Weekend Reading

Erin Kodicek on December 08, 2017

Julia_Child.pngIn this week's edition, a slice of Julia Child's life in photographs, a new novel by the author of The Nightingale, lewd literary encounters, something for audiobook enthusiasts, and more.

Adrian Liang: One of my food-and-travel book club’s favorite reads over the past several years was Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, so I’m thrilled to dive into France Is a Feast: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child. More than 200 vibrant photographs taken by Paul Childs reveal the personal moments of his and Julia’s time in Europe after World War II, when Julia began her food odyssey that eventually launched her into the public eye. Looking ahead at books not yet published, I also intend to start Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson (Feb. 13), a creepy thriller about a young woman who is being stalked by someone obsessed with a graphic novel character her father drew more than a decade before. This is not the first time her father’s creation Mister Tender has impacted her life: when Alice was fourteen, a pair of twins attacked her with a knife and left her for dead at what they said were the instructions of Mister Tender. But Alice has toughened up since she was fourteen, and she’s not going to let herself be a victim again.

Erin Kodicek: Kristin Hannah's mega bestseller The Nightingale is still flying off shelves (literally and otherwise), but she is not resting on her literary laurels. Her latest novel, The Great Alone, will be released on Feb. 6. In it a damaged Vietnam vet named Ernt moves his family to the wilds of Alaska. Initially it's a welcome change, but as winter approaches, and Ernt's mental state deteriorates, his wife and daughter find themselves in an increasingly precarious position. This promises to be a page turner. Can't wait to dig into my galley and find out.

Jon Foro: Some people love Martin Amis, and others hate Martin Amis. Neither opinion is incorrect. A few years ago, I attended publisher-hosted party in New York during Book Expo, and Amis was scheduled to appear. I’ve loved Amis ever since I’d laid eyes on his novel Dead Babies around 1990 or so (this title helps explain why some hate Amis), and I was excited to meet him. The crowd was dense and loud, but somehow I slinked into his zone and started an awkward conversation, probably with something horrifying like “I’m a big fan of your work,” which is the stupid thing I said to Chabon. Despite the suits and the cocktails and the whole nobility-of-publishing vibe, this was basically a promotional event, so Amis dropped the needle right into the middle of a weird, unseemly theory about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun’s love life (his forthcoming book concerned Nazi Germany). He deployed a vivid $10-word to describe it, which I’ll not repeat here; instead I’ll call it “SCATALOGICAL.” Faux-scandalized, I repeated it back to him: “SCATALOGICAL!”

Sensing opportunity, in his dry, English drawl: “It’s in the dictionary. You should look it up.”

Because I’m me, I know what “SCATALOGICAL” means, so I told him so using a couple of base $1-words. He seemed to enjoy this and so continued his story, which included a lewd pantomime. This job is occasionally great. Anyway, The Rub of Time, Amis’s collection of essays and journalism, is due in February.

Chris Schluep: I will be spending most of my reading time this weekend on Steve Coll’s new book (coming out February 6th) called Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016. It’s a big book, just like his last one, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. That previous book was fascinating in many ways: it introduced many readers to Rex Tillerson for starters. It also introduced many of us to Tillerson’s predecessor at Exxon, Lee “Iron Ass” Raymond. Raymond once said something to the effect of, “Presidents come and go; Exxon doesn't come and go.” Chilling.

Steve Coll can muckrake with the best of them. So if you want to feel sad, helpless, and small, read Steve Coll. You should also read him if you want an enriching look into topics that you kind of know about, and that you kind of know are important, but that require a writer like Steve Coll to uncover the dark and fascinating truth. Coll is also the author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, which was a big best seller, and appears to (I’ll learn for sure this weekend) serve as a prequel to this new book.

Sarah Harrison Smith: As the weather gets colder, Victorian novels begin to call to me from the shelves. Somehow they have a fireside, hunkered-down feeling about them that suits the season. But seriously: I have three kids and a job! I don’t have time to read Victorian novels! But I do have time to listen to them, and Audible is my ally in this: my kids and I take turns using our monthly credits. While they’re listening to The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles, I’m listening to the amazing Simon Prebble read Great Expectations. Dickens’s extraordinary use of visual imagery somehow makes his books especially fun to hear aloud. Take this, spoken by the little orphan boy, Pip, who has woken up to a wet morning. “I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief.” I challenge you to find a better sentence for an autumn day, and while I’m raking leaves on Saturday, there’ll be more of the same coming through my headphones. Hope you enjoy a wonderful book this weekend, too.


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