As a teenager, I remember being wowed in my English class by the colorful metaphors for money and love in The Great Gatsby, or the absolutely come-to-life character of Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I, for one, did not think twice as I devoured the pages of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, anxiously rooting for McMurphy and Chief, hoping that Nurse Ratched would get her due in the end. The story definitely did not incite this particular teenager to rebel against authority and raise riot in school. Even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has seen its share of woes, being deemed too heavy on themes of magic and witchcraft. I would encourage people to read the books on the banned list -- even if just to have a laugh at what might once have been considered "taboo". In my estimation, all of these books have important lessons woven into often profoundly beautiful language.
“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
With August nearly over, fall is most definitely on its way. As students head back to school, we’re reminded of the rhythms and responsibilities of a new year; soon, the air will take on a chill and lazy evenings will be cut short, relegating summer trips and swimsuit tans to distant memory.
It’s an exciting time, too, though, full of promise. For me, nothing ushers in autumn like the memory of buying new school supplies. My childhood in California was devoid of changing leaves and apple-picking — so instead, fall meant freshly sharpened No. 7 pencils.
That’s why the essay “Street Haunting” by Virginia Woolf, published in 1930, will always remind me of this time of year. I read it for the first time during my freshman fall at college, when I was 3,000 miles from California and finally experiencing a proper September. But it’s also the essay’s framework that makes it feel undeniably autumnal, despite taking place in winter: In it, Woolf walks across London to buy a pencil. Upon returning home at the very end of the essay, she reflects that this, a lead pencil, is “the only spoil we have retrieved from all the treasures of the city.”
There’s probably a book — or an essay, or a poem — that reminds you of fall, too. That’s why, to ease us into the new season, we asked some of our favorite women authors to share theirs. For Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi, for example, it is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Read on to find out why, and hear from 10 others.
“Probably because the majority of my life has revolved, and still revolves, around the school calendar, autumn always feels like the beginning of the year; an opportunity to analyze past actions; to decide to forge a new path. That duality, of being on a precipice where you can return or move forward, or do both at the same time, is most captured by Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir by Lucille Clifton. Clifton does not shy away from poetry that centers on womanhood and race, and her poems always feel like I’m being dropped into a conversation that’s been going on for years, but is still making fresh points.”
“This autumn I’ll be reading Charlotte Sometimes with my 11-year-old daughter: a gently unnerving English classic from 1969 by Penelope Farmer, about a girl who wakes up after her first night at boarding school to find that she’s time-slipped into the mind of another girl at the same school 40 years before.”
“Though first released 11 years ago, Caille Millner’s The Golden Road: Notes on My Gentrification is a memoir full of such urgent questions about identity, privilege and belonging that the book reads as though it could also have been published right about now. As Millner examines the difficulties and joys she encountered as a black girl, then woman, navigating spaces for herself in school in Silicon Valley and Harvard, and afterward, she brings to mind some of the contradictions I encountered when I went off to college.”
“Autumn makes me think of leaves, which makes me think of trees, which makes me think of The Overstory, the best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period.”
“I spent a few weeks in Prince Edward Island this summer and decided to re-read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. What I noticed this time around that I hadn’t noticed when I was a young girl is how much careful attention Montgomery pays to the seasons — descriptions of the weather, the way the plants in Lovers Lane change. My favorite season in the book is fall, when school has begun for the children of Avonlea, and Anne, fierce, independent, brilliant Anne, breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head. It’s an iconic moment in a wonderful book.”
“Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is an easy choice because it’s a campus novel and all campus novels smack of autumn even if they’re set in the spring. Just thinking of it, I can picture the leaves falling, smell the social anxiety and hear the sound of lacrosse sticks whooshing through the air.”
“I love revisiting Donna Tartt’s The Secret History when days shorten and leaves change. It’s deliciously sinister and beautifully written and so, so, so other in the best way. It was all spectacularly exotic since I hadn’t grown up with apple cider donuts, wood-burning fireplaces or sumptuous, shrewdly tailored cashmere coats. It’s set at Hampden College, a fictional school in Vermont, a place I have never been and to this day I’m not entirely sure what a Lyceum even is. That the six main characters who are so East Coast as to be basically British were allowed to forego all other matriculation to study Greek was so decadent. So extravagantly white. No specific spoilers but that they were complicit in an evil deed without consequence only underscores this. I mean, Ms. Tartt is literally wearing a foulard in her author photo. It’s the best.”
“The titular story, set on Halloween, juxtaposes the playful representations of death and danger with the tragedy of the narrator’s sister falling dead while handing out candy. Just like falling leaves, this work is both memento mori and a celebration of life.”
“Though I’ve been out of school for a long time, I always snap to attention in September. A terrific school-related book that I hope to read again this fall is the classic 1961 Muriel Spark novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, about a hypnotically influential teacher at a girls’ school in Edinburgh in the 1930s and her group of students. It’s a sharp, thrilling novel.”
“‘There’s a certain Slant of light, / Winter Afternoons – / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes –’ and yet Emily Dickinson has always felt like the goddess of the fall to me.”
“One of my favorite short stories is ‘Gold Coast’ from the collection Hue and Cry by James Alan McPherson, my once-upon-a-time teacher and the first black American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. ‘Gold Coast’ explores what it means to be young, black and a writer. It begins in the spring, builds throughout the summer and ends in the fall, a transitional time for the narrator, and for me, too. Robert narrates, ‘In late September, the Cambridge police finally picked up the bearded pot-pusher in the Square. He had been in a restaurant all summer, at the same table, with the same customers flocking around him; but now that summer was over, they picked him up. The leaves were changing.’ I always think of fall as a time of possibility. Why do I do this? I consider and confront my bad habits. Perhaps it’s that hopefulness of a new school year — better grades! A higher social standing! A style upgrade! — that somehow I haven’t outgrown.”
Mister Rogers is certainly having a moment these days. For those of you keeping score at home, here's the summary: There was a documentary film that came out in June. A biography is out now. And a big-budget Tom Hanks movie is on its way next year. To top it all off, you can now find any number of fun sweater- and trolley-themed gift items. (And we've got some here at The Bookloft – see below.) Cue the cheers from Generation X as one of their soft-spoken heroes gets a pop-culture encore.
But why is this happening all of a sudden?
The timing of all this is noteworthy. Fred Rogers' message of simple kindness and Just-The-Way-You-Are acceptance is clearly resonating in American culture right now. If you saw the excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor, you were most likely struck by one of the film's most powerful scenes: Fred Rogers goes to Washington to testify before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of PBS. It's 1969 and committee chairman/curmudgeon Sen. John Pastore is ready for a fight in an attempt to decimate PBS' funding. But what you see in the archival footage is shocking. Even the meanest political ogre is visibly shaken by the gentle goodness that Rogers displays. That scene alone from the documentary shows with emotional clarity how our world craves the simplest acts of love and kindness.
Marielle Heller, director of next year's film You Are My Friend starring Tom Hanks as Rogers, says “It’s a story for our times, a story about kindness and family connection and trying to tap into our better self. God knows we need that right now!”
Fred Rogers had said that “love is at the root of everything...love or the lack of it.” It's easy to see both sides of that equation in America today. And if there's an upside to the landscape of unkindness all around us, it's that the simplest act of love, gentleness, and compassion stands out like a light in the darkness. Right now is a perfect time to remember Mister Rogers' mission "to make goodness attractive." The host of a bygone era's children's television show succeeded at that, and reminds each of us that we can succeed at that, too.
"There are three ways to ultimate success," Mister Rogers said. "The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."
Love and acceptance truly do make a beautiful day in any neighborhood.
You often see speculation about the next SF/F book series Hollywood should make into a trilogy of big-budget films. That’s understandable, since spec fic is rife with action-packed series played out against visually impressive backdrops. But there are others SF/F novels out there. Some are beautiful, lyrical novels that aren’t suitable for blockbuster trilogies, but would make the sort of film that takes home Academy Awards. Where has Hollywood missed out on SF/F novels with emotionally powerful, memorable stories that might have merited a Best Picture Oscar? I’m going to consider only older books—pre-2000—because it’s always possible newer books are currently in development as films.
How is this book not a movie? Not only is Doomsday Book an emotionally wrenching and unforgettable story, it has something else Hollywood loves: a premise that can be summarized in one line. A time-traveling researcher who is sent back to the Middle Ages is accidentally dropped into the middle of the Black Death pandemic. It’s a bleak novel, and it would make for a bleak film, but with all of the films out there about theoretical pandemics of apocalyptic proportion, isn’t it time for a film exploring the actual pandemic of apocalyptic proportions humanity survived?
In Bishop’s gorgeous baseball period piece, young shortstop Danny Boles leaves home to play minor league baseball in the deep south during World War II. His roommate is the well-read and articulate Henry Clerval, who is seven feet tall and hideous. Brittle Innings came very, very close to getting the big-screen treatment. So close, in fact, that the cover of some editions includes a Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture tagline. The film was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eloquent giant Henry Clerval. And then, as so often happens in Hollywood, things fell apart, and the film was never made. It’s a shame, because it’s a wonderful story with a brilliant twist.
The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre (Pocket Books, 1997)
A sentient sea monster is captured and placed in the fountain at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, and a woman at the court forms a deep emotional bond with the creature. The plot is reminiscent of The Shape of the Water, although The Moon and the Sun was published twenty years before Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film. For my money, The Moon and the Sun is the richer of the two stories, and the critical success of The Shape of the Water hints at how The Moon and the Sun might be received if it ever reached the big screen. This one is an odd case, because as it turns out, The Moon and the Sun has actually been filmed! It was set for release in 2015, then just three weeks before it was to come out, Paramount cancelled the release. The film was then retitled The King’s Daughter, and here we are, three years later, with no release date set.
Hyperion follows seven pilgrims, each of whom tells their story as they travel to the time tombs to encounter the mysterious shrike. This would be a challenging novel to adapt, and veers closer to big-budget Hollywood blockbuster territory than the others, but if it were well-executed a Hyperion adaptation might look something like Cloud Atlas. Hyperion has been almost continuously optioned for film since its publication, but evidently no one was able to create a satisfactory screenplay. The entire Hyperion Cantos series is now in production as a TV miniseries, slated to air on SyFy. Perhaps a TV series is a better medium for such an ambitious novel, although it would have made quite a film.
Powerful and gut-wrenching, delving into questions of theology and ethics, The Sparrow recounts the story of a Jesuit Priest’s experiences on a planet that is home to two distinct sentient species. Not one, but two attempts have been made to bring The Sparrow to the big screen, the last with Brad Pitt slated to play the lead role of Father Emilio Sandoz. On her blog, Ms. Russell wrote that neither screenplay had much in common with her novel. She has since revoked all film rights, and co-wrote her own screen adaptation. Evidently that version hasn’t gotten much traction. Sigh.
When I compiled this list, all I knew for sure was that none of these novels had been released as a Hollywood film. A little research revealed that film adaptations have been extensively pursued for at least four of the five, and I’d wager a first edition of Doomsday Book that there’s an extensive film option history behind it as well. It just goes to show, Hollywood will break your heart.
Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and finalist for the Nebula and twelve other SF/F awards. His novels include Faller (Tor Books), Love Minus Eighty (Orbit) and Soft Apocalypse (Night Shade), and three of his novels are currently optioned for film or Television. His newest book, young adult novel The Future Will Be BS Free, releases July 24 from Penguin Random House. Will was a psychology professor before turning to writing full-time. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and their twins. You can follow him on Twitter @willmcintoshSF, or on his website.
Complete as many rows as you want (diagonals included!) and win a prize for each one. Multiple Bingos are allowed. Complete the whole card to get an extra special prize! Please bring your card in by September 1st to claim prizes.
Plus, get 15% OFF any five books that you buy here at The Bookloft that let you complete a row for Bingo!
This July, The Bookloft will be hosting an exciting month-long scavenger hunt to find Waldo in 17 participating local businesses throughout Great Barrington.
Throughout the entire month of July, Great Barrington is playing host to a citywide Find Waldo scavenger hunt. Seventeen local businesses are participating. The Bookloft will be your Find Waldo Local Headquarters, where you can collect your prizes, and join up for a Waldo Party at the end of the hunt!
Each player gets a “Find Waldo Local in Great Barrington!” passport to help them find Waldo and log their search. A player may start at any business listed on the passport; the list travels with the player. Waldo is hiding - somewhere - in all the listed businesses. He's six inches tall, and he might be in any public part of the establishment.
When you spot Waldo at any one of the participating businesses listed on your passport, collect a store stamp or signature.
When you spot at least one of the following lost items at The Bookloft, collect a store stamp (or signature): Waldo’s key, Woof’s bone, Wenda’s camera, Wizard Whitebeard’s scroll, and Odlaw’s binoculars.
When you’ve collected at least 8 different store stamps/signatures, bring them to The Bookloft, your FIND WALDO LOCAL headquarters, to claim an “I Found Waldo” button and a “$1 Off” coupon (limited to first 125 Waldo spotters).
If you collect at least 12 of the 17 possible store stamps/signatures, bring your passport to The Bookloft to get a button and a coupon PLUS be entered in a drawing for a deluxe set of Waldo books and other great prizes.
Plan to attend the Waldo grand celebration and prize drawing on July 28th here at The Bookloft!
There are so many fun things to do during the summer, and audiobooks can be a great companion for art projects, exercise, gardening, and car trips—we like to call it #handsfreereading. And with Libro.fm, each audiobook purchase means supporting US, your local bookstore, and investing in your community!
Listen to 5 audiobooks or the equivalent of 20 hours of audiobooks between June 15th and September 4th and track your progress using this Listening Challenge Worksheet. Either email a picture of your completed worksheet to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this online form, and you will be entered to win free audiobooks for a year!
Need some awesome listens to queue up for summer? Libro.fm has plenty of fantastic playlists including our Summer Listening Challenge playlist, curated by independent bookstores around the country. Looking for great titles recommended by the experts (booksellers)? They have recommendations from us and other indie bookstores. If you already know the titles you’re looking for, just head over to Libro.fm and search for the ones you want!
Every last Sunday of the month, at 2:30, we will be hosting a children's Storytime with Momo! Momo is our special guest-star, who will be reading fun stories of love and acceptance.
Moamer (Momo) Alsaedi is a student at Bard College at Simon's Rock, where he is studying neuroscience, psychology, and social change. Momo's studies focus on understanding the development of children and how their environments impact their neurological and psychological processes. Wherever he is, Momo strives to be as positive, caring, and supportive as he can possibly be.
As part of the longest-running national celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading, over 750 schools, libraries, and bookstores will celebrate Children’s Book Week from April 30 to May 6 from coast to coast in all 50 states. This May marks the 99th anniversary of Children’s Book Week; the theme for this year’s celebration is “One World, Many Stories.”
Here's how The Bookloft is celebrating:
Bookmark Design Contest
10th Annual Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards Voting station
Prizes for Book Reviews
We will have free activity sheets available (while supplies last), and kids from home can have access to original bookmarks created by five of today’s most innovative children’s book illustrators at Every Child a Reader!
BOOKMARK DESIGN CONTEST
Here's how you can design our next official Bookloft bookmark!
Come to The Bookloft Sunday, May 6, between 2-4pm and create your bookmark design.
Or, here's how to make it at home:
Get a Bookmark Template: Download it here to print, or stop by the store to pick one up.
Draw your original artwork inside the box on the template.
Turn it back in to The Bookloft by Sunday, May 7.
We will select our favorite and make that our next official Bookloft bookmark!
VOTE FOR THE CHILDREN'S & TEEN BOOK AWARDS
Voting for the 11th Annual Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards, the only national book award voted on solely by kids & teens, has been in progress since March 1, and you can be a part of it! Stop by The Bookloft and cast your vote before May 6, or use either of the buttons below to vote online now!
REVIEW A BOOK AND EARN A PRIZE
Write a review for a book you've read recently, bring it to The Bookloft, and we'll give you a free prize! Make sure to include your first name, your age, and the title of the book you read, along with your review.