Set in Naples, this is a fearsome, ferocious set of novels, brimming with life -- all its love and triumphs, its violence and disappointments. It's so captivating I'm just going to do you the favor of staff picking all three (of the eventual four) right now. Buy them all.
It helped me better understand how it feels to be an old woman, and a young woman, and a couple, and a person.
Her prose is so fine and unfussy that subjects I've never found interesting (antiques, vodka, 17th century portraiture) break open, breath, rumble with meaning. 800 pages isn't enough.
I know what you're thinking: Why, in times like these, should I read this long-winded, navel-gazing so-called struggle of a straight, white man living in a super prosperous nation? But you should! Please do. Because Knausgaard's struggle isn't his but ours: the struggle to write, to raise children, to forgive an abusive parent, to find love, to keep love, to drink underage, to feel better than worthless, to find meaning under the suffocating specter of death. Far from elevating the particulars of his life, Knausgaard lays them bare in their utter banality and says "maybe this is enough." And he invites you, even implores you, to do the same. He knows that it is through, and not around, the specifics of one's life that we reach the universal experience of being human. Accordingly, My Struggle is a titanic achievement of attention, honesty, and empathy. Don't deny yourself its pleasures - even if, especially if, you think this it isn't "for" you.
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.
Reading this novel felt like playing a long, consuming game of bridge played for actual diamonds. Profound, mysterious, calculating and haunting.
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.
Harkens back to Dave Chappelle at his most incisive and Thomas Pynchon at his most stoned.
There were many things I was afraid of about "The Argonauts" before reading it, but most of all the possibility of its politics to exclude me, and its non-traditional form. I ended up feeling nothing but included by Nelson, and nothing but seized by its form. So many thoughts about political activity, writing, and love I agreed with, but was also taught by. I was so surprised to read, from someone I considered an activist: "I have also never been less interested in arguing for the rightness, much less the righteousness, of any particular position or orientation."
Frankly: a kickass novel. Not so frankly: John Berger observed that "men act and women appear," but Reno, motorcyclist and aspiring land artist, reveals the active dimension of mere 'appearing.' Keenly aware of the male gaze -- except where she's subject to it -- Reno rides the line between using masquerade to her advantage and being taken advantage by it. When she infiltrates the boy's clubs of art and politics, she demonstrates the impotence of men who prefer talking over walking -- or riding, or marching, or kidnapping -- as well as how mere appearing can have very real consequences.
Despite half of the book taking place at the bottoms of various wells it will grab you, kind of in a weird way that you're not really sure you like and then you adjust to it and are like, "You know this isn't bad and maybe I want 400 more pages of Murakami reaching inside his characters and tugging out the weirdest, most wriggly bits."
No but seriously buy them all.
Like On the Road if it extended into the characters adulthood and was also brilliant. Endless, discursive, beautiful, overwhelming, a complete triumph of the imagination.
— Jacob S.
Perfect for a drive from LA, to LA or through LA.
Since Watergate, Renata Adler believes that the best way to tell true journalism is through fiction. Have you ever gone to a loft party, had a wonderful time until about half-way through when you realize each person there is like a parody of society? Adler feels you.
A meditative style meets an economy of language in a mystery narrative told by a philosophically-oriented (but clearly biased) narrator. Barnes's characters grow up but still surprise us in the end. A quick, quality read -- traditional but fresh.
— Sarah G.
So accurate -- so funny! -- that reading it was both an embarrassment and a relief.
I do not only love this book because I am a woman. I don't only love it because its prescience astounds me. More than a seminal feminist work, it is a narrative of widespread oppression. It gives voice to any person deprived of personhood by the politics of sex. As bill after bill is brought before congress legislating the proper use of mine and others' bodies, I hand this book to you and ask that you read it with your future and your children's futures in mind. We live in extremely dangerous times. How will you live through them? When you cannot choose how to use your own body, how will you find agency?
If you often think/say/feel too much then you too have probably loved a Dick.
A sociological crime novel from a writer of The Wire. A violent encounter that leaves a young Lower East Side transplant dead allows Price to explore civic life and gentrification in early 2000s New York.
— Jacob S.
Writing about present-day urban revitalization projects, George Baird notes that some ideas are "too susceptibly open to co-optation by the contemporary forces of commodification." This applies to the work of pseudo-mythological New York activist Jane Jacobs. Though it's currently the scourge of more leftist urbanist circles, Jacobs' work is not to be associated with its (rightfully hated) misapplications. Her love for the city is so deep as to be religious, and her knowledge of it is the accumulated musings of a lifelong urban monk. Nevermind that a major highway would be tearing through Little Italy a block away if it weren't for her. If you've ever lived in an American city (but especially New York), this book will peel back a layer of mystery you didn't even realize existed, and reveal both the elegant blueprint and the shimmering soul you've always sensed were there. One of the most profoundly impactful books on my life, and an iconic work that goes beyond being a high-water mark for its genre. And now, a good moment to reabsorb the book, as a whole, and heed its revolutionary common sense.
I’ve heard surfers praise Barbarian Days for capturing else the joys and sorrows of surfing—its “special brand of monomania,” to use Finnegan’s phrase—better than anything else. To this non-surfer, Finnegan’s account of life in and out of the water is vivid and precise—whether on fellow surfers’ styles, etiquette in the water, his own wanderlust, or the slow work of growing up—and as propulsive as any of the waves he rides. Surf’s up.