Elif Batuman Whether orby Jhumpa Lahiri Translate myself and othersby Colin Barrett Homesicknessand Ali Smith side piece all are among the highest rated books of the month.
Featured by Book Marks, “Rotten Tomatoes for books” by Lit Hub.
1. Whether or by Elif Batuman
13 Rave • 7 Positives • 1 Mixed
Read an interview with Elif Batuman here
“The book gallops along at high speed, rich in the cultural touchstones of the time, and you end up asking for more. I read again The idiot before reading Whether or and after almost 800 cumulative pages, I was still not satisfied. Batuman possesses a rare ability to successfully inundate the reader with granular facts, emotional vulnerability, dry humor and a philosophical undercurrent without losing the reader in a sea of noise… What makes a life or a story exceptional enough to create art? What art is exceptional, entertaining, and engaging enough to hold nearly a thousand pages? Selin’s existential crisis within the collegiate melting pot haunts any attentive reader… The novel stands on its own as a rich exploration of the aesthetic and moral crossroads of life as a space to linger, not run. Spare me the moralizing fictional characters locked in the angst of their regrettable late twenties and early thirties: May our daring heroine Selin return to campus and stir up more drama before heading overseas again.
–Lauren LeBlanc (The Boston Globe)
2. Homesickness by Colin Barrett
Read an essay by Colin Barrett here
“Its comedy is balanced with the more tragic tenor of the collection…develops [Barrett’s] range, and although the first was set in the fictional Irish town of Glanbeigh, the books share a weave of dark humor, pitch-perfect dialogue and a characteristic freshness that makes life palpable on the page. The language balances out the sometimes inarticulate desperation of the working-class characters, and this dissonance lends emotional complexity to their stories…As a writer, Barrett does not legislate from the top down. His unruly characters emerge with their vitality and mystery intact. Their stories are not shaped by familiar resolutions – not accomplishments, morals or epiphanies. The absence of a conventional resolution risks leaving an otherwise charming story as The Silver Coastwith the disjointed feel of a slice of life. But in the majority of the stories in this book, reinventing an ending is reinventing the way a story is told, and overall, Homesickness is adorned with an original and persistent beauty.
–Stuart Dybek (The New York Times book review)
3. side piece by Ali Smith
9 Rave • 10 Positive
“In his latest novel, the unparalleled craftsman of words Ali Smith once again proves himself a master at forging inventive connections. side piece helps us see our world in a different light by finding points of contact between two plagues and two female artists, five centuries apart… always keen to broaden our understanding of others and the world we share, the work of Smith is smart and moving, thoughtful and playful – and never out of place… is, among other things, a passionate hymn to books… One of Smith’s great gifts as a writer is verbal play – a joy of lex – even in dark times… By exploring binaries such as imagination versus reality, surface versus depth, true versus false, and stories versus lies – with their often blurred boundaries –side piece challenges readers to embrace the indeterminate. Smith, on fire, welds so many elements together in this short novel, including Sandy’s childhood dreams and memories and the terrible trials of a talented and steely 16th-century waif, that the result is as complex than this handcrafted lock.
–Heller McAlpin (NPR)
1. His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Fight for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
7 Rave • 2 Positive • 1 Mixed
“It’s a testament to the power of His name is George Floyd that the book’s most vital moments come not after Floyd’s death, but in his intimate, unvarnished and scrupulous account of his life…a brilliantly revealing portrait of the structures of poverty, land theft and racism that have shaped not just Floyd but also his kinship networks in the South…does an impressive job of contextualizing Floyd’s struggles with drug addiction, frequent arrests and a five-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery in a crime he insisted on on the fact that it had nothing to do. Throughout, we get a portrait of a flawed man trying to come to terms with diminished dreams, one whose muscular physical exterior hid a gentle soul struggling with pain, anxiety, claustrophobia and depression…Samuels and Olorunnipa strive to offer capsule stories from the structural roots of racism in the criminal justice and education systems – along with their impact on wealth and home ownership – to better tell Floyd’s story. holistically. It doesn’t always make for a seamless narrative, but in many ways the book is stronger for it… By focusing on the disparate parts of the system of structural racism that impacted Floyd’s life, the authors allow readers to better understand and live the final indignity. who took him in on May 25, when Chauvin, an officer with a history of brutalizing suspects, casually ended his life.
–Peniel E. Joseph (The New York Times book review)
2. Translate myself and others by Jhumpa Lahiri
(Princeton University Press)
4 Rave • 7 Positive • 1 Mixed
Read an excerpt from Translate myself and others here
“Lahiri blends detailed explorations of craftsmanship with broader reflections on her own artistic life, as well as the ‘essential aesthetic and political mission’ of translation. It is excellent in all three modes – so excellent, in fact, that I, a translator myself, could barely read this book. I kept putting it aside, compelled by Lahiri’s writing to go sit at my desk and translate… One of Lahiri’s great gifts as an essayist is his ability to weave multiple ways of thinking together, often in surprising ways… a reminder, no matter your relationship to translation, of how language itself can be alive. In her essays as in her novels, Lahiri is a writer of great quiet elegance; his sentences seem simple even when they are complex. Their beauty and clarity alone would be enough to wake up readers. “Look”, his essays seem to say: look how badly we have to wake up. »
–Lily Meyer (NPR)
3. The Case of the Married Woman: Caroline Norton and Her Fight for Women’s Justice by Antonia Fraser
5 Rave • 5 Positive
Watch an interview with Antonia Fraser here
“The prolific Lady Antonia Fraser has long been drawn to formidable and tragic women, beginning with her first biography, of Mary Stuart, over half a century ago. For the past decade she has focused on the social upheavals of the early 19th century, writing books on the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the struggle for Catholic emancipation in 1829. She thus perhaps sometimes assumes a bit too much knowledge of a reader coming fresh at the time. But Fraser’s skills and passion outweigh everything, and in The case of the married woman, she makes her subject a dignified, profound woman with character. Here we meet a heroine, one who fought for herself, for her children, and for all women and children.
–Judith Flanders (The New York Times book review)