January 2019 Books to Read!

And just like it’s 2019. I hope your year has started out well and that you are feeling some energy and excitement about a new year’s promise of good books! Here are a few coming out this month that I have my eye on. Please let me know what you recommend!

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.

January 8

Ghost Wall
by Sarah Moss
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

The light blinds you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs?particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

John O’Hara: Four Novels of the 1930s
Appointment in Samarra
Butterfield 8
Hope of Heaven
Pal Joey
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

In one volume, four novels by “the real Fitzgerald”: scintillating, sexually frank tales of the desperate pursuit of pleasure and status in Jazz Age America.

Here in one volume are four gripping novels about the anxious pursuit of pleasure and status in the Jazz Age by the writer who has been called “the real Fitzgerald.” In the brilliant debut Appointment in Samarra (1934), the life of car dealer Julian English unravels with stunning swiftness after he throws a highball in another man’s face. Butterfield 8 (1935), based on the notorious case of the drowned socialite Starr Faithfull, is the still-shocking story of one young woman’s defiant recklessness amid the desperate revels of Prohibition-era Manhattan. The long out-of-print Hope of Heaven (1938) shifts the scene to Los Angeles for a noirish tale of ill-fated love. And Pal Joey (1940), inspiration for the enduring Rodgers & Hart musical, presents O’Hara’s perhaps most memorable character, a sleazy nightclub emcee whose wised-up talk highlights O’Hara’s matchless ear for the American language.


January 15

Mothers: Stories
by Chris Power
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Chris Power’s stories are peopled by men and women who find themselves at crossroads or dead ends?characters who search without knowing what they seek. Their paths lead them to thresholds, bridges, rivers, and sites of mysterious, irresistible connection to the past. A woman uses her mother’s old travel guide, aged years beyond relevance, to navigate on a journey to nowhere; a stand-up comic with writer’s block performs a fateful gig at a cocaine-fueled bachelor party; on holiday in Greece, a father must confront the limits to which he can keep his daughters safe. Braided throughout is the story of Eva, a daughter, wife, and mother, whose search for a self and place of belonging tracks a devastating path through generations.

Ranging from remote English moors to an ancient Swedish burial ground to a hedonistic Mexican wedding, the stories in Mothers lay bare the emotional and psychic damage of life, love, and abandonment. Suffused with yearning, Power’s transcendent prose expresses a profound ache for vanished pasts and uncertain futures.

Night School: A Reader for Grownups
by Zsófia Bán
translated from the Hungarian by Jim Tucker
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

Perfect for anyone looking for a little more Nohoo (or “know-how”) in your life, Zsófia Bán’s mock-textbook, Night School: A Reader for Grownups covers all the important subjects, from self-help to geography to chemistry to French, complete with a hearty dose of irony. Bán’s “lectures” tell of the travels of young Flaubert to Egypt with his friend Maxime, and includes a missive from Laika the dog minutes before being blasted off into space, never to be seen again.

A story collection masquerading as an encyclopedia of life, Night School makes our all-too-familiar world appear simultaneously foreign and untamed, and brings together lust, taboos, and the absurd in order to teach us the art of living, all in a wildly clever way.


January 22

The Kindness of Strangers
by Salka Viertel
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A memoir about showbiz in the early 20th century that travels from the theaters of Vienna, Prague, and Berlin, to Hollywood during the golden age, complete with encounters with Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Greta Garbo along the way.

Salka Viertel’s autobiography tells of a brilliant, creative, and well-connected woman’s pilgrimage through the darkest years of the twentieth century, a journey that would take her from a remote province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Hollywood. The Kindness of Strangers is, to quote the New Yorker writer S. N. Behrman, “a very rich book. It provides a panorama of the dissolving civilizations of the twentieth century. In all of them the author lived at the apex of their culture and artistic aristocracies. Her childhood . . . is an entrancing idyll. In Berlin, in Prague, in Vienna, there appears Karl Kraus, Kafka, Rilke, Robert Musil, Schoenberg, Einstein, Alban Berg. There is the suffering and disruption of the First World War and the suffering and agony after it, which is described with such intimacy and vividness that you endure these terrible years with the author. Then comes the migration to Hollywood, where Salka’s house on Mabery Road becomes a kind of Pantheon for the gathered artists, musicians, and writers. It seems to me that no one has ever described Hollywood and the life of writers there with such verve.”


January 29

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf
by Katharine Smyth
Crown

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Crown:

Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death—a calamity that claimed her favorite person—she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.

Smyth’s story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf’s Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss, and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of To the Lighthouse, and her artful adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Smyth guides us toward a new vision of Woolf’s most demanding and rewarding novel—and crafts an elegant reminder of literature’s ability to clarify and console.

Braiding memoir, literary criticism, and biography, All the Lives We Ever Lived is a wholly original debut: a love letter from a daughter to her father, and from a reader to her most cherished author.

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