Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Just in time for summer vacations and afternoons at the shore, we've rounded up the BBF crew's favorite reads for summer 2012. Pack one (or more) of these wide-ranging choices in your beach bag, and you'll be all set for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer reading.
Canada by Richard Ford
I am about halfway through Richard Ford's Canada, about a teenager whose life changes as the result of a tragic act of bad judgement on the part of his parents. It is a serious and masterfully written novel about isolation, alienation, character, childhood, and memory set in the unforgiving environment of the American West.
We the Animals by Justin Torres
I have also begun We the Animals, a semi-autobiographical novel by Justin Torres. It will be a quick read, not only because it's short, but also because it is captivating. Like Canada, it is about family, memory, and growing up poor with parents who are a mismatched and, in this case, highly volatile couple.
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Next on my list of summer reading is Alone in Berlin, by Hans Fallada. Written in 1947, it has been described by Primo Levi as "the greatest book ever written on German Resistance to the Nazis."
Living, Thinking, Looking by Siri Hustvedt
Short forms like essays and short stories are perfect for dipping into on summer vacations, and Hustvedt is a master of the essay form. Here she brings together more than thirty essays written between 2006 and 2011 on the intersections of life, philosophy, and the visual arts, all written in vibrantly intellectual prose that will make readers feel entertained, energized, and maybe even just a little bit smarter.
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
2012 marks the 150th anniversary of Edith Wharton's birth, and the old girl still feels as relevant and timely as ever in these debut novels inspired by her most famous works. The Innocents re-sets The Age of Innocence in East London's young Jewish community, and Gilded Age uses The House of Mirth as a jumping-off point to skewer the social mores of present-day monied Cleveland. If you like your summer reading breezy but with some literary underpinnings, you can't do much better than these two novels.
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The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Louise Brooks, the quintessential flapper, got her start in life in Wichita, Kansas. This vibrant historical novel imagines Louise's first trip to the big city, during which her respectable middle-aged chaperone, who's been entrusted with preserving Louise's tenuous virtue, winds up breaking a few taboos of her own.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This book has been getting a ton of great press lately, and for good reason. The story of a marriage gone south is full of unreliable narrators, mystery, and lots of last-minute twists that made me want to
go back and read it all over again as soon as I finished. If you're on the library waiting list for Gone Girl, check out Flynn's earlier books Dark Places and Sharp Objects.
You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik
Controversial and seemingly based on true events, Maksik's novel paints a picture of a morally conflicted American teacher in Paris. Indulgent and provocative.
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Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
Another unreliable narrator! Christine is an amnesiac who wakes each day not knowing where she is. She leaves herself clues before going to sleep in the hopes of eventually piecing the puzzle together. Ironically, you will not be able to go to sleep until you finish this book.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Set in North Korea, Johnson's novel leads you into a nightmarish world where things are real simply because the Dear Leader says they are. You want the book to end so you can escape, but you also can't get enough of Johnson's writing.
Broken Harbor by Tana French
French's In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place were the literary high points of my past three summers, so I'm eagerly awaiting the July release of her fourth novel. French's daisy-chain approach, centering each novel around a minor character in the previous one, draws you closer to a group of characters you think you know well.
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
Lehrer's latest book is a look into, as the title says, the way that creativity works. Looking at creativity through neuroscience, Imagine explores the brain's capacity for fostering creativity and inspiration. It's a broad topic, but Lehrer maintains focus by linking science with real life stories such as Bob Dylan's source of inspiration, the creation of the Swiffer, and more. And while the text definitely gets into some complex neuroscience terminology, Lehrer does a great job in making sure the material is well explained and accessible to even the most right-brained readers.
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
I'd been meaning to pick up last year's Orange Prize winner for over a year, and the wait was well worth it. Obreht's first novel alternates between present day reality and fantastical folk tales, and the combination allows for an interesting balance on the edge of magical realism. Each passage in The Tiger's Wife is bursting with details, and Obreht's imagination seems to have no limits. The folk tales throughout the novel are stories within the story, and while Obreht doesn't tie everything up with a nice bow at the end, the mystery of it all is what makes her novel so intriguing.
The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy
This is on my list of books to reread this summer. It's a tiny, beautiful memoir about perseverance and the power of storytelling. Joel ben Izzy, a professional storyteller, loses his voice to cancer and with it his passion and career. This is the story of how ben Izzy learned to find happiness without a voice. His story is inspiring, but what makes The Beggar King stand out is that ben Izzy introduces each new chapter with a short, and beautifully told, fable or story. Each chapter of the memoir is emphasized by a fictional story that helped ben Izzy cope with his distress and find the secret of happiness. It's short enough and interesting enough to read in one sitting, but the short chapters resemble individual short stories that are best read one at a time.
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
I know I'm probably that last person on earth to read this series, but I usually have a difficult time with these kind of texts. However, Harry Potter eventually won me over, so I'm hoping the same thing will happen here.
Boneshaker by Jan Beatty
I had the pleasure of meeting the poet and receiving a signed copy at AWP this year and her book has been on my "to read" list since then. I think all writers, regardless of genre, should read poetry. Jan was one of the friendliest people I've ever met, and I'm really excited to start reading her book.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
This memoir details Yuknavitch's abusive parents and the swimming scholarship that allows her to escape her fractured homelife; however, drug addiction eventually causes her to lose her scholarship. As a former competitive swimmer, I'm interested to see how Yuknavitch writes about swimming and how she mixes these descriptions and information with her prose and her story's progression.
Three Day Road by Joseph Boydon
This was one of the first books I read this summer, and it was a captivating read. Boydon's two main characters are Crees who leave Northern Canada to serve in World War I. The book is told in a series of flashbacks and sometimes alternating points of views, but various complex themes make it both poetic, haunting, and thought-provoking. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I only wished that I had not watched season one of HBO's series based on the book, because the TV series is right on point. This made the book that much harder to read because the TV series was so accurate to the book's portrayal of character, plot, etc. Otherwise, the book was great in that Martin has created his own world, full of characters (remembering their names and connections is the hardest part), lands, cities, monsters, and of course a battle to win the throne.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
So far, this book is really wonderful in that it is gripping from the very beginning but still wants to be read slowly. It reads how I imagine any vampire would like to be read.
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Dracula by Bram Stoker
I have to keep the vampire theme up!
Blindness by José Saramago
This one was recommended to me by a professor who mentioned that because it analyzes what it means to be human, many of the characters exhibit zombie-like qualities, making them, in some way, zombies in literature.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
As a recent graduate myself, I’m so drawn in by Eugenides’ protagonists. They stumble, mess up and generally claw through the early eighties and their early twenties in a humorous, melodramatic, and absolutely realistic way. Makes me excited for the next four years!
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Ethopia and surgery. Two topics that seem neither beautiful nor literary and yet Verghese makes them both sing. After finishing I dreamed of visiting Addis Adaba; however, not even his gorgeous prose on medicine could steer me towards med school.
Monday, June 04, 2012
It's that time of year again! Later this summer, Boston Book Festival will begin distribution of One City One Story 2012. Heading into our third year with 1C1S, and following the success of the past two years, the Boston Book Festival is thrilled to announce this year's selection...
The 2012 One City One Story selection is "The Lobster Mafia Story" by Anna Solomon, originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of The Georgia Review. The story was the recipient of a 2011 Pushcart Prize.
We think that the story's Boston setting and sense of family mystery will bring together readers from all across the city. "The Lobster Mafia Story" tells the story of recently widowed Marcella, born and raised in Boston's North End, and her life as a "a woman with a quiet life, with a husband who leaves only when he dies." The story links Marcella's mourning with a mystery surrounding a death and an unexpected teenage visitor. It's a story of crime, sorrow, and the secrets that both build and haunt a community. Readers will appreciate the wide-reaching themes and Massachusetts focus.
Solomon has published work in One Story and Harvard Review, as well as essays in The New York Times Magazine. Her first novel, The Little Bride, was published in 2011. Solomon holds a BA from Brown University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her family.
From the inaugural 1C1S year in 2010 with Tom Perrotta's story "The Smile on Happy Chang's Face," to last year's incredible session with Richard Russo about his story "The Whore's Child," we look forward to another great year of reading and discussing short stories with members of our community. We are looking forward to Anna Solomon joining us on October 27 for the Boston Book Festival for the special 1C1S session. Alicia Anstead will lead an open discussion with Solomon and readers from all over the city.
Help us make 1C1S 2012 another success! Look out for distribution of "The Lobster Mafia Story" in the weeks leading up to BBF. There will be copies at all Boston Public Library branches, as well as at bookstores, farmer's markets, T stations, special events and other places throughout Greater Boston. Keep an eye on our 1C1S website for more information regarding distribution. You'll find Anna Solomon's "The Lobster Mafia Story" somewhere close to you soon!
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