Title of bookAuthorAnything you'd like to add?Notes from Molly
1984George Orwellthats a good one , you will understand how the world actually works.According to the author, it gives hope for a difficult, long and thorny path of confrontation.
But the bottom line: the system is broken, leaves a sad aftertaste after reading.
& SonsDavid GilbertFunny, clever, beautiful, New York literary novel which then becomes something completely different about two thirds of the way through
A Child's Spiritual JourneyErnie LivermanSelf published on Amazon, this book is about the author's journey thru therapy to recover from unimaginable child abuse and pain. it was written from a jornal he wrote during therapy. It tells how God helped him to overcome the most painful times of his life.
A Heart So WhiteJavier Marias
A High Wind in JamaicaRichard HughesA classic! I've read this one many times! Children en route to England get accidentally captured by pirates.One of my all-time faves. -molly
A Life of Her OwnEmilie CarlesA humble story teller and very matter of fact. A gentle journey through a really incredible woman's life.I love humble and gentle, as qualities pertaining to both humans and books. Will look into this. Thank you! -Molly
A Map of the Word; All about the BenjaminsZev GoodeI may have already recommended this; can't remember. But this is a very talented writer
A Month in the CountryJ.L. Carr" a recommended read from my mother in law who is English...she loved it, I (an American) thought it unremarkable.
A Natural History of North American TreesDonald Culross PeattieTimber
a note to MollyHey Molly, I"m not on twitter. Any chance you can send your recs to your OLD, pre-NYM email list? Can't live w/o your recs. - LauraI will try to see if I can do that! I might not "own" the list anymore (scary thought) but will look into it. Fingers crossed. -MollyThank you!
A Passage NorthAnuk ArudpragasamThe novel is set a few years following Sri Lanka's harrowing three-decade-long Civil War, and its quiet feat is that it makes the reader think about their own mortality, and what it means to be alive when encircled by loss. Not revealing more details on the plot, but this is a book that'll stay with you even months after you've finished reading it.The novel is set a few years following Sri Lanka's harrowing three-decade-long Civil War, and its quiet feat is that it makes the reader think about their own mortality, and what it means to be alive when encircled by loss. Not revealing more details on the plot, but this is a book that'll stay with you even months after you've finished reading it.
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, ConstructionChristopher AlexanderThis book was written by a group of Berkeley-based architecture professors in 1977. It consists of ~250(!) chapters each 2-4 pages. Each chapter names and describes a "pattern," which is a rule or guideline the authors feel society ought to use when designing a city, town, or building.
The patterns start off broad, bland, and uncontroversial. Things like "Independent Regions," or "Identifiable Neighborhoods." But then the patterns start to get more surprising and wacky. Things like "City-country fingers", "Four-Story Limit", "Mini-buses", "Old people everywhere", etc.
The patterns also get narrower and more specific throughout the book. They start off discussing preferred elements of whole cities (e.g. "Local Transport Areas") , then specific neighborhoods in those cities (e.g. "Eccentric nucleus"), then buildings in those neighborhoods (e.g. "Beer Hall", "Arcades"), then rooms in those buildings ("Sleeping to the east", "Roof garden", "light on two sides of every room", "secret place"), and finally things placed in those rooms (e.g. "marriage bed", "corner doors", "things from your life"), etc.
The explanations are written in a voice that is both dogmatic and matter-of-fact, which was enjoyable and quite funny. Especially when fervent and contrarian claims were made about things I (previously) took for granted, like "Bedrooms make no sense."
The book is long, but the "mini-chapter" nature means you can skim through good swaths without losing too much.
Thank you for doing what you do! Excited for the big move to the NYT!
Never, ever would have encountered this on my own. Thank you!! -molly
A theory of bastardsAudrey SchulmanPlease ignore the chick-lit looking cover, it has nothing to do with the story. (A huge pet-peeve of mine!). I just finished this book and I’m incredibly sad it ended. I never thought I would get so invested in the well-being of 14 bonobos. It has everything. Sci-fi, endometriosis, dust storms, bonobo mating rituals. I won’t say anything more or I’ll spoil it. P.S. Huge fan of your lists and well done on the new job Molly!
A Time of GiftsPatrick Leigh FermorOne of a series of travel memoirs of the writer's time travelling around Europe on foot as a 19-year old in the early 1930s. The descriptions of the natural world he observes are beautiful and vivid, the historical and cultural accounts of the places he visits are incredibly detailed, with sweet and suprising asides about partying with Rumanian gentry and bucolic hook-ups with Hungarian farm girls!!Bucolic hookups with Hungarian farm girls! on it. (The book, not the farm girls. Unless...) -molly
A Wreath of RosesElizabeth Taylor
AbsurdistanGary ShteyngartProbably a good time to revisit this one. -molly
Adventures in UnhistoryAvram DavidsonA meandering, chatty, erudite collection of essays exploring the literary sources of myths and foklore from a 20th c. sci-fi author. Curious about mermaids? The true origins of werewolves? Unicorns? Each chapter truly a different "adventure" in which Davidson entertainingly leads the reader through the eclectic stories behind the legends.Shit like this is why I relish having a google spreadsheet. Never would have found this on my own, in a million years. Thanks! -molly
Agatha of Little NeonClaire Luchettewhen their parish goes broke, 4 nuns are sent to live in a halfway house the color of mountain dew I have the book but havent read it—will read. I needed a little nudge. -molly
All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See is a war novel written by American author Anthony Doerr. It won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. And I absolutely love it.
AmoralmanDerek DelgaudioQuick read, super compelling memoir/life stories from a mentalist and performance artist. I went in expecting stories about magic and card tricks and instead got a really fascinating and very well-told look at the nature of truth, illustion, and story-telling, told through incredible and affecting personal stories. Makes a great pairing with his show, In and Of Itself, which is on HuluNot to brag but I saw the show live and had my mind blown!!! I have a copy of the book and haven't read it but mayhaps I shall... -molly
Ask the DustJohn FanteVery dark and dusty 1940s L.A. noir. Think if Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlow didn't bother the solve the Big Sleep but just became obsessed with this woman who pretty much hates him. Existential desert-wandering and hurache sandals.never read john fante but love huaraches and noir so my work is cut out for me. thanks! -molly
AssemblyNatasha BrownHoly shit this book! In someone else’s words: “Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away.”I must have accidentally marked this book's publicist as "Spam" or something because I have not even been aware of this book until now! My bad! ordering. Oh wait, it's not out yet in the US! I'll try to buy a british copy on eBay -molly
Autobiography of RedAnne Carsonat one point she writes of our hero, "He had nothing to say to anyone. he felt loose and shiny." i mean. Anne Carson is a huge blind spot for me. Must remedy. Thank you for the nudge -Molly
BabbittSinclair LewisThe best book by America's first Nobel laureate in literature is 100 years old. Begun in 1920, published in 1922. A laugh out loud satire, a distionary word, and a reminder that Trumpism was never anything more than Booster Club Republicanism and therefore recycled "camp" fashion. Remember the first MAGA hats were worn by hipsters to show. "irony". RIYL "Mrs Bridge" and "Mr. Bridge". Tell me that Babbitt isn't The Great American Novel.Humiliating that I haven't read this. The RIYL Mrs Bridge / Mr Bridge really seals the deal. Ordering a copy from eBay™ now. -Molly
Beautiful MutantsDeborah LevyWILD WIERD VIVID. "Beautiful Mutants' central figure is the mysterious Russian exile Lapinski, described by her loutish, City-working neighbour – one of the brash, greedy characters who signal the novel's intent to be a sideways chronicle of Thatcherism " purchased. thank you. -molly
Beautiful World, Where Are You?Sally RooneyI'm doing it. I'm recommending the new Sally Rooney! You can't stop me. It's a story about the lives of four people in their late 20s/early 30s, their relationships and how they relate to one another. I cried a lot, even though it's not a sad story at all. I hated some characters, I loved others, but they were all important to the story in the end.Recommended in the last newsletter! -molly
Because a Fire Was in My HeadLynn StegnerDamaged girl leaves Saskatchewan and bounces around the West coast, leaving victims of her narcissism in her wake. RIYL: Ottessa Moshfegh, but prefer 1) third person omniscent narration and 2) more finely drawn psychological portraits (in my opinion). Fair warning that the beginning felt somewhat ungainly, but it picked up quickly!Oh wow, yes. Sounds great. -Molly
Because She Never AskedEnrique Vila-MatasVery funny and slim (read it in one afternoon taking generous breaks), a novella about the narrator's encounters with the French artist Sophie Calle; a meditation on the connection between life and art/literature which delightfully veers into more meta territory with each curve of its spiral. Important q: will I like this if I don't generally like Sophie Calle books? -mollyoof, hard to say — I've only ever read Address Book by Calle (and liked it) and the Vila-Matas is different in terms of prose but shares an appreciation for conceit, maybe? It has less to do with Calle than it has to do with art in general, if that helps answer your question...
BluetsMaggie NelsonI requested this in Part 1 and we had a "kinky" banter. Any update? I read her new book "On Freedom" and was profoundly discouraged. But I really gotta try Bluets. Reading "On Freedom" without reading Bluets is like choosing to watch only ONE Scorsese movie and having it be, like, "Boxcar Bertha" or something. Ohh, interested to hear more about your thoughts on the new one.
Broken ToysBrian SchreiberWould love to known what you think of this book.Good title. I will look into it. -Molly
Cassandra at the WeddingDorothy Baker1960s Berkeley grad student lesbian drives home for her sister's wedding celebrations, which she does her best to sabotage amidst heavy drinking and snark. Purchased. -MollySecond this one. Enjoyed.
CaucasiaDanzy Sennaborrowed a friend's beat up copy and returned it even more beat up because I carried it with me everywhere when I was reading itI loved her most recent book (New People) and I think I recommended it, but then I tried one of her earlier novels (not this one) and found it very clunky and gave up. Maybe I picked the wrong one...-Molly
ChaosTom O'NeillSaw Helter Skelter on your bookshop LA list, this is a natural follow up; the author (who worked on this book by repeatedly missing a magazine article deadline for like, 20 years) thinks Vincent Bugliosi is a big ol bully and finds connections b/w the CIA, Manson murders, mind control, etc etc. He spends just enough energy trying to convince the reader he’s not a conspiracy theorist but even if you think so I think it’s worth it for the tracking down of old Hollywood rumors in diners and details about Dennis Wilson’s California-shaped swimming pooluhhhhh I love everything about this description. Now going hunting on ebay for a copy. Seems like something I might develop a(nother) mental illness while reading... but also seems worth it! -mollyThis book was such a perfect and sad summer read. It will stick with me for a long time.
Close to the KnivesDavid WojnarowiczIf I could add one book to the American high school canon, would be this one. The memoir of an AIDs activist and artist. Wojnarowicz conveys an amazing love of his friends and lovers and many men he met and desired and found beautiful. Out of this love comes anger at politicians and their policies, which are, effectively, murdering the people he loves. Speaks to the moment. I have a copy of this at home but haven't read it. will give it a go. -Molly
Convoluted Universe Dolores CannonAn amazing not often realized multi faceted way of life
Crying in H MartMichelle ZaunerReally interested in hearing your notes on this book.Any book I read that is delightful comes in two forms of pleasure: the book itself and then what you say about the book!I've got a copy and haven't read, but have been meaning to!-mollyThey made a movie out of it (:
Cult FollowingBexy CameronMemoir by Bexy Cameron who was born into the cult Children of God. This book was a wild ride! "Haunted by her past, she sets off on a road trip across America, embedding herself in the underbelly of religious cults... It is a journey of meth cooks, monks, Jesus Freaks, soap-making Armageddonists, survelillance vans and finally, confronting her parents and herself."
Daddy Emma Cline10 very particular short stories that run the gamut from nanny escaping scandal to girl selling underwear for acting lessons. I liked it better than The Girls. Very millenial.Recommended in a previous newsletter! -mollyI found Shadow of the Wind to be similiar in some ways in how strong the characters are and the sense of mystery. I recommended it after this one. Also recently read and throughly enjoyed Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. In non fiction, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe about Northern Ireland was so well written and such a powerful story. For really easy reading, the Bruno series by Martin Walker about a police chief in a very small town in the south of France. I read these when I need to turn my brain off. Lots of food and wine and friendship and a wacky crime thrown in. Sorry, that was more than one rec.a feast of recs! I loved Say Nothing as well. And the Bruno series sounds like a nice palette cleanser between books of harrowing sadness and misery that I've been "enjoying" lately. Thank you. -mollyMy pleasure! Thank you for the newsletter, I've gotten so many great books from it.
Death MaskEric J. GatesZoe Davis, late-thirties, bookstore owner, now living with a new family in Albuquerque, NM.
Ordinary. Unremarkable.
So why are Special Ops elite soldiers trying to kill her?
Perhaps Zoe isn't who she seems to be... 2021 Reader's Favorite GOLD MEDAL AWARD winner
Death of a SardineJoan Flemingdescribed as both "off-beat" and "zany" in the cover blurbs. My paperback cover is an illustration of a skeleton hand delicately pinching a panicked sardine above a range of angry cacti, all set against a neon yellow background. I don't know why but I feel like this tells you all you need to know... Ordered and thank you. I know a person isn't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I do. Or rather, I've never been dissuaded by a bad cover...but am often inveigled by a great one. -Molly
EileenOttessa MoshfeghRead it and I THINK I recommended it in a very early newsletter, before the newsletter was at nymag...gripping. she's a twisted sister who writes a lean mean sentence!The best.
Empire of PainPatrick Radden KeefeFascinating and devastating. I brought this on vacation and could not put it down. An unexpectedly incredible "beach read"I've been shying away from this one because I somewhat OD'd on books about the opioid epidemic (pun intended and immediately regretted) but perhaps I'll give it a few pages...or do the audio book -mollyMight be worth considering even if you've done the whole opioid epidemic list already. It's much more of a biography of the Sackler family and their dynasty, less about the actual epidemic (not bc the author isn't a terrific reporter just . . . we already get it, you know?). I read all the opioid books and I still learned a lot and gained a whole slew of mortal enemies.
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is A WitchRivka GalchenJohnnes Kepler's mother is accused of witchcraft in 1600s Germany. She is a crochety spinster and her closest relationship is with her cow. It is so fucking funny. "'I apologize for having no horse,' he said cheerfully. He didn't look like he'd ever had a horse. Or even had a close friend who had had a horse."Recommended this month! I agree: so fucking funny. -Molly
Exciting TimesNaoise DolanI feel like you recommended this already in a newsletter. In case you didn't, I hereby recommend it. Disaffected young Irish woman who is "good at men" moves to Hong Kong and uses her wit/wile to bag a room in the swanky apartment of her kind-of boyfriend. Then she meets Edith. Complications and excitement ensue. Sally Rooney who?!I haven't recommended it but jeez, buying now. Thanks! -molly
Fake AccountsLauren OylerThe year is 2017 and a woman commences a series of deceptive (and low-stakes) deeds after she discovers her boyfriend's secret IG account. The narrator's voice made me laugh out loud many times, which is a rarity. Would be curious to read your review on this one!
Fierce AttachmentsVivian GornickMemoir about growing up Jewish and working class in NYC; developing a leftist consciousness; and most of all, navigating the rocky, twisted landscape that is mother-daughter relationships. (With a mother like this one, you'll see why Gornick wrote a book about her.) Razor-sharp (and similarly cutting) imagery about herself and others... I live in fear of being described as she describes an ex-boyfriend: "His intelligence was like a piece of railroad track severed at either end from the main connection, with a single train car riding back and forth between stations, imitating motion and journey."
Finding Lost PondPamela Mitchell, RNPoetry chapbook of a native NY nurse's work and where she found
Five Little IndiansMichelle Goodjust won big Canada award, residential schools, modern storytelling, wonderful characters, harsh, funny, indigenousargh, it's on backorder at bookshop and seemingly not on ebay. i'll scour elsewhere...holler if you have any suggestions about where to buy. -molly
Foam of the DazeBoris Vian
Fossil MenKermit Pattison
Frost in MayAntonia WhiteA newly converted Catholic girl is enrolled in a strict religious school run by nuns both cruel and kind. The book plays out over several years, detailing Fernanda's attempts at being a good Catholic, while coming up against the sheer madnesses of religion. Includes one of my favourite tropes (intense boarding school friendships that teeter on obsession/romance: see also, Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy and The Chinese Garden by Rosemary Manning).
Ghalib: A Wilderness At My DoorstepMehr Afshan FarooqiThe poetic biography of the greatest urdu poet and one of the greatest Indian Poet of all time. Mehr Afshan writes with deep insight reminiscent of her father, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (who is comparable to T. S. Eliot for the impact his criticism had). The book's special focus on hitherto little-read persian poetry of Ghalib, it's clear elucidation of the poetics of Ghazal make this the best introduction to the poetry, the people and the dreams of a language and culture.
Girl Gone MadAvery BishopI'm only about halfway through, but this book is deep, very intense, tons of fascinating layers about the way we hurt other and ourselves. I'm very interested to see how this book will end.
Good NeighborsSarah LanganPart suburban drama, part climate change thriller, with a dash of murder mystery. Captures the tension of a Long Island neighborhood "in decline" by alternating between narrative and articles "published" years after the events. I haven't stopped thinking about this book for a month. I think I have a copy of this but haven't cracked it open. I'm so far behind! But this sounds wonderful. I will move to the top of the teetering pile. -Molly
Great Granny WebsterCaroline BlackwoodOne of the book blurbs: "Like a box of chocolates with amphetamine centers."My dream food! I'll order at ONCE! -Molly
Update: reading now, absolutely incredible, please recommend me another book! -molly
YES! Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World by Donald Antrim. New-to-me writer. Hilarious. A slim novel narrated by a semi-insane middle-aged school teacher who has dreams of running for mayor in his suburban seaside community while his wife becomes involved in a local "fish cult." Usually not the biggest fan of dystopic fiction but this really did it for me.<--co-sign on Donald Antrim! Elect Mr. Robinson is great--and so are the rest of his novels and short stories.
Gunk BabyJamie Marina LauKind of absurdist, kind of meta-realist, set in an unnamed suburb and shopping complex that could be anywhere in the anglosphere. An experimental critique on globalisation, gentrification and consumerism and what these do to fuck with people's psyches. Has some real Ballardian vibes as well. Keen to hear what you think!sold on the strength of "Ballardian vibes"—thank you. I can't find a copy online; maybe it's not out in the US yet? I'll dig around. update: scored an illicit Canadian copy on ebay -molly
Hang Him When He is Not ThereNicholas John TurnerA novel masquerading as a collection of short stories that threaten to neatly interconnect but never quite do. RIYL using the term "DFW".I presume you mean DFW as in Dallas Fort Worth? jk. I'll look into this one -molly
HappeningAnnie ErnauxDidn't know a book about abortion could make me laugh
Happiness as Such Natalia Ginzburg Family Lexicon is so good too, and so is The Dry Heart! But for whatever reason Happiness as Such remains my faveI've tried many times and cannot get "into" Natalia Ginzburg. Willing to concede that this is a character flaw on my part. -Molly
Happy All the TimeLaurie ColwinAn autobiography that documents the life of the founder of Dyson Inc. Well written, well argued, well narrated.I love this (and most) Laurie Colwins! For some reason I haven't gotten around to recommending, but since she was recently reissued, it's a good time...thanks for the nudge. -Molly
Hard to Be a GodArkady Strugatsky, Boris StrugatskyRussian science fiction through a Marxist lens. The Strugatsky brothers use the vehicle of science fiction to criticize feudalism's treatment of freedom of speech, the fate of freethinkers, innovators, and the intelligentsia, while somehow also subverting the corrosive forces of Soviet bureaucracy (galaxy brain shitt). They were accused of “abstraction”, “surrealism”, and EVEN “pornography” by the USSR when the book was first released, which is quite the co-sign if you ask me.being accused of absraction AND pornography AND surrealism is, yes, the ultimate co-sign. on it. thank you! -molly
HeartbreakerClaudia DeyDey creates an odd world, wry and poetic. A girl in a middle-of-nowhere town searches for her mother who has disappeared and discovers shadowy artifacts of her past. Notable characters include 'her killer dog to whom she cannot tell a lie; her husband, The Heavy, a man haunted by his past; and the charismatic Supernatural, a teenage boy longing only to be average.'
Her FIrst AmericanLore SegalIt took me like 10 tries to get past the first three pages and then became one of my very favorite novels. It contains the sentence "Carter's sleeping breath forced an opening between his lips, and popped out like a necklace of little farts." RIYL Claude McKay, which I know you do!I sure do love Claude McKay! so intrigued about the first three pages. will buy. -molly
Her Lesser WorkElizabeth EllenUnsung anti-heroine short stories. Each will break your heart. Elizabeth Ellen should have a wider readership than the small cult following she's culled as the EIC of Hobart.
House of GlassHadley FreemanShe's such a good writer that something that feels like it should be dense and filled with characters you can't keep straight really works. The story is fascinating. She travels deep into her own family and tells you the story of their hidden secrets and quirks like she is your college roommate telling you all about herself as you get to know each other. PS Molly: I read The Sense of an Ending exactly as you did. Really fast, then immediately went back to page 1 and read it again. Never before, never since.I am so pleased to hear we had twin Julian Barnes experiences! On the basis of that fact and this description I have added Hadley to my cart. -molly
How Not to Die AloneRichard RoperIf you love the idea of romance novels but always wish they could be weirder, more poignant, and more literary, this is your book. It's about a British man whose job involves arranging funerals for people who die with no next of kin. He lives alone but accidentally convinced his coworkers he's a happily married father, which leads to problems when he starts to fall for a new officemate. It's sweet, brilliant, funny, and sad. If you picture Martin Freeman as the main character while you read, you'll have a nice time
i am godGiacomo Sartoritfw u are god and become obsessed w a hot italian woman and have an existantial crisis that spans galaxies
If We Were VillainsM. L. Rio
Imperium: A Fiction of the South SeasChristian KrachtSome time in the early 20th century a radical vegetarian nudist from Nuremberg, Germany, decides to leave Europe behind to buy an island in the South Seas. His goal is to found a colony there based on nudism and the worship of god's most complete creation: the coconut, of course.
The story is based on the very real August Engelhardt but the author once noted that he aimed to include one historical inaccuracy per page (and oh are they fun). This book has everything from white sandy beaches, fruit worship, cameos of some early-20th-Century celebrities, and autophagy, to a Vegemite origin story and dare I say murder? All wrapped up in stunningly beautiful language.
will obtain this on the basis of the first sentence of your description -molly
In This House of BredeRumer GoddenA middle-aged woman -- of considerable personal and professional accomplishment -- leaves her job to join a Benedictine monastery where, naturally, she confronts her demons. [Love the newsletter, Molly, as do the friends and relatives to whom I've recommended it. All the best for the new gig with the Gray Lady.]
In Watermelon SugarRichard Brautigan
Into the Raging SeaRachel SladeThis is an account of the 2015 sinking with all hands of the SS El Faro in Hurricane Joaquin. It was the first loss of a U.S. flagged cargo ship in over 30 years. The disaster was caused by bad decisions on the part of the captain, the shipowners, and the regulatory authorities, as well as the hurricane being vastly more powerful due to climate change. The spookiest element is that, like airplanes, modern cargo vessels have voice recorders on the bridge, so we know what was said by the bridge crew in the last 26 hours before the sinking. If you like reading advice to airports on animal proofing and maybe listening to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzferald," this may be of interest.
Irma VothMiriam ToewsI saw that you've recommended a few of Miriam's books and wondered if you had read this one yet, which I've always felt was a little bit underappreciated. This one focusses on the Mennonite community in Mexico, and the relationship between two sisters as an outside group of filmakers attempts to make a movie in their community. Deeply tragic like her other work, but the characters are so in love with world that it can't help but make you feel hopeful. Also, this book is somewhat based on the real life production of the film "Silent Light" which Toews acted in!seconded!! read this on a beach in portugal and remember the book more than the beach
James Dyson - InventionJames DysonAn autobiography that documents the life of the founder of Dyson Inc. Well written, well argued, well narrated.I aspire to own many Dyson products. Will check this out. -Molly
Joe's WordElizabeth Stromme90s, Los Angeles set tale cut through with a noir-esque element, as well as conspiracy-slash-paranoia, but really more of a portrait of a neighborhood, it's characters, gentrification, and some models of interaction that would change greatly in method with the coming of the internet, but not in what people are looking for out of those communication technologies. On a selfish note, I'm curious if anyone else loves this like I did!purchasing now -molly
Last Summer in The CityGianfranco CalligarichMordant and hopless but in a sexy way, worth it alone for the energized passages in which the characters really let it all hang out, not to mention the ending in which the whole novel comes together in a devastating way. Also an incredible portrait of Rome at night, heavy La Dolce Vita vibes.
Let the Great World SpinColum McCannThe novel is set against the backdrop of a real event. In 1974,a tightrope walker set out to walk between NYC's Twin Towers. The characters and their lives in lower Manhattan come to life with the author's strong descriptive narrative. Their stories are textured and colorful. He is a gifted writer.I'd recommend Transatlantic by him as well! It follows three journeys from America to Ireland. The portions about Frederick Douglass were really fascinating.
Lives of the SaintsNancy LehmannInterest was piqued by essayist Susan Minot calling Nancy Lemann "an underappreciated comic genius." This breezy little read (clocking in below 150 pages), IS deeply funny with lots of original, precisely-articulated, "Oof!" sentences woven in throughout. The internet tells me it was her first book no less!Seconded! I'm from New Orleans and this book is passed around as a perfectly-captures-uptown-people book. It's fantastic.
Making HayVerlyn KlinkenborgHeyyyy
Mating Norman RushI am never NOT reading this book. #truth. I think about the never-named narrotor all the time. I am a Nelson Denoon fanatic. If I could swap my life for any character's life -- it would be this character's life. Lol same. A permanent reread. I have long quotes from it pasted into my iphone notes and I read them whenever I'm bored in a waiting room. I think I have recommended this, maybe a couple years ago—I'll go check—but if not I certainly will. -mollyGood lord I read this book for five years straight from age 17 - 22. It was all I thought about! I think it legitimately messed me up. I transcribed long quotes from it on my wall next to my bed. I literally had to put it away finally and just get on with my life.
MilkmanAnna BurnsFeels like a failure on my part but I found this to be really boring -MollyI think the trick is to listen to it. I loved it that way!you gotta read Milkman. the best book of the last ten years
Minimally EffectiveJ. Arthur WeberA harsh satire of modern public education that lifts the veil on the goings-on behind closed classroom doors when the kids are out of the room. At turns depressing, outrageous, sad, and hilarious. Not bad for a first book from an indie writer.
Mrs MarchVirgina FeitoI absolutely loved Virginia Feito's book. The reader follows that character of Mrs March who descends into madness following something someones tell her about her husband's latest, extremely popular book. What is particularly genius about that the reader himself wonders at times what is real and what is not. Recommended this in a previous newsletter! A weird and cool book. -molly
Mrs. MiniverJan StrutherNot sure if you've read this before but it's a classic. She writes with the wit and precision of Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture the Castle's narrator) while living more of a Mrs. India Bridge lifestyle in pre-war England. Highly satisfying!haven't read but based on these references I am fated to enjoy it. will get a copy. -mollyThirding! This book is so great. I read it because of a list on twitter of "well constructed novels" ... I put so many books on my TBR / hold list at the library and they were all delightful
My Life in CIAHarry MathewsFaux autobiographical novel concerning Mathews's life in Paris during the 70's when a number of Parisians assumed he was CIA. After months of denial, he leans into it (setting up a fake travel agency, etc) and suddenly gets tailed and invited to "parties." Reads, at times, like John Le Carre. Also, food, sex, wine. Everything Mathews wrote is alluring and this one might be the most of all. I gotta read this -mollynot molly, but got this based on this recommendation and deeply loving it. thank you so much for this entry, thank you molly for this spreadsheetagree, weird and good! he is not likeable. ty for spreadsheet and recs, has been source of some faves (african in greeland, great granny webster, romance in marseille)
NightBilge KarasuKafkaesque would be an understatement.
Nothing To See HereKevin WilsonSeconded! Weird, hilarious, tender, so so so so good, like everything Kevin Wilson does
NudesElle NashOne of the most established transgressive writers in contemporary literature. Her new short stories collection present stories about border people who swing from desire to self worth. Sometimes the reader is confronted to their own demons and makes them question where do they stand in life
O CaledoniaElspeth BarkerGrimdark L.M. Montgomery
Of Women and SaltGabriela GarciaGreat story about several generations of women in the US, Cuba, and Mexico. Victor Hugo and a panther guest star at different points.
OreoFran RossA coming of age book about a girl trying to find her father that is as funny/surreal/wild/gruesome as when you (maybe?!) read confederacy of dunces as a teen but Oreo was written by a Black woman who wrote for the Richard Pryor show, it is hilarious and savage and a pleasure. Published after the author's death by an academic press then reissued when I had a bookstore job a while back, a true crime his is her only novel Will read. -Molly
PiranesiSusanna ClarkeCurrent Hugo nominee and first novel since Clarke's "Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norell" back in 2004. The protagonist gradually unravels the secrets of a massive dream-like building with seemingly infinite rooms.Recommended it in a newsletter! And I think I put it on my "best books of the year" list. Utterly destroyed me!! [in a good way of course] -molly
PiranesiSusanna ClarkeLike if The Weight of Snow was a fantasy novel. Genre-bending and crazily complex while somehow simple and very short. Can't get it out of my headRecommended in a previous newsletter? It broke my heart, brain, and soul. -Molly
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls WilderCaroline FraserWow this will make you rethink everything you know about the Little House books. I feel like I personally have a very specific Venn diagram of interests that is 1) compelling mother/daughter relationships, 2) publishing drama, and 3) historical interpretation, and man does this book hit all three. I don't think I realized how much Laura Ingalls Wilder was responsible for creating the narrative of the pioneer and the American West (or how much of that narrative was just straight-up fiction). I *definitely* did not know how much her daughter, an Ayn Rand contemporary with a pretty vicious mean streak, shaped and even rewrote Wilder's work to push her own philosophical ideas. It's long but great
Quite a Year for PlumsBailey WhiteRan across this 1998 gem from the one-time frequent NPR essayist while browsing the stacks of my local indie bookstore. It's every bit as quirky and satisfying as White's non-fiction. And like her non-fiction, it's set in the southern Georgia/northern Florida area she knows and describes so well.
Rain + FarewellAnders HolmerTwo beautiful childrens books.
Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987John AshberyMonet for nothing
Seeking WisdomJulia CameronOn the 30th anniversary of 'The Artist's Way,' Julia Cameron turns her attention to the central role that prayer plays in sustaining a life as an artist.
SerotoninMichel Houellebecqshould i read????