Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of January 30, 2024

It's the last week of January already - where did it go!? Well, if you did things right, it flew by as you were reading all of the great books we've been recommending. Here are some more.

Daniel Goldin starts us off with the new novel by Kiley Reid, author of the hit novel Such a Fun Age. Her new book is Come and Get It, and of it Daniel says: "You can get an idea of how academics feel about the current state of academia by what they put in their novels. Having already recent takes from Nathan Hill and Julie Schumacher, I was primed for Kiley Reid’s Come and Get It. When Millie Cousins, a dorm resident at the University of Arkansas, agrees to find students as source material for Visiting Professor Agatha Paul’s forthcoming book on marriage, nobody realizes quite how messy this is going to be. Told through the perspectives of Millie, Agatha, and Kennedy, one of the students, Reid’s terrific second novel has all of the cringey humor you could hope for, wrapped in a discussion about race, gender, class, power, and a whole lot of wanting stuff."

Greta Borgealt also recommends the latest for Reid. Greta says: "It's 2017, and school is in session at the University of Arkansas in Kiley Reid's sophomore novel. It focuses on a group of undergrads who are the residents and RAs of a scholarship dorm. Another central character is a critically acclaimed writer who starts teaching there. Ethics and class play a crucial role in the lives of these rich characters. The lines of right and wrong look a little blurry at times in their minds. This is evident in the messy entanglement between the professor and one of the RAs. This is just one instance of drama that lives within the pages. Being a few years out of college myself, it was interesting to read about the social circles that were in a college at time so close to my own stay in academia. Like any college, there are sororities, parties, and dorm decorations, but unlike my experience, some of the main characters always seem to have money on their minds. They're either getting more than they should from their parents, or it is a constant weight on their shoulders. I could relate to one of the characters who suffers from loneliness when she transfers to the University. I found that my first year, as it is for many, was often times very lonely. Although I related to her struggle as I reader, I'm not sure I can say that I liked the character. It is complex. There is a lot of character development in the novel, but sometimes the residents of the dorm came across as entitled and privileged, especially in comparison to some of their older peers. They certainly don't have everything figured out, but most people don't at 21 years old. This book is powerful in its ability to entertain the reader while simultaneously critiquing the setting it resides in."

Jason Kennedy suggests you check out Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect, the sequel to the similarly mouthful-titled Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, by Benjamin Stevenson. Jason writes: "Ernest is back! After the tumultuous and deadly happenings in Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone, Ernest is at an Australian Mystery Writer’s Festival. Which, as the title gives away, is on a train. Not just any train, but a train that cuts through a huge swath of Australia and cuts in and out of cell phone range at various points. And as Ernest tells us, “Seven writers board a train. At the end of the line, five will leave it alive. One will be in cuffs.” Another locked room mystery in which Ernest attempts to teach us the finer points of writing a mystery novel. Highly entertaining and hilarious - I had to race through to know who did it!"

Finally, we go back to Greta for her write-up for Interesting Facts About Space, a new novel from Emily Austin. Greta says: "The marketing really caught my eye for this book and drew me in because it stated this book is for anyone who has ever wondered if they were a terrible person. I don't know if this is a concept that everyone grapples with at a time in their lives, but I could relate. This book is about Enid; she is a lesbian serial dater who is deaf in one ear, obsessed with space and true crime, and is afraid of bald men. Austin uses black comedy to tell this literary story through the main character's stream of consciousness. Enid, she is a character that a certain audience can relate to. She is flawed, but she's still loveable. The messiness of her life can induce a little anxiety in the reader, but overall, it has a hopeful message, and there is great representation of a neurodivergent person. The thing I love most about this book is the Enid's relationship with her mother, because her mother is one of the people Enid has let close enough to understand her, and they truly love each other even though the majority of their conversations in the novel are about space."

Those are our picks for the week! We'll be back next week with more great reads. Until then, read on.

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