This week, to kick off our tremendous list of recommendations for everyone shopping for the holidays (or simply for a good book), we’re highlighting titles that we and independent booksellers across the country are particularly fond of (and there are quite a few selections, compiled neatly in this brilliant list, if you’d like to take a look.) Sharing our love of these titles is the best way we know how to say Thanks for Shopping Indie this holiday season, and all year long.
Indie booksellers have been cheering for The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (an alum of UT’s Michener Center) since before it hit shelves. The book’s publisher did a good job of getting advance copies of this book into our hands early. Since then, the book has received praise from the New York Times, The New Republic, Publisher’s Weekly, us, and so many others. It was even nominated for a National Book Award this year.
The praise we trust most, though, is that of other booksellers. Here’s what our friends and colleagues have had to say about this incredible novel about the Iraq War:
“The story itself, a young man taking on the unfathomable responsibility of looking out for the safety and welfare of a fellow solder, is wrenching. What makes the book truly remarkable, though, is the visceral power of Powers’ prose. Reading the combat scenes, I was unable to sit and had to walk around my apartment, reading the book aloud to myself to fully appreciate the staccato rhythms and his marvelous command of language. The contrast he achieves in the alternating chapters when Bartle returns home — his depression and guilt and his sense of alienation and purposelessness — reveal the vagueness of violence, systemic state-sanctioned versus the intensely personal. Through language and character, the book moves from the gut to the heart. For me, it was an intense reading experience. Beauty is a strange word to describe a war novel, but it is that. It’s a deeply humane book. . . This will likely be the great book that comes out of that war.”
~ Politics & Prose Bookstore (Washington, DC)
“Kevin Powers first novel is breathtaking in all ways imaginable. His prose is beautiful, his characters believable, the sense of place immersing and his ability to convey the rawness and unflinching realities of war only comparable to a select few literary masters. The Yellow Birds is set during the Iraq War, Powers pulls no punches in his honest storytelling which is evenly matched with his amazing and poetic use of the written word. Kevin Powers should not only be paid attention to for the brilliant writing of his debut novel but for standing up and reminding us that we are still at war and what this ongoing war is still doing to our soldiers and their families.”
~Book Passage (San Francisco, CA)
“Not since The Thin Red Line have I read such a powerful war novel. . . Kevin Powers puts you in the hot seat of the Iraq War, fought from the inside out. This is an incredible little book.”
~Powell’s Books (Portland, OR)
“Using his own experiences in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, Powers has written a small story with huge parameters about one campaign in Iraq that shattered the lives of the three main characters. Gory details are brief, and they are set in stunning contrast to the descriptions of both the physical setting and the inner life of the narrator while he is in Iraq and when he returns home. Although we who have not been soldiers cannot imagine the intensity and stress of battlefield conditions, this novel gives us an inkling of what we have been spared. I’m sure it will be compared with All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, and perhaps with The Red Badge of Courage. There is a lot of discuss, so it would be good for book clubs if they could stick with it.”
~Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston, TX)
The praise goes on and on. Kevin Powers answered questions for Mary Beth Keane after The Yellow Birds was nominated for a National Book Award. Here’s a brief excerpt from that interview, available in full over on the NBA website:
MBK: You were a Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Austin, where you got your MFA. Your background in poetry comes through in the music of your prose, and serves as an often heartbreaking counterpoint to the blunt reality of these soldiers’ war experiences. You are also a veteran of the Iraq War. Can you describe how your emphasis on language helped you get hold of this story (if that is, in fact, the case)?
KP: I wanted the language to reflect the intensity and complexity of Bartle’s inner life and the strangeness of his experience. The sonic and rhythmic qualities of words and sentences are essential to the way I experience language.
Thanks for Shopping Indie! For more picks from BookPeople and independent booksellers across the country, visit our website.
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