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  • Melissa Albert 7:00 pm on 2017/07/11 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read,   

    Swell Author Jill Eisenstadt Shares Her Picks for Essential Summer Reading 

    Jill Eisenstadt’s debut, From Rockaway, was bound by the nihilistic routines of a trio of lifeguards who spend their summers surveying New York’s Rockaway Beach. Though still young, their lives already seem decided, split between watching the waves and working blue-collar jobs in the cold months. Her latest, Swell, returns to the shore thirty years later, in the story of a family with some serious baggage, moving into a Rockaway house that’s haunted in more ways than one. An unwanted houseguest and the return of a character who first appeared in From Rockaway round out this darkly funny, sympathetic tale.


    Both books make for perfect beach reading, set seaside but far from candy-colored. Here’s Eisenstadt to share a list of more ideal waterfront reads, for your summer enjoyment.

    What makes a good beach read? For me, it’s mainly about practicality. Leave the heavy tome at home. Avoid the minuscule print (though that’s advice for everywhere). Don’t bother with anything you’d care about getting stained with sunscreen or sandwich drippings. Wind, wet, sand, salt – such conditions require a book you can wrangle. Break the spine, throw the sopping towel over accidentally, or fold down pages when your bookmark vanishes. Other than that, it’s a matter of your current mood. So have a good assortment handy – old and new, serious, light, something in between. Content-wise, I tend to go for sweltering settings or themes, but that’s personal. There can be no bad beach books because, thank Poseidon, books don’t need charging or batteries.

    Some for Summer 2017:

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, with an Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, chaser
    Like beaches, Jane Austen is a place to escape from the news. Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern take is pure fun, an inside joke for the outdoors.

    Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami
    Short stories work well on the beach, particularly ones that tend toward the spare and philosophical. Between stories you can take a swim or stare out to sea wondering why Murakami used a Hemingway title, whether the men in the book could be weirder, and ultimately what it all means.

    The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery
    If you haven’t heard, octopuses are in. And no, it’s not octopi, as you’ll learn if you read this. Includes many other fascinating insights into these intelligent, emotional beings.

    The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers
    “It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world. Frankie had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

    Endless Love, by Scott Spencer
    I haven’t looked at this novel in decades but nor have I forgotten it. And I just recounted to verify….yes, the sex scene is 36 pages long! Definitely high time to revisit.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
    Psychological thrillers do not get better than this. Exciting and intelligent and set in fabulous sometimes beachy locales (the Ligurian coast). Never will you find yourself more fervently rooting for a sociopath.

    Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
    Lie on the sand on a big soft towel and listen to your daughters (or friends) take turns reading advice aloud. This book, culled from columns originally run in the Rumpus, written by the once anonymous and shockingly wise Cheryl Strayed, is a guaranteed conversation starter. When and if you gather the will to finally take a walk, there’s also a handy spinoff podcast with the wonderful Steve Almond.

    Sea Grapes, by Derek Walcott
    Poetry on the beach is essential. Because, as Walcott himself writes in the title poem of his most famous collection, “The classics can console. But not enough.”

    The post Swell Author Jill Eisenstadt Shares Her Picks for Essential Summer Reading appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:30 pm on 2017/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read, , ,   

    5 Things You Need to Know about the New Oprah’s Book Club Selection, Behold the Dreamers 

    When you’re living in an age of Peak Entertainment, there’s one big problem: choice. Having too many fantastic books to read is a much better problem than having too few, but it also means deciding what to spend your time on can be difficult. Thank goodness, then, for Oprah’s Book Club, which has once again descended from the literary heavens to help us choose.

    The latest pick for Oprah Book Club, announced today, is perhaps the perfect novel for this moment in time. Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers is a tale of the immigrant experience in America, a novel concerning the 1%, income inequality, and the housing bubble and Wall Street’s culpability in it, and it showcases a broad range of human relationships. It has been hailed as perhaps the first great 21st-century American novel, and in our current political environment it might be the most necessary piece of fiction you’ll read this year.

    If (as if) Oprah’s imprimatur isn’t enough to convince you, here are five things you need to know about Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers.

    1. Mbue writes from experience
    Behold the Dreamers is about Jende Jonga and his wife, Neni, who move from Cameroon to the United States in 2007, seeking what all immigrants once sought in this country: a better life. Jende parlays intelligence, enthusiasm, and liberal doses of self-hype into a job as a chauffeur to Clark Edwards, a high-level executive at Lehman Brothers. The Edwards also find work for Neni, and it seems like the Jonga family has a firm foothold in the American Dream. And then, of course, the economic crash of 2008 hits, and in short order the American economy is in chaos—and Lehman Brothers ceases to exist, sending Jende and Neni into a panic over their jobs.

    Mbue, herself a native of Cameroon, came to the U.S. in 1998 in order to attend school. Taking night courses, she earned a Masters degree in education and psychology at Columbia University while working a series of jobs: receptionist at a dental office, bank teller, dishwasher, lingerie saleswoman at Nordstrom, and door-to-door vacuum-cleaner saleswoman. Once out of school she found a job doing market research, and when the economy went bad in 2009 she decided not to give up that job to pursue a Ph.D.—only to be laid off.

    2. The book has been big news since before its publication
    Behold the Dreamers first made headlines back in 2014, when it sold to Random House for seven figures—and then sold film rights to TriStar. Back then it was titled The Longings of Jende Jonga, and it was already one of those novels people in publishing circles whispered about.

    Of course, plenty of books that get talked about fail to live up to the hype—but Behold the Dreamers has. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award, was named a New York Times Notable Book, was longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award, and made it onto many “best of” lists.

    3. It’s more complicated than the summary makes it sound
    While the book focuses on two recent immigrants and their pursuit of the American Dream, this is a quintessentially American story. If you’re imagining a two-dimensional 1% vs. 99% story in which the Clarks—rich, white, complicit—are villains and the Jongas are unalloyed heroes, prepare yourself for a much subtler, more nuanced book. Mbue manages to make her characters human. The Clarks, often painfully unaware of their privilege and their blind spots, are depicted as decent people battling their own demons, trying in their way to do good. The Jongas are hardworking, good-hearted people—who nevertheless struggle with their own frailties and shortcomings. Mbue isn’t offering a simplistic story, but rather a deep investigation into what it means to be American today.

    4. It offers a necessary perspective on class
    Many celebrated novels that deal in class in America are told from the perspective of relatively affluent people, but Mbue tells hers from the point of view of the Jongas, who live in a small, dark, roach-infested Harlem apartment. For the Jongas the economic downturn isn’t a distantly threatening event, but a clear and present danger that may destroy everything they’ve worked for, underscoring how little security and safety immigrants have in this country—a situation that is steadily getting worse.

    5. Jende Jonga is a great and complicated character
    One of Mbue’s sly bits of genius in this book is that Jende, our protagonist, is not a flatly sympathetic hero: he and his wife both engage in dangerous self-deception, as well as plain old deception. On the one hand their regard for America and the opportunity it represents is almost religious, and on the other Jende is a bit of a Don Quixote, puffing up his achievements—he tells people he works “on Wall Street” and struts about with a briefcase, playing the big shot. He’s wonderfully rich and fully developed, warts and all.

    The post 5 Things You Need to Know about the New Oprah’s Book Club Selection, Behold the Dreamers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2017/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read, ,   

    A Summer Break Reading Guide for All Ages 

    Summer means different things to different people, depending on their age, their life situation, their life goals—and their reading habits. Some folks read their one book a year over the summer, lazing on a beach. Others sail into June with a reading list arranged alphabetically and by length. Some just like to wander into bookstores all summer long and pick up random books. If you err on the side of planning, here are some recommendations for how to approach your summer reading list, designed for all kinds of people doing all kinds of things.

    For teens fresh out of school
    Are you ready for the summer? Sure, there’s going to be plenty to do as you try to cram a full year of living into a three-month period that must also include Little League, dance class, and camping with the scouts, but there’s always time to read. If you’re into fantasy novels with a kick, check out Royal Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts, which is like Game of Thrones if the kids did more butt-kicking and less suffering. Looking for a great romance to reignite your faith in humanity? Try Once and for All, by Sarah Dessen, in which Louna’s summer job working for her wedding planner mother leads to a second-chance romance. And if you want a period-piece mystery (and who doesn’t?), check out The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein.

    For older teens heading into college
    This is it, the last summer before the rest of your life, so make the most of it. First, indulge a little and have some fun with Stephen King’s latest, Gwendy’s Button Box. Next, bone up on your life skills with How to Be a Bawse, by Lilly Singh—because you’re gonna need those skills. Finally, burnish your literary side with A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, a perfect novel to get your brain back into a more thoughtful mode.

    For graduates seeking their first job
    It’s time to put away childish things and get a job—or at least designate a single room (or drawer) in your new place where the childish things live. In the meantime, entering into adult life is daunting, so kick it off with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson, one of the best guides to life you’ll ever read. Then, get practical with Finance for Normal People, by Meir Statman, and get a side hustle going with the help of The Big Life, by Ann Shoket—because you’re gonna need one.

    For parents about to have a houseful of kids on summer break
    You’ve gotten used to being able to sip a cup of tea and listen to a podcast while you plan your day, but that’s all over. Soon you’ll be living in a bouncy house that doesn’t bounce. You’re gonna need an escape, so stock up on smart but thrilling new books like The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware, or a sci-fi adventure like The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson, or a smart retelling of a classic like The One that Got Away, Melissa Pimentel’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

    For young professionals still dreaming of long-lost summer vacation
    Sometimes you’re like Jack from Lost and you just want to go back to the island—in this case, the days when you were still a kid and not a world-weary adult. Relive the good old days this summer while commuting to your first real job, with a delightful confection like hilarious diary-style story Confessions of a High School Disaster, by Emma Chastain, coming-of-age classic Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, or, as a reminder of how awful everything was in high school, Carrie, by Stephen King.

    For empty nesters
    Your footfalls echo through the place, and suddenly you have nothing but time. This is the summer you train yourself to read again, with all the books you’ve missed over the last, oh, twenty years, like big art mystery The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, perennial must-read My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, and alt-universe slavery era epic Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.

    For the newly retired
    You did your bit, you saved your pennies, you raised your kids: you now have the time to read whatever you want—and time means you can start a book series with a few dozen books, because why not? Start off with a classic historical adventure like the Aubrey-Maturin series, by Patrick O’Brian, or an epic fantasy like The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan, or J.D. Robb’s In Death series, kicking off with Naked in Death.

    For folks who don’t read much
    You’ve got one book in you every year, so it has to count. This summer, there are a huge list of wonderful reads to choose from, including what might be this year’s Gone Girl, The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena, or The Duchess, the latest from go-to fave Danielle Steel, or what’s sure to be the new hot title in thrillers this year, Rag Doll, by Daniel Cole.

    For folks who read everything
    You’ve spent the first six months of the year reading at a pace that would kill most people, so you don’t really need a summer list, do you? Try to spice it up anyway with indie books you might miss otherwise, like Stephen Florida, by Gabe Habash, the story of a high school athlete unaware of the enormity of his own depression, or Sour Heart, by Jenny Zhang, which captures what HBO’s Girls would be if it accurately represented the demographics of New York City, or a fun nostalgia-soaked horror novel like Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero.

    A can’t-miss, fail-safe choice for everybody
    You have a bunch of books, or you only read one book, or you don’t like to be ruled by lists—fair enough. Take a bit of a stretch and read Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. It’s a little weird, a little literary, and, for some, a little hard to get into over the first few pages. Then something clicks and you adore it, and it makes your summer.

    The post A Summer Break Reading Guide for All Ages appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Saskia Lacey 11:00 am on 2017/06/08 Permalink
    Tags: Books You Need to Read, , , future classics   

    Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats 

    Here are fifty incredible literary works destined to become classics (in no particular order!). Many are Pulitzer Prize winners, but there are a few dark horses. If your favorite literary masterpiece has not been included, fret not, the comments section awaits! Tell us about any we’ve missed, any you disagree with, or any you think are spot on. And then add the ones you may not have gotten to yet to the top of your teeteringTo Be Read pile…

    The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
    The last missive from one of our generation’s literary gods, The Pale King holds its ground among the author’s greatest works. Told from the perspective of an IRS agent, David Foster Wallace does the impossible: he shapes the seemingly drab work of accounting into something compelling, heartbreaking, and, of course, wonderfully comic.

    The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
    Peter Carey’s fictionalized account of a real man, Ned Kelly, paints the bank robber as a noble sort of scoundrel. Loved by the poor, but hated by the police, Ned Kelly, the Jesse James of Australia, writes to his daughter while hiding out from the law.

    Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates
    From Norma Jeane Baker to Marilyn Bombshell Monroe, Joyce Carol Oates takes us from the icon’s girlhood to Hollywood stardom. Fictional, but achingly believable, Blonde gives us a new vision of the silver screen legend.

    Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem
    Chronic City revolves around Chase Insteadman, a former child actor, and Perkus Tooth, a pop culture fanatic with a Marlon Brando obsession. The two unlikely friends bond through a series of stoned adventures, some of which land them among the uber rich of New York’s Upper East Side.

    Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    A story of captives and captors in South America, Ann Patchett’s novel is defined by its swoon-worthy prose. The novel’s setting is a birthday party for a wealthy businessman. Roxane Coss, a gifted opera singer, is the highlight of the evening. The party sours when a pack of terrorists turn the celebration into a war zone.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    With just a pistol between them and the world’s (almost unspeakable) evils, father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic hellscape. McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is relentless, horrific, and impossible to turn away from.

    The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
    At a summer camp for the artistically gifted, six young people with “potential” forge lifelong friendships. After camp ends, each takes a different path. Some use their gifts to great success, their promised potential resulting in actual fame. The Interestings is about the joy, pain, comradery, and competition of creative friendships.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    A novel with an impossible history, House of Leaves was once just a stack of papers passed between friends. Now, years after its publication, the book is a horror classic. At the center of Danielewski’s novel is the house on Ash Tree Lane, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and full of strange secrets.

    Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
    King Henry VIII and the world are at odds. The King is determined to marry Anne Boleyn, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church. With Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel reinvents some of Britain’s most famous figures of history: Thomas Cromwell, and Henry VIII. Wolf Hall was winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

    The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates
    Across the city, girls from good families are disappearing. It’s the early 1900s and something is haunting Princeton, New Jersey. Joyce Carol Oates spins a marvelously gothic web with The Accursed, a novel populated by turn of the century greats like Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, Woodrow Wilson, Jack London and Mark Twain.

    Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
    Powerfully funny, Olive Kitteridge is a novel-in-stories centered around a retired school teacher. Olive Kitteridge is a woman of big emotions. She is kind, ruthless, empathetic, and cruel. She is a total original. Strout’s collection of 13 narratives tells an epic story of a small New England town and its people.

    Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
    A tiger, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a boy named Pi are the lone survivors of a shipwreck. In time, only the boy and the tiger remain. The two survive for months at sea before landing in Mexico. Pi is eager to tell his story, but will anyone believe him?

    The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Namesake cemented Jhumpa Lahiri’s status as a literary great. Her novel centers around Gogol Ganguli, a child of immigrants who struggles with questions of identity. Throughout The Namesake, Gogol vacillates between trying to fit in, and embracing his position as an outsider. 

    The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Madeleine Hanna is an English major with a passion for Jane Austen and George Eliot, two literary masters of the marriage plot. But Madeleine’s life is unlike the novels she adores. As a young woman in the 1980s, love has little to do with the courtship rituals of the Victorian novel.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
    Elena and Lila are friends living in 1950s Italy. In their violent neighborhood, death is not a stranger. As the two friends grow and change, so does their environment. Elena reaches towards writing as an escape, while Lila’s ties to their neighborhood only become stronger. My Brilliant Friend is the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet.

    Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
    Purity, or Pip, is on the hunt. She has a murky past, a missing father, and a mother who refuses to answer questions. Her journey will take her to strange places—including a dubious internship in Bolivia—where she will meet unusual people. Among them is Andreas Wolf, a charismatic man with a dangerous history.

    Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
    Lydia was supposed to do what her Chinese American father never could: fit in. A young girl with a promising future, Lydia was bound to succeed. But everything changes when her body is found at the bottom of a lake. Celeste Ng’s story is one of a small town shaken by the death of a young girl and a family with secrets. Everything I never Told You is an astonishing new author’s debut novel.

    Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
    Joshua Ferris’ novel of corporate life is a familiar one. Told from the perspective of the collective—the first-person plural “We”—Then We Came to the End is filled with rumors, drama, competition, and workers gone rogue. Essentially, Ferris has created a realistic portrayal of the average, thoroughly dysfunctional, modern office.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    When an intimate moment is misinterpreted by a young girl, the consequences are tragic. Ian McEwan’s novel of two lovers separated by an imagined crime, explores the redemptive nature of storytelling.

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
    Michael Chabon’s novel of friendship and identity is a jubilant look at the Golden Age of comics. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, follows artist and magician Joe Kavalier and his comics-obsessed cousin, Sammy Clay, through New York during World War II.

    1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
    The world is not what it seems. Aomame tugs on the thread of reality, and finds it unravels. She should be in Tokyo in 1984, but instead she is in a disturbing and dreamlike parallel universe.

    A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
    A novel revered by music nerds, A Visit From the Goon Squad also happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. Egan’s work revolves around the lives of Bennie, a retired punk rocker, and Sasha, his pickpocket employee.

    White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
    For many, White Teeth was an introduction to literary wunderkind, Zadie Smith. The novel is a multicultural masterpiece that follows two London families, one willing to accept the status quo and another who will fight fate every step of the way.

    Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
    In the aftermath of 9/11, an expat from London navigates a ruined New York. Alone in the city, he searches for connection in local cricket matches.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Three children are raised in an English boarding school, hidden from the rest of the world. They are told that they are special, but the reasons behind their unusual status are unknown. As they grow older, their purpose becomes terrifyingly clear.

    The Human Stain, by Philip Roth
    A well-respected professor, Coleman Silk, is accused of racism. The truth is something very different. Silk has a secret burden he has carried with him all his life. The Human Stain won 2001’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
    Named after a fictional town in Iowa, Gilead concerns itself with the life of an aging pastor. John Ames is a man who, even in his old age, retains an immovable Christian faith. In his seventies, Ames has a son, and grieving his lack of time, writes a letter to his son that takes a diary-like form. Gilead is winner of 2004’s Pulitzer Prize. 

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Jeffrey Eugenides epic novel centers around Calliope Stephanides. Calliope, later Cal, has been “born twice,” first as a girl, and later, as a boy. Middlesex revolves around Calliope’s transformation and the genetic secret kept by her Greek-American family. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex is a multigenerational tale of identity, family, reinvention, and humor.

    Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan
    An aging fashion model, Charlotte Swanson, gets in a horrific car accident. After a drastic surgery, she is unrecognizable. Charlotte “recovers” from her accident by throwing herself into drink and navigating her old New York haunts, newly anonymous. Charlotte’s story becomes entangled with that of another, younger Charlotte, who is involved with a dangerous stranger.

    The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
    Henry Townsend was once a slave, but at the beginning of Edward P. Jones’ novel, he is a dying slave owner. Henry has become a man who purchased his freedom only to enslave others. The Known World takes a searing look at the beginning of black “freedom” in America and its dangerous implications for both masters and slaves. 

    Invisible, by Paul Auster
    Adam Walker, a Columbia University undergrad with a love for poetry, is changed by a chance meeting with Rudolf Born, an intense man eager to become his patron. Adam’s dealings with Born quickly become complicated. When Born’s brutal nature finally reveals itself, Adam’s life is forever altered.

    The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes
    Tony Webster’s middle age is comfortable, if a bit lonely. In his sixties, retired, and divorced, it seems that the rest of his life will follow a predictable course. But when visitors from his past upend Tony’s simple existence, he is forced to contend with memory, time, and the friendships and loves of his youth. 

    NW, by Zadie Smith
    Zadie Smith’s NW is the story of four Londoners who begin life in the same poor neighborhood. Each has grown up and reacted to their upbringing in a different way. Some find success, and others are left feeling perpetually displaced, unable to catch up with time. Zadie examines the joys and bitter disappointments of seeking a “traditional” path leading to marriage, children, and the inevitable attempts to escape from both. 

    The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
    Eleanor Catton’s novel takes place in 19th century New Zealand. Her cast of characters are drawn together by the country’s gold rush and a mysterious crime. Readers of The Luminaries will marvel as the novel’s mysteries slowly reveal themselves. Eleanor Catton’s novel is winner of the Man Booker Prize.

    The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
    A book with serious heft, reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a commitment. Thankfully, the nearly 800-page novel, delivers in a big way. It is the story of a young man, Theo Decker, who loses his mother in a tragic accident. As a result of his mother’s death, Theo ends up living a strange life on Manhattan’s upper east side. Through it all is his obsession with Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch, a painting that reminds Theo of his lost mother.

    The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
    Chad Harbach’s novel follows Henry Skrimshander, an athlete whose destiny as a baseball great seems all but certain. But then, things go afoul. With one bad throw, Henry’s whole career hangs in the balance. The repercussions of the mistake are felt not only by Henry, but five others.

    The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
    Winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Blind Assassin is a story of two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Iris Chase is sensible while her younger sister, Laura, has a wild streak. At the novel’s opening, an aged Iris reflects on her life and the death of her sister. Within this story is another, a science fiction novel penned by Laura. Through both fiction and nonfiction, the story of the two sisters takes shape.

    A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
    In 1976, there was an attempted assassination on Bob Marley. A Brief History of Seven Killings grows outward from this event, and covers the explosive history between Jamaica and the United States. Marlon James populates his novel with a diverse cast, which includes CIA agents, politicians, music journalists and drug dealers. 

    Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson
    Denis Johnson’s novel will break your heart. Its brutal setting is 1960s Vietnam. At the center of the novel is the story of a young CIA agent named William Sands. Tree of Smoke also features a protagonist from one of the author’s earlier novels, Bill Houston of Angels. Johnson’s novel is winner of 2007’s National Book Award.

    Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett
    Adam Haslett investigates the fraught terrain of mental illness over the course of two generations. Imagine Me Gone focuses on the terror caused by depression and anxiety to those afflicted and those who live with them. Despite its dark material, the novel is filled with warmth and humor.

    The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
    A poor town called Dickens is exiled from California. Taken off the map, Dickens ceases to exist. To fight against anonymity, an African American man does the unthinkable. He revives segregation and slavery, putting himself and his town on center stage, with a Supreme Court trial. Paul Beatty’s satirical novel is a hilarious and essential read.

    Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
    Richard Russo’s novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner. His book follows Miles Roby, a burger joint employee of two decades living in Empire Falls. The city is a dying town run by a wealthy, all-powerful family. Roby’s journey is a simple but compelling one.

    American Woman, by Susan Choi
    Susan Choi’s American Woman centers around an underground political community. She focuses on several young radicals living in hiding, a dark and paranoid existence. Choi’s novel is a claustrophobic character study of how we act under extreme pressure.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    Mae Holland can’t believe she gets to work at the Circle, a nearly omnipotent internet company based in California. Mae starts at the bottom of the corporate ladder, but climbs quickly, becoming more and more entrenched in the company’s culture. The Circle is a spellbinding look at a particular moment in our tech history. Eggers sharply assesses the addictive nature of social media, the cost of total e-connectivity, and the benefits and terrifying consequences of modern surveillance. 

    Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson
    Robert Granier, born at the end of the 19th century, witnesses the shaping of the American West. He is an orphan who gains a family, only to lose them in a fire. A quick and haunting read, Train Dreams is a novella of immense impact. 

    The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
    A biting satire narrated by Balman Halwai, an entrepreneur and self-styled “man of tomorrow,” The White Tiger is a vision of the modern Indian class system from the perspective of a man who starts at the bottom. 

    The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    A young slave named Cora plots her escape from a cotton plantation. Her life is brutal beyond imagining. There is word of secret tunnels, a true underground railroad, but the journey is dangerous. As she travels towards what seems like an impossible freedom, Cora never feels safe; her hunters are always close behind.

    Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    An immensely difficult but rewarding read, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is comprised of six stories. The style of each varies so greatly that the reader wouldn’t be surprised to learn each story was written by a different author. Cloud Atlas stretches across hundreds of years, transporting the reader from 19th century ships to alien gods of the future. 

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
    All Oscar wants is to find love. But being overweight, nerdy, and cursed, his chances don’t look good. Oscar and his Dominican family have been subject to the fukú, a supernatural curse, for as long as anyone can remember. If Oscar is to succeed in love and life, he must battle the unbeatable. 

    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    Walter and Patty Berglund haven’t yet learned how to live. A suburban couple with two children, in building their lives together the Berglunds may have compromised too much. Franzen’s novel follows Patty and Walter through their college years and beyond, where the figure of Walter’s charismatic best friend, Richard, looms large. While both Patty and Walter yearn for a different life, neither are quite willing to let go of the other.

    What books would you add to this list?

    The post Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/05/24 Permalink
    Tags: , Books You Need to Read, , diaries, , , ,   

    10 Hilarious, Remarkable, and Poignant Moments in David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding 

    The humor of David Sedaris is often so understated it feels perfectly naturalistic, as if he’s simply making up droll anecdotes off the top of his head. But Sedaris worked at his craft for decades, and often despaired of ever succeeding at the writing game.

    This struggle is at the center of Sedaris’ new book, Theft by Finding, a collection literally taken from the diaries he has kept for more than forty years. Unvarnished, these entries offer up plenty of interesting and funny moments, some of which also serve as launchpads for his famous essays. Here are just ten moments in Theft by Finding (which ends in 2002, with a second volume to follow) that are alternatively hilarious, touching, and thought-provoking.

    Rapid-Fire Wit
    In the introduction, Sedaris interrupts a thoughtful rumination on the process of keeping a diary: “The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t. Won’t people turn away if they know the real me? you wonder. That me that hates my own child, that put my perfectly healthy dog to sleep? The me who thinks, deep down, that maybe The Wire was overrated?”

    At the bottom of the page, a footnote addresses what Sedaris hilariously imagines is the gravest sin admitted to in that paragraph: “I do not think The Wire was overrated.”

    The Banality of Evil
    Sedaris encounters all manner of freaks, weirdos, and oddballs, especially during his penniless days working odd jobs and obsessing over money. He never fails to make these moments count by injecting them with sophisticated humor. “Jews in concentration camps had shaved heads and tattoos,” he writes at one point about a skinhead in Chicago, “you’d think the anti-Semites would go for a different look.”

    Mistakes, He’s Made a Few
    One of the most remarkable aspects of reading Sedaris’ diary entries is how much we already know about his low moments and bad habits. Early on, in one of the first glimpses of his drug-fueled youth, he writes “Todd and I each took three hits of sugar cube acid. Too much. It was a real bad trip, like torture, enough to turn someone into a Christian.”

    The Time Machine
    Another fascinating aspect of Theft by Finding is literally traveling back in time through Sedaris’ writing. This comes through as both throwaway lines that remind us of zeitgeists past (“No matter where you go, you cannot escape the Bee Gees”) and devastating moments that call to mind what we have survived (in July 1981, Sedaris writes, “There is a new cancer that strikes only homosexual men. I heard about it on the radio tonight.”)

    The Heartbreak Kid
    Part of Sedaris’ appeal is the sad-sack aspect of his persona; he encounters the sort of terrible people we’re all far too familiar with—and he manages to turn his anger and hurt into savage humor, as in this line about a duplicitous lover named Brant he meets as a young man: “During sex he kept telling me that he loved me and wanted to get married, presumably in the next five weeks before he returns to Norfolk for the Summer.”

    He drops the hammer in the next entry: “I called the number Brant gave me, and it was made up.”

    Self-Awareness for the Win
    While it’s possible these entries have been edited and massaged more than we know, they remain remarkably clear-eyed. After the subject of attempting sobriety after being “drunk every night for the past eighteen years” comes up, Sedaris adds in this two-sentence entry: “Today I saw a one-armed dwarf carrying a skateboard. It’s been ninety days since I’ve had a drink.”

    Days of Future Past
    It’s thrilling when kernels of Sedaris’ formal work pop up in his diaries—you can almost see the wheels turning, as when he alludes to his time at SantaLand: “Yesterday a woman had her son pee into a cup, which of course tipped over. ‛That’s fine,’ I said, ‛but Santa’s also going to need a stool sample.’”

    Substance Humor
    The diary never treats Sedaris’ drinking and drug abuse in a melodramatic way, and it’s often the source of some of the book’s funniest bits, as when he describes the suffering of a hungover friend: “You’d think an adult would know better: beer on wine, you’re fine. Wine on beer, stand clear. But eleven Prosecco cocktails should not precede anything, not even a twelfth.”
    These are, it goes without saying, words to live by.

    Full Heart
    It’s not all jokes and skinheads; Sedaris also celebrates life’s incredible moments along the way, as when he first meets his future husband, Hugh: “I…got him to say that he hated me, which usually means the opposite….When I turned around to look at him, I saw that he’d turned around as well. It was romantic.”

    Simple Hilarity
    No matter how serious life gets, though, Sedaris can’t help but be funny, so let’s just include three random moments of hilarity we loved:

    “Talked to Rodrigo, who uses camebackir as a verb meaning ‛to come back.’ Nosotros comebackamos. ‛We come back.’”

    “Tiffany…is living in Queens and selling cocaine to make money. Before this she worked at Macy’s for a Belgian chocolate company. I think hers is what you call a checkered career.”

    “It turned out they were a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is better than being a pair of thieves, but still.”

    Theft by Finding is a surprising and unique work, the raw experiences of one of our most accomplished humorists and writers laid bare for our amusement and inspection. It’s also almost novelistic in the story of a life that it paints, slowly revealing themes, recurring characters, and a narrative drive that mirrors Sedaris’ development as a human being and an artist. In a word, it’s terrific.

    Shop all literary biography >

    The post 10 Hilarious, Remarkable, and Poignant Moments in David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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