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Everyone has an opinion on Franzen these days, but not everyone has actually read his work. Well, The Corrections is one of the best novels I've read. And after two decades, it still seems current, still seems relevant, which only great fiction can do. This is a family saga, and though it takes place over the holidays, it's not exactly a holiday read. Anyone looking forward to the release of the new Franzen this fall (2021) should remind themselves why he is known as one of the great novelists of our time and not necessarily why he is popular or unpopular on Twitter.
Sort of like if that old computer game Myst met up with Aliens and had a baby that was influenced by the TV show LOST. Basically, a strange area off the coast of Florida has formed and is full of mystery. All scientists who enter come back altered, or not at all. What I loved about this book is that it was pure escape but didn’t make me feel bad about neglecting other things. There’s enough philosophy (and red herrings) there to keep the more literary minded intrigued, but enough creepiness to make you feel like you’re Netflix binging.
Reinventing what a novel can and should do. This is, to me, the novel of the decade.
A critic called this book “literary sunshine” and I can’t think of a better description. This book is the kind of book that goes down easy but also one you savor; Straub’s witty and rounded characters stay with you long after they’re gone. And while I despise the term “beach read,” this is the right book for August, near the end of summer, a time to sit under a favorite tree or near water and reflect. An enjoyable and memorable read.
A journey down memory lane, told from the author’s point of view during an interview with his dying grandfather. Chabon has a knack at the slow unveil, and I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir-disguised-as-a-novel after I finished it. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines: “In the end, we are all stories.” Chabon does his family proud in deciding how to frame his particular family’s story (tragic circumstances and all).
An epic tale about a family spanning the 20th century. This is a novel that easily absorbs you and sucks you in, but also keeps you reading on. The characters are fully flushed, the plotlines are heartwrenching, the writing is moving. A beautiful tale.
Two things work really well in Nickolas Butler’s latest book: Pacing, and tone. Anyone who enjoys a well-told, accessible story that also packs a philosophical punch, this is for you. Butler’s novel spoke to me — I felt connected to it, like I knew these characters, I knew this region, I knew this kind of conflict. A powerful, moving story.
Told from the perspective of an ancient spirit, a man’s chi, I loved the language and precise character arcs throughout this novel. Obioma, a Michigan grad and a finalist for the Man Booker prize with his previous novel, The Fishermen, is a master of his craft. This is a big, ambitious, at times hard-to-read novel, but I’d read Obioma describe a journey to his mailbox, let alone this sweeping, time-spanning saga. He’s that good.
Steeped in Michigan history, Russell Brakefield uses folk music and sounds of rural Michigan as a guide to create a poetry collection that explores the intensely personal as well as the naturalistic. To me, reading poetry is like listening to a conversation. Here, Brakefield acts as both listener and poet: He describes not just the notes around us, but like any good conversationalist, the silences, the buzzes, the cicadas, the nearby lone trout stalking a mayfly. When Russ worked here at Literati, I was an avid "Russ Reader" -- I devoured his staff picks. Reading his own work in Field Recordings, I'm delighted to listen to his own words, his song ringing in my mind long after finishing.
I started this book a while ago, but I waited until I had a few quiet afternoons to savor and finish it. It was the perfect book to read with my newborn daughter sleeping away on my chest. This has such heart, ache, soul. It made me reflect on the kind of father I want to be, aim to be, hope to be. This week, as I stood in my front yard, sun setting, watering my lilacs and planting a new sugar maple, I heard my neighbor’s three daughters play in the field by our house and their laughter made me pause and think of this book, its characters, and these words by Fatima Farheen Mirza. Few books affect me so much, but this book enchanted and moved me, and it made me feel so aware of family, identity, religion, Home.
My best friend was once an uchideshi: a live-in student who trains and assists a sensei 24/7. He tried to dive to the heart of zen. He would embark on weekend-long meditation sessions and describe that feeling as suddenly realizing everything was vibrant, connected, in the moment. A Tale for the Time Being doesn't necessarily dive to the heart of zen, but it did make me feel more connected, more in the moment. This book is easily one of my favorite books I've read. There is some magical realism, some zen undercurrents, but mostly, it is about learning to be happy in the here and in the now, learning how to find home. A delightful read.
“when I was small and wanted to look at the sun / he said if you want to stare at the sun / and not go blind you look not at its light / but what it illuminates the world the moon / never the thing itself and always its reflection.”
I love this collection from staff-favorite poet, Raymond McDaniel. I devoured this in two days. Its pitch-perfect blend of colloquial language interwoven with beautiful prose and imagery is a dream-like meditation on sight and light (and its existential opposites). McDaniel wonderfully threads narrative throughout this collection, giving it substance with its immense, thought-provoking style and philosophical explorations. A must-read for those unafraid to delve into the reflections all around.
“The desert, like the past, can be a thorny and sometimes serpentine place for people to live; in the interweaving stories throughout Desert Boys, debut author Chris McCormick offers a stirring examination of those who live, leave, and—in the case of protagonist Daley Kushner—return. With McCormick’s smart, witty prose and equally gratifying storytelling, we are offered a refreshing, nuanced, and much more complicated take on the stereotypical male coming-of-age tale. It is an unforgettable kaleidoscope of not just childhood friendship and the small-town American West, but, seemingly, anyone’s nostalgic, binary star quandary of simultaneously loathing and longing for the past. Desert Boys is an unforgettable, startling debut by the talented and skilled McCormick — one that will surely gain him a loyal and career-long mainstream following. It will resonate with those who have sought identity in far-away places, only to find it lurking in one’s own rattlesnake-filled childhood backyard.”
This book not only teaches us about our own backyards, but how to see them. How to interact with them. How to appreciate them. When Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of conservation, takes a walk in the woods, it's an adventure with infinite storylines and observations. A fallen tree is not just some broken wood with growth lines, but a one-hundred year-old diary that Leopold dissects and analyzes. Reading this book taught me to look closer, dig deeper, and view my own backyard with an increased awareness and appreciation. A must read for any Midwesterner who takes walks outside.
This is a book for aquaphiles. You know who you are: The kind of person who abandons family and friends at every beach excursion and voyages out alone into the open waters, freestyling for endless minutes and miles. All my life, I have had a love affair with water: Rivers, lakes, oceans, chlorinated indoor pools. As a former NCAA swimmer, I have searched wide and far for books about swimming. There are only a few, and this is the best. And if you’re like me, and you have relatives who often ask, “Where’s Mike?” only to see a small speck in the horizon splashing around in far-distant waters, you’ll enjoy this read.
Over the years, thousands of anonymous Literati book browsers have left notes at our public typewriter. Here are our favorites--along with photos, stories, and musings about The World's Smallest Publishing House.
Two novellas with masculine characters, two novellas I need to ponder further. I enjoy Harrison's prose, his allegorical attempt to dive deep into what it means to be alive in a world of passions, wealth, and greed.
My favorite line: "How could greed be the primary virutre of a culture?"