June 2018 Books to Read!

The heat has arrived here in the mountains of Utah. I didn’t expect it so soon! With June comes a nice week-long holiday for me, and we’re going to a cooler part of the country and to read (he says, hopefully, while looking at his four boys running around the yard). There are more great books arriving on shelves this month — including four NYRB Classics — and I am sure I didn’t list all of the good ones below. Please let me know what you’re looking forward to!

The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date.

June 5

James Wood UpstateUpstate
by James Wood
Farrer, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrer, Straus and Giroux:

New Yorker book critic and award-winning author James Wood delivers a novel of a family struggling to connect with one another and find meaning in their own lives.

In the years since his daughter Vanessa moved to America to become a professor of philosophy, Alan Querry has never been to visit. He has been too busy at home in northern England, holding together his business as a successful property developer. His younger daughter, Helen?a music executive in London?hasn’t gone, either, and the two sisters, close but competitive, have never quite recovered from their parents’ bitter divorce and the early death of their mother. But when Vanessa’s new boyfriend sends word that she has fallen into a severe depression and that he’s worried for her safety, Alan and Helen fly to New York and take the train to Saratoga Springs.

Over the course of six wintry days in upstate New York, the Querry family begins to struggle with the questions that animate this profound and searching novel: Why do some people find living so much harder than others? Is happiness a skill that might be learned or a cruel accident of birth? Is reflection conducive to happiness or an obstacle to it? If, as a favorite philosopher of Helen’s puts it, “the only serious enterprise is living,” how should we live? Rich in subtle human insight, full of poignant and often funny portraits, and vivid with a sense of place, James Wood’s Upstate is a powerful, intense, beautiful novel.

Rachel Cusk KudosKudos
by Rachel Cusk
Farrer, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrer, Straus and Giroux:

Rachel Cusk, the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of Outline and Transit, completes the transcendent literary trilogy with Kudos, a novel of unsettling power.

A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax.

In this conclusion to her groundbreaking trilogy, Cusk unflinchingly explores the nature of family and art, justice and love, and the ultimate value of suffering. She is without question one of our most important living writers.

Sybille Bedford JigsawJigsaw: An Unsentimental Education
by Sybille Bedford
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Bedford’s autobiographical novel paints a vivid picture of life in 1920s Europe between the wars.

Sybille Bedford placed the ambiguous and inescapable stuff of her own life at the center of her fiction, and in Jigsaw—her fourth and final novel, which was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize—she did it with particular artistry. “What I had in mind,” she was later to say, “was to build a novel out of the events and people who had made up, and marked, my early youth…Truth here was an artistic, not moral, requirement…It involved…writing about myself, my feelings, my actions.” And so she assembled the puzzle pieces of her singular past into a picture of her “unsentimental education.” We learn of a childhood spent alone with her father, “a stranded man of the world” living a life of “ungenteel poverty in quite grand surroundings,” a château, that is, deep in the German countryside, with wine but little else for him and his young daughter to hold body and soul together. We learn of her return to Italy and her mother, “the one character I wished to keep minor and knew all along that it could not be done,” and the dark secret consuming her mother’s life. Finally, she tells us how she lived with and learned from Aldous and Maria Huxley on the French Riviera, developing the sense of purpose and determination that made her the great writer she would become.

Lauren Groff FloridaFlorida
by Lauren Groff
Riverhead Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Riverhead Books:

In her thrilling new book, Lauren Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character—a steely and conflicted wife and mother.

The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. Groff transports the reader, then jolts us alert with a crackle of wit, a wave of sadness, a flash of cruelty, as she writes about loneliness, rage, family, and the passage of time. With shocking accuracy and effect, she pinpoints the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury—the moments that make us alive. Startling, precise, and affecting, Florida is a magnificent achievement.


June 12

Varlam Shalamov Kolyma StoriesKolyma Stories
by Varlam Shalamov
translated from the Russian by Donald Rayfield
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Kolyma Stories is a masterpiece of twentieth-century literature, an epic array of short fictional tales reflecting the fifteen years that Varlam Shalamov spent in the Soviet Gulag. This is the first of two volumes (the second to appear in 2019) that together will constitute the first complete English translation of Shalamov’s stories and the only one to be based on the authorized Russian text.

Shalamov spent six years as a slave in the gold mines of Kolyma before finding a less intolerable life as a paramedic in the prison camps. He began writing his account of life in Kolyma after Stalin’s death in 1953. His stories are at once the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and a literary work of unparalleled creative power, insight, and conviction.

Wolfgang Hilbig The Tidings of the TreesThe Tidings of the Trees
by Wolfgang Hilbig
translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole
Two Lines Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Two Lines Press:

Where once was a beautiful wood now stands a desolate field smothered in ash and garbage, and here a young man named Waller has terrorizing encounters with grotesque figures named “the garbagemen.” As Waller becomes fascinated with these desperate men who eke out a survival by rooting through their nation’s waste, he imagines they are also digging through its past as their government erases its history and walls itself off from the outside world.

One of celebrated East German author Wolfgang Hilbig’s most accessible and resonant works, The Tidings of the Trees is about the politics that rip us apart, the stories we tell for survival, and the absolute importance of words to nations and people. Featuring some of Hilbig’s most striking, poetic, and powerful images, this flawless novella perfectly balances politics and literature.

Tom Kristensen HavocHavoc
by Tom Kristensen
translated from the Danish by Carl Malmberg
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Ole Jastrau is the very model of an enterprising and ambitious young man of letters, poised on the brink of what is sure to be a distinguished career as a critic. In fact he is teetering on the brink of an emotional and moral abyss. Bored with his beautiful wife and chafing at the burdens of fatherhood, disdainful of the commercialism and political opportunism of the newspaper he works for, he feels more and more that his life lacks meaning. He flirts with Catholicism and flirts with Communism, but somehow he doesn’t have the makings of a true believer. Then he takes up with the bottle, a truly meaningful relationship. “Slowly and quietly,” he intends to go to the dogs.

Jastrau’s romance with self-destruction will take him through all the circles of hell. The process will be anything but slow and quiet.


June 19

Wolfgang Hernndorf SandSand
by Wolfgang Herrndorf
translated from the German by Tim Mohr
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

North Africa, 1972. While the world is reeling from the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, a series of mysterious events is playing out in the Sahara. Four people are murdered in a hippie commune, a suitcase full of money disappears, and a pair of unenthusiastic detectives are assigned to investigate. In the midst of it all, a man with no memory tries to evade his armed pursuers. Who are they? What do they want from him? If he could just recall his own identity he might have a chance of working it out. . . .

This darkly sophisticated literary thriller, the last novel Wolfgang Herrndorf completed before his untimely death in 2013, is, in the words of Michael Maar, “the greatest, grisliest, funniest, and wisest novel of the past decade.” Certainly no reader will ever forget it.


June 26

Ahmed Bouanani The HospitalThe Hospital
by Ahmed Bouanani
translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

“When I walked through the large iron gate of the hospital, I must have still been alive…” So begins Ahmed Bouanani’s arresting, hallucinatory 1989 novel The Hospital, appearing for the first time in English translation. Based on Bouanani’s own experiences as a tuberculosis patient, the hospital begins to feel increasingly like a prison or a strange nightmare: the living resemble the dead; bureaucratic angels of death descend to direct traffic, claiming the lives of a motley cast of inmates one by one; childhood memories and fantasies of resurrection flash in and out of the narrator’s consciousness as the hospital transforms before his eyes into an eerie, metaphorical space. Somewhere along the way, the hospital’s iron gate disappears.

Like Sadegh Hedayat’s The Blind Owl, the works of Franz Kafka?or perhaps like Mann’s The Magic Mountain thrown into a meat-grinder?The Hospital is a nosedive into the realms of the imagination, in which a journey to nowhere in particular leads to the most shocking places.

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By |2018-06-04T23:29:54-04:00June 5th, 2018|Categories: News|0 Comments

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