"Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything..." — Sally Rooney, Normal People
The chocolate chunk shortbread is worth the cover price alone. Especially if you can convince someone else to make them for you.
The apocalypse begins in 2011, but maybe we've been living through it for longer. The Shen Fever pandemic turns people into zombies doomed to repeat their daily tasks til they die = a subtle distinction from our current lives, Ling Ma argues. Severance is a eulogy (read: love letter) for half-loved lives and half-lived selves. Protagonist Candace straddles identities in an indifferent America, a Chinese family navigating the jabs of displacement, a New York that isn't so much sanitized as its hostilities are morphed, an information economy that produces fraught global connections between people who are skilled, but who among us are survive-an-apocalypse skilled? Ling Ma revives '90s global-consumerist satire and, detouring it through messy North Brooklyn parties and romance, collides it with Contagion. Grab a facemask and dive in.
For anyone who cares about summer, the experience of being old, the experience of being young, or the seasonal cadences of a small Scandinavian island, this book is utterly sublime.
This book deserves every good thing that can be said about it. I have little to add but hope by putting it here, you'll remember that, oh yeah, you totally have wanted to read/re-read Dune. If you need a push, remember there are mile-long, razor-toothed sandworms and desert warriors badass enough to ride them.
Here is a book about trees: their root systems, their destruction, and our absolute unimportance in the face of their ancientness. The Overstory - Richard Powers' magnum opus - is a tangled epic, spanning a century of poorly-lived life in America, proof that the best writing you're likely to read in this era of immanent environmental apocalypse is going to be about, say, trees. Since I finished The Overstory I have looked at the world in an entirely different way, and I can't remember the last time a book has done that to me.
Reading this novel felt like playing a long, consuming game of bridge played for actual diamonds. Profound, mysterious, calculating and haunting.
A more accurate title for this book might be: "How To Reconsider What It Means To Do Something." Far from advocating inaction, Odell makes an extremely convincing and quite profound case, using an omnivorous mix of philosophy, art history, and good old rumination, that we should start paying attention to what we pay attention to, and to how that attention shapes, and limits, the scopes of our lives. Reading this book, I began to notice how I interact with the bodies around me—bird, tree, human, creek, neighborhood—and how paying them fuller attention might make me a better person, both happier and more truly alive.
I both love and hate Ng's omniscient narrator, who provides all the details we want as readers but without offering the characters the samecourtesy. It is deeply frustrating, as you root for characters, to watchthem make decisions with only some of the information, and then observe all of the fallout. But, it's so deeply frustrating because she so effortlessly pulls you in to the incredibly well-developed stories of her characters. I felt all the feelings through this one. A pointed and poignant commentary on race, progressivism, and family dynamics.
Set in Naples, this is a fearsome, ferocious set of novels, brimming with life -- all its love and triumphs, its violence and disappointments.
A brilliant book, and unputdownable. Milkman, which won the 2018 Booker Prize, is a novel about a young girl in a nonspecific war-torn place, although the non-specificity of proper nouns is part of the menacing ambiguity of what is obviously 1970's Belfast, peak-Troubles. The girl, who crosses paths with a member of the IRA, is a case study in the formlessness and fury of young girlhood, but it is also a novel that delivers you a world fully formed, lyrically dense, and funnier than anyone would lead you to believe. Rarely do I think books that win big awards are deserving of them. Milkman is.
Just different enough from our current upheaval to offer escape, yet familiar enough to rally hope.
This is the first book to successfully increase my chill. Pick it up if you need an alternative to the nightmare/labyrinth/fugue state/series of disappointments you're stumbling through now. Bonus: Watts' writing is friendly, funny, and often beautiful.
Don't judge The Idiot on its plot. A bookish teen starts at Harvard in 1995, develops a crush, goes to teach English abroad, and stumbles her way through introductory Russian and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. These are ostensibly the ingredients of a lesser novel. But they are transformed by the quality of Batuman's writing: her lol-funny dialogue, her uncanny observations (a public toilet emits a "death roar," "just biting" into a croissant "made you feel cared for"), and most of all her infectious and wise affection for all her imperfect characters. The Russian whom Batuman most recalls isn't Dostoevsky (of her title) but the much funnier, wilier Babel.