Politics and history crackle through the plotlines of our recommended books this month, as we travel the world experiencing struggle and mourning in a many-layered collage of contexts. Here are four varied works of “healing imagination,” as books both simple and unconventional examine trauma unflinching and then look to what happens next.
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin, Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel, The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
This month, invest in a book you can begin knowing you’ll return many times. These works range the world from Bombay to Russia to Nigeria to San Francisco, and in page count from the “slender” to the “massive”—you’ll find something here for every interest, every schedule, every commute length. But each of this month’s recommenders chose their work in part for the fact that it seems to yield a new story on every visit; as Nalini Jones puts it, you’ll “feel the world tilt to the side” in a new direction every time you dip into these pages.
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto, A Collection of Beauties at the Height of their Popularity by Whitney Otto, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Famished Road by Ben Okri
How much more palatable is any dish when “imbued with the stories of home”? We’re exploring that this month in our recommendations, which variously braid entertainment and education in their reading experiences. Grow as a writer, a poet, a consumer, a human being—and do it while laughing, remembering home, or teetering on the edge of your seat.
The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury, The Door by Magda Szabó,Ennui Prophet by Christopher Kennedy, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi
We’re charging into the new year reading slim volumes with grand ambitions. These books and their authors look to visual art, science, medicine, and history to pull literature—and with it the reader—in a new direction. We’re reading deeply in order to carve and reclaim human stories from disease, politics, the simplifying narratives of recorded history, and a monolithic literary canon. In 2016, read to embrace the “exquisite ache” of complexity with us!
I Watched You Disappearby Anya Krugovoy Silver, Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya,High Dive by Jonathan Lee, Wide Sargasso Seaby Jean Rhys, Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Artby Julian Barnes
Join our recommenders this month for a little formal experimentation—a collection of works that suck you in with lists, collages, instructions. Here we have a “novel of voices”; a “pointillist portrayal” of a family through vignettes; a work of ekphrastic metafiction; a “madcap” novel that begins with a catalog of ailments and their cures; a book of assurances and instructions to a reader on the cusp of a momentous change. These are books that will break you down into your component parts, rearrange you, and put you back together.
Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell, 10:04 by Ben Lerner, The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya, Making Babies: Stumbling Into Motherhood by Anne Enright
This month our recommenders are turning to new takes on timeless themes—from the catharsis of fairy tales to ancient theater, from religious traditions to the search for home. If you’re beginning to feel like you’ve seen it all, crack open one of these volumes and let these authors show you a new, even shocking path through the familiar.
Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel, All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen, Antigonick by Anne Carson,Diaspo/Rengaby Marilyn Hacker and Deema K. Shehabi
Are you up for a challenge? This month we’re reading books that test us as they enlighten us, seeking to explain the world on a grand scale—warts and all. We’re held rapt by catalogs of world travel, remembered across decades; the brutal pageantry of crisis erupting through daily rituals; the history of poverty and injustice; the intricacies of mental illness, personal and societal. Don’t turn to these titles for escape—we’re here to focus the lens of the human experience and find something as irascible as it is beautiful.
Photography, science, geo-politics, instruction manuals, and a good Springsteen song—this month we’re reading works of literature with foundations in other art forms. We’re also recommending a memoir, flash fiction, linked short stories, a novel, and a poetry collection—the greatest genre spread of any Friday Reads installment since the feature’s inception. So this June, as we move into summer at last, join us at The Common in trying something new, something varied, something complex. Spice up your reading list and genre-bend your life!
Hold Still by Sally Mann, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison, Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Itself by Rae Armantrout.
We’re taking this month to revisit books from our pasts, and find new ones that will stay with us. Some of these titles are old favorites, which have found their way back to their recommenders after years apart. Others are books long unread but known by reputation, “by proxy,” finally experienced. We are reading both echoes built on classics and violent shifts from the familiar. These are books both for everyone and specifically for you. They will linger with their recommenders—with all of us—long after reading, into “every possible future.”
Junior College by Gary Soto, Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Remembering Babylon by David Malouf, Aeons by Max Rivto.
This month’s books are full of surprises, for their characters and their readers. Whether it’s a world of whimsy, fantasy, or magic(al realism), or else a microcosm of grief either private (a family home) or public (a busy airport), we’re along for the ride as imagined worlds both playful and harrowing rise and fall on these pages.
Play for Me by Céline Keating, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog by Alicia Ostriker, Munich Airportby Greg Baxter, Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky,The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann