A few years ago we took a closer look at some of the top mothers in books, TV and film. As Father’s Day approaches, it’s Dad’s turn! Here are some of the best, or at least most memorable, paternal roles we’ve come to love over the years.
The All-Time Classic Dad:
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird
No list of fathers is complete without Atticus. He’s arguably one of the greatest role models in American literature.
Honorable Mentions: Pa Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie series, Arthur Weasley – Harry Potter series
The Dad Who Puts His Kids First:
Mr. Bennet – Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Bennet isn’t the perfect father, but he comes through when it counts, backing Elizabeth’s decision not to marry Mr. Collins.
Honorable Mentions: The Man – The Road, Bob Cratchit – A Christmas Carol
The Newcomer Dad:
Ned Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire series
Ned loves all his children, even Jon Snow, his illegitimate son. His sense of honor and duty rules every aspect of his being.
Honorable Mentions: Nate Pullman – Wonder, Thomas Schell – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Biopics, movies that tell the story of a famous real-life person, are usually about larger-than-life figures: presidents, prime ministers, war heroes, athletes—people whose lives are full of drama. When it comes to making films about artists and creative types, musicians tend to be the easiest subjects; directors can always fill screen time with the music itself, recreating famous performances or recording sessions.
Writers may be the hardest. Imagine the action in the script: “The writer sits alone at her typewriter. She stares into space. She types some words, stares some more, then types more words. She breaks for lunch.” Fortunately for filmmakers, great writers are often tortured souls with tumultuous personal lives, and that’s what author biopics tend to focus on, for better or worse. The newest example of the genre is Mary Shelley, which opens May 25 and stars Elle Fanning as the Frankenstein author.
Here’s a short rundown of some notable biographical films about writers.
This 2005 film follows the eccentric writer Truman Capote, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as he researches and writes his best-known work, the pioneering true crime book In Cold Blood. After reading an article about the murder of a family of four in rural Kansas, Capote decides to write about it and heads to the heartland with his childhood pal and fellow writer Harper Lee, played here by Catherine Keener. Things turn messy when Capote gets emotionally attached to one of the killers, Perry Smith. He intervenes in the legal proceedings to delay Smith’s execution, partly motivated by the need to keep interviewing Smith to glean more info for his book. Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and the movie also got nominations for Best Picture and Best Director (Bennett Miller). Roger Ebert wrote that Capote “focuses on the way a writer works on a story and the story works on him.”
Yes, people, National Waiters & Waitresses Day is a real thing. NWWD (I just invented this abbreviation) is May 21, a day to eat out and tip generously as we pay a little extra attention to the hard-working, often underpaid folks who serve us in restaurants. To celebrate, we’re serving up a a six-course meal of waitstaff-centric books, movies and more.
One of the greatest TV comedies of all time, Cheers (1982–1993), focuses on the employees and patrons of a Boston bar. Here we encounter two common waitress tropes: Diane, played by Shelley Long, is highly educated and thinks waitressing is beneath her, but she takes the gig in a moment of desperation after being jilted by her fiancée. Then there’s Rhea Perlman’s Carla, the wisecracking, hardened “career” waitress who becomes Diane’s comic foil. The first couple of seasons are like a sitcom writing masterclass.
Waiting tables is a common job for college students or other young adults—a thing to do while waiting (sometimes in vain) to do something else. Stephanie Danler wrote Sweetbitter during grad school while she worked at NYC’s Union Square Café, and the novel takes an unflinching look at the glitzy but grueling world of an upscale Manhattan eatery. Based partly on the author’s real-life experiences, the book was a bestseller and literary sensation upon its 2016 publication. Danler told Vanity Fair: “I’ve seen so many women move to New York City, think that they’re going to get a temporary job in the restaurant industry, and then get sucked into that world.” Sweetbitter will also become a TV series on Starz!, premiering May 6.
Graduation is an important part of every teenager’s life. Some spend 18 years eagerly waiting for the day they are finally “free”, while others dread being forced to figure out what the future looks like without Mom & Dad. Our favorite shows and movies often highlight the pomp and circumstance of this momentous day, so as another class prepares to turn the tassel, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorites.
Modern Family: See You Next Fall
(2011: Season 2, Episode 23)I’ve always related to Alex, and never more so than this episode. I was a high school valedictorian as well and, let me tell you, at age 18, it’s a stressful moment. But she handled it like a champ.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For May, we’ve stepped through the looking-glass to learn about the history and development of children’s literature.
1658 Orbis Pictus, the first children’s textbook with pictures, is published.
1744 John Newbery releases A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, considered the first children’s book.
1942 The Poky Little Puppy is among the first 12 Little Golden Book titles.
1963 Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are raises the level of artistry in children’s picture books.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, was a watershed in children’s literature. Its emphasis on fantasy and childlike imagination was a departure from earlier works for kids, which were largely educational and reality-based.
- Competition with the Soviets fueled US efforts to create more engaging books for young readers. One result was the Beginner Books imprint, founded in 1957 by Phyllis Cerf, Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Helen Geisel.
- Released in 1942 and still in print today, Seventeenth Summer by Maurine Daly, is often cited as the first modern young adult (YA) book.
Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!
The History of Children’s Books in 100 Books, Roderick Cave and Sara Ayad
Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History, Peter Hunt, ed.
100 Great Children’s Picturebooks, Martin Salisbury
John Newbery: Father of Children’s Literature, Shirley Graham
75 Years of Little Golden Books, 1942-2017: A Commemorative Set of 12 Best Loved Books
The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
Theodor Geisel: A Portrait of the Man Who Became Dr. Seuss, Donald Pease
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy
Arbor Day is April 27, so we’re going out on a limb to highlight a few of our favorite trees in literature, film and even music. There’s no shortage of choices, given that humans have coexisted with and been fascinated by trees—sometimes even worshiping them—for all of history.
The Radley oak tree in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Trees loom large in Harper Lee’s beloved 1960 novel, so it’s no surprise that most editions of the book feature a tree on the cover. Trees, after all, are where mockingbirds hang out. And, as Atticus Finch tells us, “it’s a sin” to kill a mockingbird because all they do is make music for us to enjoy. Furthermore, a tree plays an important role in the plot, as the mysterious recluse Boo Radley uses the knothole of a neighborhood oak tree as a place to leave small gifts for the Finch children, Scout and Jem.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterpiece. But here’s the thing: masterpieces aren’t for everyone.
As the resident sci-fi nerd around here, I was asked to write something about 2001 for its 50th anniversary on April 2. At first, I had no idea what to say. I’ve always had an appreciation for the film, but I’ve never liked it. For me, it’s a painfully slow movie–all brains and no heart.
I also had trouble remembering anything but its most iconic moments; I’ve only seen it once or twice–and the last time was at least a decade ago. So here’s what I decided to do: I’d watch it again and take notes throughout. I was curious to see how my opinions changed (if at all) through the course of watching it. Were the boring parts still boring? Would I care for any of the characters this time? Would I know what the hell was going on?
This isn’t intended as an MST3K riff or anything–though you can tell where my attention started to wander. If you’re interested, there’s a time marker for my notes so you can play along at home. So without further ado, here’s my odyssey of revisiting 2001.
[0:21] Black screen and dissonant music. Stanley Kubrick knew how to put you on edge.
[1:24] Fun fact: if you start this movie with the sound off and play Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, they don’t sync up whatsoever.
[2:33] And the dawn of the fast-forward button.
[4:13] I won’t skip the apes part…I won’t skip the apes part…
[7:38] Forgot there were two tribes of apes at odds with each other.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For April, we’ve got some groovy info on the history of sound recording.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Thomas Edison’s phonograph, using a rotating cylinder wrapped in tinfoil, was the first machine to play back recorded sound. The first recording was Edison himself reciting the opening lines to “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
- Columbia Records introduced the 12-inch, 331/3 rpm long play record in 1948. Lighter and less brittle than its predecessors, the vinyl LP would come to dominate the recorded music market. Musicians took advantage of the LP’s extended playing time to create album-length artistic statements.
1877 Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.
1889 Emile Berliner’s gramophone, which uses discs instead of cylinders, debuts.
1949 RCA Victor introduces the 45 rpm single a year after Columbia debuts its 331/3 LP.
1957 Stereo records appear.
2007 Vinyl, long considered obsolete, resurges in popularity.
Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!
Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, Eilon Paz
Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age, Dominik Bartmanski & Ian Woodward The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove, Andrew Cartmel
Sound Recording: The Life Story of a Technology, David L. Morton, Jr.
Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP, Susan Schmidt Horning
Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music, Greg Milner
Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past, Eric Spitznagel
This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores.
For March, we’ve exercised our brain to bring you some fascinating info about puzzles.
1760s Londoner John Spilsbury creates early wooden jigsaw puzzles.
c.1900 A jigsaw puzzle craze sweeps the US.
1920s Jigsaw puzzles become an inexpensive Depression-era pastime.
1932 Jig of the Week, a weekly 25¢ puzzle, is a hit on newsstands.
2011 The world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, with 551,232 pieces, is assembled in Vietnam.
DID YOU KNOW?
- A 1514 engraving by Albrecht Dürer featured a “magic square,” a distant ancestor to sudoku and other number-based puzzles.
- Jigsaw puzzles emerged in the 18th century when maps were mounted on wood and cut into pieces along national borders. Known as dissected maps, they were used to teach geography to children.
- In the early 20th century, the high cost of wooden jigsaw puzzles put them out of reach of average consumers, but they became a staple of the high-society party scene.
- The first known published crossword puzzle appeared December 21, 1913, in the New York World. By the 1920s they were carried in most US newspapers.
The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History, Anne D. William
The History and Craft of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles: From Historical Source Instructions to Modern Tools and Techniques, Carrie Franzwa
Crossworld: One Man’s Journey Into America’s Crossword Obsession, Marc Romano
A Clue for The Puzzle Lady, Parnell Hall
The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles: 50 Sunday Puzzles from the Pages of The New York Times, Will Shortz, ed.
Sudoku Mania, Book 1
February 2 is Groundhog Day, so you’ll find me doing the same thing I do every Groundhog Day, watching the movie Groundhog Day, because Groundhog Day just isn’t Groundhog Day without watching Groundhog Day. (That sentence was brought to you by the people who bet me I couldn’t use “Groundhog Day” six times in a sentence.) Truth is, I have always loved stories that have time loops in them. As someone who constantly gets things wrong, the idea that someone could live the same day over and over again until they get things right appeals to me. Here’s a list of my top five books and movies about people who get stuck in some sort of time loop.
Groundhog Day—Of course we have to start this list with Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie never explains how weatherman Phil Connors gets stuck in a time loop, having to relive February 2 over and over again, but I think the groundhog had something to do with it.
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver—In this debut YA novel, Sam Kingston wakes up the morning after dying in a car accident, fated to relive the day she dies over and over again. Like in Groundhog Day, the story is about redemption and the reason for the time loop is not given, but it sure makes a great story. This book was turned into a movie in 2017, starring Zoey Deutch.