Monday, January 8, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of January 9, 2024

This week, the Boswellians bring you two new novels to hunker down with through the winter nights.

First, Daniel recommends You Only Call When You're in Trouble by novelist Stephen McCauley. Daniel says: "Tom is a sixty-something architect whose personal and professional lives are on the ropes; he’s one lost commission and is one argument away from losing his job and his boyfriend. His sister Dorothy’s got an ill-conceived scheme to open a retreat center in Woodstock with a flash-in-the-pan personal growth guru. And his niece Cecily’s teaching gig and relationship are also in trouble, due to a Title IX scandal and the meddling mother of her boyfriend. So, what’s a family to do but gather together for the center’s grand opening? To my thinking, McCauley channels mid-20th Century English women writers, where love is longed for, but friendship is the true source of happiness, and adds a little (though in this case, not much) sexual energy. His latest, a mix of wry humor and emotional connection, poses the question: mistakes were made – now what?"

And Gao suggests The Fetishist by Katherine Min. Gao writes: "It felt as though I was alongside Kathrine Min as she was writing. She felt real; like a childhood friend I once knew but lost ties with. Her voice permeates the book. A friend asked me if the book was 'fun,' and I don't think I would describe it as 'fun.' Rather, The Fetishist is comically cynical with its wit and blunt portrayal of its characters. The characters are the best part of the book. Each one is delightfully entertaining, and no matter what decisions they make, you cannot hate or judge them. You understand their flaws and egos, and as they grow, you as the reader also are forced into introspection. As an Asian American woman dating a white man, I related with Alma and Kyoko. With Alma, it was her self-awareness of how white men perceive Asian women, yet readily accepting that perception because there is some semblance of power that can be found. I empathized with Kyoko's rebellion and her passion for her mother. Her recklessness is her charm, and I found myself rooting for her. In every Asian American woman, I think there is both an Alma and a Kyoko living inside them (Kayla Min, Kathrine's daughter, talked a little about this too during the end notes)."

And how about a paperback pick for the week, too? Okay! Oli Schmitz brings us How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler. Oli writes: "How Far the Light Reaches is a brilliantly executed work of science writing and memoir that highlights the interconnectedness and complexity of ocean life and human experience. In each chapter, journalist Sabrina Imbler relates their own identities, relationships, and experiences to the world of a different fascinating sea creature, with tremendous vulnerability and stunning prose."

And those are the recs. We'll see you next week with more books to keep you reading through the snow and cold. Until then, read on.

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