|November 2015 Staff Reviews, New Fiction & Nonfiction, the Holiday Catalog
Check out these new Staff Favorites. Plus, read about the latest Novels and Nonfiction releases, get a sampling of the PNBA Holiday Catalog, and see what's new in Humor.
|Our staff brings you three new favorites!
People Like Us
by Margaret Malone
reviewed by Michael
Aptly titled, People Like You, the debut story collection from Portland writer Margaret Malone, captures the desires, frustrations, and absurdities of modern life. Set in the Western states, these closely observed tales are told through the eyes of women, but are equally concerned with the men who share their lives. A newly engaged high school graduate takes a road trip to Reno with her fiance and his chain-smoking mom. A secretary follows her boss into the woods on a literal (and hilarious) wild goose chase. And a married couple, recurrent in three of these pieces, struggles with conceiving a child. Malone's stories burn with unfulfilled yearning and spark with the frayed connections between her exquisitely rendered characters. These are people you feel that you know. People who are so like all of us. People like you.
The History of the Rain
by Niall Williams
reviewed by Ruby
Williams's novel is the mythically tinted family history of the Swains, whose rain-soaked home in Ireland has seen its share of intimate tragedies (we aren't talking The Troubles here). Narrated from the sickbed of Ruth Swain, this novel is captivating, especially if you enjoy the styles of Kazuo Ishiguro or Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. Ruth's voice turns Williams's simple story into a web of poetry, humor, and tragedy. Ruth recounts the trials and joys of her closest family and their small town in Ireland as she tries to piece together her own testament to living. The stories of her twin brother, and that of her mother, were two of my favorites, but every chapter propels you on. Ruth's small angers and enthusiasms turn this story into so much more than its premise, well worth soaking up. Ruth protests that she cannot fit so much into her story "because Alice Munro says the whole grief of life will not do in fiction. You can't have so much sorrow--readers will throw the book against the wall." And yet this is a book I didn't want to let go of.
Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness
by Harriet A. Washington
reviewed by Matt
Infectious Madness is an exploration of an emerging area of medical inquiry: the connections between pathogens and mental illness. We've known that some cases of schizophrenia are connected to toxoplasma gondii, which is why pregnant women are told to not scoop cat litter. We're starting to learn of some connections between strep throat and ADHD and OCD. And we've been exploring the connections between what happens in our intestines (where more neurons reside than in our heads) and what happens in our brains. With several relevant detours to explore elements of science culture such as paradigm shifts and metaphors, this book is rich with fascinating information.
New Fiction & Nonfiction
|Here are a few highlights from the fall publishing season:
by Umberto Eco
From the author of The Name of the Rose comes this novel about the murky world of media politics, conspiracy, and murder. A newspaper committed to blackmail and mud slinging, rather than reporting the news. A paranoid editor, walking through the streets of Milan, reconstructing fifty years of history against the backdrop of a plot involving the cadaver of Mussolini's double. A fragile love story between two born losers, a failed ghost writer, and a vulnerable girl, who specializes in celebrity gossip yet cries over the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh. And then a dead body that suddenly appears in a back alley in Milan. Set in 1992 and foreshadowing the mysteries and follies of the following twenty years, Numero Zero is a scintillating take on our times
The Golden Age
by Jane Smiley
City on Fire
A lot can happen in one hundred years, as Smiley shows to dazzling effect in her "Last Hundred Years" trilogy. But as its final installment opens in 1987, the next generation of Langdons face economic, social, political, and personal challenges unlike anything their ancestors have encountered before. Golden Age
brings to a magnificent conclusion the century-spanning portrait of this unforgettable family and the dynamic times in which they've loved, lived, and died: a crowning literary achievement from a beloved master of American storytelling.
by Garth Risk Hallberg
New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year's Eve. The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.
Career of Evil
by Robert Galbraith
Written by J.K. Rowling under the pen name Robert Galbraith, this is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. When a mysterious package is delivered to Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Strike is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them.
The Gap of Time
by Jeanette Winterson
The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's late plays. It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited. In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson's cover version of The Winter's Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.
by Simon Winchester
Winchester tackles this oceanic behemoth of eye-watering complexity by focusing on key moments since 1950 that speak to the greater trends and larger truths about the ocean's significance to us today. The Pacific, he writes, is the ocean where, quite literally, East meets West. Calling upon Winchester's many journeys throughout the Pacific and its surrounding areas, his formidable historical understanding, and his singular talent for storytelling, Pacific is a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty and myth that has long captured the imagination.
The Givenness of Things
by Marilynne Robinson
The spirit of our times can appear to be one of joyless urgency. As a culture we have become less interested in the exploration of the glorious mind, and more interested in creating and mastering technologies that will yield material well-being. But while cultural pessimism is always fashionable, there is still much to give us hope. In The Givenness of Things, Robinson delivers an impassioned critique of our contemporary society while arguing that reverence must be given to who we are and what we are: creatures of singular interest and value, despite our errors and depredations. This book is a necessary call for us to find wisdom and guidance in our cultural heritage, and to offer grace to one another.
This Old Man
by Roger Angell
The acclaimed "New Yorker" writer and editor returns with a selection of writings that celebrate a view from the tenth decade of an engaged, vibrant life. Angell's fluid prose and native curiosity make him an amiable and compelling companion on the page. The book gathers essays, letters, light verse, book reviews, "Talk of the Town" stories, farewells, haikus, Profiles, Christmas greetings, late thoughts on the costs of war. Whether it's a Fourth of July in rural Maine, a beloved British author at work, Derek Jeter's departure, the final game of the 2014 World Series, an all-dog opera, editorial exchanges with John Updike, or a letter to a son, what links the pieces is the author's perceptions and humor, his utter absence of self-pity, and his appreciation of friends and colleagues writers, ballplayers, editors, artists encountered over the course of a full and generous life.
All the Things We Never Knew
by Sheila Hamilton
Even as a reporter, Hamilton missed the signs as her husband David's mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she had pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, leaving his young daughter and wife without so much as a note to explain his actions, a plan to help them recover from their profound grief, or a solution for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that they would inherit from him. All the Things We Never Knew takes readers on a breathtaking journey from David and Sheila's romance through the last three months of their life together and into the year after his death. It details their unsettling spiral from ordinary life into the world of mental illness, examines the fragile line between reality and madness, and reveals the true power of love and forgiveness.
New in Humor
|Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it's falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you're constantly reminded that no one looks like you. Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who's ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who've never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.
Sick in the Head
by Judd Apatow
From the writer and director of "Knocked Up" and the producer of "Freaks and Geeks" comes a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past thirty years, including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham. Sick in the Head gathers Apatow's most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging, and incredibly candid collection that spans not only his career but his entire adult life. Loaded with the kind of back-of-the-club stories that comics tell one another when no one else is watching, this fascinating, personal (and borderline-obsessive) book is Judd Apatow's gift to comedy nerds everywhere.
The Bassoon King
by Rainn Wilson
Wilson's memoir is about growing up geeky and finally finding his place in comedy, faith, and life. For nine seasons on "The Office," he played Dwight Schrute, everyone's favorite work nemesis and beet farmer. Now, he's ready to tell his own story and explain how he came up with his unique sense of humor and perspective on life. He explains how he grew up bone-numbingly nerdy before there was even a modicum of cool attached to the word. The Bassoon King chronicles his journey from nerd to drama geek, his years of mild debauchery and struggles as a young actor in New York, his many adventures and insights about "The Office," and finally, Wilson's achievement of success and satisfaction, both in his career and spiritually, reconnecting with the artistic and creative values of the Baha'i faith he grew up in.
The Uncollected David Rakoff
edited by Timothy Young
Humorist David Rakoff was one of the most original, delightfully acerbic voices of his generation. Here, in one place, is the best of his previously uncollected material--most never before published in book form. Rakoff's singular personality spills from every page of this witty and entertaining volume, which includes travel features, early fiction works, pop culture criticism, and transcripts of his most memorable appearances on public radio's "Fresh Air "and "This American Life." By turns hilarious, incisive and deeply moving, this collection highlights the many facets of Rakoff's huge talent and shows the arc of his remarkable career.
by Kliph Nestreroff
Comedy historian Nesteroff brings to life a century of American comedy with real-life characters, forgotten stars, mainstream heroes and counterculture iconoclasts. Based on over two hundred original interviews and extensive archival research, Nesteroff's groundbreaking work is a narrative exploration of the way comedians have reflected, shaped, and changed American culture over the past one hundred years.Starting with the vaudeville circuit at the turn of the last century, The Comedians culminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the twenty-first century.