Julie: “This powerful novel about a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti grabbed me from the first sentence and held me, riveted and breathless, to the very last page. Gay is unflinching as she conveys the emotional, psychological and physical devastation of Mirielle Jameson during and following her captivity. Mirielle’s strength is the real backbone of this novel and held me fast as I worked through the difficult scenes of brutal treatment at the hands of her captors. This novel has me thinking about freedom, what it affords me and what it really means to be free, what I take for granted, and how a presumption of freedom defines my sense of self. There’s plenty more to dig into in this book, as well: economic disparity and dangerous assumptions on both sides of the dollar, rich and poor; the cultural gulf between parents and children raised in different countries; and the power and responsibilities of love. Just a phenomenal, unforgettable read. I can’t wait to have Roxane Gay here to discuss the book May 19.”
Andrew: “By 1986, Reagan was growing tired of trying to make diplomatic ties with an aging Soviet leadership. He was no spring chicken himself, but when compared to the Soviet leadership, he was a vibrant leader. That’s why when Gorbachev became Secretary General of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, many in the West became excited. Gorbachev was young compared to his predecessors and recognized that the Soviet Union could not go on competing in the nuclear arms race with the United States without going bankrupt, and was desperate for reform. Adelman, who was in Reykjavik for this historic meeting, expertly narrates the inside baseball of what was going on between the two parties. It’s important to consider the source when reading a book like this and although Adelman is a Reagan man through and through, his portraits of the Soviets is fair and balanced. He paints no one as a bogeyman. It was surprising to me that this book was a good, if biased, analysis of Reykjavik since I come nowhere close to Reagan’s politics. Regardless of your political affiliations, it’s good to get more than one narrative of a person, or of a leader, or event and this book is actually a fair interpretation of the summit.
Mandy: “Revolution Baby has an Amelie vibe. It’s succinct and sweet with moments of true wisdom that come from the mind of a child. Eloquent and snappy at the same time. I really like it.”
Carolyn: “The arrival of Peter Heller’s newest book, The Painter, came as a welcome surprise. I took the book with me on a camping trip recently and fell into the story as quickly as I did with Heller’s previous novel and debut, The Dog Stars. The Painter follows the story of an artist whose past is riddled with mistakes and tragedy which he will seemingly never shake. Heller paints his landscapes beautifully using common names of plants and animals so that you’re pulling (either from memory or referencing the nearest field guide) detailed images of the painter’s world. The Painter is the perfect read for summer!”
Julie: “I laughed so hard reading this book it doubled as a work out. Singleton imagines absurd situations played out by characters who tie their luck in knots: a student in an online southern culture course looks for truth in a scrapbooking club; an uncle makes a killing selling parachutes on the off chance of sinkholes; a woman funnels her husband’s scratch ticket winnings into never-ending home remodeling. These characters manage their fates with peculiar, hilarious, sometimes heart-wringing methods. Fans of George Saunders and Kurt Vonnegut will find a lot to love here. This is the most fun I’ve had reading a collection of stories in a long time.”
Alex: “A few chapters into The Bees I realized what a feat of writing I was witnessing. I was already immersed in hive culture and shown how antennae can be set to “puzzled” or “stern” and that a queen bee’s love can suffuse the air with a scent of security and warmth. Oh, and how one’s fate in life can be deeply felt yet completely unknown at the same time, a preordained mystery. All from just a few chapters, written in language that communicated clearly and was also pleasurable to take in. I knew that I’d be involved once I heard the gist (“The Handmaid’s Tale meets the Hunger Games” and a bit of Animal Farm, I’d add) but I never guessed how much I would already learn about myself from the perspective of a bee. This book will feel perfect on my shelf right between Watership Down and The Lord of the Flies, right along with all of my other favorite titles. Once I manage to put it down, that is.”
Andrew: “Colson Whitehead’s latest, The Noble Hustle, is the darkly humorous tale of him joining the World Series of Poker (WSOP) after a lifetime of playing $5 buy in games with friends. Poker fans will love this book; it’s a great rundown of all the subcultures that are involved in tournament play from the old timers to the internet trained robotic kids. Non-poker fans will love it for the same reasons. Whitehead is not himself a huge poker person and the unfolding of his story is a joy to read. It’s hilarious, it’s insightful, and it’s written with beautiful prose. I highly recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in poker.” Colson Whitehead reads here at BookPeople Wednesday, May 28.
Raul: “Colby Stevens has got a major problem: a young woman from his past has become something unearthly and menacingly dangerous. She is aggressively recruiting all the evil things of the night into an army. As their queen, she is leading them to Austin, Texas to unleash her vengeance upon Colby. He has only one chance to save himself and his friends, but it will lead him down a very dark path – he will have to traffic with the worst demons and wager his life and very soul. This is the follow-up to Cargill’s other great book, Dreams and Shadows.” Cargill speaks about & signs Queen of the Dark Things here at BookPeople May 15.
Ben: “Our narrator, Paul O’Rourke, is many things. He is an avid Red Sox fan, an inhabitant of New York City, a dentist addicted to his phone and nicotine, and an atheist sympathetic towards the notion of God. The dynamics of Paul’s office and life are disrupted when someone steals his identity and creates a website, a Facebook page, and Twitter account in Paul’s name. Between lamenting the state of his patients’ oral hygiene and condemning the evil baseball empire that is the New York Yankees (perhaps some of my favorite passages as a Philadelphia sports fan), Ferris has provided us with an impeccably modern and cynical humor to accompany us on Paul’s quest. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a critique and sonnet to the modern human, to the head-down worker and dreamer paralyzed by the chance of an inclement nightmare. Ferris ambitiously takes on the big questions regarding life and truth, leaving us a novel which acts as an answer with which we might be satisfied, if but for a little while.” Joshua Ferris reads here at BookPeople May 21.
Julie: “This book grew on me in a quiet, sneaky way. Lena, the main character, works as a transcriptionist for The Record, a major newspaper based in New York City. Her job is to sit in a room and transcribe reporters’ stories and interviews in preparation for publication. Her life is a quiet one, full of other people’s voices. As she becomes obsessed with the suicide of a blind court stenographer she met briefly on a city bus, we’re drawn into Lena’s isolated life where she’s haunted by the brutal stories she records every day, as well as memories of her childhood. Amy Rowland, who herself was once a transcriptionist for the New York Times, confronts the evolution of print journalism with a heart tuned to the human details lost in a 24 hour news cycle where reporters struggle to keep up. This is a thoughtful, ultimately hopeful novel about the degree of tenderness we bring to the millions of fine details about other people’s lives we encounter every day. How do we manage such a regular knowledge of so very much, particularly when we’re exposed to so many stories of pain, isolation, disaster and terror? As Lena finds her way through, so do we.”
All Staff: “……………………………………………………….” There are no words. You just have to see it. Here are a few images:
All books mentioned in this post are currently available to pre-order via bookpeople.com. Thank you for supporting a local, independent bookstore!
More books you shouldn’t miss this month (it’s a big month!)