I’ve read mostly backlist so far this year but three new releases captured my attention and I want to chat about them. I miss talking about books, so let’s not waste any time…
FOR YOUR EARS:
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. (Feb. 14/ 343 pgs/ 7 hrs 30 min/ Random House)
Many of you have heard about this book already. Set in a Georgetown cemetery, over 150 years ago, Willie Lincoln is laid to rest. Visited by his father and numerous ghosts, this is story about life and death with humor and grief. I picked up an ARC at BEA last Spring and was so excited to have it signed by Saunders. LOVE HIM! The print format was a bit confusing at first and due to a busy schedule, I decided to try the audio during my commute. Honestly, I wasn’t hooked right away and felt like I had to pay extra attention to understand it. But then I settled in and let the story do its thing. I’m sooo glad I stayed with it. Still blown away. It was like attending a play and listening to the cast of characters narrated by familiar voices (Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Saunders himself and 160+ others) was something I’ve never experienced before.
Here’s a little video about it.
I think reading this alongside the audio is helpful. At least for a reader like me who needed some explanation to the style in which it was written. It changes back and forth between narrators while also weaving in excerpts from history. Again, it’s such a creative way to tell a story and something I’ve never seen done before. Saunders is an amazing writer, able to string together gorgeous prose with humor and heart.
FOR SHORT STORY FANS:
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (Jan. 3 / 260 pgs/ Grove Press)
Excellent. This collection is what I love about short stories. Some were subtle and some resonated to my core. Some made me uncomfortable, while others soothed my soul. Some left me hanging wondering “WTW?”, while some felt complete. Some I reread. Some I skimmed over. Each are powerful in their own way giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of unique women. Women labeled as “difficult”. I once saw her at a book event with Gloria Steinem and was mesmerized when she spoke. I wish she had a podcast so I could listen to her speak whenever I needed it. This is one of those collections that would be fabulous to discuss in a book group with other difficult women. It’s also a collection to own and revisit as needed.
FOR NONFICTION READERS:
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (March 7/ 224 pgs./ Knopf)
Or for those of us who try to read more nonfiction, yet prefer a memoir/story-esque feel to it. I don’t want cold hard facts. I’m forever in post grad classes for work…I need some respite! This is one of the few books I requested as an ARC this year and so glad I did. The synopsis really sucked me in and being an introvert myself, I wondered how this guy pulled off being a hermit for 27 years! Really quite fascinating and piqued my interest to go and find actual photos and articles from this story. Warning: you will fall down the internet rabbit hole looking things up. I totally get why Knight became a hermit-some days I feel the same way. But it’s more than just wanting to be alone and check out of society. The more the author learns about Knight and spends time with him, the more he realizes that there is a mental illness component. Some controversial elements (author’s backstory, why did the author bother a man who wanted to be alone?, was he a true hermit if he stole from people?)
but overall felt this was a well written story. I learned so much about a person and their journey in life, and that’s what I want from my nonfiction. I also love elements of psychology, sociology, mystery and human nature. Another great book for book group discussions.