Ten books to read from 2017 (part 1 of 6)

Every two months, I’ll wrangle up ten of my favorite books that I’ve come across to recommend to friends and family (plus random internet strangers). These might range from books I think are the “best” to ones that just surprised me to authors I interviewed. Here are ten from January and February in the order that they were released.

A lot of people have been viewing all of pop culture – including literature – through the political lens of 2017. While it’s important to make these connections, it’s not always necessary. Remember, books are written years in advance. They’re purchased by publishers who pick a date in the future that they feel will be the best for sales. Some of the books on this list are easy targets when making connections to the new President Administration. Others are not. However, they all have something in common even if they don’t seem similar at all.

Some explore the past. The future. Some look at the fringe aspects of society. Some take place in America. Some don’t. All of the books explore the beautiful, as well as haunting, aspects of humanity. They all stand on their own and will still be seminal reading experiences they’re read during a more stable period. Continue reading “Ten books to read from 2017 (part 1 of 6)”

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Ep. 12: Erica Ferencik | Author of The River at Night

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Erica Ferencik is a Boston-based author whose recent release, The River at Night is a modern Deliverance set in the deep woods of Maine. I conducted a full-length interview with her for Electric Literature that talks about the research that went into writing the book and so much more.

Continue reading “Ep. 12: Erica Ferencik | Author of The River at Night”

Ep. 5: Samantha Hunt

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Samantha Hunt is a very successful author: she won the Bard Fiction Prize, was part of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, and was a finalist for the Orange Prize. After receiving critical acclaim for her first two novels, The Seas (2004) and The Invention of Everything Else (2008), she returned with one of the best books published in 2016: Mr. Splitfoot. Continue reading “Ep. 5: Samantha Hunt”

‘The Dinner’ (Herman Koch) reviewed

Herman Koch’s The Dinner (2013) is intriguing from the beginning. Sure, an entire story told through the course of a dinner is nothing groundbreaking, but the way Paul, the narrator, speaks to the reader is what makes this unique. He purposely omits details about the story at hand; the name of the restaurant, for example. Instantly he is seen as unreliable, but you grow to believe him as he spins his tale.

'The Dinner'

Paul Lohman is private and wearisome, yet his brother, Serge, is on the verge of being prime minister. The story promises to revolve around something that their two fifteen year old boys did, but that doesn’t come into play until much, much later. This book is a slow, laborious read. There are many pages spent describing the food and atmosphere of the restaurant. This doesn’t bother me as much as it does others, but I wish that Koch developed the characters’ problems earlier. There are passages that feel like if they were omitted then the pacing issues would be non-existent.

About halfway through the book is when everything finally becomes interesting. The plot moves quickly, and it’s rather refreshing. However, it feels rushed and we end up only get the slimmest of details. Perhaps this was to go in hand with Paul’s purposeful lack of narration, but I feel Koch just didn’t develop the gritty details enough. The action of the last half, especially the final act of the book, is boom-boom-boom. It left me wanting more, but not in a satisfactory way. In more of a, “wait-what?” way.

There were some points during my read that I felt that Koch’s beautiful prose was lost in translation from Dutch to English. It felt choppy at best during times I wanted the scenes to flow painlessly. However, Koch’s take on jumping back and forth in time to unfold a story was good. His jumps were always triggered by key moments and sometimes spent entire chapters on events that didn’t seem all that important until the rest of the story unfolded.

All in all, it’s a good read if you’re interested in dry drama and have a pension for rapid assault endings. If you’re looking for all out forceful novel a la Tom Clancy or Dan Brown, then this isn’t for you. Definitely a slow burner.