Staff Picks - January 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul"
Franz Kafka

Those of you who aren't living in the Midwest (hi, Hawaii readers! I see you!) may not have heard that we're currently experiencing record cold t
emperatures. Yesterday forecast fox gave up and simply listed the temperature as "N/A" with a picture of a thermometer and an icicle. While I can safely say that I'm pretty much over winter by now, even I have to admit there are some things to enjoy about this season. There are all the cliches about how clean the city looks covered in snow, the joys of ice skating, hot chocolate, scarves and winter coats. My favorite thing about winter is how quiet it is. When I get home from work and pull into my driveway, I love just standing there for a minute, looking out at the valley and listening to ... nothing. There's a particular kind of quiet that you get when everything is covered in snow that I just love.

Apparently snow and ice
also are conducive to creativity, because this edition of Staff Picks is all about great things that come from icy, snowy places.

e Girl With the Dragon Tattoo : Stieg Larssen. This is one of those books that also comes with an interesting story. The author, a Swedish journalist who wrote about the neo-Nazi movement, died unexpectedly shortly after delivering three manuscripts to his agent. The publisher was then left with the unenviable task of promoting a first-time author's work when the author himself was unable to do any press, book tours, etc. Luckily for us, the publisher believed in his work enough to promote it heavily in Europe. In the US, tireless booksellers hand-sold it, it gradually became more and more popular, and the rest is history.

The bo
ok itself is a complex inter-weaving of several mysteries taking place over a span of 40 years. The protagonist, a crusading journalist (get it?) is thrown into solving a classic closed-room murder that took place nearly half a century ago. While he is attempting to solve this old mystery, several new mysteries start swirling around him in the present. He eventually hooks up (both literally and figuratively) with the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, who becomes a strange, sort-of ally, critical to solving all of the mysteries. With several different plotlines, two main characters, and scores of secondary characters, its easy to see how the novel could collapse under it's own weight. Luckily, Larssen has the chops to pull it off. I'm looking forward to reading his two remaining books when they become available.

I've been on a bit of a Scandinavian authors kick lately. On my to-be-read pile are
Last Rituals: An Icelandic Novel of of Secret Symbols, Medieval Witchcraft, and Modern Murder by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Which is a lot of letters to fit on the cover of a book. Also, Redbreast by Norwegian Jo Nesbo (who
has a new book out called Nemesis, which has gotten some great reviews)

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
: Sigur Ros Icelandic band Sigur Ros is one of those groups that I was aware of for awhile before really listening. Apparently this album is one of their most accessible, so maybe thats what finally got me to check them out. iTunes loves to recommend Sigur Ros to me, so much so that I finally broke down and gave a listen just to get them to leave me alone. Surprisingly, the music has really grown on me. Its lyrical and strange and very, very well crafted.

Na Na Ni: Fredrik Thanks to NPR for cluing me into this Swedish band. While I'm generally sceptical of bands where every member goes by a single name, I was hooked by how pretty the songs are. I'm a sucker for the first cut, Black Fur, which has an Arcade Fire-like, early U2-esque, soaring, orchestral feel.

LUSH Snow Showers Shower Jelly: Apparently this one was a winter-only product so you'll have to wait until next year to experience it's orangy, clovey, moisturizing goodness. However, I recommend anything you can get your hands on from LUSH, because they are magicians. They are constantly rotating their stock of hand-made glycerin soaps, so don't get too attached to a particular scent. Their Honey Waffle soap is the only thing I've found that doesn't aggravate Lil Blue's eczema. And I treat myself to their liquid body washes and it makes the whole second floor smell like a spa. Awesomeness.

Of course all of these things can be enjoyed more fully when accompanied by an Irish Coffee. Slainte!

Posted by oballard at 12:19 PM  
Marinka said...

My book group read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and I loved it! The author's death is tragic and mysterious. At least it is mysterious to me because all I know about it is that he died young.

January 17, 2009 at 3:18 PM  
stef said...

i've been a fan of icelandic music since bjork went off on her own solo act. i got the opportunity to see her in concert last year, and it was probably one of the best concerts i've seen. if you liked "med sud" then you should also check out "takk..." and "agaetis byrjun". they aren't quite as accessible, but it's almost as if they're depicting iceland through music. also give Amiina a listen, female instrumental quartet who collaborate often with sigur ros.

i'll have to check out the dragon tattoo book, it sounds fantastic. is this to be found at my local borders or joseph-beth? or do i have to order this online?

January 17, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Kirsten said...

Great picks. I just finished Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and loved it. I can't wait to check out your other recs.

January 17, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Stella B said...

@Marinka & Kirsten - I think he was just in his 40's. Definitely a loss! Apparently the other two books have been published but are not in English yet.

@Stef - Thanks for the reco's. I'll check them all out! And GWTDT is definitely at Jo-Beth :-)

January 17, 2009 at 4:45 PM  
Loree said...

Ah...Lush. I ordered so much stuff that I'm not going to need to order soap for a year! Lots of great new finds, too. I'm really enjoying their I Should Coco soap (real coconut bits act as an exfoliator). My mainstay is their Olive Branch shower gel.

January 21, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

with you on loving how quiet it is in the winter. Our houseis up against a wooded area and there is nothing better than standing out there at night, listening to the deer and other animals walking through the woods.

January 25, 2009 at 10:49 AM  
sweetpea85 said...

i picked up an extra shift so i could justify another LUSH binge... got bamboo, the cynthia stout shampoo, i should coco (i love that one), snow fairy liquid soap, and 2 karmas. MMM so worth it :)

love you!

January 27, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

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