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The_partyIn this edition, a sweet sixteen birthday party is anything but, a moo-ving treatise on the cattle industry, and short stories from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer...

Chris Schluep: “One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.” That’s the tagline for Scout Press’s The Party, which is coming out this June. I’ve been very impressed with a number of Scout’s other books, so I’m optimistic about this one. And that tagline is great. The novel is about a sweet sixteen sleepover party—with just two parents, a daughter, four other girls, a pizza, cake, and movies—that turns out to be more memorable than is generally advisable. According to the introductory letter, “After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s seemingly ideal life begins to unravel. In the ugly aftermath, the Sanders’ marriage is irrevocabally changed and the truth about their daughter, Hannah, is exposed.” Sounds to me like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? meets I Know What You Did Last Summer. What’s not to love?

Jon Foro: The myth of the cowboy – Hollywood’s white-Stetson’d, Home on the Range-hummin’ paragon of American self-determination – has in part relied on a certain key omission: the cows. Christopher Knowlton’s Cattle Kingdom explores the brief, pre-industrialization heyday of the cattle industry and the long shadow it cast over the West, from the slaughter of millions of bison and the dawn of the conservation movement, to more recent developments like the “Sagebrush Rebellion” and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. Yippie ki-yay, cattle-ropers!

Sarah Harrison Smith: Don’t you love the way reading can whisk you off to far corners of the world without you having to book a flight? Last week, I was immersed in Nadeem Aslam’s novel about contemporary Pakistan. This week I’m deep in The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Nguyen, who wrote the 2016 Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Sympathizer, dedicates this collection of short stories to “all refugees, everywhere.” Ghosts of past selves and past lives haunt Nguyen’s characters, many of whom, like the author, were forced to flee Vietnam in the 1970s. Others include an American vet who knows “next to nothing about Vietnam, except what it looked like at forty thousand feet” – the height at which he flew a B-52 bomber during the war.

Erin Kodicek: I'm going to read the new Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I was initially hesitant to pick this up because I was so bowled over by The God of Small Things, and 'Ministry' is the first novel Roy has penned since then (20 years later!). Expectations are especially high, but a few colleagues have already devoured it, so now I'm excited to dig in with impunity.

Adrian Liang: “Five hundred and seventy-six pages of gorgeous writing” is how I’m describing The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (June 2017). Admittedly, I’m only at page 200-something at the moment, but every sentence is so delicious and powerful, I’m thrilled that I still have so much more to read. Switching between the contemporary discovery of 300-year-old letters in an English manor and the story of the woman who transcribed those letters for a Jewish rabbi blinded during the Spanish inquisition, Kadish’s novel builds a subtle but strong tension that arcs between two radically different worlds that are still influenced by the riptides of fraught love affairs. Good stuff. And if I have time this weekend, I want to start The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by…W. Kamau Bell. I admit, I’m not very familiar with Bell’s comedy or reporting, but I’ve heard him speak now on a couple different podcasts (he must have an incredible publicist), and I’m looking forward to spending more time with his thoughtful and funny observations.

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