For those of you that don’t know, I work at a bookstore.
One of the perks, besides being surrounded by books all day long, is that publisher
representatives like to pass out ARC’s (advanced reading copies) of upcoming titles.
Below are some books I’ve recently read that are coming out in the next few months
and I’d recommend looking out for:
- Rabbit Factory by Larry Brown (Free Press) – September
One of Mississippi’s most well-known contemporary authors returns with a great
new offering. While keeping the tragic/comic nature of his usual rural characters,
Mr. Brown moves this work into the city of Memphis, Tennessee. From a drunk
and bumbling ‘Memphis Mafia’ hitman who knocks off the wrong target because
he is too nervous, to an elderly and impotent man who observes his much younger
wife attempt to seduce a pet store clerk, Mr. Brown’s characters are so much
fun to read about that you won’t even worry about needing a plot (though there
is one). Having found his previous novel, Fay, re-treading
too much over the territory of Joe and Father
and Son, I found Rabbit Factory a
fresh and witty change and a sign that Mr. Brown has plenty of great books
coming in his future.
- The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday)
– September 2003
From the author of Motherless Brooklyn comes one
of the best books I have read this year. Set in 1970’s Brooklyn, this book
chronicles the childhood friendship of Dylan, the one white kid in the neighborhood,
and Minghus, the son of a once-famous R&B singer. Lethem captures growing
up in an urban borough with incredible poignancy, especially with an entire
chapter devoted to attending an amateur outdoor hip-hop concert before ‘hip-hop’
as a genre even existed. This chronicle of an urban childhood, and then, the
directions that Dylan’s and Minghus’ upbringing takes them later in life makes
for an incredible story by one of my new favorite authors.
- Brave Enemies by Robert Morgan (Algonquin) – October
As I keep saying that I am growing more and more tired of writers penning
more and more historical novels, two have now come along (see The
Known World below) that have brought new life to the genre for
me. This book tells the story of Josie, a sixteen year old girl living in
rural North Carolina in 1780. Forced to flee from her abusive step father
and insane mother, she dresses as a boy so that she may travel more freely
and safely. Through various events she finds herself forced to join North
Carolina’s volunteer militia fighting the British as a man with men. An excellent story
set in a place that I knew little about in this particular time in history,
I found this book very hard to put down (I read it in 2 days).
- Diary by Chuck Pahlahniuk (Doubleday) – August
A huge tip for this book: DON’T READ A THING ABOUT IT BEFORE YOU READ IT.
Don’t read a review, don’t read the cover flaps, none of it. Let me just tell
you these few things:
- This book IS INCREDIBLE.
- This is the book that Chuck Palahniuk wrote all of his previous books
- It is much more fun to figure this book out as it develops than to know
anything about it before actually reading it.
The other historical novel that has somewhat renewed my faith in the genre.
This is an epic tale set in Manchester County Virginia in the 30 years leading
up to the Civil War. At the heart of the story is Henry Townsend, a slave
owner who is himself black. The Known World tells
the story of his childhood and how he came to own slaves, and then the disarray
that his household finds itself in after his death. Add to this the personal
histories of almost 20 other characters and you have quite an ambitious novel
that works all the way through. The paradox of a black man owning slaves would
alone make this book work, but Jones’ lyrical prose, ear for period and ethnic
dialogue, and a huge cast of interesting characters make this a book not to
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