PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God (William Morrow)
Five years ago, Germantown resident Frank Warren started PostSecret, a community art project in which he asked strangers to (anonymously) send him artfully decorated postcards with personal secrets on them. To date, he's received more than 400,000 cards, and he selects the most interesting for inclusion on his wildly popular PostSecret website and in a series of best-selling books. This latest volume grew out of a mini-exhibition Warren put together for the AmericanVisionaryArt Museum's All Faiths Beautiful show in 2007. He selected postcards that dealt with faith and belief and displayed them on the wall of AVAM's circular staircase. Like many folks, I read every one and wished—maybe even prayed—for more. Well, that prayer has been answered with this book, which is sort of an expanded version of the AVAM show and packed with mysterious, intriguing confessions. Like all PostSecret projects, it's full of gentle truths and hard-hitting realities.
How to Say Goodbye in Robot (Scholastic)
The title of this young adult novel is somewhat unfortunate. It would be a shame if some kids disregarded this book because they thought it dealt with robots, science fiction, or futuristic linguistic studies. Natalie Standiford has actually written an evocative, moody, and thoroughly delightful book about a couple of offbeat teens finding each other, and themselves in the process. Beatrice and Jonah aren't vampires or wizards. They're just kids—in Baltimore, it turns out—forging a deep friendship characterized by empathy and an appreciation for benign escapism, personal eccentricity, and late night radio. There's some profanity and underage drinking in Standiford's story, but her characters aren't defined by those things, just as they aren't defined by the gossip, cliques, and family tragedies in their midst. They seem above such things, because what they're experiencing is actually an unspoken love for one another. Standiford, to her great credit, resists romantic clichés and a pat ending in favor of something more complex, nuanced, and heart tugging.
I, Sniper (Simon & Schuster)
I have an aversion to a character named Bob Lee Swagger. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of that fact, but the mere mention of the name triggers an instant "are you kidding?" reaction from me. And this Swagger kills for a living, as a sniper, so there's no chance it plays against type. That's two strikes against the author. But the author is the mighty Stephen Hunter, and I tore through this fast-paced thriller, gun jargon and all. It was a brisk and engaging read over the course of a few winter nights when you'd have been hard-pressed to pry it from my cold hands.