Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 14, 2022

Books books books and more books! Here's what we've been reading that as of today, you can read, too!

Friday, Daniel Goldin and Tim McCarthy have write-ups on the latest from Pulitzer-winner Geraldine Brooks: Horse. First, from Tim: "Horse is based on the life of a truly great American racehorse in the middle 1800s named Darley, who came to be known as Lexington. It's also the story of Lexington's glory being rediscovered many years later at the Smithsonian, by lovers of animals and paintings. The stallion's history is endearing, and through his courage and grace, Brooks reveals the nature of people and of America, on the brink of Civil War and as we live now. She’s adept at showing the beautiful Kentucky landscape, the personality of the horses, and the spectacle of racing in a society where whites casually own people. All this in stark contrast with the anguish and terror of being owned and used at the owner’s whim. It’s the enslaved young trainer Jarret’s close connection with the horse that fully exposes the single-minded profit motive for possessing them both. Jarret tells us that, in the end, it's only horses who are honest, and in the end a memorable story needs heart and strong characters. This novel has both, in human and equine form."

And from Daniel: "Much like People of the Book chronicled the Sarajevo Haggadah through a contemporary rare books expert, Horse tells the story of Lexington, a legendary horse whose bloodline courses through many a prized thoroughbred, via the investigations of Jess, a White scientist at the Smithsonian bone lab, and Theo, a Black art historian who comes into possession of a once-lost painting. In telling the story of the groom Jarret Lewis, Brooks chronicles how slavery was entwined in the horse breeding and racing, benefitting stakeholders even if they didn’t own slaves themselves, and the legacy of racism that Theo endures. Brooks’s novels celebrate the untold stories that are in the margins of history; she’s done it again with Horse, and the fact that her late husband, beloved writer Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic), helped her with the research, makes her latest novel even more poignant."

Geraldine Brooks in conversation with Sarah Maslin Nir for a Virtual Event on Thursday, June 30, 7 pm. Click here to register.

Our next book rec also comes from Daniel and goes to Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard. Daniel says: "The mythology of the Kennedys is baked into the brains of many an American. So it’s fascinating to me when a writer like Louis Bayard switches it up. His take on a single Jacqueline Bouvier being courted by the well-connect Congressman is told through a fictionalized version of Kirk LeMoyne Billings. Lem was a prep school friend of Jack’s and known as a walker to Kennedy women. Jack assigned Lem to occupy Jackie while he ran for the Senate and who knows what else? Could he stay true to both parties, especially when they were not exactly on the same page regarding what exactly this relationship was? Jackie and Me is at once wryly entertaining and wistfully somber. Prime historical fiction!"

Louis Bayard is in conversation with Christina Clancy, In-Person at Boswell on Monday, June 27, 6:30 pm. Click here to register and find more info.

And now, how about Jason Kennedy for One's Company by Ashley Hutson. Jason says: "Ashley Hutson's absurd debut novel is a revelation. Bonnie wins the lottery, and not just a little win - think the biggest win you can remember, then triple it. She suffered some major trauma which has blended into the background of her life. Upon winning the lottery, she buys a remote piece of land and builds a replica of her dream sitcom show, Three's Company. Bonnie wants to disappear so completely into the sitcom, and she has every little detail replicated that she possible can. From the décor to the TV shows, Bonnie spares no expense for historical accuracy. This book is a deep dive into a person's mental illness brought on by life's many dangers and her attempt to escape from them."

Next it's Parker Jensen on Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator by Sofia Warren. Parker says: "New Yorker cartoonist Sofia Warren was never that involved in politics. She didn't know who her local officials were, what policies were being passed, or what names would show up on her ballot. That is until Julia Salazar started following her. On every street corner there was a volunteer handing out flyers with her face on it, at every bus stop a poster, and all her friends were talking about her. Salazar, a young 27-year-old democratic socialist, had begun a grassroots campaign for New York Senate in hopes of achieving major rent control and tenant protection policy reform. When she defied the odds and won, she inspired and united a coalition of activists, organizations, and local residents. And left Warren wondering, what happens next? Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator chronicles what came next as Warren follows Salazar and her staff during their first year in office. Warren's graphic memoir is a truly exceptional and unique look inside the world of politics, community organizing, and progressive policy. From candid conversations with Salazar and her whole staff, to attending protests, to speaking with community organizers, Warren creates a compelling and informative story that sheds light on what the political landscape looks like today and what we could shape it into."

And Rachel Copeland recommends How to Fake It in Hollywood, a romance by Ava Wilder. Rachel says: "Grey Brooks is known for starring in a teenage drama, but she wants more substantial roles now that she's nearing thirty. When her publicist sets up a fake, tabloid-pleasing romance with former-heartthrob-turned-Oscar-winner Ethan Atkins, the arrangement seems easy enough - until it becomes clear that the chemistry isn't only for the paparazzi. But with Ethan's alcohol abuse after the tragedy that derailed his career, is a Hollywood happily ever after even possible for them? I started this book expecting a frothy Hollywood fantasy type romance, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by the gravity and depth of the story. Wilder brings these two lonely characters together in such an artificial way, yet their connection is immediate and palpable. I can't wait to see more from this author."

This week is nice for paperback fans because we've got lots for you - both paperback originals above that were just released today as well as the books below this sentence getting their paperback release after being out in hardcover.

Madi Hill recommends The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. Madi says: "Lynette just wants to be safe. That's why the only time she leaves her overly secure apartment is to meet with the five other final girls (the women who are left alive after defeating their killer. Think: Laurie Strode in Halloween) and their therapist in a church basement. But when it seems like their monsters are coming back to kill, she is forced to leave her hiding place to figure out why someone is going after final girls again. This was my first-time reading Grady Hendrix's work, and I am already hooked. Imagining classic horror films as if they were the result of tragic realities is done in an extremely original way that leaves you wondering where the story will lead, while trying to match each final girl to the correct classic horror heroine. Hendrix's style is so much fun but surprisingly tense, perfect for the horror fan who doesn't take themselves too seriously."

Conrad Silverberg recommends Talk to Me by TC Boyle. Conrad says: "Unknotting topical issues that raise complex ethical questions is Boyle's specialty. So are crafting hysterically flawed and self-deluded characters who think that they rise above and are the best ones to take on such dilemmas. Here Boyle confronts the unethical treatment of animals with the plight of a chimpanzee being taught sign-language. Everything is fine as long as the chimp remains young and cute, but once adolescence hits, his future becomes increasingly bleak as he grows larger and stronger and wilder. His handlers want to save him, but their motivations are selfish and self-serving, especially when they think they are most altruistic. Can he be saved?"

We'll be back next week with more book recommendations. Until then, read on, dear readers.

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