Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith
what a romp! grahame-smith (also the author of the similarly-genred pride and prejudice and zombies, which he “co-authored” with jane austen!), constructs a fantastical tale, from the fictitious journals of old abe himself, of the entire life of our 16th president. the true parts, the historic stuff, is based in fact. but this story adds the secret life of lincoln, as one of america’s best vampire hunters. his passion for killing vampires (born out of his own mother’s death at the hand — or drops of blood, as it were) becomes the driving force behind most of abe’s public life, including his presidency and his passion for abolishing slavery (which he hates at face value, for the reasons we would all know, but also because he comes to understand that slavery is supported by a nasty network of vampires and slave traders, for their own feeding purposes). no question, this book is dark! but i got a total kick out of reading it.
Wonder Boys: A Novel, by Michael Chabon
on a recent trip to guatemala, i finished another book too quickly, and realized i couldn’t stomach the long flights home without a book. so i found my way to a large bookstore that had a few shelves of english titles. this book caught my eye, since i’d read chabon’s the yiddish policeman’s union, and knew he won the pulitzer prize for the amazing adventures if kavelier and clay (which i still need to read, at some point). wonder boys is about a pot-smoking, burned out professor/fiction writer (with some moderate success in his past), who can’t seem to finish his current novel (currently at 2600 pages, and only about 40% through his intended storyline). the lead character takes a young, conflicted writing student under his battered and malfunctioning wing, simultaneously corrupting him and promoting him to his first book deal. the whole thing takes place in a couple days, and is a snapshot of a guy who makes continual bad choices and doesn’t have the stones to own up to them; that is, until the partially-redemptive ending, where there’s at least a hint of phoenix-like resolve emerging from the complete pile of ashes he’s made of his life). a bit depressing, to be sure, but still well-written.
Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence, by Robert Epstein
more than any other single book i have read in the past decade, this book has rocked my thinking about youth and youth ministry. epstein’s contention — extremely well documented — that we “infantilize” teenagers, keeping them in a protracted form of childhood, resonated with me (not that it sits easily, though, or is simple in any way). he claims (and, again, documents) that adolescence as we know it in the states (and, increasingly, in cultures impacted by american adolescent culture and the systems that exist to perpetuate it), does not exist in many, if not most, cultures around the world. we have invented it, and we are lengthening it, keeping teenagers (and now young adults) from living into the adult world that most of them possess the competencies for. the stereotypical brooding, emotionally-volatile, irresponsible, short-sighted teenager is a creation of our own invention. this book will call for a longer post or two from me, i think, than i have space for here. but i’ll say this: if i’ve ever said another book was a must-read for parents and youth workers, ignore that, until you have read this book. i’m already thinking, almost daily, about the implications for my own home (with two teenagers), my small group of 7th grade guys, and the many arenas i have for speaking to and (occasionally) influencing the thinking and practice of youth workers.