Great Reads

Adiga, Aravind. Last Man in Tower

At Vishram Society Tower A, an aging apartment building in the slums of Mumbai, some news has shaken up the usually respectable middle-class residents. An offer has been made by Dharmen Shah, an ambitious developer who wants to tear down the tower and build luxury condominiums worthy of the "new" India. The temptation of money quickly convinces the younger residents of Tower B to leave their apartments, but Tower A remains stubborn. They are more complicated, and Mr. Shah must negotiate with them one-at-a-time, shamelessly using their long forgotten dreams and weaknesses to his advantage. One-by-one they give in until only Mr. Masterji is left, a retired teacher and widower-impervious to bribes, Shah’s intimidation tactics and even pressure from the other residents.

The suspenseful showdown between Mr. Shah and Mr. Masterji is not just about the apartment, it is about old vs. new India, the changing class system and maintaining respectability in an increasingly greedy society. Adiga introduces the strengths and flaws of both men, complicating the readers’ alliances and sympathies. Will Mr. Masterji crumble under the overwhelming efforts of Mr. Shah to destroy his home? Or will this battle prove that money is not always power? This book is sure to be another gem from Adiga, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 for his book, The White Tiger.

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Torres, Justin. We the Animals

Written in a series of short stories and vignettes, We the Animals is not what you would expect from a coming-of-age story. It delves deeply into the lives of a family continually balancing on the edge. Set in an unknown town in upstate New York, the unnamed seven year-old narrator and his two older brothers, Joel and Manny, experience a freedom foreign to most children their age, roaming the streets day and night while their mother works the graveyard shift and their father disappears for days at a time. What the boys fail to see is the dark reality of their situation; that their freedom is really neglect, their mother’s deep love for her children is also a form of her desperation, and their parent’s relationship, while passionate, is also volatile and dangerous.

Through glimpses we see the boys experience seemingly traumatic events: learning to swim by being abandoned in deep water, watching their father dig a grave in the backyard for no one in particular, packing up and leaving with their mother only to return after not knowing where to go, and understanding them as nothing extraordinary, as every-day life. As the boys grow they come to learn what it means to be an adult. While the narrator’s older brothers fall into their family’s vicious cycle of failure, aggression and indifference, he is desperate to separate himself from them, but at what price?

Even though the novel is slim, it packs an emotional punch. If you’re a fan of poetry, you will appreciate how Torres structures his novel and delicately navigates the story with a sensitivity that will stay with you long after you have finished it.


Just a Thought -- Zombie Fiction

Everywhere you look these days, zombies are rearing their decaying heads. From films like "Zombieland" to novels likePride and Prejudice and Zombies" to the website of the Centers for Disease Control, it seems that the zombie is our new favorite monster. But the ranks of the mindlessly hungry undead have not only invaded classic literature, they have also been joined by new brethren who think between nibbling on brains and are able to tell their own stories in their own words. The zombie fiction genre is expanding as new authors sink their teeth into the subject. For a few new and different takes on the shambling undead, try some of these titles!


Ajvide Linqvist, John.  Handling the Undead

Becker, Robin.  Brains: a zombie memoir

Brown, Ryan.  Play Dead

Browne, S.G.  Breathers: a zombie's lament

Goldsher, Alan.  Paul is undead : the British zombie invasion

Kenemore, Scott.  Zombie, Ohio: a tale of the undead

Moore, J. P. Toothless

Rowland, Diana.  My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Turner, Joan Frances.  Dust

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Rowland, Diana. My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Angel Crawford, a high-school dropout on probation for possession of a stolen car, is going nowhere with her life. Stuck in a dead-end relationship with a dead-beat boyfriend, taking care of and hiding from her alcoholic father by turns, drinking to excess and taking illegal drugs, she is a mess. A white trash mess.  So she’s not too terribly surprised when she wakes up in the hospital one day and is told she was found by the side of the road, naked, having overdosed on drugs after leaving the bar with a man other than her boyfriend. What DOES surprise Angel is that there’s not a scratch on her when she clearly remembers being flung through the windshield after a terrible car accident. A mysterious benefactor has left her a cooler full of some kind of coffee drink with strict instructions to drink one every day and has arranged a job at the local morgue for Angel. Uncertain as to what’s going on, Angel nevertheless follows instructions and shows up for the job as a morgue van driver and autopsy assistant. It isn’t long before she realizes that she has a strange, insatiable craving for brains…a craving she resists as long as possible. But when she gives in, she realizes that she’s stronger, better, and more alive after eating them. When a horribly decaying man ambushes her van one evening looking for brains, it’s a short mental  hop from there to the fact that Angel herself is now one of the living dead.  Now she must figure out how to “live” in her current state, who her mysterious benefactor might be, and, more alarmingly, who is out there killing other zombies before falling victim herself.


Funny, intriguing, and surprisingly touching, My Life as a White Trash Zombie is hopefully only the first installment in the undead adventures of Angel Crawford.

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Just a Thought -- Monster Mash

It all started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Suddenly zombies, werewolves, vampires, and beasts of all descriptions were invading our classic literature! These mash-ups, as they’re termed, take many forms. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies simply wove zombies into Jane Austen’s original text, with hilarious and oddly seamless results. Other mash-ups include a higher percentage of newly-created text.  Still others, for a twist on the genre, take a real historical figure and add creatures to his or her real history.  Whichever type, the books are fascinating in their way, often funny, and always engaging.


Brown, Eric. War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies

Erwin, Sherri. Jane Slayre

Grahame-Smith, Seth.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Grand, Porter. Little Women and Werewolves

Gray, Sarah. Wuthering Bites

Jensen, Van.  Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer

Moorat, A.E.  Queen Victorian: Demon Hunter

Nazarian, Vera. Mansfield Park and Mummies

Weston, Lucy. The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer

Winters, Ben. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Winters, Ben. Android Karenina

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