Weekend Reading

Erin Kodicek on March 30, 2018
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In this edition, an endearing read for the Airbnb age, today's Mad Men, the National Book Critics Circle award winner for fiction, and bears!

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My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

I’m finishing My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley (you may remember his novel, The Object of My Affection, which was later made into a movie). My Ex-Life follows David Hedges, a San Francisco man with a plum deal on an amazing carriage house…that’s about to be sold…to his ex-boyfriend and shiny new partner. Meanwhile, north of Boston, his ex-wife (I know, this is getting complicated), is about to lose her home as well, but Julie has bigger problems where her daughter is concerned (and not just her dubious chances of getting into a decent college). David comes to the rescue, but it turns out he could use some saving too; this patchwork quilt of a family needs each other, and you will root for them as they bumble their way out of their sundry predicaments (one of which will make you cringe. A lot). Bonus: you will learn quite a bit about Airbnb's and toss pillows. This is a great spring read; add it to your list. --Erin Kodicek

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Frenemies by Ken Auletta

This weekend I will be reading a new book by Ken Auletta (publishing June 5th) called Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else). The book is about advertising in this age, which sounds boring (and might be, we’ll see)—but this age has brought some significant changes to the advertising world as Google, Facebook, and (ahem) others have entered into the Mad Men world. Minus the madmen, of course. In many ways, this country was built on advertising; and he’s writing about some of the biggest companies in the world, so there’s a lot to work with. I’m looking forward to seeing how Auletta puts it all together and what conclusions he draws. --Chris Schluep

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Improvement by Joan Silber

“How did I miss it?” I thought when I heard Joan Silber reading from her 2017 novel, Improvement, at the National Book Critics Circle finalists’ reading a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t believe I had not read even one word of Improvement, which, sure enough, won the NBCC award for fiction the following night. Well, now I’ve whizzed through the first 70 pages or so, and I’m hooked. This story is told alternately by two unconventional women: Kiki, who’s living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after marriage and other adventures in Turkey, and her niece, Reyna, a young single mother who’s in love with a man imprisoned for selling a minute amount of weed. Kiki and Reyna are both fundamentally well intentioned, and the decisions they make have lasting effects on the lives of other characters. Silber’s writing is simultaneously uplifting and modest: neither Kiki’s life nor Reyna’s are significant, exactly, except in small – but deeply significant -- ways. Don’t miss this novel, even if you, like me, overlooked it when it first came out. We’re in for a treat. – Sarah Harrison Smith

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Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Last week I wrote about Come West and See, Maxim Loskutoff’s short-story collection featuring a standing grizzly on its bright yellow jacket—the star and unlikely object of a lonely trapper’s affection in the first tale. (They’re not all like that.) The ursine vibe works for me, so I’m sticking with it. Bearskin is a thriller set in the dark reaches of Appalachia, where Rice Moore has landed with hopes of putting distance between himself and a shady past. He’s happily hiding out when a bear-poaching ring draws him uncomfortably into the open, and possibly within reach of the dangerous drug-dealing gangs he had fled. A bear attack would be exciting, too. Bears! –Jon Foro

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Looking Glass by Andrew Mayne

I’m a big, big fan of Andrew Mayne’s forensics-in-the-woods thriller, The Naturalist, which gave the well-worn serial-killer mystery genre a hard twist as well as fresh new look. Lucky for my nerves, I read The Naturalist after hiking season was over, otherwise I would’ve been jumping out of my skin at every flickering shadow and snapping twig while walking through the woods. This weekend, I’m finally breaking open Mayne’s next book in the series, Looking Glass, which came out in mid-March, and I can’t wait to get creeped out again. For those who also enjoy murder and mayhem and unrelenting eeriness, I highly recommend Loreth Anne White’s In the Barren Ground, which won the Daphne du Maurier Award in 2017. Stationed in a remote area of Canada that is cut off all too often by blizzards, young Mountie Tana Larsson is the only one who wonders if the killing of two visiting biologists was the work of something other than a wolf or a bear. But as an outsider—and obviously pregnant—Larsson has trouble getting the locals to take her concerns seriously, even as the bodies start to pile up. Chilling? Oh, yeah. --Adrian Liang

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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I've been meaning to read Crazy Rich Asians since it came out in hardcover a couple years ago, and just saw it again when I was looking at 2018 movies that are adapted from books. Yes, they are making this novel of manners, money, and misunderstandings into a feature film that releases in August and I need to read it first. I need some laughs and this looks like just the avenue to get me there. -- Seira Wilson


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