Welcome back to The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, or plan to read next.
The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts is a consistent and varied talent in SF, and this is the sort of book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to SF readers and Crime readers alike. It’s a near future murder mystery that is set in a world where most people spent their time in a virtual wonderland call the Shine. When PI Alma is recruited to investigate an impossible murder in the real world, things rapidly, and very entertainingly, spin out of control.
Part Hitchcockian homage, part rumination on just where we might all be heading, I devoured this in a few days. It’s everything you could want in an SF novel, and one of the most fun books I have read all year.
It’s just come out in a $19.99 paperback so now’s a good time to discover one of SF writing’s greats.
One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton
Through a mixture of family history and social commentary, Rick Morton speaks with resolute honesty and surprising humour about family and personal trauma, poverty, class, mental health, drug addiction, and sexuality in this extraordinary memoir. You can read my full review on the Kill Your Darlings website here.
Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
This is a stunningly written memoir about growing up amongst scandal, enduring mysterious ailments, and seeing ghosts. Mantel's words cut to the core and show a striking portrait her life. Before picking up Giving Up the Ghost I had never read one of Mantel's books, but that did not detract from my experience of reading her memoir. Mantel doesn't give away all the answers to her life but instead leaves the reader with a sense of enchanting intrigue, beauty, outrage, and wonder.
The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley
I'm just about to start this one and I'm very excited about it. The Mere Wife is a feminist retelling on the classic tale of Beowulf. It tells the story of two mothers--a suburban housewife and a battle-hardened veteran--as they struggle to protect those they love. It's being touted as fierce, imaginative, and chilling and has endorsements from Carmen Maria Machado, Neil Gaiman, and Kelly Link. How can you go wrong?!
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
I have just finished Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. This is a novel about a woman who works in a convenience store. It is as much a story about Japanese convenience stores, as it is about society. Keiko Furukura is thirty-six, unmarried, and uninterested in leaving the Convenience Store behind--she is considered odd by her peers and society, but Furukura is content. It is endearingly odd and written by an author, who herself, works in a convenience store.
Figures in a Landscape by Paul Theroux
I have almost finished Paul Theroux’s latest collection of essays, Figures in a Landscape. Written between 2001 and 2016 Theroux turns his attention to people and places. He recounts his friendships with figures including Oliver Sacks, Grahame Greene and Hunter S. Thompson; his acquaintance with Elizabeth Taylor along with his travels in Africa, the Deep South, and life on the Hawaiian Islands. Theroux disapproves of autobiographies, but this book appears to be an ode to a life lived inquiringly and well-travelled. For fans of Theroux, Figures in a Landscape is a great companion guide to the man and his works.
Radical Heart by Shireen Morris
Morris recounts and reflects on the progress of Indigenous constitutional recognition in this country, which she has dedicated the past seven years of her life as Senior Policy Advisor at the Cape York Institute. The clarity and passion with which Morris writes makes Radical Heart a great read for those of us who are interested in learning about and following this vital national matter, but for whom legal lingo has (until now!) made the subject foggy. I recommend reading this book in conjunction with the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
If speculative fiction is a party that I've arrived at late, then Nnedi Okorafor is the magnanimous host welcoming me to the streamers and piping hot finger foods. Who Fears Death is the story of a young woman who is driven to remarkable feats by the rage and the love she harbors for her surroundings. Onyesonwu and her mates grapple with yokes, determinations and fates both within and beyond themselves as they grow through deserts and villages. Much like those scorching party snacks, the weight of Okrafor's words leave their impressions long after the chapter ends. Analogies and comparisons aside, this book holds it's own. It has already made me think about our capacities, faculties and responsibilities as humans toward each other and our surroundings in such an other/another way. I'm wondering what will happen once more people read and understand it, something I hope is a expectable in speculative fiction.
Coming off the back of a series of pretty grim, content heavy must-reads (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Axiomatic, Waiting For Elijah... I won't go on), in which good feelings towards humanity were bruised quite severely, I'm trying to ice the wounds, though they do scar. I'm looking to the late Le Guin for a bit of abstract solace. I don't quite know what to expect in the pages of this collection, but am drawn to it's seeming interperetability. Or maybe this is just a booksellers admission of judging a book by it's cover (and it's title, in my defence... should I be taking the fifth?)
Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
Woollett's writing makes this popular cult story into a whole new electricity storm - the clouds are weed smoke and the lightning charging through that haze is pure sexual energy. Incredibly well researched and jam-packed with detail but not overcooked. It's like the author has dove so deep into this world we can't help but be pulled into its heady depths with her. Figures like Jim Jones are so well-known amongst popular culture (and our shared obsession with cults and cult leaders more generally) and the People's Temple story is no exception. It takes a talented writer to bring something fresh to these trampled grounds, but Woollett undoubtedly achieves this. The book is a work of freaky genius.
Trace by Rachael Brown
Most people will come to Trace having heard about Brown's podcast of the same name, but the book is meritorious in its own right. (The subject matter is the brutal but unsolved murder of Maria James in Melbourne in 1980.) I am particularly sensitive to poorly-handled true crime; a whiff of exploited stories or anything verging on entertainment and I switch off immediately. Brown's journalistic integrity shines through this gripping story with both dogged hunger and gentle sensitivity to the subject matter. It is also a lesson in both the necessity of patience and the admirability of impatience - a cold case decades-old juxtaposed with an at-times rapid unravelling of detail. Beautifully written. Loved it.
EMILY - guest reviewer
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People is primarily a love story between a young couple as they finish high school and contemplate growing up, going to university and starting their lives as adults. Neither character is emotionally articulate and so they keep stumbling as they struggle to find who they are and how to be. There's no happy ending, it's not sad either but it just kind of peters out and flows on, like it would in real life. At the end, you could feel hopeful for the protagonists, or uncertain, even a bit wistful. They're still so young and have so far yet to go!
I liked it because it I like Sally Rooney's voice. She has good conversations via her characters that just make sense being young (or youngish in my case!) in 2018. Everything is fluid and the characters can be really frustrating. You just want to say, speak up dammit, tell her/him how you really feel. But instead they stumble, the fumble, they hide behind saying other things instead. But it's not overly cutesy either. It's real. Along the way there are interesting scenes and vignettes - travel in Europe, partners who are boring, relationships that can be nasty, conversations about idealism and acceptance that changing things can be hard - all the stuff of youth that builds us into who we become. Rooney's modern Ireland is a place somewhere between the desolation of Anne Enright and the over the top-ness of Roddy Doyle. It's a new Ireland where the Church isn't the powerhouse it once was and where a new middle class has risen.
Normal People might not be everyone's cup of tea! For serious young readers who want real stories and real people, who aren't after escapist crime or quirky office dramas, then this is for you. It's not limited to a young audience, for anyone interested in a young voice that is thoughtful and has much to say, give it a go. Rooney is a confident young literary voice that talks about big issues for young people and who isn't hiding behind being ditzy. Her her observations on class, sex, gender and modern life, her scenes, her awkward and sometimes painful characters are worth reading. Rooney's got heart and she's the kind of author who 40, 50 years from now will hopefully belong in the canon similar to Meg Wolitzer, Ann Patchett, Margaret Drabble.
(Out September + Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018)
Emily Philip is a former bookseller who now works in an office all day. To compensate for this, she reads in her leisure time aspiring to, as Aristotle would say, Live Well.