Weekend Reading

StrangerIn this edition of Weekend Reading, hermits, dictionaries, and the crazy world of stamp collecting.

Jon Foro: By the time you read this, I’ll be aboard a ferry, on my way to an island light on people, connectivity, and (hopefully) politics. It’s not as drastic a move as Christopher Knight’s, who disappeared into the Massachusetts woods in 1986 and stayed there for 27 years, eking out an existence by burgling local cabins for food, batteries, and clothes, leaving no trace as he moved through the wilderness. The “North Pond Hermit” grew into a local legend, reasonably feared by some, while others saw him as a harmless eccentric and sometimes left supplies on their porches for the taking, just to save everyone the trouble. After he was finally caught breaking into a camp, Knight became a minor sensation, drawing the interest of journalist Michael Finkel, who turned his interviews with the sometimes combative recluse into The Stranger in the Woods (March 7). Some guys really just prefer to be left alone, I guess, but I should be all set by Monday.

Erin Kodicek: I'm going to finish Word by Word by Kory Stamper, a book about how dictionaries are made. (Stop yawning. It's surprisingly entertaining!) I remember when one of my colleagues recommended that I read Mary Norris's Between You & Me, a book about spelling, punctuation, and usage. I thought, seriously? Maybe that will help with insomnia issues, but it can't possibly be a riveting read. I was wrong. It was fascinating and delightful and quirky, and so--as it turns out--is the wacky world of lexicography. You have my word.

Adrian Liang: I just finished up my Whole30 diet, so I plan to sit around all weekend drinking wine, eating corn chips and dip, and reading—that is, when I’m not watching the Super Bowl. The books I plan to pile up beside me include a three works of science fiction that I’ve been anticipating for months now, starting with The Wanderers by Meg Howrey, which a coworker from the Amazon Bookstore has described to me as a literary The Martian.Our family is big fans of The Martian (we quote it a lot, especially while camping, even though it’s only car camping), so I can’t wait to get started on The Wanderers. Kim Stanley Robinson has a new book called New York 2140 (March) that sketches the future of the Big Apple through the experiences of the residents of one apartment building in the center of the city. It appears that it’s not going to fall into either the dystopian bucket or the postapocalypse bucket (which can sometimes be the same bucket) but is rather a thoughtful, realistic projection of what our lives could be in the future—something that Robinson excels at. And finally I can’t wait to crack open The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, a writer I can always depend on to write an electrifying and sharply witty story. The cover has the same look as the books in the Old Man’s War series but—alert, alert—is not part of that saga. That’s okay. I’ll take whatever Scalzi writes, whenever he wants to write it. (Scalzi’s collection of short fiction, Miniatures, was among our picks for the best science fiction and fantasy of January.)

Seira Wilson: I’m going for kind of an odd mix of books this weekend—The One-Cent Magenta all about the world of rare stamp collecting and the most valuable stamp in the world which is a rather ugly, misshapen oddity that sold for $9.4 million in 2014.  I started it last night and it’s really interesting so far, with a great cast of real-life characters. The other one I’m going to start is Lola a crime thriller about The Crenshaw Six, a small L.A. gang that gets drawn into a war with competing drug cartels. Only they have a secret weapon—the woman who is really the one calling the shots.

Sarah Harrison Smith: Holocaust Memorial Day was just last week, and that may be one reason I’m particularly drawn to Ellen Umansky’s debut novel, The Fortunate Ones, published this month by William Morrow. Umansky’s plot concerns the lingering effects of the Second World War on two unrelated women, Rose and Lizzie, who are linked by their connection to a missing painting: The Bellhop, by Chaim Soutine. Rose, born to a Jewish family in Austria, survives the war after being sent to England on one of the Kindertransport refugee trains. But her family is lost forever, and so too is a painting beloved by her mother, which is now very valuable. Unbeknownst to Rose, that painting has been bought by a surgeon in Los Angeles, but once again goes missing when it is stolen from a party thrown by his daughter, Lizzie. I’ve enjoyed Umansky’s writing in some of my favorite magazines, and from the first pages of her novel I’ve been intrigued her handling of those deep, perennial themes of loss, guilt and the long shadow cast by traumas of the past.

Chris Schluep: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is a novel about a young Muslim couple in love during violent times. It’s poetic and has some fantastical elements, and I can’t stop reading it. It’s difficult to describe. It’s great.

Dodge City by Tom Clavin is about Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Just kidding. It’s about “Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West,” which was Dodge City and located in Kansas. That alone is fascinating—the wild west set in Kansas.

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Out of all of the books mentioned, whilst I am intrigued by a book that entertains whilst describing how the dictionary came about, I think I am most likely to enjoy reading Exit West. Sounds like it could be a book I read in one sitting.

Posted by: Tamason Gamble | Sunday February 5, 2017 at 4:10 PM

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