Endlessly inventive and wonderfully deadpan, Unferth’s new book is one of the best story collections in recent memory. The stories within are brief, but the writing explodes off the page with an energy you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Unferth’s ability to make a story about sickly turtles as heart-shattering as one about a man forced to live in total darkness for twelve weeks is proof enough that her range is endless and her talent huge. While the stories often explore the harshest aspects of life, the most impressive thing about the collection is how they somehow bend toward the hopeful among all the wreckage. In each story Unferth makes whole worlds out of the mundane, and it is truly something to behold.
Miller's writing is stripped down and carefully refined, packing a whole vision of the world into as few eye-widening details as possible. The stories in this collection explore the realities of women living between two worlds, with one foot in the future their meant to be striving toward and the other firmly rooted in their usually grim and booze-filled present. Though the stories can verge on the harsh, they always evoke a world that is immediately recognizable and palpably real. A great new collection by a writer who never seems to disappoint.
Lyrical yet endlessly gut-wrenching, History of Wolves soars on so many levels. It is a psychologically astute coming-of-age novel about a young girl who lives on the outskirts of a small Minnesota town, but it becomes much more once a classmate reports sexual abuse by a teacher, and a mysterious family moves into the new house—the only other house nearby—just across the lake. While the novel is wonderfully layered and emotionally deep, Fridlund also creates suspense just about as well as any crime writer in recent memory. If you’re looking for something exciting yet deeply fulfilling, pick this one up; but be warned, this is one of those books that you won’t be able to shake for a few days after you’ve finished it.
Emma Cline’s new book is about as good as debut novels (or novels in general) get. I’m not kidding. I’d be shocked if this book isn’t the runaway hit of the summer. It’s that good. The writing alone will capture you from the first page, but the impossibly realistic and vivid characters will keep you hooked the whole way through. Evie Boyd comes of age in 1969 California, and her formative experiences are rendered so perfectly that it felt like they were memories from my own life. But when Evie stumbles upon a culty, free-wheelin’ group that challenges all of her previous notions of what life is supposed to be, she is changed irreparably. If you liked Claire Vaye Watkins’ equally cultish Gold Fame Citrus, definitely pick this one up… and join us.
In classic Mary Roach style, Grunt explores the less-traversed side of military science, honoring those who devote their lives to the things us normal folk don’t even think about: penis transplants for wounded vets, military-grade stink bombs, and, of course, diarrhea. Grunt is just as hilarious as any of Roach’s others books, but it also sheds light on some seriously interesting stuff that goes on in hopes of keeping our soldiers safe. This one is great for laughs and is full of quirky scientists, but an important question undergirds much of the book as well: If we go through so much work to keep our soldiers safe, why not try harder to keep them home in the first place?
An intimate portayal of the enigmatic and troubled character at its core, Joe Gould's Teeth is both startlingly perceptive and seductively plotted. While providing a thorough study into the life of Joe Gould and his infamous manuscript, Lepore also transports you back into the NYC literary scene of the 1930s-40s. Don't let the size fool you, this is a great quick read with graceful, fast-paced prose and some serious emotional heft. -Donovan
A new novel by one of the greatest authors of all time, need I say more? I needn’t… but I’m contractually obligated to. With this new book, DeLillo packs the intellectual punch of White Noise or Mao II—big, expansive books that are seemingly about everything—yet this one reads as quick as his slimmer late novels. It’s all about cryogenic preservation of the brain/body, while still managing to be funny and absurdly entertaining. So read it. Death is not the end. - Donovan
With a focus on the manufacturers rather than the consumers, Haag’s book helps unravel the mythic existence of the American gun. And don’t worry, the book is also completely free from Second-Amendment-bashing tirades. Instead, Haag offers a clear-eyed historical account of how guns became so pervasive in our culture and what we should do moving forward. This book makes clear that Americans were not inherently gun-happy, that they had to be sold on them like any other product. This book is essential for anyone interested in what’s actually being said in the current debate over guns. - Donovan
If you’ve ever been interested in what your dog or your cat really thinks about your tuxedo t-shirt (or whether they think at all), then Frans de Waal’s new book is a must-read for you. De Waal is the renowned primatologist and writer of The Bonobo and the Atheist, as well as other essays on morality and intelligence in the animal kingdom. And in this book de Waal argues that certain animal intelligence–though different—is not inferior or superior to others (including us human folk). De Waal makes it clear that we should examine animals in relation to their own specific traits and capabilities in order to understand their true intelligence, rather than comparing them to the things that we humans excel it. By trying to get us to embody a point of view outside of our own species', this book will forever change the way we look at animal intelligence and consciousness. -Donovan
“You don't need to be familiar with Chesnutt's or Hersh's work to appreciate this phenomenal book, but you will undoubtedly want to be once you've finished it. Hersh is a writer of intense and subtle beauty, and she will make you cry and feel a hundred other things with the power of her style alone. Through the tragic story of her close friend and tourmate, Chesnutt, Hersh evokes the torture of all that artistic genius encapsulates and makes that pain sing in a voice both opaque and elegant, grimy and pristine. Ultimately, this is a deeply affecting meditation on one's thrust toward 'important art' and on how music is a necessary expression of sadness and loneliness but also one of intense and inimitable beauty.”