It makes sense that a director’s first novel would be a vivid, stirring tale meant to be finished in one sitting, and it’s no surprise either that a filmmaker of Herzog’s caliber turned out a very good first novel at that. A fascinating true story, told with concision and dignity.
As a great novelist can still wow you with a new collection of short stories, PRK moves similarly here, with a killer collection of his reportage at The New Yorker. Each piece stands tall right alongside EMPIRE OF PAIN and SAY NOTHING, two of the best nonfiction books of the last five years.
The rare account of a scientifically dubious line of inquiry that casts little to no judgment on its advocates. Knight relates the story of John Barker—and his pursuit of the strange correspondence between our minds and time—with such skill and style as to craft an almost un-categorizable book. Science, history, biography, and parapsychology all float in the enchanting ether.
A sober and skillfull exploration of classical liberalism as it is practiced (and prodded at) in our times. Fukuyama tackles malpractice and malcontents on either side of our wide political divide, describing how we might find our way through this charged and challenging period of history.
What Dan Charnas’s DILLA TIME did for another hip-hop pioneer we lost too soon, Walker does just as well here for DJ Screw: outlining a legend’s impact using their hometown’s musical history as set design and those that knew him best as cast. Heads should eat this up.
This one is a crushing combination of Leonard Gardner’s FAT CITY and Matt Bell’s SCRAPPER, with prose and dialogue as smooth and solid as its plot and purpose are gritty and gutty. (Rap song chapter heads don’t hurt either!)
When it comes to contemporary fiction, I hold Davis in the highest regard. Her shadowy, meditative voice is like a painting whose eyes follow you around the room. When applied to her own life, she bends that aspect toward a gripping contemplation of grief, art, time, and place.
This is both a testament to our shared lot as the boiling frogs of history and—for me—a much needed literary sermon to the choir. Erickson outlines in real time what this span of our recent past has wrought upon him and us with a fierce spirit and incredulous hilarity.
Plenty of music books are great at the “why” of a particular artist’s esteem, but Charnas does a fantastic job in giving us the “how” of Jay Dee’s lasting legacy. A must for any rap fan, DILLA TIME is a powerful reification of this preeminent Detroiter’s sui generis sonic schema.
I’m absolutely tearing through books about modern conspiracies, cults, and kooks right now, so this one hit me right in the intellectual bullseye. It takes what is perhaps the oldest and foremost crackpot theory and unwinds how it continues to thrive among modernity’s many misplaced beliefs.
An impressive and immersive take on the WWII spy novel that isn’t just good at hiding its plot turns, but crafts a palimpsest of subterfuge out of each of its dueling narrators. Sexual, cultural, national, and fraternal identities are all part of a roiling stew that simmers off into exactly my kind of page-turner.
More great stuff from Darnielle, whose third novel infuses the same eldritch rhythm as his previous two into the vicissitudes of growing up. He’s got a knack for exposing a shared, forgotten feeling inside us all—one that he limns with a singularly eerie voice.
I loved Øyehaug's collection of short fiction KNOTS, and this is like an extended release tab of the same kind of good medicine. With wit and care and propellant insight, she takes a few puzzles of the universe and uses them to delve into the puzzles of our human experience, from the micro to the macro.
With my layman's zeal for quantum physics, cosmology, and mathematics, this book's subject matter grabbed me from the start. But the real satisfaction in Labuatut's novel comes from his explorations into the terrors of war and discovery, as he outlines the serrated edges of these brilliant minds so we might dare to reach out and touch them.
To say that McCarthy’s first novel in ten years is worth the wait is patently obvious, but THE PASSENGER transcends mere satiation, challenging us to think about nearly every facet of our brief time here on earth. Spiritually harrowing, intellectually ravishing, and sublimely fulfilling.
Herrera’s three short, stunning novels collected and wrapped in one beautiful hardcover volume is the kind of book you just have to have on your shelf. His magisterial writing about Mexico and the American border exhibits a transcendent care for his characters and an undeniable mastery of craft.
If the fork in the road led to either burning out or fading away, it’s safe to say Danny Hernandez took a beat and decided to just self-immolate instead. His is a captivating story—of clout-chasing, courtrooms, the music industry, and the streets—which Setaro relays with proven authority at a perfect pace.
An epic of the American identity as much as the single American family at its center, this debut novel is as ambitious as it is remarkable. Both the book’s titular figure and its centuries-spanning pages impel us to remember: the souls and stories and traumas of black and indigenous folk are those of our country itself.
A handsome little curio of a paperback that will intrigue and delight any Radiohead fan. Scraps of ideas, lyrics, sketches and other miscellany provide a trip back to the turn of the new millennium, an unsettled time that—much like the twin albums the book regards—feels as fresh as ever.
Instead of focusing on his NBA career, Carmelo tells the tale of everything that would lead him to draft day and the success that followed. It’s a touching story of family and friendship and a young man’s search for meaning—and it made me love Melo even more than I already did. Plus, D. Watkins with the assist doesn't hurt one damn bit.
Shea Serrano has stayed ten-toes-down for us here at Carmichael’s ever since he harnessed his Twitter superpowers to help us sell more than 1,000 books in a day way back when his first book about hip-hop—THE RAP YEAR BOOK—was fresh on the shelves. Now, after forays into basketball and movies as part of his “and Other Things” series, he’s back to his rap writing roots, and we’re happy to say the results are as hilarious, informed, and debate-inciting as ever.
Maggie Nelson’s writing—from the personal to the political to the poetic—always manages to perform brilliant acts of synthesis. Sometimes an array of emotions come together, at others, rhetorical variations crash into a larger whole. Regardless, the breadth of her knowledge and expert tact help churn together consensus thought and her own intellectual explorations to form something that wasn’t there before. These thoughts on freedom, and how much that word and idea and feeling can move before we ever have a chance to find its true shape, are another example of Nelson’s undeniable prowess and a concentrated description of our most raggedly human aspects.
There’s always room for a book you can pick up and put down from time to time, and this here is a bloody good one. The writing is bright and beckoning too, making these swatches of the Beatles’ history a sure-fire hit for any Fab Four fan.
This book cannot be returned.
I know right? Why would you read a science book from freaking 1966? Well, because most of our quantum knowledge was all gained in this amazing stretch of history, and Gamow is the OG when it comes to explaining science with wit and humor (and cartoons!).
Evenson is one of my favorite short fiction writers, and a new collection always guarantees another dozen or two blasts of his harrowing creativity. Picture H.P. Lovecraft with better emotional aim, but the same full quiver of penetrating disquiet.
I'm going to get a little interdisciplinary here and describe this one as a KILL BILL-type story with a DEADWOOD vibe that moves with the momentum of a train Butch and Sundance might have robbed. Throw in a solemn exploration of the souls of both men and nations, and you’ve got yourself a damn fine debut novel.
THE BRAND IS STRONG. I'll be honest I was a little skeptical that Desus and the Kid could make the transition to the written word, but it turns out that I had nothing at all to worry about. I was laughing out loud from page one, and can't recommend this highly enough for fans of the world's most dangerous podcast and the number one show in late night.
Using her personal history in Texas alongside her scholarly acumen, Gordon-Reed examines both the state and our nation alike with a practiced and pointed mien. These essays describe what creates our shifting concept of America, but insist we first and foremost remember what that idea means to a people united in their former bondage.
Few authors can make a true tale cook quite like PRK, and with a story like the Sackler Family’s, things are all the more enthralling. Peel back the museum dedications and artistic philanthropy, and you’ll find a family tree rotting from the inside out by dint of a truly American mixture of avarice and cunning.
Anyone who says they don’t like poetry probably hasn’t read Forrest Gander, whose pristine verse always unlocks some old trunk inside me I thought I’d lost the key to. His starting point here is the lichen, which he explains, but what’s impossible to explain is how far and wide he'll move your spirit from that lovely little natural launchpad.
What Seth said!
Often, the idea of a posthumous novel by a literary luminary makes me queasy, but just a few pages into this unreleased marvel, my stomach stopped rumbling. Then—of course—Wright turned it into a knot, as only he can. His is an essential American voice, and I am grateful to hear it once again.
Look, if Hanio Yamada is cool with his failed suicide attempt, we should be too right? As funny and slapstick and swinging as it may be, this book's grin flashes to a scowl often enough to make sure you don't miss its deadly serious point.
This right here is the most enjoyable, portable, and fulfilling college course you’re likely to find at its cover price. Saunders' short fiction chops are unassailable, and letting him guide you along the museum of Russian masters of the form provides spectacular insight into life, art, meaning, and above all, how to read well.
The front cover of THE SILENCE says that it's a novel, but really it's not. It's a short story dressed up like a novel, but who really cares? It's brilliant. And prescient. And of-the-now too. It's a story of connection and disconnection, and how close the two have become. It's another 100 pages or so inside the DeLillo-verse, and we likely don't have many of those left, so please, cherish them like I do.
Can you describe a book set during the Thirty Years' War as a delight? Well hell, I'm gonna, because this book's tone and tenor somehow make enjoyable a series of dark vignettes that twist politics, religion, fear, and epistemology around the origin story of one of the world's legendary tricksters. Bloody fun, this one.
From title to design to subject matter to style, everything about this collection echoes and undulates and folds back in on itself in a spectacular way. For Tolentino, personal insight springs from larger issues just as often as a private matter explodes into a deft deconstruction of the bigger point.
The man who is the "Michael' in "Carmichael's" told me this one was good and man is he right! Nothing about this story is easy on the soul, but Keefe's masterful account of "The Troubles" is worth every minute spent between the first and last pages of this essential book, which is the best one I've read so far in 2019.
The supremely creative Mr. Kingsnorth (see: The Wake) offers an ontological exploration of what writing really is, and what it very much isn't. His personal prism helps us ponder both the freedom and stricture that come when we attempt to turn human language into the written word.
Goldsberry is one of the smartest guys talking NBA hoops, and this book ties together all of what makes his writing great: the data, the stats, the trademark graphics—and just the right amount of acid wit. He explains how the NBA arrived at the three-chucking, five-out, wide-open state that it's in right now, and will make you a smarter fan, page after vivid page.
A loose retelling of the tale of Theseus, OREO is an overlooked classic now back in print after 40 years. It is a wickedly funny look at race, culture, and betweenness—even if it's sometimes hard to tell what truly lay on either side.