Quick Lit September 2018

James McBride is probably best known for his first book, memoir The Color of Water. It won all kinds of awards, was highly praised by the critics (not that that necessarily matters, but we're going to put that as a check in the pro column). The subtitle is A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. McBride's parents had an interracial marriage back in the 1940s in America. Living now, it's almost difficult to fathom until I read something like this, just how extremely difficult that was to live in that kind of family then in that place and time. McBride speaks so well and so poignantly in this book about both his own family and their place in the world. It's really really beautiful. McBride is writing from his own experience as a native New Yorker and a musician (he studied at Oberlin College and Columbia). His writing style is clearly well-crafted and carefully honed and he's written about a wide variety of topics and yet manages to have a body of work that doesn't at all feel scattered. McBride writes about the things he's interested in in new and fascinating ways with a journalist's eye and a journalist's pen. He's written memoir, nonfiction, fiction. (You can listen to me recommend James McBride to Carly Friedman on What Should I Read Next Episode 119 and I was glad to hear McBride is on her TBR list.)
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Roosevelt penned this book--part memoir, part advice manual--in 1960, when she was 76 years old. It’s striking how fresh and wise her insight seems today, over fifty years later. Roosevelt offers an interesting perspective on history, unique insights into her life (which contained a surprising amount of personal tragedy), and a good bit of wisdom you might just apply to your own life.
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From Publishers Weekly: "The last words of this haunting novel resonate like a pealing bell. 'He fell in love. It was his life.' This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. What's really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man's name. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen."
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From the author of The Dollhouse, a new historical novel with a fabulous setting. Few remember it now, but a thriving art school (the Grand Central School of Art) was housed for twenty years in the upper eaves of the east wing, beginning with its founding in 1924. The book switches back and forth in time between the art school years and 1974, when Grand Central Terminal was very nearly razed by developers in order to build a skyscraper. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (who briefly appears in the novel) led the fight to save the terminal by granting it landmark status. Davis has said that her new novel “touches upon issues dear to me: how women’s voices and agency have changed over time, the importance of the arts in our lives, and the hidden stories within New York’s historic skyline.”
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When I posted a picture of Emily St. John Mandel's third novel, The Lola Quartet, on Instagram this summer, literally dozens of readers messaged me and said some version of the following: "I'm so excited that Emily St. John Mandel has a new book coming out. I loved her first book, Station Eleven. How long do I have to wait to read this next one?" (Mandel does have a new book in the works. The Glass Hotel is expected in 2019, and I, for one, cannot wait to read it. But your responses made me realize that not enough readers know about her other books.) The Singer's Gun was Emily St. John Mandel's second novel, published in 2010. In fact, St. John Mandel said she wrote Station Eleven in a deliberately different genre, because she was afraid of getting pigeonholed as a crime writer. Mandel handles deceit and deception really well. In The Singer's Gun Anton Walker has walked away from the family business of false documents, when his cousin ropes him back for just one more job with a bit of blackmail (his final act of forgery was the Harvard diploma that hangs on his office wall). Anton is stuck between his new simple life, outfitted with apartment, fiancée, and an Italian honeymoon on the horizon, and what he hopes will be an easy price for his promised freedom. He counts the cost, and makes his decision. And that's when things get really interesting.
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