Our latest book recommendations
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Old Book of the Week
The Car Thief
by Theodore Weesner
First published in 1972, The Car Thief was greeted by acclaim from a diverse range of reviewers, including postmodern maximalist Joseph McElroy and contemporary literary gothicist Joyce Carol Oates. All of them, whatever their usual tastes, found something in it as compelling as a thriller, and despite the book's understated style, I discovered exactly the same thing. The book follows alienated teenager Alex Housman as he drifts from one dicey situation into another, only occasionally monitored by those whose care he's in, among them impersonal institutional officers and his affectionate but alcoholic single father. It's fascinating to observe Alex's struggle to access and understand his own motivations, which reminded me of the existential classics of the mid-twentieth century, as if Camus's The Stranger had been rewritten to take place in Flint, Michigan. —James
Old Book of the Week
The Corner That Held Them
by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Who knew that NunLit was a genre with a passionately devoted following? Not me, until I read this unique story about a medieval convent, considered one of its classics. Townsend writes brilliantly about the momentous and mundane with the period detail typical of historical fiction, but without the novelistic reins of character hierarchy or narrative arc to steer your mind in a particular direction. When I started to contemplate (quite nunnishly) her authorial choice, I had an epiphany! She recreates for the reader the same sense of distance with which the nuns experienced life! The sisters are concerned with worldly things but they take the eternally long view: events ebb and flow and everybody and everything are significant and inconsequential at the same time. My favorite of the nuns, Dame Isabel, summed up what I think is the crux of the book: “The world was deeply interesting and a convent was the ideal place in which to meditate on the world. She was twenty-three. If she should live to forty, to sixty, her love of thinking would not be satiated.” NunLit has a new convert! (Sorry, couldn’t stop myself.) —Liz (from the Phinney Books newsletter)
Kids' Book of the Week
Warhead: The True Story of One Teen Who Almost Saved the World
by Jeff Henigson
After being diagnosed with brain cancer as a teen, Seattle writer Jeff Henigson made an unconventional Starlight Children’s Foundation wish. He wanted to (and did) travel to Moscow to talk with Gorbachev about nuclear disarmament. But this memoir is less about cancer and the Cold War than it is about surviving high school and searching for love, affection, and praise from a formal, distant father. As a fiction reader, this is my favorite type of nonfiction: it reads like a novel. A heart-wrenching yet humorous and inspirational page-turner. (ages 12 and up) —Cindy
New Book of the Week
The Line Becomes a River
by Francisco Cantú
If you're hoping for better outcomes for Latinx people crossing the border, joining Customs & Border Patrol as an officer doesn't make sense as the way to go. But that's what Cantú did, and there's no doubt that he offered the people he picked up at the border a better experience than some of his colleagues. That he left and wrote a book about his experiences and the corruption of the patrol is redeeming, the anecdotes harrowing, and the need for action—by all of us—urgent. Cantú dedicates the book to "All those who risk their souls to traverse or patrol an unnatural divide." —Erica
New Book of the Week
by Lucy Ellmann
No getting around it, this sounds like a tough sell: 1000 pages of unbroken thought, not a stream of consciousness but a torrential river scouring a mental landscape. But that's how you produce something as deep and broad and beautiful and American as the Grand Canyon. Because this torrent spills from the mind of one ordinary woman (an Ohioan, a wife, a mom, a baker of pies), because she's hilarious, because her doubts and deprecations, her fondnesses and fears, are so mundane and relatable, because she exists as one of the truest-to-life fictional characters you could ever hope to meet, this book probably won't get the credit it deserves, credit for originality, insight, and literary excellence. Which is a shame, because Ducks, Newburyport is a domestic national epic to set beside Moby-Dick, a corrosive comic cultural indictment to compare with William Gaddis's National Book Award-winning J R. Read it and weep from laughter and righteous anger. —James
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James’s 2018 Top 10
See our bookseller James’s top 10 reads from 2018, including Richard Powers’s The Overstory, Aminatta Forna’s Happiness, and John Schoffstall’s Half-Witch.