Weekend Reading

Jon Foro on June 29, 2018
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I don't want to complain too much, but the Fourth of July is on Wednesday this year. While a long weekend would have been nice, we're still going to try to squeeze in three days of reading into our run-of-the-mill two-day break. Here's what we're taking home with us, including a short story collection that charms you even as it strums your pain with its fingers, the latest from an under-read nature writer, a tale of friendship amidst a drug war, and one book that might be really useful right about now.


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I was complaining the other day that people often interject their opinions into a conversation not because they have deep knowledge of a subject but because... well, I'm not sure why, really. Fear of not being relevant? Fear of not seeming knowledgable? Then I realized that I surely do the same thing far more often than I realize. Luckily for me, Bill Gates recently recommended Factfulness:  Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think . The book claims that factfulness is "the stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts." I like facts, and I like less stress. When we focus on facts, the actual problems of the world become far clearer, and the non-problems slough away. This book promises to be a real treat. —Adrian Liang

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I’m reading D. Wystan Owen’s short story collection, Other People’s Love Affairs, featuring the denizens of Glass, England grappling with star-crossed connections. That might sound dreary, but it’s charming—sort of emotionally manipulative in a This Is Us kind of way, but like that show you will happily surrender to all the satisfying feels. I’m enjoying it quite a lot. —Erin Kodicek

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In 2011, Phillip Connors published Fire Season, a memoir of a summer spent alone in a southwestern lookout tower. With echoes of Abbey, Kerouac, and Lopez, it was great. He followed that with 2015’s All the Wrong Places, a book filled with the tragedy and pain that pushed him into the wilderness in the first place. (If he’d combined them into one volume, he might have written Wild. I probably don’t need to tell him that.) A new book from Connors is always welcome, and A Song for the River (August 28, Cinco Puntos Press) promises more of what made his previous efforts so compelling: humanity, lyricism, and top-notch nature writing. — Jon Foro

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I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately and feel like I need to mix things up with Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Not only does this novel have one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a while, but the story line is equally compelling. Set in Colombia during Pablo Escobar's violent grip on the country, the narrative alternates between two young women who become close despite the difference in their circumstances. As the drug war escalates and life in Bogotá becomes increasingly perilous, the two are forced to make desperate decisions. Looking forward to losing myself in this one during a weekend away. — Seira Wilson

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Writing biographies requires such concentrated attention, investigative skills, and breadth of knowledge that it surprises me when the people who write them find time to lead eventful lives. You might expect Claire Tomalin, who’s written books about some of the most important figures in English literature, to have spent her days alone at the library. Not so. In her memoir, which Penguin will publish in August, Tomalin recounts the dramatic highs and lows of a life lived among London’s creative class. A troubled first marriage that ended when her husband was killed reporting in Israel; five children, with their attendant joys and tragedies; a busy career as literary editor for the New Statesman and the Sunday Times; love affairs with Martin Amis and others, and a happy second marriage to the playwright Michael Frayne: how has Tomalin done it all so well? A Life of My Own is consistently inspiring and interesting, and after I finish it, I’ll be turning to her biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, another impressive woman of letters who defied convention in her family life while asserting the rights of women everywhere. —Sarah Harrison Smith

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