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This is the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright young couple making their way in the world. They meet, fall in love, have kids, move to the suburbs, but none of it feels quite right. They want more, but don't know what that means or how to get it. The quiet ordinariness of their lives makes the story all the more affecting: if you're anything like me, Frank and April will haunt you long after you finish the book. With humor and devastating insight, Yates recounts their struggles and miscommunications, their striving and planning, their anger and frustration and joy. You may not always like Frank and April, but it's impossible not to sympathize with them.
While most well-known for her novels, Robinson is also a master essayist. She has published several collections of essays (all wonderful!) but this, her first collection, remains my favorite. Robinson questions everything and accepts no argument secondhand, and her subjects here range from Darwinism to the Puritans to the art of fiction. A self-described contrarian and Calvinist, there is nothing light about Robinson's work: her arguments are supported by an analysis of philosophical, literary, and theological texts, and seems to exist in a world totally apart from popular culture. Every essay is timeless and intellectually astonishing.
"This is how Paris was in the early days," Hemingway writes, "when we were very young and very happy." Written in his later years and published posthumously, this is a look back at his time in Paris in the '20s. Through a series of vignettes, you'll meet F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and many others. This is also an intimate portrait of a young writer with a young family in a dazzling place at a fascinating time. If you've never read Hemingway, you can start here--and if you've read all his other works, then you need to get to this one, too.
Reading philosophy is, for me, an antidote to confusion. Even if you don't read philosophy, this book might be soothing to you as well. Written in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Nussbaum's argument is that fear--and its emotional offshoots disgust and envy--are destructive to democratic politics. Emotion is often an unappreciated force in political life, but Nussbaum shows just how powerful and pervasive it can be. Reading this book will make you understand how insidious fear is, and what you can do about it.
This is one of my favorite novels. Set in Sicily in the 1860's, it is the story of a family navigating the social and political upheaval of Italian unification. Poetic and richly atmospheric, this novel is an exploration of how tradition, history, and politics shape us. Part historical novel, part love story, part family saga, this novel is a transportive experience.
This is a book about vaccines, but it’s also about so much more than vaccines. It’s a meditation on the history of medicine, our relationship with technology, the anxieties of modern life, and the shared environment we inhabit. Biss’s insightful meditations and analysis goes much deeper than a look at current events. Her work helps to reveal why we’re talking about vaccines - why they scare us, and why we need them - perhaps more than ever before.