"The scandalous truth about me is that I am an unruly reader. I don't keep a methodical list, I often have more than one copy of the same book in piles I forget about, and I read somewhat randomly, and can be motivated by a book cover or how it smells alone. I gravitate towards books by or about disenfranchised folk everywhere: literary fiction that takes me somewhere I could never otherwise go, literary nonfiction--memoir and essays especially-- noir and thinking person's mysteries, poetry, and the occasional straight-up book of history. But my first requirement is almost always good writing."
I love Ann Patchett's latest novel, an entertaining "evil stepmother" sort of tale told from the perspective of the two siblings who have been disinherited from their father's beloved "Dutch" mansion, an over the top home filled with the original Dutch immigrants' treasures and artwork. The house itself becomes a character.
At last, we return to the world and the life of Strout's most memorable character, Olive Kitteridge. Irascible as ever, in her second marriage, in her beloved town of Crosby, Maine, Olive's travails are as entertaining as ever.
In gorgeously wrought prose by a gifted Vietnamese-American poet, this autobiographical novel explores the deep if fragile and drought relationship between a war-traumatized refugee mother and her gay son as then navigate their new land. Beautiful, some-times heart-rending, ultimately transformative.
This is something of a year for extraordinary gay poets of color parented by complicated mothers, as they come of age through the crossroads of race, sex, and power. Saeed's prose is engaging, his story luminous.
Part crime story, part biography, Cep picks up where Lee left off and writes the true crime story Lee thoroughly investigated but could never write. She also brilliantly captures Lee from childhood through death, devoting huge swathes of the book to her friendship with Truman Capote. Fantastic read.
Super entertaining novel centered around the intertwined lives of a tough Kansas woman on a crooked path to extricate her sister from bank-robbing white nationalist kidnappers and an autistic man whose obsession with medieval chivalry leads him to join up with his "lady" in an unusual and engaging page-turning tale.
This is a devastatingly beautiful portrait of a son and his mother, and what it is like to grow up big, black, and male in America. Kiese reads the audio himself and it is mesmerizing. I could not stop listening.
Rough Magic is a terrific adventure memoir from an unlikely source: a 19-year old woman at odds with human society, whose malaise at the threshold of adulthood and conformity sends her on a spur of the moment competition in the longest and hardest horse race ever, one she ultimately wins. Lara Prior-Palmer's account of the adventure--the horses, the Mongols she meets, the weather, and her competitors-- is absolutely engaging, but it is her sharp, introspective, wry musings, her surprisingly mature grasp of history and philosophy, her gorgeous prose, that sets this book in a class of its own. Highly recommended!
I love everything Jean Kwok writes and Searching for Sylvie Lee is no exception. A mystery wrapped in a family drama that spans continents it is old in alternating voices of two sisters, one who has disappeared, and the other who must confront her fears to find her. Compulsively readable with a "I didn't see that coming" ending.
Save Me the Plums ends as Ruth Reichl is about to board a plane for St. Louis, where she had an event with my bookstore. This I knew before I read the book. What I didn't know was the amazing and compulsively readable story of the decade that lead to that point. Ruth's account of her "rags to riches" rise from her California hippy days to the editor of the venerable Gourmet magazine, complete with a Conde Nast wardrobe allowance, driver, luxury office and jet-setting assignments is delicious. But by the end, it's not the personality playhouse of big stakes magazine publishing in its last days that you remember as much as Ruth's impressive genius for all things culinary-the food, the people, the places, the politics. She is a Hall of Famer in the food world and I am in awe of her. What I came a way loving was her immense intellect for food, her wide knowledge of food history, her transparency when she shares how she came of age in the cutthroat world of corporate publishing, her incalculable contributions to the way we think about food, and her deep humanity.
Abbigail's sparely told novel of dislocation, identity, and belonging, both geopolitical and familial, is achingly beautiful. While the story of a young Vietnamese girl's journey from an internment camp to America may feel foreign to many, the story of an emotionally unavailable mother and the complexities of friendships among the disenfranchised strike universal notes. I loved this book!
Incredible, lushly-written double tale in the best weaving of ancient myth and present day reality I have ever read. I absolutely loved that our two heroines were a 12 year old girl and a 17 year old young woman whose daring heroism was not only equal or superior to the male protagonists, it was the driving force of the plot. Girls never get to be the heroes. This book was deeply satisfying on so many levels. - Kris
Deeply moving richly written novel about the life of an African American woman just after the Civil War. Possessing the drama and breadth of a Greek tragedy, Beloved is truly a Great American Novel.
When Eva Rose Babbitt, mother of daughters Lizzie, 15 and Elvis, 10, drowns sleepswimming, her daughters are left to fend for themselves emotionally while their father tends to his grief. Elvis doesn’t trust the circumstances of her mother’s death. Annie Hartnett has created endearing and memorable characters in a delightfully original story in what is sure to be a beloved favorite of readers everywhere.
I am not a black man. I didn't come of age in the 80s with Hip Hop as my personal soundtrack. But I was absolutely captivated by Hanif Abdurraquib's memoir in the form of a tribute "album," paying homage to the rocket-to-fame brilliance of the forces behind A Tribe Called Quest. Gorgeously written, deeply considered, this deceivingly brief book threads biography, memoir, and social commentary into a perfect and satisfying read.
Sally Field's poignant and well-written memoir so far transcend the genre of celebrity tell-all as to stand in a class of its own. It is deeply personal and self-reflective, yet not afraid to speak truth to the very flawed power of the world in which she grew up and makes her living. In Pieces is a moving and deeply satisfying read. - Kris
Powerful memoir about loving and being loved, about obsession and the ways in which we damage and use the ones we love, but most importantly told from an indigenous woman's perspective in a white man's world. Mailhot writes with a searing honesty that almost hurts to read sometimes. Beautiful, at times heart-breaking, a necessary read. - Kris
Each story in this debut collection is more astonishing than the last. I was utterly riveted by Carmen's quirky, masterful and unique approach to story-telling. Every story stayed with me, and sometimes I had to just put the book down and catch my breath after finishing one. I absolutely loved this book and want more. - Kris
I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading this gorgeous, hopeful, inspiring book. The author is an indigenous woman, a poet and a botanist. Her eclectic wisdom filled my heart. Readers of Barbara Kingsolver and Wendell Berry will find much to savor in this beautiful meditation on what once was and could be again. - Kris
I loved this book! I could read Megan discussing paint drying. Wait, I think I DID read her discussing paint drying! Honestly, I have come late to her work and I am so impressed with her smart, big-hearted, personal, ironic, politically-engaged, messy, funny, surprising, unorthodox but always oddly comforting approach to the art of the essay. When I heard her speak about the book, I was moved to tears. I did, in fact, introduce myself to her afterwards and promptly burst into tears. Her words are just, well, timely and hopeful.
The complexities of the lives of girls and their mothers are explored through a Nigerian lens in this remarkable debut collection. Strains of magical realism enlarge some of the stories to modern folktale. Yet throughout, Lesley Nneka Arimah delivers a sharp observations on the frought relationships between mothers and the young women they must mentor as they all navigate what is still a very patriarchal world. - Kris
I don't know what took me so long to get around to reading Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. What a gorgeous, urgent, appeal to love and justice, disguised as a passionately rendered story about the fates of 5 people on the day Seattle activists shut down the WTO's opening meeting in 1999. I cannot remember when I have ever read a novel of this length in one sitting, almost breathless from the drumbeat pacing, like a heartbeat for our time. Timeless, timely. Read this if you march for justice. Read this if you don't. It is all here.