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What We’re Reading This Week!

Jenn says: This is the Winter Institute edition, which means it has a lot of books in it because I knew I was going to be meeting certain authors and therefore read between 50 and 100 pages of as many of their books as I could. I didn’t get everyone, of course, BECAUSE THAT IS UNPOSSIBLE, but I did pretty well. Quickfire notes:

  • Rontel, Sam Pink: He was not at Winter Institute actually, this is Electric Literature’s first ebook! If you don’t know Electric Literature, you are missing out as a reader — their taste is exquisite and I’ve discovered several new favorite authors through them. They’re now an ebook publishers as well, CONGRATS YOU GUYS. Reading this book is so much like having a conversation with a certain person I know that it’s a little unnerving. 
  • A Marker to Measure Drift, Alexander Maksik: A novel about a female Liberian refugee wandering homeless on the island of Santorini. Incredibly vivid and visceral, but with this very dreamlike quality. We had a great conversation about race, gender, and voice, and Binyavanga Wainaina’s essay How To Write About Africa.
  • The Blood of Heaven, Kent Wascom: I spent all weekend describing this to people as True Grit meets The Devil All the Time (which obviously equals, I LOVE IT). I ran it by Wascom and he did not mind, so I feel safe in saying it to y’all! 
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra: Takes place in post-Soviet Chechnya; a man’s neighbor is taken away by soldiers, and he and his neighbor’s young daughter seek refuge in a nearby hospital where they’re put to work by the gloriously cranky sole doctor left in town. I only got a little way into this one but what I read was impressive — this is going to be a big one.
  • Equilateral, Ken Kalfus: The plot on this one is CRAZY PANTS in the best possible way. A scientist in the late 1800s hatches a plan to get the attention of the (presumably hyper-intelligent) inhabitants of Mars that consists of building a giant, visible-from-space equilateral triangle in the Sahara and then LIGHTING IT ON FIRE. I kid you not. (19th century astronomers were, in fact, obsessed with Mars!) I started it on the plane home and the book reads a bit like my favorite fiction from that time period — a bit stuffy, a bit tongue-in-cheek. There’s also a really epic ping-pong scene. If you are not sold on this book yet, we probably can’t be friends.
  • Unremembered, Jessica Brody: Jessica Brody turns out to have almost exactly the same taste as me (we obsessed together about Emma Donoghue’s Room for a good twenty minutes) and has written a new YA novel that explores weird science and time travel and deeply philosophical questions and also conspiracies and young love and the perils of being a teenager and I’m not done yet and don’t want to spoil anything for you in the meantime so I will just leave that there. I will probably need to go back and read all of her other books, too.