Let’s talk about why we should read books like We Need New Names

index1) It’s a fantastic novel. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and won a bunch of other prestigious awards that I’m not going to list. It’s beautiful and that should be reason enough to read it. ‘But there are lots of beautiful books out there!’ you say. Please read on if you require a reason more complex than ‘because it’s good and I said so.’

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Marie-Helene Bertino is a writer who lives in Brooklyn and NOT a “Brooklyn writer”

indexMarie-Helene Bertino’s debut novel 2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas will be released on August 5th and it’s special enough that you should send yourself an iCal reminder to go pick it up next Tuesday. I received a free review copy but it’s an ebook so I’m going to sneak away from the conference I’ll be attending on Tuesday and find a bookstore in Seattle where I can buy a physical copy. Because I’m certain this is a book I’ll read again, perhaps on Christmas Eve eve, and one that I’ll loan to other readers who can’t quite put their finger on what they’re looking for in a book.

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Saying not-so-nice things about things we like: We were liars

UnknownWe were liars is an excellent book and E. Lockhart is an excellent writer. Let’s get that out of the way. You don’t need me to tell you that because everyone from John Green to the New York Times to Migraine.com has weighed in and told you that you must read this book this summer. It’s #29 on Amazon’s best seller list today. Another book that I think is doing pretty well, Adam, is #59,000. It really is “blisteringly smart” like John Green promises (though he could have said it better with out the adverb). Lockhart paints a cold, cynical portrait of a blue blood American family and weaves in fairy tale and fable before hitting it out of the park with a bit twist ending.

But this should not the smash YA book of the summer.

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All the jerks in Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year

indexJoanna Rakoff knows a lot of jerks. Or at least she did in 1996, the year she spent working as an assistant to J.D. Salinger’s literary agent in New York. The “wannabe writer working as assistant with proximity to literary legends who goes on to write a book about it” has gotten to be a familiar trope (Janet Groth’s The Receptionist comes immediately to mind) but Rakoff exceeds the expectations of her genre and gives us a well-woven tale about love, disappointment, reading, and finding her feet as a writer. Salinger is only a secondary character in Rakoff’s book as the reader’s attention is dominated by the amazing array of assholes that Rakoff manages to entangle herself with in the space of a year.

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Andy Weir’s The Martian is Sci-Fi for the non-Sci-Fi reader

indexWhether or not you’re a fan of science-fiction, you should read Andy Weir’s The Martian. This tale of astronaut Mark Watney, who finds himself left for dead on Mars when his crew is forced to evacuate, is funny and engaging. The engineer/botanist/astronaut Mark Watney is a likeable main character with a quick, self-deprecating wit and a dazzling intellect. The science in Andy Weir’s story is as sharp as his main character. In interviews Weir has insisted that the problems and solutions he presents are all scientifically feasible and that he used the science to drive the plot of his novel. If you’re a reader of science-fiction you’ll probably love the intricacies of space exploration that Weir captures on the page. If you’re not a reader of science-fiction you’ll be drawn to the “castaway on Mars” story and its themes of survival and perseverance.
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Mockingbird gets messy

What happened between those last meetings between the Lees and Mills and the present dispute is very complicated, as captured in a ream of conflicting letters and statements

We’ll be covering Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, head over to Gawker and read Michelle Dean’s excellent breakdown of the controversy surrounding Harper Lee’s authorization of the biography. Compelling stuff.