Weekend reading

Erin Kodicek on October 11, 2019
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In this week's edition, a groundbreaking graphic novel; a fascinating treatise on something many of us take for granted: good design; Elton John's highly anticipated autobiography; a beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning book that has spawned a newly released sequel; and a psychological thriller set on the Norfolk coast.

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Here by Richard McGuire

I love older buildings. I live in one now, and despite the single circuit electricity that shorts out on a regular basis, the lack of insulation, and other aspects of its “charm,” the place has tales to tell. And I’m a sucker for stories. Who lived there before me? What were their lives like? Whose idea was it to paint the living room baby diarrhea green? But my limited imagination only goes back a hundred or so years, when the apartment was first built. In Here, groundbreaking graphic novelist Richard McGuire takes it much, much! further, visualizing the goings-on in a specific corner of a specific room over the course of hundreds of thousands of years (past, present, and future). The result is an orgy of the ordinary that is slyly clever and unexpectedly moving. I uncovered this gem as I was pruning my library this past week. It’s staying put. --Erin Kodicek

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User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant

In this job, you never know what book is going to come across your desk. Sometimes you see something unexpected, pick it up, and discover yourself reading and reading. Those chance discoveries are a really fun part of our job. Recently, I picked up a book called User Friendly by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant (November 19), which has the subtitle “How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play,” and I’ve just been reading and reading ever since. The basic point of the book goes back to an Apple advertisement that the authors cite in the beginning of the book. To paraphrase: One day some engineers decided, since computers are so smart, let's teach computers about people instead of having to teach people about computers. For some reason I found myself rolling that idea around in my mind; it really caught my attention. The book hasn’t lost my attention since. --Chris Schluep


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Me: Elton John Official Autobiography by Elton John

”Honky Cat” is one of the songs of my childhood. If I recall correctly (and I could be mistaken—it was a while ago), my brother and I would carefully thread the tape of an Elton John album through my parents’ reel-to-reel tape player and dance around to his songs. Neil Diamond usually followed, or maybe Simon & Garfunkel. In any case, I know I’m not the only one who’s been looking forward to Me, Elton John’s memoir of his wildly entertaining—and often simply wild—life. This weekend I’m going to set up a playlist of my favorite Elton John songs, grab a cozy blanket and a friendly cat, and immerse myself in Elton John’s memories. (“Well, I read some books…”) —Adrian Liang


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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Yesterday the fifth or so person said something to me about wanting to read the new Elizabeth Strout book, Olive, Again. One of these Olive Kitteridge devotees was Alice Hoffman, who also recommended the HBO miniseries that was adapted from the book. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I haven’t read it. Yet. I’m going to check out the audio sample first of all, but if that’s a bust I’m going to order myself a paperback and read this book that has been on the list of “I’d like to get to this soon….” titles. It is a novel in stories that are the narratives of 13 lives which orbit in some way around seventh-grade math teacher and force of nature, Olive Kitteridge. It’s been a long time since I’ve read stories, and I love them best when they compose a novel, and it’s high time I read this one so I, too, can be really excited about Strout’s new book. --Seira Wilson


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Mr. Nobody: A Novel by Catherine Steadman

I was one of the many who read and loved Catherine Steadman’s debut novel, Something in the Water, so I will happily follow her from tropical Bora Bora to the freezing coasts of England for her upcoming Mr. Nobody (January 2020). It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but I’m halfway through and so glad I kept reading. This psychological thriller opens with a man who is found on a British beach. He has no identification, can’t speak, and appears to not know who he is. Enter Dr. Emma Lewis, a neuropsychiatrist, who is brought to the small town where this man was found in order to examine him. Dr. Lewis left this very town fourteen years ago, and has taken great pains to cover up any traces of her past. You can always rely on Seattle in the fall for some dark and stormy atmospheric weather, and I may be spending Sunday (forecast: rain) curled up under a blanket tearing through the second half of this book. --Sarah Gelman

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Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

So! I finally got my hands on the 1040 page, mostly one sentence novel, Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman. The novel turned heads when it was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize and suffice to say it turned mine. It follows the inner thoughts of 40 something mother in America--her unbound ruminations on everything from her marriage and kids, to Jared Kushner’s deals in China, to elephants being born on Christmas day, to being more like Jane Fonda, "to the fact that Grandma and Grandpa were mean to Mommy from the start." (She transitions her cares/monologue with the phrase 'the fact that'). There’s also a female lion in the mix. I’m in the mood for something expansive and immersive with a kick of rhythm and spark, and I’m hoping that this is the ticket, or the fact, so to speak.--Al Woodworth

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