Riot Round-Up: The Best Books We Read in March

Animal Vegetable MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan examined three different types of food–industrial, pastoral, and that which is hunted and gathered from the wild. In the same vein, veteran fiction author Barbara Kingsolver explores the salubrious effects of the bucolic lifestyle in this agrarian memoir/gastronomic exposé/seasonal cookbook that spans a year of growing, raising, harvesting, and slaughtering on her family’s Virginia farm. In recounting these experiences, Kingsolver exposes the many flaws in the industrial agricultural machine while reminding readers that there is dignity in farming–a profession so often derided as the purview of hillbillies and hicks. This is Barbara Kingsolver we’re talking about, so of course the book is delightful to read and will no doubt turn many readers into budding locavores. – Kate Scott 

 

AnnihilationAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer 

I listened to on the drive between Tennessee and Texas. It’s the story of the 12th expedition into Area X. It’s an area that was once inhabited, but that has long since been devoid of human life. The goal of each of these expeditions is to find out why. No group has ever succeeded.  This group is made up of four women – the psychologist, the anthropologist, the biologist, and the surveyor. They quickly realize that there is a bigger mystery than they could have imagined, and the biologist wants answers. The story doesn’t feel finished, which is okay, since there are two parts to come. And I have to say, I’m pretty pleased that they are coming soon. I’m beginning to think all trilogies should be saved up and printed in 6 month intervals. – Cassandra Neace

 

Be Safe I Love YouBe Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman (April 3, Simon & Schuster)

There are a lot of reasons I loved Be Safe I Love You: the complex main character of Lauren, the gorgeous descriptions, the thread of mystery weaving deftly through the story. But most of all I loved it because it’s a brutal and harsh look at the difficulties of coming home after war, of trying to fit back into an old life, a mold, when you don’t fit into your own skin. It’s about losing yourself and finding yourself all over again. It is, quite simply, luminous. – Swapna Krishna 

 

 

The Boat Nam LeThe Boat by Nam Le

I first read this collection of short stories in college, in a class titled “Asian Diaspora Literature”, or something along those lines. Since completing that class, this book has seldomly remained on my shelves, as I think over the past three years I’ve loaned it out six or seven times. After reading Karen Russell’s collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove, on loan from a friend, I knew I needed to loan her something equally creative, dark, and lyrical. Of course, I took the time to reread a couple of the stories first. It was nice to come back to something I fell in love with long ago, and to remember why I kept handing it out. These stories are expansive, haunting, and enduring. – Aram Mrjoian

 

The Chocolate TouchThe Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

I loooooved this modern-day spin on the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale. Dominique Richard is one of the most successful Master Chocolatiers in France, but remains haunted by his past and thinks of himself as a monster. When a beautiful and mysterious woman starts eating at his salon every day, Dom is like, “LE SWOON,” and pretty much stalks her until she agrees to go out with him. It’s absolutely adorable and sweet and ridiculously romantic. Florand paints a perfectly evocative picture of Paris, from both the tourist and local perspective, and she really knows her chocolate—it isn’t just gimmick to get you to buy the book, it plays an important part in the story and in the characters’ lives. Also, you can learn some very useful French curse words reading this novel. J’adorée ce livre! A must-read for any francophile or hopeless romantic. – Tasha Brandstatter 

civilwarland in bad declineCivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella by George Saunders 

I was way, way late to the George Saunders party (confession: I had never heard of him before Tenth of December came out to unanimous, ubiquitous rave reviews last year), but now that I’m here, I’m in it to win it. This, his debut collection from 1996, is gobsmackingly good. Like, it’s damn near impossible to believe this was a person’s *debut* book. Who just comes out of the gate already dialed up to totally amazing? There’s not a weak piece in this bunch of weird-but-realistic stories (and one novella). Saunders’ take on human nature is painfully observant in a way that hurts so good, and his examinations of technology are prescient bordering on pessimistic. The ebook edition includes an introduction by Joshua Ferris, who notes that Saunders’ satire doesn’t just render the real absurd, it renders the absurd real. There’s no better way to say it, so I’ll say instead: if you haven’t read this, run, do not walk.

– Rebecca Joines Schinsky 

CoreograpyCoreyography by Corey Feldman

I’ll admit, I didn’t have high expectations for this memoir. Nothing against Feldman (as a child of the 80s, I always liked him as an actor. And, true story, I have the entire Goonies movie memorized. THAT’S a fun party trick). However, celebrity memoirs are frequently hit-or-miss in terms of quality. So I was happily surprised to see that Feldman delivers a solid, sad, well-written, interesting, illuminating, emotional, often funny, and brutally honest account of his turbulent life (talking about the abuse he suffered as a child, his drug addiction, his friendships with Michael Jackson and Corey Haim, his many failed romantic relationships, his son, etc.) and his colorful career (which includes some of the best movies made in the 80s). Good job, Corey Feldman. – Rita Meade 

 

Dancer Colum McCannDancer by Colum McCann

In college I took a ballet class and my younger sister on college visits came to see me and watched me in ballet class in all my wannabe legwarmer glory and said, later, “Well, if nothing else, you were enthusiastic.” I’ve always loved dance, but I am no good at it. So when Billy Elliot the movie came out, I was thrilled when my son started to become interested in dance. I felt like Nureyev’s mother! Dancer is fictionalized account of the famous, Russian, thuggish, commander of the stage classical ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev who, it seems, had affairs with everyone important in the 20th century, and it’s terrific. The writing leaps. I caught myself looking longingly at a pair of my mothballed salsa shoes and saying, “Oh, Rudy, you really think it’s wise at my age to start that again?”  – Elizabeth Bastos 

 

Dreams in a Time of WarDreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngugi wa’Thiong’o

This first part of the acclaimed author’s memoirs follows Ngugi through his childhood, set against a volatile Kenyan society struggling to free itself from British colonial rule. Both inspiring and heart wrenching, the book ends at a critical juncture with Ngugi and his community both standing on the precipice of great change. On the one hand is a young Ngugi, the pride of his rural community, excitedly about to enter the country’s most elite boarding school. On the other hand is his Kenya, about to explode into revolution. The next installment, In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir, covers those formative boarding school years and is already out in hardcover. – Minh Le

 

Emma Tupper's DiaryEmma Tupper’s Diary by Peter Dickinson

I love that Small Beer Press is bringing Peter Dickinson’s backlist into the world again. This one is slightly madcap — Emma’s spending the summer with cousins in the Scottish highlands, and they decide to attract tourists by pretending there’s a local version of the Loch Ness monster, only — well, that would be a pretty big spoiler. Classic mid-century Brit goodness! – Sarah Rettger 

 

 

 

Every Day is for the ThiefEvery Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole 

If you are interested in reading African literature and don’t know where to start, Cole’s new book is a great place to begin. A young Nigerian writer who has lived in New York for many years returns to his home country. The book (more like a novella) is a collection of observations he makes; witnessing teenagers perpetrating email fraud in internet cafes, a woman reading on a public bus, and a visit to the impoverished National Museum. He reconnects with remaining family, compares modern Lagos to the city he remembers, and must ask questions about himself and who he has become. Cole uses his own photographs of Nigeria, which made me wonder “is this Cole telling HIS story?” Brilliantly written, part fiction/part travel travel writing, all fantastic. – Emily Gatlin 

 

Far From YouFar From You by Tess Sharpe (April 8, Disney-Hyperion)

What a gem of a debut YA mystery/thriller. When Sophie is back from rehab — she wrestles with an addiction to prescription painkillers, thanks to an accident a few years ago — she’s set on figuring out who killed her best friend Mina that night they were in the woods together. Sophie’s blamed for the incident because of her addiction, as the cops called it a drug deal gone bad. But Sophie knows there’s much more to it and she knows she’s not at all to blame. Who was this masked man who killed her best friend? She’s going to get to the bottom of it, and she’s not going to be apologetic about it, either.

This is a book written in alternating time lines. There’s a past and a present and the way they weave together to build suspense and develop the characters is impressive. We see Sophie as she struggles with her addiction, and we’re able to use that to inform her reliability in the present (and what’s great is that when she IS on the case, it’s not clear whether or not she is reliable, and we don’t buy that it’s simply “because of the drugs”). There’s a lot more to her relationship with Mina, as well: they were more than best friends. Sophie’s sexuality plays a large role in who she is, even if it doesn’t define her, and Sharpe handles her character’s bisexuality in a compelling and honest way. I love, too, that Sophie is sharp and her edges aren’t dulled. She won’t compromise for anything — and this extends into her future, too, which isn’t the traditional path of graduating high school, going to college, then getting a career.

A perfect read for fans of Veronica Mars. The dialog, the character development, and the careful braiding in of the mystery are excellent.

 

Gloria Steinem Kindle Singles InterviewGloria Steinem: The Kindle Singles Interview by Salamishah Tillet 

March 25th was Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday. The times ran an article about her, which prompted me to remember how much I enjoyed reading Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions when I was in college. There are other titles of Steinem’s that I’m interested in reading, but since I am in the middle of a few other books at the moment I decided to try the Kindle singles interview. This was the first of the Kindle singles that I’ve read, and thought this was perfect for the moment. The interview is recent (conducted in 2013) and was a very interesting read. The length was great to fit quickly in between other reading. I’d recommend this to fans of Steinem’s, especially those who want something quick for lunch breaks or appointments that will keep you in the waiting room for a bit. – Wallace Yovetich 

 

Gooseberry Bluff The Thirteenth RibGooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib by David J. Schwartz

This book is an incredible amount of fun without ever being dumb. It’s a clever alternate history in which the innovations that transformed the world in the twentieth century weren’t scientific but magical. The discovery that ended the Second World War wasn’t nuclear technology, for example, but demon-summoning, and crystals work like cell phones (except when they’re hijacked by ghosts). The novel’s spectacularly, richly diverse set of characters—an undercover Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs agent, members of a secret society, an evil shapeshifting librarian, and a giant owl-demon among them—play out an engaging, honestly suspenseful story that expertly balances humor and danger. (And I’ll end with possibly the strangest thing about this book: despite all the magic and demons, it’s also one of the most realistic fictional depictions of higher education I’ve read in a long time. The pitiful job market, the labor exploitation, the bureaucratic backbiting, the grade-grubbing first-years—for all that the titular college teaches conjuration rather than calculus, it’s remarkably spot-on.) – Derek Attig 

 

Great Floodgates of the WonderworldThe Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld by Justin Hocking

Let’s be honest: literary memoirs detailing New York’s bohemian underbelly are not in short supply, and the prospect of yet another can easily divide any crowd of seasoned readers. So I must urge you to banish these preconceptions from your mind. On the rare occasions Justin Hocking retreads familiar ground, he does so with such elegance and endless sincerity you’ll struggle to remember it being done better. More likely, he’ll surprise you.

Two fascinations run through The Great Floogates of the Wonderworld, shaping and symbolising Hocking’s three strange, fragile years in New York: Moby Dick and surfing. Melville’s epic consumes his mind, while the sport consumes any time away from his depressing employment. These prisms, oddly matched but weirdly appropriate (both being based around nature, brutal and magnificent), show us Hocking’s view of the world, even as they begin to affect his own life.

The romantic obsessions which haunt the book are both deeply personal and intensely relatable, digressing often into bouts of poetic erudition that echo Melville in more ways than one. Wonderworld’s anchor, however, is its underlying account of Hocking’s overqualified, financially precarious, unfulfilling youth, making it one of the most timely and relevant Millennial memoirs yet seen. – Sean Bell 

 

House of LeavesHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is a book I had heard a lot about. It was described as a horror story but I was also told that the formatting of the book itself was weird and clever. It was this formatting¹ that kept me from taking a closer look all this time because usually clever formatting makes for a not-so-clever reading experience. Man, was I wrong. The is odd, there is no doubt about that. The word “house” for instance, is always colored blue. There are serious amounts of footnotes and appendices and whatnot. Basically however, the book is about a family that moves into a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and has a door that opens out into what should be the yard but is really an endless dark ha l l w  a    y². The story itself is told as commentary about the documentary the owner was making, called The Navidson Record³. It is deeply creepy and pushes the boundaries of what a horror novel can be and is therefore novel in the absolute meaning of that word. Highly recommended.

¹ See Formatting in 21st Century Fiction,  Amsterdam Journal of Literature, September 8, 2006.

² Oddly enough, there is no entry for “Hallway” in any editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

³ The Library of Congress had 3 copies of The Navidson Record, though only 1 remained when I went to take a look myself. Upon hunting it down and finding a VCR player, the two-hour tape turned out to contain 15 hours of silent static, though a very low growl can be detected by people with especially acute hearing. The tape has now been sealed.

Johann Thorsson

ImperiumImperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Russia has always seen itself as exceptional – Moscow has been hailed as a new Jerusalem, it prides itself on being history’s greatest Nazi-smashers (sound familar?). With a language resembling a dense thicket, a landmass so huge it holds the globe in a giant bear hug, and a history that churns under constant revisionism, it also takes huge satisfaction in its inscrutability. With Russia in an expansionist mood, its a good time to try and get under the skin of a country with an exceptional destiny and unknowable heart. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, Kapuscinski was Poland’s only foreign correspondent. Imperium is a collection of reportage recounting his interactions with the massive, bullish, confused and corrupted nation that haunted his homeland’s borders. It begins with an account of the Red Army in his home village during the Second World War. Then comes a railway trip across Siberia in the 1960s, followed by a tour of the countries squirming under the Soviet boot in the Caucasus, and finally a dash through the collapsing empire in the early 1990s. What he finds is an alien world, one that is hard to comprehend existed so close geographically and temporally. It is grim but fascinating. The Ukraine features in the final section, with Kapuscinski providing a sobering primer for today’s flashpoints. Like any great journalist, his eye for incidental detail, his grasp of history’s power over our future, and his fearless insistence of going through just one more armed gate makes this compelling, brilliant stuff. And confirms that the Soviet Union was very little fun. – Edd McCracken 

 

I Was HereI Was Here by Rachel Kadish

This was my first Rooster read, and came in bite sized installments to my phone on an every-other-day basis. But here’s the thing – I could not wait for the next installment, and read Kadish’s novella in one heady rush. The story centers on a working class down that’s seen better days, and a group of six-degrees-separated characters who were or all involved in a child abuse crime perpetrated years ago. The incident, which had been hushed up, is rearing back up as the abuser is thrown in jail after going after more young girls. I know, not exactly the kind of uplifting stuff that usually has me on the edge of my reading toes – but this book is so lush, and soft, and delicate, all while being quietly furious and empowering. From Charlotte the first abused child, now a struggling adult with a family of her own; to Jim, the son of the abuser, who refuses to believe his father capable of such crimes – every character is so fleshed out, wholly believable, tangibly present, I felt like I was in the action with them, scene after scene. I’m still haunted by the book, feeling the imprint of the characters in my head, and rushing to the bookstore to buy more of Kadish’s fiction. – Alison Peters

 

Long ManLong Man by Amy Greene

The story takes place over three days in the summer of 1936, in the lead up to the full eviction of a town in Tennessee that will soon be underwater as the state builds a dam to generate energy and jobs. Annie Clyde is the lone holdout, angry and fierce, and when her 3-year-old daughter Gracie goes missing just before the flooding, everyone assumes the worst. The worst is that either she’s drowned in the river (called “Long Man”) or been taken by a drifter who grew up in town but has returned one last time.

As you might expect of a book set deep in Appalachia, the language is richly accented, the dialect gritty and evocative. Even though I own Greene’s previous novel Bloodroot in print, I listened to Long Man in audio, and where the pace on paper may have been slow, the audio narrator Dale Dickey matched – and really created – the grittiness and emotion I wanted from this story. In many ways, her voice conveyed the desperation of Annie Clyde so acutely that I nearly burst into tears while listening. I’m not sure I would’ve had such a strong reaction without that narration. Historical, gothic, Southern fiction is not at all in my wheelhouse – I detest Faulkner – but if I can find more like this? Sign me up. – Rachel Manwill 

 

The Magician's LandThe Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (August 5, Viking)

Before you attack me for picking a book this far out — there is a reason! Start re-reading The Magicians and The Magician King right now, because you’re going to want to have all that material close to hand when you read The Magician’s Land. In-jokes, references, and returns of certain characters for which you will find yourself wildly cheering (inappropriately, on the train, as always) abound. There are also, of course, exciting new people and not-people and almost-people and battles and I guarantee that you will want at least six more novels in this world by the time you’re done. In other words, it’s everything you could ever want in the third book of a trilogy. – Jenn Northington

 

The Paying Guests Sarah WatersThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (September, Riverhead)

I am a HUGE Sarah Waters fan, and I could not be more excited for her new book! I think she’s one of the greatest period fiction writers, er, period. This one takes place in England in 1922: A spinster, Miss Wray, and her mother are forced to take in tenants after falling on hard times. At first the tenants, the Barbers, provide a distraction to Miss Wray’s boring daily life, and she finds them a bit intriguing, but then things spiral out of control, and she becomes caught up in the drama of the Barbers’ marriage. And that’s when the wheels come off the cart! The book slowly builds and builds until BAM! (I’m not going to give away what happens.) And then you’re held in delicious suspense the rest of the time, waiting to see how it plays out. If you’ve read Sarah Waters before, you know the truth is rarely what it seems. BUT WHAT IS IT REALLY?!? Mark this one down: It doesn’t come out until September. Yeah, I’m teasing you with a far-off release. Sorry (not sorry.) – Liberty Hardy 

 

PrepPrep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep is one of those books I’ve kept in the wings knowing that, when I finally read it, I would love every word of every sentence. And I almost hate to read those books, because a part of me wants to save them forever. Lee Fiora is a shy midwesterner on scholarship at a prestigious New England prep school, and she’s just as hard to like as Holden Caulfield or Esther Greenwood. She’s not a dystopian heroine or sparkly vampire bait, and I think that’s why I love her so damn much. Lee is painfully spiteful, anxious, insecure, and small; in other words, she’s a real person stumbling through the awkward rites of adolescence. Prep is so evocative of the high school experience — of my high school experience — that it was impossible to keep my mind from drifting back to all the teenage firsts while I read. Lee is Bella Swan for the rest of us, and, with Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld offers us compassion, tenderness, and the comfort that yes, flawed as we may be, we’re not just seen but truly recognized. It’s a kickass gift. – Rachel Smalter Hall

 

Red or Dead David PeaceRed or Dead by David Peace (May 27, Melville House)

I realize that I can’t stop talking about this book (and I probably won’t stop talking about this book), but if I didn’t pick this as my favorite book in March I’d be a big, ole’ liar. Red or Dead chronicles the history of the Bill Shankly as the manager of Liverpool Football Club from 1959 – 1974. On the surface, this sounds great for a very specific type of person (in a word: me). I’m a Liverpool FC fan and I’m a reader. But here’s the thing. It’s not just great for me. It’s great for anyone who appreciates the written word because let me tell you… David Peace has quickly become one of my favorite writers. The story is important, of course, but it’s how Peace tells it that really makes this such an enjoyable read. He paints scenes using repetitive and staccato text and you find yourself falling into the rhythm of his cadence. Using just words, he can actually get your heart rate up when writing about a match! I’m a huge fan of reading for style, and Red or Dead has it in spades.

Oh, and honorable mention: Veronica Mars: The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. If you (like me and countless others) are a VMars fan then you should get this book. It picks up right where the movie leaves off and the read was fantastic! It was pretty much like watching an episode of Veronica Mars, but without the restraints of a time limit. I loved it and actually did not solve the mystery before our favorite sassy detective. Highly suggested for fans of the series (but definitely not for VMars virgins). – Preeti Chhibber 

 

Season of MistSeason of Mists (Sandman, Vol. 4) by Neil Gaiman

This was the first Sandman I read, and I borrowed it from a friend more than ten years ago, so I wasn’t bored by revisiting it. Morpheus travels to Hell to find the woman, a former lover, he imprisoned there (yeah, really) after some goading from his siblings, Desire and Death. When he arrives there, he finds that Lucifer is ready to give up the place and Morpheus winds up with the key, which he doesn’t want. Representatives from major and minor mythologies come to plead their cases for being given dominion over Hell. Morpheus makes a very Gaiman-y decision in the end. I loved this ten years ago and I loved it this time around. It’s easy to see why so many people recommend Sandman to folks who hesitate to read graphic novels. Gaiman, storyteller that he is, does beautiful things with the medium. – Jeanette Solomon

 

The SecretaryThe Secretary by Kim Ghattas

During Hillary Clinton’s four years as Secretary of State, BBC foreign correspondent Kim Ghattas had a front row seat to see how Clinton shaped America’s foreign policy and, to a lesser extent, her own image. Ghattas, who grew up in Lebanon, brings an interesting insider/outsider perspective to the book that I thought made it stand out – she knows international politics and grew up seeing the impact that policy decisions have on average citizens in foreign countries. The book is especially great because Ghattas makes it more than just a book about Hillary Clinton – it’s a book that explores how American power (and even more, the perception of American power) has changed over the last decade. Ghattas, who grew up in Lebanon, brings an interesting insider/outsider perspective to the book that I also thought made it stand out. – Kim Ukura

 

Star Trek Mere MortalsStar Trek: Mere Mortals by David Mack

Mere Mortals is book two of a trilogy of Star Trek novels and I’ve found myself consistently surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying them. Even when I was a kid and devoured Star Wars novels alongside my constant Star Trek TV watching, I just never got into Star Trek novels. I bought this trilogy on a whim and have been having a blast with it. It’s a story spread across a half-dozen different starships, all dealing with a host of external and internal problems. The Federation is threatened by a Borg invasion on a staggering scale, for one thing. For another thing, there is an ancient and extremely powerful alien race who is terrified of being noticed by anyone else. They are pacifists, though, so they won’t kill you or harm you. They just won’t let you leave. Ever. You can stay with them for hundreds of years.

Despite having a gigantic range of characters, all of whom seem to have complex and interwoven histories coming from Star Trek TV shows and a bunch of other preceding novels, and despite having a great many plots, I’ve never yet felt lost or like I’m missing something. The trilogy is heartily recommended it. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I plan to look into all those other Star Trek books I never read and see what I’ve been missing. – Peter Damien

 

The Talented Mr. RipleyThe Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith 

Lordy, lordy, how much does it suck that it took me until my 30s to read Mr. Ripley?! After all, there are four more Ripley novels to read (collectively known as The Ripliad), so I’d better get my backside in gear. I decided to read this novel as part of my “month of crime fiction,” and it was the creepiest, strangest, and most gripping of the bunch. (And no, I haven’t seen the Matt Damon film version; not sure if I will, but that’s for another time). What makes Highsmith’s tale so chilling is that Tom Ripley is such an unlikely psycho-murderer. I mean, his worst scam was tax fraud on a very tiny scale, but when he is sent to Italy (by a concerned father) to convince his friend to return to the States, something snaps. It’s as though Tom’s shaky friendship with Dickie Greenleaf exposes just how lonely and frustrated Tom has been since he was a child. His murder of Greenleaf and assumption of his identity allows Tom to finally have the life he has always wanted, one filled with money and friends and respect. As Greenleaf, Tom can hold his head up and ditch his usual shy awkwardness. But the lies keep piling up, along with the bodies, and still Tom holds on to his new identity as though it’s all he has left. His clumsy but brutal murder of Greenleaf is reminiscent of the central scene in Dreiser’s American Tragedy, but Tom is far more frightening in his amorality than Clyde is. And Highsmith’s choice to keep us in Tom’s head without writing the story as a first-person narrative was spot-on. A fantastic thriller and example of classic American crime fiction. – Rachel Cordasco

 

This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (May 6, First Second)

This beautiful coming of age story introduces readers to two youthful, precarious young teenagers who have spent their summers together every single year at the same beach. A little place called Awago Beach that, over the course of the graphic novel, begins to feel like a place you’ve been going to all your life. It’s written with an air of nostalgia that will make you ache for the simpler times in your life, when your biggest concerns were having change for candy and a couple of dollars for a VHS rental.

Underneath all the playful innocence that the graphic novel is full of, there’s a lot of pain. Families that are crumbling, a daughter distant from her mother, and locals harboring a secret that the two main characters, Windy and Rose, keep trying to uncover.

Filled with memorable characters and beautiful art, This One Summer is a book that will definitely stick with you. It comes out this May via First Second in hardcover and paperback, and I will certainly be talking about it more. – Eric Smith

 

Thinking Fast and SlowThinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This book (which works as a sort of more complex and highly scientific version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink) is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it offers fascinating insights into our many, often unspoken, largely unconscious biases, from the statistical to the emotional. On the other hand, it works like a mirror, reflecting those biases back at us. It made me suspicious of a lot of my own behavior. Even something like filling out my NCAA Tournament bracket became an exercise in trying (without any success whatsoever) to avoid projecting my biases onto my selections. Author – and Nobel Prize-winning psychologist – Daniel Kahneman doesn’t send readers on a guilt trip, however. In fact, the more of his book I read, the more convinced I became that awareness of my likely biases was a more than worthy outcome of my time with it. I don’t feel like a bad person for knowing that I’m subject to confirmation bias (for example), I just feel like a more self-aware one. Cheers to that. – Josh Corman

 

Thunderstruck Elizabeth McCrackenThunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken (April 22, The Dial Press)

You know that thing where almost everyone on the planet is totally normal, but at the same time totally bizarre? These stories are like that. About normal people and their completely weird, tragic, hopeful lives. McCracken’s language is a knife – she writes these simple, short declarative sentences that somehow reveal the complexity of human motivation and psychology. Her stories are haunted by lost women (whether dead, literally missing, or absent from their bodies because of head trauma), a motif I find endlessly fascinating. Come for the literal ghost (there’s one in the first story), stay for the exploration of what makes us ghosts in our own lives while we’re still around. – Amanda Nelson

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