Monday, August 16, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of August 17, 2021 (Sort Of)

This week is a fairly slow one for staff recommendations from the Boswellians. We've got no recommendations for brand new hardcover releases that come out on Tuesday the 17th. That said, we've got a one book getting its paperback release this week, plus a few "maybe you missed it" recommendations that haven't made it to the blog this year.

So, in a flip of the traditional blog order, let's begin with the book beginning its second act in paperback this week: Nine Shiny Objects by Brian Castleberry, as recommended by Chris Lee. Chris says, "Castleberry’s debut is an American original, an epic told in tangents. The book doesn’t just begin from the understanding that each event in history has fractured reverberations that ripple throughout the rest of time - it’s an embodiment of that reality. Beginning with the (real) 1947 Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting over the Cascade mountains - admittedly, why I picked up the book - the story shoots off just like Arnold’s flying pie tins into nine wildly different directions. A utopian commune gathers out west, seeking a vision from another world, and from there we check in each five years with another person whose life has been nudged one way or another by histories micro and marcro. One of things to really savor is the way each section bristles against the general ideas and shared memory of each era’s vibe. And Castleberry is so good at crafting sentences packed with delight and surprise that you'll barely notice until he end that he’s just swept you through a half century of America history in a dauntingly creative formal invention of a novel. Yowza."

The following three books were released earlier this year, and we like 'em! So how about we tell you about them now.

Jonathan Lee's new novel The Great Mistake came out this summer and gets the seal of approval from Chris Lee (no relations, at least as far as he knows). Chris says, "Wow. If you want a classic, capital N, The Novel kind of book, you couldn’t do much better than The Great Mistake. As a stylist, Lee is top shelf; he so obviously delights in the English language, and each of his sentences is a masterclass in wonder, humor, and precision – even the shapes and sounds of his lines are full of surprises. You want more than style? You got it. Lee tracks the life of Andrew Haswell Green (the mostly forgotten Father of Greater New York) through the 19th century, creating a remarkably full measure of the man’s life, public and private. In doing so, the book offers a window into the life of America’s greatest city as it came into its modern form. Honestly, the best comparison I can think of is that this is the novel Charles Dickens might write if he’d recently crawled out of the grave."

Conrad Silverberg has a couple books to recommend this week. First up is a release from this spring: The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance by Ross King. Conrad says, "This book continues King's long fascination and study of that great city, this time with a topic near and dear to our own hearts - books! This is a meaty tome to indulge in while curled up in your most comfy reading chair, casting your mind back 500-plus years to an age when such activities were the exclusive province of the aristocratic elite. A technological innovation was about to change all that, and Florence was at the heart of the revolution."

Conrad also recommends Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice, 1967-1975, by musician Richard Thompson (with Scott Timberg). Conrad says, "Is there anything Richard Thompson can't do (hasn't done)? He is one of the finest guitarists to emerge from the late-Sixties stew of London and distinguished himself further by being one of the most sophisticated and clever songwriters. I'm not a big fan of biographies, especially those narcissistic, overblown ones ageing rock stars have been churning out of late. I make the exception here because Thompson is the exception. This is the goods!"

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