Spring is here, folks! And you know what that means, don’t you? New books to embrace while you frolic in the foliage! Here’s what’s on our sunny, colourful horizon.
Safe As Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino
This debut short fiction collection is daring to say the least. I’ve read five of the eight stories, and so far each one of them exhibits some sort of ‘oh, no she didn’t!’ recoil, followed by a very satisfying, ‘yes, I suppose she just did!’ Each story seems to unravel like a rotten onion under a butter knife, and the deeper you cut inside, the more surprises ooze out and make you shake your head. And let me declare here that Bertino’s story ‘Sometimes You Break Their Hearts, Sometimes They Break Yours’ is the story I wish I could get away with plagiarising because it is an astonishing feat of emotional, controlled, masterful storytelling.
Passing by Eloise Klein Healy
Los Angeles just named its first poet laureate and I was thrilled to find out that she was a feminist queer poet. I had never heard her name and thus hadn’t read her work, but after the news broke out I scrambled to get my hands on something she had written. I managed to obtain a collection of poems published in 2002 under the title Passing, and, just from reading the first couple of poems, I am quite proud to share her city with her.
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
In 1873, Jules Verne wrote about the reserved and aloof Englishman Phileas Fogg’s attempt to traverse the globe in eighty days. I’m currently following a similar itinerary over the course of 108 days. Unlike Phileas Fogg’s tunnel-visioned determination to complete the journey in as short a time as possible, however, my biggest desire is to see, understand, and empathise with the multitude of cultures, peoples, and histories I am encountering. Not only is it fun to follow Phileas Fogg’s voyage as it parallels my own, but the Frenchman Verne’s depictions of a stodgy Englishman and his culture provide constant entertainment.
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer
With three weeks until my arrival in South Africa, I’m about ready to dive into Geo’s recommended reading: the now 90-year-old South African Nadine Gordimer’s 1981 apartheid novel, a work that was banned under the country’s apartheid government. An active participant in the anti-apartheid movement, Gordimer has since received the Nobel Prize in Literature and worked against censorship and HIV/AIDS.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
I’m not normally attracted to sappy memoirs about personal growth and healing. Call me cynical, but they always seem self-indulgent and pretentious. That said, I was willing to give Cheryl Strayed’s new book a go—mostly because it’s about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail solo. Four years after her mother’s death and a heartbreaking divorce, Strayed set off on the PCT with little to no back-country experience. Stretching from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border, the Pacific Coast Trail is nearly 3,000 miles long. Wild is about the physical and mental hardships of hiking one of the world’s longest trails on your own.
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Marisa Silver’s new novel Mary Coin was inspired by a photograph: Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, the stern, depression-era mother staring into the distance and the future. Silver created a fictionalised story around this woman and the photographer who captured the iconic image. Though I’m intrigued by the story—a study of morals and art—I’m also curious to read this as a great, extended writer’s prompt.