Weekend Reading

Jon Foro on May 25, 2018
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Did Memorial Day weekend sneak up on you like it snuck (sneaked?) up on us? Doesn't matter: We'll always take an extra day to catch up on some reading. Our picks this week include the latest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler, an uprising of fascist robots, a tale of mothers and monsters, and the story of how punk rock in Berlin helped tear down that wall.

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I’m reading Anne Tyler’s upcoming novel, Clock Dance (July 10). It begins with a young Willa Drake, daughter of a charismatic but irascible (possibly bi-polar) mother, and placating dad. Willa and her younger sister are shaped differently by their upbringing, with Willa going with the flow, having little regard, or even knowledge of, her own needs and desires. This all changes one day when she ends up taking care of a nine-year-old named Cheryl—the daughter of her son’s ex-girlfriend. It’s an impulsive decision, one that mystifies and irks her otherwise amiable husband, but one that Willa commits to—and it cracks her life open. So far Clock Dance is proving that you’re never too old to grow up and take control of your destiny. I’m excited to find out what happens when Willa’s unusual caregiving arrangement ends. —Erin Kodicek

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I've read a fair amount of Robert A. Heinlein's novels—and enjoyed them tremendously—but somehow never picked up The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. But it just came out as a Kindle book this month with a new, retro cover, giving me the perfect nudge to finally dive into it. Contemporary SF has set a number of new books on the moon in the past few months, and I enjoy the drama of the characters being only a few centimeters from death at all times. Distressingly, I will also be a few centimeters from death this weekend (at least for five hours) as I fly to New York for the annual BookExpo, a convention of authors, publishers, and booksellers. To prepare myself for any eventuality—like, oh, a robot uprising—I plan to read Todd McAuley's upcoming novel, The Robots of Gotham (June 19), while on the plane. In it, the battered US government is trying to negotiate for peace with fascist machines that have already conquered a chunk of the country...unless the American resistance can uncover the secret that could turn the tide. Bring it on, bad robots. —Adrian Liang

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I finished listening to the audio of The Great Alone, and it was incredible. Alaska is just one of the remarkable cast of characters I can’t stop thinking about—the wild frontier it still was when this family arrived there in the 1970s, and how it’s changed over time. A family drama, a coming-of-age story.... I can’t stop recommending it to people. So now what? I’ve been reading and listening to The Feather Thief, a totally crazy nonfiction story about a young man so obsessed with fly tying that he breaks into the world’s top bird museum to steal rare feathers for his flies. It’s fascinating and just what I need after heartbreaking but beautiful fiction. — Seira Wilson

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This weekend, I’ll be reading Maria Dahvana Headley’s novel The Mere Wife. So far, it’s a fantastical—and fantastic—tale of mothers and monsters. Dana, a war-ravaged veteran, is raising her out-of-the-ordinary son in an abandoned mountain cave. Below her, in grand, gated Herot Hall, beautiful Willa struggles to quell her son’s tantrums and maintain the façade of perfection her community requires. Headley’s reworking of Beowulf, the Old English epic, is so thorough that I can’t guess who will emerge the hero when the inevitable conflict comes. At the moment, both mothers have my sympathy, and I suspect that Headley will come to an entirely new and contemporary conclusion. I’m sorry to say that The Mere Wife won’t be published until July, but you can start getting excited now. — Sarah Harrison Smith

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I am willing to admit that if the weather’s pleasant this weekend, I might not get much reading in. (You may have heard, but Seattle winters are long, dark, and damp, and I get a bit restless.) But I do have a long flight ahead of me early next week as we head out to Book Expo in New York, so I’ll have plenty of time to dig into Burning Down the Haus, Tim Mohr’s chronicle of punk rock behind the Berlin Wall in the 1980s. If the Clash and the Sex Pistols were considered rebels for infusing rock with sharp political commentary, imagine the guts it took to do it under the Eye of Sauron-like Stasi, the über-effective East German secret police. It won’t be available until September 11, but I’m hopeful of talking to Mohr about the book in NYC, and honestly, I just didn’t want to wait. —Jon Foro

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