Archive for February, 2014

O is for Obese

It’s a word we hear (and see) more often in real life – according to the CDC, a third of U.S. adults are considered obese. But, surprisingly or not, we don’t come across too many obese characters in fiction. And the ones we do are usually caricatures or stereotypically presented as the funny sidekick (think Shakespeare’s Falstaff), the pathetic loser (like Piggy in The Lord of the Flies), or just generally incompetent (Augustus Gloop of Willie Wonka fame).

If you look closely – and especially in the last few years – you’ll start to see a few fat characters break the mold, excuse the pun. The characters in the novels listed below may be funny or sad or stupid, but it’s not because of their weight. And each of them deal with the physical, emotional, and social aspects of their obesity in interesting ways. Try a few on today – one is sure to be an exact fit for your reading mood.


150 Pounds – Kate Rockland

  • Approaching their wildly successful blogs from opposite ends of the scale, undersized loner Alexis and plus-sized social butterfly Shoshana advocate significantly different lifestyle perspectives until both appear on a popular talk show that causes their lives to intersect in unexpected ways.


Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart

  • Misha Vainburg is a Russian expatriate who inherited a post-Soviet fortune before coming to America. Having lived in the U.S. for twelve years, Vainburg is apprehensive about returning to his native country to attend his father’s funeral. His apprehension turns out to be well-founded when he is denied a visa to return to the United States. Absurdistan reads like a pleading letter to the Russian government, with Misha explaining his desperation to return to America.


Bed – David Whitehouse

  • Follows the experiences of a quiet, diligent younger brother whose eccentric and tyrannical older brother takes to his bed on his twenty-fifth birthday and resolves never to leave due to his disillusionment with the adult world.


Big Brother – Lionel Shriver

  • A couples comfortable, if sometimes strained, routine is changed with the arrival of Pandoras big brother, Edison, who is three times the size he was when the siblings last saw each other. He is morbidly obese. Edison interjects himself into Pandoras world and forms a bond with Pandoras stepchildren, opening doors to the past and to her parents that she would rather keep shut. Determined to keep her family together, Pandora embarks on a challenge: shell find an apartment for Edison, move in with him and support him financially, but only if he loses enough weight to resemble the person he once was.


Big Girl – Danielle Steel

  • After her sister gets engaged to a carbon copy of her narcissistic father, plus-size woman Victoria Dawson, who has fled L.A. for less-body-conscious New York City, must learn to love herself for who she is if she is ever going to get on with her life. .


Big Ray – Kimball

  • Years after the death of his abusive father, an adult son whose relief overshadowed his other emotions confronts the enduring presence of his father’s memory.


Blubber – Judy Blume (YA)

  • Jill goes along with the rest of the fifth-grade class in tormenting a classmate and then finds out what it is like when she, too, becomes a target.


Charade – Gilbert Morris

  • When brilliant, wealthy, and extremely obese Oliver Benson finds his new beautiful wife with his business manager, the two beat him severely, and he becomes obsessed with revenge, until his housekeeper demonstrates to him what real love can be–he finds faith in God, but it may be too late, as his betrayers force him into a battle for his life.


A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

  • Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, –selfish, domineering, deluded, tragic and larger than life– is a noble crusader against a world of dunces. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. In magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his monstrous bulk among the flesh posts of the fallen city, documenting life on his Big Chief tablets as he goes, until his maroon-haired mother decrees that Ignatius must work.


Diary of a Mad, Fat Girl – Stephanie McAfee

  • Graciela “Ace” Jones tries to right a number of wrongs in Bugtussle, Mississippi, including a friend’s cheating husband and her own boyfriend, who proposed three years too late.


Good in Bed – Jennifer Weiner

  • At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. Loving a Larger Woman, said the headline, by Bruce Guberman. Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over three years, until we’d decided to take a break three months ago. And the larger woman, I could only assume, was me.


Heft – Liz Moore

  • Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur that jostles them into action.


The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Tiffany Baker

  • Since her birth, Truly has endured constant embarrassment for her large size. Her sister Serena has always been a timeless beauty. But beauty comes with a price when Serena finds herself mixed up with the wrong guy. When Serena Jane leaves town, Truly is left to care for her nephew, and her life leads her into some unexpected places.


The Middlesteins – Jami Attenberg

  • Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother’s food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.


Push – Sapphire (YA)

  • A courageous and determined young teacher opens up a new world of hope and redemption for sixteen-year-old Precious Jones, an abused young African American girl living in Harlem who was raped and left pregnant by her father.


She’s Come Undone – Wally Lamb

  • Overweight and sensitive Dolores Price grows from painful childhood, through excruciating adolescence, to lonely adulthood, experiencing the heartache of being a misfit in a confusing world.


Too Big to Miss – Jaffarian

  • When her close friend Sophie London, a plus-sized activist, commits suicide over her web cam, Odelia Grey is determined to prove that the woman’s death was in fact a murder.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, part of the TFPL databases. Log in to NoveList Plus with your Library card.

Great Online Resource: 60 Second Recap

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about classic works of literature – but didn’t really want to read an entire book – check out 60 Second Recap. Designed with today’s teens in mind (but interesting to adults as well), this site provides a brief synopsis of a book, along with video components describing the plot, characters, and issues relevant to understanding the novel’s message.

But that’s not all the site offers. There are also reviews of popular books teens might like to read, helpful guides for writing about literature, study guides, and even information about college. And although it’s geared for teens, anyone can benefit from a brush-up on classics. It may just inspire you to go directly to the source and read! (Or not, but at least you’ll know more.)

Take Ten: Russia Since 1991

The 2014 Olympics begin today in Sochi, Russia! This is the first time Russia has hosted the Games since the Soviet Union collapsed (and the first time American athletes have competed in Russia). Learn more about the changes to the political, economic, and social landscape of the new Russia with one of the books below.


After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power – Dimitri K. Simes

  • With an insider’s view, an expert on Russia and former foreign policy advisor to President Nixon argues that Russia is returning to the world stage as a great power and intends to resume a major role in international affairs. (Description from the TFPL catalog.)

Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse – Lawrence Scott Sheets

  • A detailed chronicle of the collapse of the Soviet Union is told through a series of episodes and vignettes to explore personal, political, and historical contributing factors as well as its ongoing repercussions.

Expelled: A Journalist’s Descent into the Russian Mafia State – Luke Harding

  • Journalist Luke Harding, the first western reporter to be deported from Russia since the days of the Cold War, gives a personal and compelling portrait of Russia that – in its bid to remain a superpower – is descending into a corrupt police state.

It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past – David Satter

  • Satter shows why so many Russians actually mourn the passing of the Soviet regime that denied them fundamental rights. Through a wide-ranging consideration of attitudes toward the living and the dead, the past and the present, the state and the individual, Satter arrives at a distinctive and important new way of understanding the Russian experience.

Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution – Peter Baker

  • Two journalists for The Washington Post examine modern-day Russia, assessing the ways in which Vladimir Putin and his former KGB associates have shaped the country and threatened Russia’s chances for long-term democracy.

Lost and Found in Russia: Lives in a Post-Soviet Landscape – Susan Richards

  • Far from Moscow and St Petersburg, there lies another Russia. Overlooked by the new urban elites, in the great provincial hinterlands of the Volga River and Siberia, Russians struggle to reconcile their old traditions with the new ways of living. This title demonstrates how in Russia the past and the present cannot be separated.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin – Masha Gessen

  • This is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union – Conoe O’Clery

  • A suspenseful thriller of the Cold War’s final act: the internal power plays, the shifting alliances,the betrayals, the mysterious three colonels carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes, and the jockeying to exploit the future.

The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev – Daniel Treisman

  • Assesses modern-day Russia to consider such topics as whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was preventable, Yeltsin’s impact on political order, and Putin’s public popularity.

Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in the New Russia – Eleanor Randolph

  • From Moscow to the East, from the Arctic Circle to the southern farmlands, Randolph talks with young men and old women, doctors and conjurers, real estate brokers and newly converted businesswomen – all trying to cope in a world where the rules changed virtually overnight.


Annotations are from NoveList Plus unless noted. NoveList Plus can be accessed here using your Twin Falls Public Library card.