find ALL OVER that magical internets and keep track of our amazing and rich lives of culture, coolness (because we all know that part of the definition of "cool" is liking what you like and not giving a whit about what people think about you), nerd/geek culture, and the magic that happens when we take over the airwaves. It's our therapy, and it's all for our and your entertainment. Enough said. We have a heck of a great time. I guarantee you will, too. Go have a listen, and then engage with us - we're pretty easy to find.

Meanwhile ...
Keep Calm and Geek on.