Monday, May 20, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of May 21, 2024

A couple new recs coming your way courtesy of the Boswellians to keep you reading through this third week of May. Here we go.

First up, Daniel Goldin recommends What a Fool Believes: A Memoir by Michael McDonald with Paul Reiser. Daniel says: "McDonald grew up in St Louis, the son of a streetcar operator and itinerant musician. Mike (a fellow musician renamed him Michael) followed that inherited passion, jamming in a number of bands in the bi-state area before relocating to California. I tend to enjoy the journeyman stories, not just before fame, but after it too. Paul Reiser (Really!), who wrote the book with McDonald, chronicles life with Steely Dan (or The Dan), the Doobie Brothers, the solo career, and the many collaborations, though I don’t think we really get the true story of the Doobie demise. That’s for another book to tell. But there’s another story here too. For many of his years, McDonald’s life was controlled by drugs and alcohol. His success may have been the result of talent, but the fact that he survived? That’s surely luck as much as anything."

Next up, Chris Lee recommends Shae, the new novel by fellow West Virginian Mesha Maren: "It’s an old story, sad, harrowing, and way too familiar, about the way addiction strips away everything – everything – from a person, and pushes them to the ragged edges of being alive. Mesha Maren tells it with fresh eyes, clear yet tender. A botched caesarean, a script of oxy, and soon Shae, a queer teenage mother, is slipping away from her own taciturn mother, her transitioning lover, from even her infant daughter. Is she losing or becoming herself? As Shae is untethered from the places she loves, Maren writes the mythic, earthy beauty of West Virginia’s mountains; gutters overflowing with red pine needles, riverbanks swollen with muddy water, everything too full and still hungry. This is a book about outsiders and shame, pain, fear, and relief, love and escape. Shae is a bracing, powerful novel by one of Appalachia’s rising stars."

Paperback pick alert! We've got one paperback pick from Jenny Chou this week, and that's The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei. Jenny says: "The set up for The Deep Sky, the debut sci-fi novel by biracial Japanese and American author Yume Kitasei, is as creative as it is disturbing. Main character Asuka left behind a planet earth embroiled in war and catastrophic climate change. Along with a crew of eighty, she’s aboard the Phoenix, a spaceship crossing the universe to settle Planet X, when a bomb explodes and jeopardizes the first trip beyond our galaxy. The captain and two others are dead, and the loyalties of the remaining seventy-seven are constantly shifting as they search for the person responsible. No one knows who to trust, and if the flight pattern can’t be corrected in a matter of days, all aboard will drift endlessly in the wrong direction until all the oxygen is used up. On top of all this, many of the crew members are pregnant, as being capable of carrying a child was a prerequisite for the trip. As the last selected for the mission, Asuka feels like an imposter, but during the extensive years of training she proved capable of puzzling her way out of realistic simulations of worst-case scenarios. I found the sci-fi tech exciting and plausible, and The Deep Sky works as a thrilling page-turner. But the novel also becomes extremely thought-provoking when the motivation behind the sabotage is revealed. You’ll think about this one long after turning the last page."

And those are our recommendations for the week. We'll be back here in roughly 7 days with a new batch of books. Until then, read on.

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