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What We’re Reading Now — Jenn

Hild, Nicola Griffith: I don’t know what possessed Nicola Griffith to write such an incredibly detailed, exhaustively researched, minutely imagined novel of seventh-century Britain, nor FSG to publish it, but I AM SO GLAD THEY DID. For someone who read every collection of Arthuriana she could get her hands on (and studied pre-modern globalization in college), a trip back into pre-medieval Britain is an absolute delight. I’m probably not pronouncing anyone’s name right in my head, and there are certain nouns it took me a while to establish (when in doubt, it’s probably some kind of weapon), but I’m enjoying every second of it. And if you’re really into shifting political alliances and subterfuge (similar to Game of Thrones but minus pretty much all the sexual violence), you’ll love it.

The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison: As happens to me pretty often, the hype on this book meant that I’ve been ignoring it. And then I read Leslie Jamison’s Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain via VQR, and bought myself a copy as soon as I possibly could. I’m about halfway through, and I am in love. In particular, the way that Jamison explores the balance/boundaries/symbiosis of performed emotion and genuine emotion is fascinating, and not something I feel like I’ve seen before. The hype is there for good reason — this one’s a must-read.

What We’re Reading This Week - Preeti

I’ll kick it off with the comics, because I recently bought a subscription to Marvel’s Unlimited app. This means I have access to pretty much Marvel’s entire back catalog of comics for the next year. 

… I may have made a huge mistake. Turns out, I also lack all self-control so I have flown through several series. Two of which are Uncanny X-Force and Nightcrawler Volume 3.

I have to say, the Uncanny X-Force run is pretty fantastic. A quick background on X-Force, this particular story arc features a later (and secret!) iteration of the team: Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Deadpool, with Wolverine heading it up as leader. Earth-295 version of Nightcrawler  also ends up joining the team partway through the story. 

X-Force is the group of x-men that understands that sometimes killing is necessary. This is a supremely dark story, which is usually how I like my x-men. Dark and brooding. And boy does this series give it to me. In the first act alone, the x-force grapple with the idea of killing a child who has the potential for huge evil before he’s done anything, and then much of the series afterward is dealing with the ramifications of their ultimate decision. The entire story line is satisfying, and when it came to an end my only problem was okay, now where do I go? 

It’s tough to be a casual reader of comics, because now I’m knee deep in both Uncanny X-men and the more recent Age of Apocalypse series and there’s so many other story lines that I know I’m missing! 

But, I’ll leave the complaints of “too much good content” for another day.

I also read Nightcrawler Volume 3 from 2004 which deals a lot with Kurt’s ties to the religious and the mystical, despite his lapsed faith. The individual issues were exciting and fun reads (it helps that I’m a great, big Nightcrawler fan), though the art and writing got a little teen-romance for me. I think Beast says at one point, “We’re both covered in blue fur, but the girls like you.” (Or some approximation of that sentiment any way). There’s also a few gratuitous Nightcrawler shirtless-or-just-out-the-shower panels, which I found to be completely hilarious. Overall, I’m not entirely surprised the series was canceled, but Kurt’s got such a fantastic back story and the writing was pretty great for the issues that we did get, it’s a bit of a shame.

Ok, now onto prose! I had never read Jandy Nelson before a friend passed me a galley of her forthcoming I’ll Give You the Sun (Penguin, September 2014). After finishing it, I can’t wait to pick up her first novel, because this one was such a wonderful reading experience. The story follows a set of twins, Noah and Jude. It’s told in nonlinear passages, from Noah’s perspective when the twins are 13-14, and from Jude’s when they’re 16. 

At the novel’s open, the twins are close as can be though fiercely competitive. Noah believes that they have one soul between the two of them. He’s artistic, and a self proclaimed weirdo who is slowly falling for the new boy next door. Jude is much more outgoing with her too short skirts and loud mouth, and she’s busy making decisions she should probably not be making. 

Three years later, they’re barely speaking, Jude is the quiet girl who goes to the art school and Noah is on the track team and dating girl. Nelson’s writing gives us hints of what happens to get to this point, but with both twins knowing only pieces of the story.

The read, for me, was a powerful one, though not perfect. Some things tie up too nicely, and some of the best parts of the climax are glossed over. But the writing is, at parts, so strong that I didn’t even care. There’s a scene, when you meet Noah again, from Jude’s perspective, and you see that he’s lost all that artistic fervor and he’s hiding behind this persona of a normal, boring 16-year-old boy and it was so profoundly sad, that I had to put the book down for an hour and come back to it.

I realize my word count is getting embarrassing for a what-we’re-reading post, so I’ll end it here. But I highly, highly suggest you keep an eye out for I’ll Give You the Sun

What We’re Reading This Week - Jenn

I know, I know, they’re not out yet, but you should be VERY EXCITED about these three books. Because I said so.

  • Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse (June 10 2014): How do you end up with a name like Brando Skyhorse? He will tell you. Skyhorse recounts growing up with a manic, compulsive storyteller of a mother, a strong-willed, often callous grandmother, and five stepfathers. This memoir really digs into the strange alchemy of family — what elements do you need? What can you do with out? What can you substitute? And who are you, really, at the end of the day? Excellent.
  • My Real Children, Jo Walton (May 20 2014): This will inevitably be compared to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life — Patricia Cowan is elderly, in a nursing home, and seems to have two different sets of memories. How many children does she actually have? Who did she really marry? And what kind of world does she live in? Walton explores the choices we make as well as the choices that get made for us. It’s a beautiful novel, and such a different style from her previous (and my personal favorite) Among Others.
  • The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne (May 20 2014): This is an incredibly strong debut, y’all. Byrne not only fully imagines a future version of India and Africa, but some really satisfyingly weird new technology, and juggles two intensely moving storylines. If you’re looking for a new voice in sci-fi, you must read it. Byrne celebrates diversity and looks outside of the Western canon for inspiration, and gives us two complex new heroines to root for.
Apr 2

Bookrageous Favorites Out This Week!

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Last year’s favorites out in paperback

Lexicon by Max Barry

Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel

Gulp by Mary Roach

What We’re Reading This Week — Josh

As I mentioned on the most recent episode of the podcast, I’ve been doing an embarrassingly small amount of reading lately. Luckily, the reading I’ve managed has been very, very good.

Last week, Dustin from Melville House visited Maine and brought all kinds of goodies, including a copy of The Haunted Bookshop. The book was one of Jenn’s favorite books of 2013 (the world’s best endorsement, basically), and Dustin mentioned that it was “the best book about bookstores” he’d ever read. And it is! You guys, this book is so good. It is, as Jenn said on that episode, a delight. It’s funny, and well-paced, and exciting, and surprising, and I just loved it so much. While the book was written in 1919, it feels modern and reads at a speedy clip - I nearly finished the whole thing in a single sitting at a bar. More than anything, it is truly a love story to booksellers, bookstores, and most importantly books. I’m just going to leave a few quotes here as proof.

On lending books;

ON THE RETURN OF A BOOK LENT TO A FRIEND

I GIVE humble and hearty thanks for the safe return of this book which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase, and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.

I GIVE humble and hearty thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant as a plaything, nor use it as an ash-tray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.

WHEN I lent this book I deemed it as lost: I was resigned to the bitterness of the long parting: I never thought to look upon its pages again.

BUT NOW that my book is come back to me, I rejoice and am exceeding glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honour: for this my book was lent, and is returned again.

PRESENTLY, therefore, I may return some of the books that I myself have borrowed.

On being a bookseller;

The beauty of being a bookseller is that you don’t have to be a literary critic: all you have to do to books is enjoy them.

and

I wish there could be an international peace conference of booksellers, for (you will smile at this) my own conviction is that the future happiness of the world depends in no small measure on them and on the librarians.

On the explosive power of books (a metaphor that plays into some of the intrigue later in The Haunted Bookshop).

Printer’s ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.

Ah, so great! I suspect that every line of this book has already been tweeted and tumbl’d by booksellers everywhere.

On the comic front, I’m reading The Last of the Innocent, the sixth volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ long-running series Criminal. The volumes, always self-contained but in a shared universe, are a great take on (and sometimes a thumb to the nose of) the tropes and cliches of crime writing. While the stories have been fantastic across the board, this one is definitely my favorite. The reason? Without spoiling too much, the book could be roughly described as “Archie Goes Bad.” Main character Archie Andrews Riley Richards, unhappy with his life and saddled with gambling debts, returns home to Riverdale Brookview and finds it’s not quite as idyllic as in his memory. It’s a stellar crime story - perhaps the pair’s best - and a few scenes aping the classic Archie style make Phillips’ typically great art even better.

What We’re Reading This Week — Rebecca
While I’m still working through the nonfic picks I shared last week, I’ve added some delicious backlist to the mix. I was WAY late to the George Saunders party (seriously, bookternet, you failed me on that one) and just read Tenth of December a couple months ago, and now I cannot get enough George Saunders. This debut collection was published in 1996 and has never been out of print (how many debut short story collections can claim this nearly decades later?), and I totally understand why. It’s radtastic, and it’s nearly impossible to believe that this is a writer’s DEBUT. Saunders’ stories feel prescient now, nearly 20 years after they were published, so I can only imagine how magical they must have seemed back then. He captures heartbreak and humanity and cruelty and absurdity with such a keen eye and such carefully selected details, and he’s so delightfully weird in the process. I’m torn between wanting to devour the whole collection and wanting to savor them piece by piece. So. Effing. Good.

What We’re Reading This Week — Rebecca

While I’m still working through the nonfic picks I shared last week, I’ve added some delicious backlist to the mix. I was WAY late to the George Saunders party (seriously, bookternet, you failed me on that one) and just read Tenth of December a couple months ago, and now I cannot get enough George Saunders. This debut collection was published in 1996 and has never been out of print (how many debut short story collections can claim this nearly decades later?), and I totally understand why. It’s radtastic, and it’s nearly impossible to believe that this is a writer’s DEBUT. Saunders’ stories feel prescient now, nearly 20 years after they were published, so I can only imagine how magical they must have seemed back then. He captures heartbreak and humanity and cruelty and absurdity with such a keen eye and such carefully selected details, and he’s so delightfully weird in the process. I’m torn between wanting to devour the whole collection and wanting to savor them piece by piece. So. Effing. Good.

What We’re Reading This Week — Jenn’s Picks

I can just hear Paul yelling at me for picking things that aren’t out yet, but I DON’T CARE. You guys. Get so excited for this summer. I have read these both and am here to declare them Most Excellent.

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (July 29 2014) is his third book, and I could not possibly have been more excited for it. Expectations: met and then some. This is about family, environmental apocalypse, government bureaucracy, international intrigue, and oh yeah, SUPER HEROES and how far you’d go for someone you love. It’s a real shift from The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker; Harkaway’s humor is in full force, but in many ways this is a far more realistic — and therefore more terrifying — story. And here’s where I run out of words and start to ramble and babble and so I will just say: pre-order it now and start counting down the days.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (August 5 2014) is the third book in the Fillory series and you guuuuuyyyyyysssss I don’t want to spoil anything but AGH I HAVE SO MANY FEELS ABOUT THIS BOOK. It’s hard to talk about it with anyone who hasn’t read books one and two (GO READ THEM) but also if you have read them it is also hard because I want to tell you all the things. I guess I will just say that this is an amazing final installment that I don’t want to be final — there are so many potential spin-offs and side stories and adventures-yet-untold and Fillory scares the crap out of me but I’m not ready to be done yet. In any case I highly recommend that you reread The Magicians and The Magician King because there are Relevant Things! And also because they are great.

Ok. End gush. Over and out.

What We’re Reading This Week — Rebecca

It’s all nonfiction all the time around these parts right now. I’m totally besotted with The Canon by Natalie Angier, which is one woman’s mission to bring the magic and wonder of science back to everyday American life. A veteran science writer, Angier sets out to answer the question: "What would a nonscientist need to know about science to qualify as scientifically seasoned?" What follows is a breakdown of the basic concepts of scientific study that is just as enjoyable and entertaining as it is informative. This is my first experience reading Angier, and I’m completely besotted. 

Deborah Halber swings the pendulum away from the pros and puts power in the hands of amateurs in The Skeleton Crew (July, Simon & Schuster), as she explores how obsessed amateurs use the internet to crack long-cold cases. This one’s fascinating whether you’re into the cold case thing or not (I’m not).

Survival Stories: The Elevator Conundrum

  • Paul: How long do you wait until you decide to eat the guy who’s next to you, who keeled over and died?
  • Rebecca: A really long time!
  • Paul: You wait for a really long time, but how long is a really long time, if you’re in that situation? Like, you say, I’d never eat Josh. But, you know, if we’re locked in an elevator for 4 or 5 hours, I’m thinking --
  • Josh: 4 or 5 hours?
  • Paul: It’s really hot in there, there’s no air conditioning --
  • Rebecca: Are you going to braise him in bourbon?
  • Josh: I’ll already be braised in bourbon by the time we’re stuck in that elevator.
  • Paul: I have limited tools, I don’t know when I’m going to be rescued, you know how Josh can go on and on —
  • Rebecca: I’m not sure if I’m having a fantasy or a nightmare right now.
  • Josh: It’s alright, if I’m ever around Paul I’ll take the stairs.
  • Paul: Wise decision.
  • Rebecca: What are we talking about again?

Bookrageous Episode 67; Survival Stories

How long would you wait to resort to cannibalism? Are bunnies actually cuddly? Is Gravity a sci-fi movie? These and other questions are answered by Paul, Rebecca, and Josh in Episode 67.