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    Ted Chiang has won the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s short story prize.

    James Folta

    June 12, 2024, 10:52am

    Photo by Arturo Villarrubia

    Science fiction writer Ted Chiang has won the 2024 PEN/Bernard and Ann Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. The award is given each year to a writer who has “demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form.”

    Ted Chiang has published two collections of short fiction, Stories of Your Life and Others, and Exhalation, both of which have won many awards including four Hugos and four Nebulas. Award Committee Chair Jung Yun describes Chiang’s work as “an absolute wonder to behold,” and “invite readers to think, imagine, and explore unique worlds beyond their own.” She also noted that “Chiang exemplifies Bernard Malamud’s belief that a short story can produce ‘the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time.’”

    Chiang joins past prize winners Edwidge Danticat, Yiyun Li, Charles Baxter, Lydia Davis, John Edgar Wideman, Amina Gautier, Joan Silber, Jhumpa Lahiri, Joy Williams, and Deborah Eisenberg.

    The official bestowing of the prize will happen at the end of the year, at the Annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony on Friday, December 6, 2024.

    1979’s The Book-Store Book documents a lost borough of booksellers.

    James Folta

    June 11, 2024, 2:39pm

    In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education and was attacked by a rabbit. In 1979, New York City Mayor Ed Koch was in his first term, and The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” broke into the Top 40. In 1979, The Deer Hunter won Best Picture, and a total solar eclipse darkened North America. In 1979, The London Review of Books debuted, and Kindred, If on a winter’s night a traveler, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were released.

    And in 1979, Robert Egan published his 376-page The Book-Store Book, cataloging and sorting over 750 bookstores in Manhattan. A friend lent me a copy (shout-out to Lucas Adams and the Sunnyside Book Table) and flipping through it was a little depressing. Manhattan used to have a lot of bookstores and booksellers—I was struck by just how many places there used to be to buy books. This map alone was pretty jarring:

    a map from the bookstore book

    By my Google Maps estimation, there are still a good amount of bookstores in this area, but at nowhere near this density. Manhattan reamains a great place for book lovers, but Egan’s book makes clear just how much has changed.

    Naturally, there’s a lot in Egan’s book that concerns pre-internet systems and books that have been made obsolete. He notes which bookstores offer search services to find books, by either calling around the city or placing an ad in trade journals. There’s also an emphasis on the best places to find restaurant guides, dictionaries, and reference books, all genres that are increasingly not in print in the internet age.

    And like most industries these days, there’s a lot of evidence of consolidation in the bookselling world. Nearly all of the local and national chains Egan lists have left us for the great mall in the sky: Paperback Booksmith went under, Waldenbooks was acquired by Kmart and then folded, and B Dalton, Doubleday, and Marboro were each absorbed by Barnes & Noble.

    It’s not all bad—there are a fair number of survivors other than Barnes & Noble. The Strand, Rizzoli, Three Lives, Drama Book Shop, The Complete Strategist, The Mysterious Bookshop, Printed Matter, Quest Bookstore at the Theosophical Society, and more are all still around.

    It seems like NYC had more bookstores in transit hubs in ’79— every big train station and a fair number of larger subway stations had a bookshop. A little place to browse while I wait for the train sounds perfect, especially now that our cowardly Governor has screwed over the MTA by reneging on congestion pricing.

    Speaking of browsing opportunities I’d like to see more of, a bunch of ’79 bookstores were open late. The Idle Hour in Greenwich Village was open until midnight and The Night Owl, also in Greenwich Village, was open until 2:00 AM some nights. Though to be fair, the latter doesn’t seem like it was a true bookstore, but rather a head shop that stocked underground comics. I wonder if any weed shops in the city are selling any books or magazines these days? Do people get the munchies of the mind?

    The real joy of browsing this book was encountering the specific bookstores, places that catered to a certain topic or customer, and that I could imagine as gathering places for the like-minded. There was Bridgeworld that carried over 200 books on bridge, The Ballet Shop on the Upper West Side for dance fans, and the coyly named Old Friends on 31st Street: “The ‘old friends’ are the Walt Disney characters and this store sells books concerning Disneyana.” This name was likely a way to avoid a lawsuit, but I also imagine it as a phrase that ’70s Disney Adults used to covertly identify each other: “Pardon me, but are you an ‘Old Friend?’”

    There’s also one store specializing in genealogy, two horseback riding supply stores that sell books, six magic shops, and four stores specializing in navigation and ships. Egan also features five political science bookstores, four of which were lefty shops stocking books on Marxism and socialism. The fifth is the outlier: the libertarian Laissez-Faire Books, which stocked “Anti-Authoritarian Paperbacks on feminism, psychology, science fiction, sociology.” The store had deep ties to libertarians, and its opening was attended by many figures now popular with the alt-right and one future Trump biographer who concocted a stunt for his 1974 NY Governor campaign where he had “a woman in a beige body stocking to ride through Central Park like Lady Godiva, on a horse named Taxpayer.” Sounds like an exhausting store.

    Egan has a section of UFO bookstores with only one entry: Flying Saucer News on West 45th Street, which had shelf sections like “astral projections, astrology, Eastern philosophies, health, magic, mysticism, occult, parapsychology, Rosicrucianism, self-improvement, UFOs and flying saucers.” The bookstore was run by James S. Rinberg, who also put out a magazine by the same name as his shop. This great blog post about Rigberg and his bookstore includes a great detail: among the declassified documents from Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs, there was one file that had this note penciled in the margin: “We have file on the Flying Saucer News.”

    Overall, the descriptions of the freakier bookstores are fun to read—Egan seems to have been a little scared of these places, and he loves to put words like “comix” and “alternative” in scare quotes. The descriptions of the occult bookstores are a treat and Egan notes which sell crystal balls, robes, chalices, and bats. Not sure what kind of bats we’re talking about here, but I’m interested.

    There was also a store called Tzipora and the Wizard in Midtown, that as far as I can tell is related to the Coven of the Blue Star, which still seems to be around today. And I especially wish I could have browsed Occult Books in Greenwich Village:

    Occult is a very special bookshop consisting of a small room big enough for one person opening to the sidewalk of Seventh Avenue. Much of the stock is displayed on the sidewalk in the warmer months.

    The section on antiquarian booksellers is the most bespoke in the book, and is a long list of names and contact information for people who trade in specific genres. There’s a guy who specializes in “chess, checkers, and draughts,” someone who is looking for books “dealing with memory, mnemonics, the art of memory; genealogy: Hayes, Barnes families,” and someone who doesn’t sell anything but “will buy joke or jest books and magazines.”

    The best antiquarian is a guy specializing in “weird/fantasy novels” who goes by “Joseph Amedeo, Bookfinder.” In my head, he’s like Vincent Price in Witchfinder General and rides on horseback around New York State hunting for Conan The Barbarian paperbacks. (Hollywood, get in touch—I’ll start work on the screenplay.)

    It’s not surprising that the world of buying and selling books has shifted a lot in 40 years, of course. I didn’t put down Egan’s book with a ton of “I was born in the wrong decade” faux nostalgia. New York City has become better in so many ways since the ‘70s.

    But the line that sticks with me most, and seems to be the biggest indication of how things have changed, is in the introduction. Egan writes optimistically: “Backed by big money, stores are carrying more variety of books than ever before.” Optimism about “big money” in the books industry is a quaint phrase, a relic from before the mergers and acquisitions craze birthed legions of private equity goons, before disruptors squeezed everything, and before Reagan. Big money was probably never a force for good, but Egan’s joy in capital’s promise that “more is more” is deflatingly naive to read in 2024, reflecting a promise that has long ago washed away down a Manhattan gutter.

    New literary podcasts to add to your queue.

    Brittany Allen

    June 11, 2024, 11:54am

    Say you’re no newb to the literary podcast. You’ve got Brad Listi’s “Other Ppl,” “Between the Covers,” and “The Maris Review,” sitting pride of place in your digital library. Andperhaps inspired by this very websiteyou’ve been tickling your cochlea lately with episodes of Merve Emre’s new show, “The Critic and Her Publics.” But maybe these offerings are but a first course to what might ideally be a banquet. After all, if you can’t actually be reading every hour of the day, listening to smart people talk about reading may be the next best thing.

    In case you agree with the previous statement, I’ve rounded up a few literary podcasts to add to your radar. You can check out these fine shows on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your own sneaky means.

    LARB Radio Hour

    The Los Angeles Review of Books podcast has long been a weekly staple of my literarauditory diet. For one thing, the pod’s three hostsMedaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newmanhave a finely tuned rapport, born of many years sharing a masthead. I go to them for friendly, rigorous book clubs on new titles that, often as not, haven’t reached my radar yet. LARB guests cover a lot of genre ground. Their archive includes best-selling crossover novelists, sociologists, poets, literary biographers, even documentarians.

    Pairs well with: Traffic, or idle kitchen tasks.

    New Yorker Critics at Large

    In a similar way, the trio of hosts that make up The New Yorker‘s “Critics at Large” are excellent company. You can tell that Naomi Fry, Vinson Cunningham, and Alexandra Schwartz are pals, and it’s been a pleasure to hear them grow more comfortable over the past few months of podding this relatively new endeavor. The trio has a rapport that’s capacious enough for deep musings, but also leaves leaves plenty of space for the silly.

    The critics confab around a theme each week, prompted by briefs like “Why We Love an Office Drama,” and “Why We Can’t Quit the Mean Girl.” And while they’ve never billed their entry-point as exclusively literary, this hydra has a fine nose for the trends that seem to be seeping into every pore of the arts. At it’s best, this one feels like listening to your smartest friends hold court at a dinner party.

    Pairs well with: A plane ride! (Because this one rewards ambient but uninterrupted attention.)

    Haymarket Books Live 

    Okay. This one represents a a break from the usual mold in that the lectures in this book club/political education series are recorded live, and typically structured like panels. But if you’re hungry for some historical context with your latest big non-fiction text, I recommend giving this one a listen. I recently found this meaty conversation from authors Naomi Klein and Vincent Bevins to be both informative and engaging.

    Pairs well with: Hear me outscrubbing your bathroom. (All that intellectual rigor will fuel some physical same!)

    Also consider double-featuring this one with the Verso podcast, which covers a lot of the same genre ground and pulls from a similar bench of author/thinkers.

    Granta 

    The Granta podcast nails the tried, true formula of the author interview. They keep a steadfast focus on buzzy new releases, but these chats never feel like puff pieces. Nor do they get overly dense. A recent conversation with the novelist Brandon Taylor went down and dirty into a close read of Zola’s canon, but also managed to include an eddy about The Sims. Perfect use of the medium, if you ask me.

    Pairs well with: Cooking. (I’m seeing a red sauce, for some reason.)

    The Dig

    Daniel Denvir of “The Dig,” is a truly excellent interviewer. Every conversation he conducts with his heavy-hitter guestsa typical one is an academic specializing in materialist historyis grounded in deep research. He asks engaging, specific questions, often drawing out the finer points of heady concepts so laywomen like myself can parse them. Though “The Dig” blatantly bills itself as a lefty political education project (or to be precise, a “podcast on politics, history, and economics everywhere”), I include this one because I’ve found a lot of my favorite non-novel books through these conversations over the past few years.

    To call out a few great interviews: check out Denvir’s chats with certified geniuses Robin D.G. Kelley, the late Mike Davis, or Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

    Pairs well with: Long, broody road trips. Because episodes run long, and this one really rewards undivided attention.

    Reading Writers

    Helmed by two very bright, very online cultural critics (Jo Livingstone and Charlotte Shane; follow them if you don’t already) this pod has a fun hook. In each episode, Livingstone and Shane conduct a book club with a special guest, engaging “a significant or provocative” text sourced from the oddest corner of your average used book store. “Significant or provocative” here involves a tent big enough to cover both Alasdair Gray and Raven Leilani. So know you’ll never be bored, or two steps ahead.

    As a newer pod, it’s still finding its rhythms. But the expansive, irreverent frame keeps me cranking the volume.

    Pairs well with: Your daily constitutional.

    LRB Podcast

    Another instance where the posh accents don’t hurt. This pod, from the London Review of Books, is often inspired by subjects of recent inquiry in the magazinerecent episodes dance with Women in Philosophy, or Haitian immigration. But there’s also a robust archive of author interviews, in which hosts Thomas Jones, Adam Shatz and Malin Hay (all writers or editors themselves) go deep and dialectical. These conversations can get meaty, but don’t be put off. For a representative sample, I recommend this conversation with historian Hazel Carby.

    Pairs well with: A puzzle. I can’t entirely explain this hunch, but I’m prepared to stake my reputation on it.

    Happy listening!

    Here are the guest editors (and new covers!) for the Best American Series 2024.

    Literary Hub

    June 11, 2024, 10:00am

    The Best American Series is a literary institution. But just in case you’re stumbling upon it for the first time: Each book in the annual series showcases of best short fiction and nonfiction in a given year, from short stories to essays, science and nature writing, to food writing. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites, and a special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the very best pieces for the anthology.

    This year, the series has a new look, featuring original illustrations by artist Tyler Keeton Robbins; from now on, a new artist will be chosen to create the series artwork every year.

    Without any further do, here are the guest editors and the brand new covers for the Best American 2024 series, which will be published by Mariner/HarperCollins on October 22, 2024:

    The Best American Short Stories 2024

    Guest editor: Lauren Groff
    Series editor: Heidi Pitlor

    According to Mariner/HarperCollins, Pitlor will step down as series editor after this, her eighteenth edition at the helm. In 2007, her first year as series editor, she selected Groff’s story, “L. Debard and Aliette.” “Groff’s use of language and sense of story and character and motivation was stunning—I could not believe that this was a young writer,” Pitlor said. “Stephen King, the guest editor that year, agreed. What a gift to have Lauren as my final guest editor!”

    Lauren Groff is the author of five novels: the instant New York Times bestseller The Vaster Wilds, and two National Book Award Finalists, Matrix and Fates and Furies; as well as Aradia and The Monsters of Templeton. Her story collections include Florida, winner of The Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award, and Delicate Edible Birds. She was a Guggenheim Fellow, a Radcliffe Fellow, a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and was named one of Granta’s 2017 Best Young American Novelists. Groff recently added bookseller to her list of accomplishments—in April 2023, she and her husband opened Lynx Bookstore in Gainesvilles, FL, where they live.

    The Best American Essays 2024

    Guest editor: Wesley Morris
    Series editor: Kim Dana Kupperman
    , newly appointed by founder Robert Atwan

    Wesley Morris is a critic at large for The New York Times. Prior to The New York Times, Morris worked at Grantland as a staff writer and the Sportstorialist as a columnist. He was a film critic at The Boston Globe from 2002 to 2013, and before that at the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner. Morris was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his criticism at The Boston Globe in 2012, and while at Grantland, was a National Magazine Award finalist for Columns and Commentary in 2015. He won a second Pulitzer Prize for his criticism at The New York Times in 2021.

    Kim Dana Kupperman is the author of the award-winning essay collection I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence; a memoir, The Last of Her; and a historical novel, Six Thousand Miles to Home. She is the editor of You: An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person and the founding editor of Welcome Table Press, whose mission is to publish and celebrate the essay, in all its forms.

    The Best American Food and Travel Writing 2024

    Newly expanded this year from The Best American Food Writing

    Guest editor: Padma Lakshmi
    Series editor: Jaya Saxena
    , newly appointed

    Padma Lakshmi is an Emmy-nominated producer, television host, food expert, and a New York Times bestselling author, as well as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2023). She is the creator of the critically-acclaimed and Emmy-nominated Hulu series “Taste the Nation”, which is the recipient of a James Beard Foundation Award top prize in Visual Media—Long Form. Lakshmi served as host and executive producer for 19 seasons of Bravo’s two-time Emmy-winning series “Top Chef”, which has been nominated for 47 Emmys, including her five-time nomination for Outstanding Host for A Reality-Competition Program.

    Jaya Saxena is a writer, editor, and the Correspondent at Eater.com. She has previously written for Elle, GQ, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and more. She is the co-author of Dad Magazine and Basic Witches, and the author of The Book of Lost Recipes and Crystal Clear. She lives in Queens with her partner.

    The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2024

    Guest editor: Bill McKibben
    Series editor: Jaime Green

    Bill McKibben is the author of more than a dozen books, including the bestsellers FalterDeep Economy, and The End of Nature, which was the first book to warn the general public about the climate crisis. He is also the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and the winner of the Gandhi Prize, the Thomas Merton Prize, and the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called “the alternate Nobel.”

    Jaime Green, series editor, is a science writer and essayist. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, Astrobites, and elsewhere. She is a lecturer at Smith College and the Johns Hopkins master’s program in Science Writing, and the author of The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos.

    The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2024

    Guest editor: Hugh Howey
    Series editor: John Joseph Adams

    Hugh Howey is the New York Times and USA Today bestsell­ing author of the Silo Series: WoolShift, and DustBeacon 23SandHalf Way Home; and Machine Learning. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have sold millions of copies world­wide. Adapted from his bestselling sci-fi trilogy, Silo is now streaming on Apple TV+ and Beacon 23 is streaming on MGM+. Howey lives in New York with his wife, Shay.

    John Joseph Adams is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy and the editor of the Hugo Award–winning Lightspeed, and of more than forty anthologies, including Lost Worlds & Mythological Kingdoms, The Far Reaches, and Out There Screaming (coedited with Jordan Peele).

    The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2024

    Guest editor: S.A. Cosby
    Series editor: Steph Cha

    S. A. Cosby is an Anthony Award–winning writer from Southeastern Virginia. He is the author of the New York Timesbestseller Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book, and was named a best book of the year by NPR, The Guardian, and Library Journal, among others. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

    Steph Cha is the author of the Juniper Song mystery series and Your House Will Pay, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and the California Book Award, and has been a finalist for a Young Lions Fiction Award, a Macavity Award, a Lefty Award, a Barry Award, and a Dagger Award, as well as longlisted for the Aspen Prize. She is an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she edited the noir section for almost five years. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.

    Robert Pinsky! Porochista Khakpour! Rufi Thorpe! 26 new books out today.

    Gabrielle Bellot

    June 11, 2024, 4:58am

    Dear Readers, it is once again Tuesday, and that means, as ever, that there are new things to read and rejoice in. And today is no exception, for there are many, many exciting new books to consider. I’ve compiled twenty-six for you below.

    You’ll find a number of established names, including the former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, who has a new collection, Proverbs of Limbo; Porochista Khakpour, who has returned with a highly anticipated novel, Tehrangeles; Rufi Thorpe, who is back with a new, unabashedly wild novel; memoiristic and studies of Joni Mitchell, W. H. Auden, and Joan Didion; and many others. There’s also a slew of other fascinating offerings in fiction and nonfiction, including work by Camille Bordas; the actor and director Griffin Dunne; Jill Ciment with a nuanced exploration of memory and trauma and cultural impulses; and much, much more.

    It’s an excellent day for new reads, and I hope you’ll add generously to your to-be-read piles with some of these.

    *

    Tehrangeles - Khakpour, Porochista

    Porochista Khakpour, Tehrangeles
    (Pantheon Books)

    “Like Little Women on an ayahuasca trip, Tehrangeles is delightfully twisted and heartfelt. If you set a TikTok mukbang at a Crazy Rich Persian wedding, you’d still have a long way to go to capture the extravagant eccentricities of the Milani sisters. Khakpour is a satirist extraordinaire who astutely captures the zeitgeist of a culture and a place where ‘reality’ is just something you livestream and truth is a billion times stranger than fiction.”
    –Kevin Kwan

    Margo's Got Money Troubles - Thorpe, Rufi

    Rufi Thorpe, Margo’s Got Money Troubles
    (William Morrow)

    Margo’s Got Money Troubles is an audacious, wildly funny, completely unpredictable novel by a writer so singular that it’s hard to compare her to anyone else. Rufi Thorpe writes wildness so well, the messiness of the choices we make, the strange ways we bend and twist ourselves to accommodate those choices, and she does it with the rare qualities of tenderness and empathy. An absolutely brilliant book.”
    –Kevin Wilson

    The Material - Bordas, Camille

    Camille Bordas, The Material
    (Random House)

    “What makes the book work, first and foremost, is that it’s funny—fast and fizzy and dangerous in the way the best stand-up feels improvisatory without ever actually being improv….But beneath the laughs and digressions lies a surprisingly profound book about the costs and consolations of art. Does doing comedy make these people’s lives better? The question is moot, pointless. The last word of that question falls away, has to; the material and the life are the same thing.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    This Thread of Gold: A Celebration of Black Womanhood - White, Catherine Joy

    Catherine Joy White, This Thread of Gold: A Celebration of Black Womanhood
    (Tiny Reparations Books)

    “An essential and overdue meditation on Black womanhood. In offering us this beautifully written work―part memoir, part paean, part call to arms―Catherine Joy White has done herself and our ancestors justice. It manages to be poetic yet punchy, enraging yet uplifting, and it transforms our mechanisms for survival and resistance into high art.”
    –Sara Collins

    The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir - Dunne, Griffin

    Griffin Dunne, The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir
    (Penguin Press)

    “Griffin Dunne has been entertaining people—both on-screen and off—all his life. And though you probably know him best as a gifted actor, make no mistake—Dunne is a real writer. The Friday Afternoon Club is a riveting and rollicking portrait of Dunne’s unconventional family as well as a deeply considered reckoning with the tragedy that exploded within it….He is alsolike the best entertainers—ridiculously funny. This is just a wonderful memoir.”
    –Alexandra Styron

    Consent: A Memoir - Ciment, Jill

    Jill Ciment, Consent: A Memoir
    (Pantheon Books)

    “In her new memoir, Ciment revisits the scandalous romance that became the defining fact of her personal life–her passionate and enduring relationship with a man thirty years her senior, begun when she was a teenager. In her fiercely intelligent and imaginative style, Ciment interrogates her memories through a new lens, and in the process creates an indelible portrait not just of a marriage, but of the remembering mind, its revisions and revelations.”
    –Jo Ann Beard

    Proverbs of Limbo: Poems - Pinsky, Robert

    Robert Pinsky, Proverbs of Limbo: Poems
    (FSG)

    “One of the achievements of Robert Pinsky’s work has always been the way in which he balances a realistic and therefore fateful sense of life with a vivacity of expression that reflects his unabashed pleasure in the vagaries of human nature, a sense of moral and aesthetic proportion that Proverbs of Limbo splendidly exemplifies.”
    –David Woo

    Gretel and the Great War - Sachs, Adam Ehrlich

    Adam Ehrlich Sachs, Gretel and the Great War
    (FSG Originals)

    “Sachs lends a touch of the fantastical to Viennese life at the end of WWI in this inventive novel….[He] keenly captures the pulse of a city on the cusp of immense change. This spirited volume lingers long after the final page.”
    Publishers Weekly

    Ask Me Again - Sestanovich, Clare

    Clare Sestanovich, Ask Me Again
    (Knopf)

    “This beautiful debut novel is wise about intellectual and erotic discovery, disenchantment and loneliness. It’s alert to the small moments of awkwardness and grace that make up the texture of common life; its quiet, tectonic power comes from an awareness of how easily common life can tilt toward catastrophe. Clare Sestanovich is a writer of disarming radiance.”
    –Garth Greenwell

    Beautiful Days: Stories - Williams, Zach

    Zach Williams, Beautiful Days: Stories
    (Doubleday)

    Beautiful Days is a remarkable collection. These stories are full of irony and absurdity, but are never sleight, glib or waggish. Zach Williams paints us into every story with quick, deft strokes and then unfolds, with a scarily confident hand, the rest of the canvas, full of surprises and truths and stuff we never imagined.”
    –Percival Everett

    The Uptown Local: Joy, Death, and Joan Didion: A Memoir - Leadbeater, Cory

    Cory Leadbeater, The Uptown Local: Joy, Death, and Joan Didion: A Memoir
    (Ecco Press)

    “Cory Leadbeater writes with beauty, precision and velocity and The Uptown Local is a memoir like no other. It’s the story of his relationship with a great American writer, but it’s also the saga of his family’s dark struggle with twenty-first-century American realities….[U]nderneath his calamities we also discover a young man from a tough town whose life was saved by literature, by art, by music, and by the mentorship of those who’d come this way before him….[R]emarkable.”
    –Sam Lipsyte

    Any Person Is the Only Self: Essays - Gabbert, Elisa

    Elisa Gabbert, Any Person Is the Only Self: Essays
    (FSG)

    “Invigorating….[Gabbert’s] lively commentary offers fresh takes on classic literature….[She] is an original thinker, and the literary analysis is refreshingly unstuffy. Bookworms will appreciate these intelligent essays.”
    Publishers Weekly

    Kissing Girls on Shabbat: A Memoir - Glass, Sara

    Sara Glass, Kissing Girls on Shabbat: A Memoir
    (Atria / One Signal Publishers)

    “Sara Glass’ heartfelt story of balancing motherhood, career aspirations, sexuality, and faith while breaking away from her Hasidic origins gives us a fascinating look at the complex tapestry of Jewish life in New York and beyond. Her honest, flaws-and-all self-examination, while coming from a very specific and unique place, reveals universal truths.”
    –Stuart Rojstaczer

    The Sons of El Rey - Espinoza, Alex

    Alex Espinoza, The Sons of El Rey
    (Simon & Schuster)

    “Alex Espinoza writes with singular grace, humor and deep empathy for his characters who journey between Mexico and California to make new lives, to ache for the past even while tasting the future on their tongues. In The Sons of El Rey, he’s given us a powerful sweep of three generations of dreamers through the story of lucha libre as legend, historia and tradition. This family is unforgettable.”
    –Susan Straight

    Mouth: Stories - Ghosh, Puloma

    Puloma Ghosh, Mouth: Stories
    (Astra House)

    “Sometimes surreal, sometimes horrifying, always startling…these stories will unsettle and fascinate in equal measure….Like K-Ming Chang’s carnal prose, Ghosh’s delights in even the grotesque sides of sex and rebirth….Mouth introduces readers to Puloma Ghosh’s unmatched ability to probe the visceral depths of female pain, desire, and grief.”
    Shelf Awareness

    The Dunning-Kruger Effect - Stoopendaal, Andrés

    Andrés Stoopendaal, The Dunning-Kruger Effect (trans. Alex Fleming)
    (Atria Books)

    “As a millennial of the depicted demographic group….I feel pinpointed by [Stoopendaal’s] clear-eyed satire of a generation of ‘pretend adults’ with a pathological need to justify work that is neither obviously meaningful nor reflective of their desired identity…We have on our hands one of the sharpest portraits of this generation. Stoopendaal has a devilish eye for the laughable and cringe-inducing.”
    Kristeligt Dagblad

    Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell - Powers, Ann

    Ann Powers, Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell
    (Dey Street Books)

    “A vibrant critical assessment of the eclectic and enigmatic folk/jazz/pop icon….Those simply looking for loving commentaries on Mitchell classics like Blue will find them, but Powers offers more than mere hagiography, positioning Mitchell as ‘an embodiment of freedom and singularity, of sorrow and of play.’ A top-notch music critic set loose on a worthy subject.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    The Island: War and Belonging in Auden's England - Jenkins, Nicholas

    Nicholas Jenkins, The Island: War and Belonging in Auden’s England
    (Belknap Press)

    he Island is a Copernican Revolution in Auden studies, a revelatory and often exciting book that presents a new and convincing account of Auden’s early years. It explores, for the first time, the deep connections between the inner workings of his poems and the worlds of politics and economics. By bringing to light Auden’s ambition to be a national poet, Jenkins transforms our understanding of not only Auden himself but all of modernist literature.”
    –Edward Mendelson

    The Great River: The Making and Unmaking of the Mississippi - Upholt, Boyce

    Boyce Upholt, The Great River: The Making and Unmaking of the Mississippi
    (Norton)

    “From mound-builders to levee-makers, Boyce Upholt gives us a Mississippi both wild and engineered, life-giving and furious—a river as full of contradictions as the country that has tried and failed to tame it. Impossible to stop reading, The Great River is a deeply felt meditation on the ways people have lived with nature’s changes, and how we might live differently in the future.”
    –Bathsheba Demuth

    All Friends Are Necessary - Moniz, Tomas

    Tomas Moniz, All Friends Are Necessary
    (Algonquin)

    “Tomas Moniz returns with a beautiful, searching novel. All Friends Are Necessary combines the rugged tenderness of Denis Johnson, the poetic geographies of Jimmy Santiago Baca, the frank sexual desire of Garth Greenwell, and the playful joy of Sandra Cisneros into a novel equally heartbreaking and hopeful. This is one of the best books of the year.”
    –Christian Kiefer

    Tongueless - Yee-Wa, Lau

    Lau Yee-Wa, Tongueless (trans. Jennifer Feeley)
    (Feminist Press)

    Tongueless is a riveting horror novel that explores the psychic depths of two desperate secondary school teachers struggling to navigate a merciless society. Set against the backdrop of post-1997 Hong Kong, amid shifting social norms and language politics, Lau’s striking debut novel compels readers to confront the voices of dissent….In Feeley’s brilliant translation, Hong Kong’s cultural and linguistic nuances are vividly brought to the fore.”
    –Dorothy Tse

    Getting to Know Death: A Meditation - Godwin, Gail

    Gail Godwin, Getting to Know Death: A Meditation
    (Bloomsbury)

    “Gail Godwin and I met as students in Kurt Vonnegut’s writing class. With insightful reflection, as she prepares herself for the inevitable, Gail has recalled the loved ones she’s lost-in the same crystalline prose that distinguishes her fiction. This book makes me remember the loved ones I’ve lost, in all the good ways.”
    –John Irving

    What Are Children For?: On Ambivalence and Choice - Berg, Anastasia

    Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman, What Are Children For?: On Ambivalence and Choice
    (St. Martin’s Press)

    “A lucid and sophisticated treatment of a question we all share a stake in: Ought there be future generations? Carving out a conversation about parenthood and the future that’s undisturbed by the warping effects of the culture wars, the book ably addresses contemporary challenges to parenthood—both practical and political—while developing its own optimistic case for human life.”
    The Atlantic

    Hip-Hop Is History - Questlove

    Questlove, Ben Greenman, Hip-Hop Is History
    (Auwa)

    “Questlove closely examines the social, political, and artistic factors contributing to hip-hop’s growth, many facets and styles, stars, controversies, innovations, and far-ranging influence. This is a must-read….Questlove’s illuminating and insightful survey is as personal as it is expert.”
    Booklist

    Accidental Astronomy: How Random Discoveries Shape the Science of Space - Lintott, Chris

    Chris Lintott, Accidental Astronomy: How Random Discoveries Shape the Science of Space
    (Basic Books)

    “Lintott’s awe-inspiring reflections on the universe’s unknowable origin and development is fused with a distinctly human idea, that many of the most profound discoveries in astronomy were not made by ‘deliberate moves,’ but rather by ‘stumbling accidents.'”
    Booklist

    How the World Ran Out of Everything: Inside the Global Supply Chain - Goodman, Peter S.

    Peter S. Goodman, How the World Ran Out of Everything: Inside the Global Supply Chain
    (Mariner)

    How the World Ran Out of Everything is a fascinating crash course in the global supply chain. Like Michael Lewis, Peter Goodman tells a business story in clear, lively prose. Here he shows how corporate America goosed its balance sheets with a system that minimized inventories and maximized stock prices, squeezing truck drivers and railroad workers and ultimately leaving consumers in the lurch when this fragile construct came crashing down.”
    –Barbara Demick

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