Here’s a little peak into what our exhausted eyes are soaking up in the wake of publishing our anthology, Year One.
We’re always open to recommendations from our readers and thoughts about any of the books listed below.
I’m leaning pretty heavily into the short story collections since I enjoyed reading Dog Years so much last month. For an even reading diet, I also threw in a fantasy heavyweight, Tamora Pierce, and a popular non-fiction writer, Michael Pollan. Here’s to hoping that all of these accomplished authors rub off on me.
Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
Over 25 years after he first appeared on the page, the most powerful mage in Tortall, Numair Salmalín, is back. Only he isn’t Numair yet. Tempests and Slaughter picks up with our hero back when he was just Arram Draper, a promising young student.
This novel sets up an entire series that will give fans the origin story of a character we thought we knew. I’m usually wary about prequels. Oftentimes authors risk ruining their own world with inconsistencies but I’ve been a fan of Pierce’s Tortall since before Harry Potter. (Superfan alert.)
Beautiful Days by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates has so many books. I cannot even wrap my head around how one author is so prolific. Seriously, look at her wikipedia page. I had no idea where to start, but she’s coming to Pittsburgh in September and I have tickets to see her speak.
Beautiful Days is her most recent short story collection and promises to explore “the most secret, intimate, and unacknowledged lives of characters not unlike ourselves.” Yes, please. I love collections as a way to get to know a new author. It’s easy to read a story or two in a sitting and it gives me a feel for what an author’s writing style and interests are like.
Florida by Lauren Groff
This is Groff’s first short story collection since Delicate Edible Birds, which is one of my favorite books. While her previous books take place in her home of upstate New York, this collection focuses on her new state of residence. Florida occupies a weird place in our cultural consciousness. It’s wild and untamed yet thinks of itself as a refined southerner. Steeped in history and also trashy. It’s home to gator killing, gun toting uncles and also the slickest cocaine city in the U.S.A. Recently I’ve becoming fascinated with our 27th state.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I am a junk food queen. I love chocolate and chips and ice cream. I can taste the difference between chocolate covered raisins and raisinets. I’m hoping that this Pollan read will have me reaching for fruits and veg, listening to my body, eating mindfully, and all that junk. I really enjoyed his Netflix docu-series, Cooked, but this will be his first book I’ve read.
This month has been all over the place for me. From George Saunders to more Terry Pratchett, August doesn’t seem to have a big theme running through it like my summer reading novels last month. We also launched our own anthology this month, which has taken up quite a bit of time.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Saunders’ experimental novel took me awhile to get fully invested in. However, as soon as I was hooked, I was hooked hard. Each of the individual ghost stories wrapped up in this bigger work are wonderfully imaginative, upsetting, and sometimes devastating all at once. I highly recommend this novel and implore those who are at first put off by the format to push through.
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
I love the wizards of Discworld. Even though many Pratchett fans say that the Rincewind novels lack much of the wonderful plotting other Discworld books do, I still get lost in them. For Equal Rites, though, we take on a new wizard: a young girl, which is a no-no in Discworld society. I’m really looking forward to what’s going to happen.
Gulp by Mary Roach
Mary Roach’s books are fascinating, especially looking at them through the lends of an ex-science journalist. She can break down tremendously complex ideas in a simple, humorous way, examining why things are they way they are without pretending to be an expert. In each book, you are along for the ride with her, learning together. In Gulp, she tackles food, how we taste, and many other gastronomical things. It’s going to be fun.
Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen
Alongside Pratchett, I’ve been hitting Hiaasen’s works pretty hard this year. Strip Tease is often touted as his best work, so I’m excited to really dig in to this one. If his other novels are any indicator, there will be a wonderful twist and a bunch of laughs along the way.
With Summer coming to a close, it’s given me a chance to pick up a few things that are a little more emotionally evocative and complex. In other words, most of the books I’ve read this month will likely bum you out. Grab a box of tissues and find the ‘comfort food’ tab on Grubhub, because these books will leave you needing both.
On Love by Alain de Botton
In what may be the most structurally experimental novel I’ve read in years, de Botton creates a love story that is both unique, yet eerily ubiquitous. His perspective and syntax are academically detached, yet the situation(s) he’s “examining” (his own romantic relationship) are entirely relatable, and therefore heartbreaking, reminding readers of their own matters of the heart.
Anyone interested in “breaking the rules” of writing should brave the heartache and read On Love. Visual aids and mathematical probabilities abound, all of which are essential to the trajectory of the story.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s most famous caper to feature detective Hercule Poirot may not seem like a sad tale, but at its core there is a greater statement on the nature of justice, not necessarily as a system, but as an ideal, one that isn’t always upheld, leaving innocent lives in the wake.
My mother introduced me to detective stories when I was young. The idea of using logic and applying thought to a problem in order to find the truth of a matter immediately appealed to me. And when a mystery can employ critical thinking accompanied by true emotional content, it’s a rare, rewarding feat.
Seeing, Doing, and Knowing by Mohan Matten
Don’t be fooled: this is a textbook. The language is dry and dense, the conclusions drawn are cyclical and needlessly complex, and it’s a bleak thesis on how we all perceive of and understand our world.
That said, it’s a thoughtful one. According to Matten, we are little more than the sum total of how and what we experience, and the learning garnered through that experience. So, in a way, everything you “are”, your “soul” is measured solely by your experience and consequential learning.
I warned you, bring tissues.
Lost Cat by Jason
Even more so than On Love, this book broke my heart. Between the vacant, haunting illustrations, the myriad intertwined sub-plots, and the ultimate, devastating climax, there was barely anything left of me. One part graphic novel, one part detective story, and another part love story, Lost Cat will leave you, like unrequited love, hollow, yet wanting more.