Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Heading into the end of 2014, all of the Bookswellians have been compiling a list of their favorite books of the year. It's one of the easiest ways for me to find out what to really highlight in our Holiday Newsletter, which you should see coming around the beginning of December. So, I figured I would give everybody snippets of what they will see featured at Boswell this season. It is a rather large list, so I have attempted to break it up into subtopics--this week's subtopic, Other Worlds Rather Than Our Own. I am a little loosey-goosey with the strict definitions, but this should be fun, so here we go:

First up, brought to you by one of our newer Boswellians, Todd, is a big pharma novel, Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox. It takes place in a alternative version of Indianapolis:

"This novel explores how and why we name and treat conditions. When once someone was just brokenhearted, perhaps she now has relationship adverse trauma syndrome and could use a prescription to help her recover. Set in an Indianapolis similar to the Indianapolis you may know and love, the book follows Robert and Viola, husband and wife, through disappoints, diagnoses, and treatments on a polluted journey in search of the fulfillment promised by money, modern pharmaceuticals, and romance. Taunting FBI agents, underground drug safety trials, and odd ailments frequent the characters until they, at least for a moment, accept that what they have will never be what myths of marriage promise." --Todd Wellman

An author that defies being pigeon-holed in a genre, David Mitchell’s novels hold a special place in the hearts and minds of his many fans. And with this new novel, he has given everybody the threads that interconnect his entire oeuvre of novels. Here Conrad shares his love for reading The Bone Clocks:
 "Why do I love David Mitchell? Because he teaches me words like "insufflation" (think cocaine). Because he fearlessly uses compound contractions like "I'd've" or "can't've". Because he opens with: "Welsh rain gods piss onto the roofs, festival tents and umbrellas of Hay-on-Wye and also on Crispin Hershey, as he strides along a gutter-noisy lane, into the Old Cinema Bookshop and makes his way down to its deepest bowel where he rips this week’s Piccadilly Review into confetti." (And that's his opening for the fourth section! A little ditty most authors would kill for as an opening sentence for their entire book.) Because Mitchell can capture the self-absorbed, tatty slang of a British teenager yearning to break free from parental constraints and dash heedlessly into the world; the alcohol fueled banter of fourth year Cambridge students one-upping each other's studied insults with their buddies in a cozy bar in the dead of night; the world weary self-deprecating musings of a washed up novelist who has failed to live up to the promise of his first book. In short, Mitchell is one of the finest English novelists at work today and is to be greedily anticipated. This delivers the goods." --Conrad Silverberg

This world is hidden behind doors, and in cold places. Places we do not normally want to know about, but Caitlin Doughty brings us into her world brilliantly. Here is Mel’s review:

"Thanks to Caitlin Doughty’s well-written debut, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, death is the new sex! Similar to the arguments of sex and body positivists in the past, Doughty calls for a revolution in our death-denying, consumption-obsessed country, demanding honesty from medical and death industry professionals while detailing the boons of having the spaces and conversations that would allow people in the US to embrace the "good death" by taking back their power during death rituals and practices. Her personal experiences in the death industry are interspersed with historical and cultural anecdotes both educational and entertaining. This is one of the most important books I've read this year--I hope it helps incite the revolution in the death industry that Doughty feels is warranted and long overdue in this country." --Mel Morrow

Here the author, Amanda Petrusich, reports on a world that she gets sucked into and away from ours. Josh would love to go there:

"DoNot Sell at Any Price is a great look into the world of the most collectible records on Earth (pre-war 78s of country blues artists like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson) as well as record collecting overall. Petrusich clearly illustrates the effect of the collecting bug by catching it herself, and her quest leads her from North Carolina flea markets to the bottom of the Milwaukee River. She even delves into such unexpected issues as gender and psychology with ease. It’s a slim volume that won’t trouble you, but if you match it with the list of suggested listening in the back pages, you may find yourself lusting after some very expensive records!" --Josh Davis

Back to fictional worlds, and none-to-soon, as Emily St. John Mandel’s world is a post-apocalyptic version of our own. We have many fans on staff of this gorgeous novel, but I am going to provide you with Daniel’s review:

"In this powerful new novel, the end of civilization might not come via nuclear war or environmental catastrophe, but by a flu virus so lethal that there is simply nobody around to keep civilization going. By the time we’re in shape to recover, it’s too late to stop out-of-control fires, or contain lawlessness, let alone turn back on electricity, the internet, or gas pumps. In this post-apocalyptic world, small outposts remain, congregated around abandoned fast food restaurants and airplane terminals with little to bring joy and beauty to their lives aside from a periodic visit from the Traveling Symphony, a group of Shakespeare-performing classical musicians. One day, the Symphony comes to St. Deborah by the Water, only to find that the village has been taken over by a cult, and things turn particularly dangerous when one of the villagers becomes a stowaway. And then one of the performers, Kirsten, slowly learns that she and the ruthless cult leader might have more in common than she imagined. And in fact almost all the characters in this story are connected by an unlikely source—an actor named Arthur Leander, whose on-stage death opened the story. Station Eleven is an entrancing thriller/fantasy epic/comic satire/domestic drama, and while the setup might have reminded you of The Hunger Games, the result is more A Visit from the Goon Squad." --Daniel Goldin

A long continuing story about a woman who ends up being cast back in time and the people she meets. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon takes readers to a world, where they can’t possible go; unless you invent the time machine next week:

"This is the 8th book in the Outlander series, the epic love story between Claire, a 20th century nurse, and Jamie, a Scottish laird from the 1700's. Claire is known as an outlander, one who travels outside of her own time. She passed through Druid stones, and ended up 200 years before her own time. This book takes place during the American Revolution, and Claire is in a unique position, as she knows how things will turn out. I have been a fan of this series since the mid-1990's, and I would recommend that you start with the first book. There is way too much going on to start in the middle."--Sharon Nagel

One of the most unique and favorite books that I have read this year would have to be Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. Jeff VanderMeer has written a maddening masterpiece of a creepy part of the world cut off from humanity. The three parts that make up Area X were published in quick succession of each other, and now, capitalizing on the success of the series, FSG has published them all in one volume. The first two books introduce the weirdness that surrounds the event that cut separates them from a large piece of land that is now more other world. They send in expeditions to see how the environment has changed. Some of those expeditions never come back, some of them come back, only mad or not as themselves at all. Like peeling an onion, Jeff VanderMeer slowly reveals the strangeness, wonder and deadliness of this new world. Without writing any spoilers, I will stop here and say this is one book not to miss.--Jason Kennedy
How do you make it when you are shut off from the only world you have ever known? What do you reach for, if not Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates, to discover how one woman used the great bard to reach inmates in prison. Here Anne reviews one of her favorite, if not her absolute favorite book of the last couple of years:
"If anyone needs proof that literature can change lives, here it is. This is an amazing story, beautifully told, of the impact Shakespeare's work had on one remarkable man, imprisoned for life, and his teacher. This must read is one of the most important books I have read in a long time; I'm still reeling from the power of the ending." --Anne McMahon



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