Team’s Books of the Month: January 2017!

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ADDRESS UNKNOWN by KATHRINE KRESSMANN TAYLOR

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First published in 1938 in Story magazine “Address Unknown” by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor is a epistolary novel that after being published remained unknown to most, until 1999 (3 years after the author’s dead) when it was translated in French and became an international bestseller.

19 letters (from 1932 to 1934), an intense epistolary correspondence with which Max of Jewish origin and Martin, both German, friends since forever, and business partners of Art Gallery in San Francisco, keep in touch after Martin’s return to Germany. The good business allows Martin to live a wealthy life in moment in which Germany tries to stand up again after the Great War, and that sees Hitler’s rise to the power.

After initial doubts, Martin starts singing the praises of this man who’s taking the Country back to its old glories and he is now evasive when Max asks him about the Jews’ persecutions. After a while Martin even asks Max not to write anymore, but Max doesn’t stop…

Words can hurt, can be dangerous, and they most definitely can’t hide anything, Martin does something unthinkable, and the tone of the letters changes completely. If you start reading this book, clear your schedule for a bit, you’ll eat it up.

The book’s afterword, written by Taylor’s son, reveals that the idea for the story came from a small news article: American students in Germany wrote home with the truth about the Nazi atrocities, a truth most Americans would not accept. Fraternity brothers thought it would be funny to send them letters making fun of Hitler, and the visiting students wrote back, “Stop it. We’re in danger. These people don’t fool around. You could murder [someone] by writing letters to him.” Thus emerged the idea of “letter as weapon” or “murder by mail.

                INTO THIN AIR by JON KRAKAUER

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Halfway between the fictional tale and the journalistic chronicle, Into Thin Air is the testimony of the powerfulness of nature and describes how a man is infinitely small and defenseless in front of it.

The journalist/writer/mountaineer Krakauer on this occasion becomes the protagonist and the narrator of a tragedy that occurred in the spring of 1996 on the summit of Mount Everest, concerning 5 expeditions (all very skilled) formed by men and women: they all shared the deep passion for climbing and the adventurous spirit of those who have the willing to do anything to put themself to the test.

Krakauer leaves his readers with bated breath, the tension is such that it is going to force not to remove the eyes from the page, and he moves and in a certain sense teaches something. Climbers will become your companions, their fears, their difficulties and their love for the mountains will involve readers: it is precisely in this that the author has proved particularly skillful, transforming what was originally a reportage in a novel to all effects.

The experience is overwhelming, the tragedy is real and Krakauer shall be deemed to have been lucky to be able to tell.
Regardless of the forecast and the bad weather conditions, climbers, on the 10th of May 1996, were ready to conquer the summit of Mount Everest, but precisely when the last immense effort have been made, a storm fell upon them. Among the dispersed, the dead and the wounded conclusions are drawn about a challenge which could be concluded with great satisfaction, but that instead leaves only the memory of the people who have disappeared and a warning for the survivors.

In an almost surreal atmosphere, between the silence of the mountain and white boundless landscapes, the rarefied air debilitates the body and the mind; but nothing prevents the human being to do what s/he was born for: discover new horizons and push his own limits, even at the cost of his life.

THIS IS NOT A BOOK by KERI SMITH

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If it’s not a book, what is it? This is the question that the Canadian artist and blogger Keri Smith asks us with “This is not a Book,” an illustrated guide where the reader is called to explore in a curious and creative way the different forms we can use a “non-book”: a secret message to leave to someone in a public space, a shopping list, a musical instrument or a note where to write a special thought or the to do list of the day.

The purpose of the author, who also wrote “Wreck this Journal” and “How to Become an Explorer of the World,” is to get reading closer to art, where the object becomes deep expression of ourselves. Through a series of fun and intriguing instructions, the reader will discover that the contents of this book will come alive only through the power of imagination. And to do this, he has to become not only explorer of the world but also of himself.

THE GIRLS by EMMA CLINE

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It was the most successful publishing of 2016 and one of the most discussed literary debuts of recent years;
Emma Cline takes us back to the ‘ 70s where Evie (the tale is narrated in the first person and in the form of flashbacks), a 13-year-old girl waiting to go to boarding school, spends her summer days in the monotony of his small town, until the day she meets Suzanne, a young rebel who represents everything that she is not and would like to be.

She gets carried by Suzanne in a den of hippies led by the charismatic Russell: It’s the beginning of a series of unsettling adventures made of orgies, drugs and negligence of the law, until the final action, in which Evie does not participate directly but that marks her equally, leading her to question in subsequent years if she would have been capable of committing a violent and polished crime as the one committed by the girls she revered.

The style of the novel is scathing and realistic in presenting us an alternate reality full of dark sides: the words drag us inside the story making us able to better understand the characterization of the characters and making us almost accomplices of the facts narrated. Charming, deep, surprising and poignant, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different kind of reading, unique and capable of making us ponder on how many chances near to us and often unknowns we have to met the “Evil” in its diverse and fascinating forms.