In this edition a deliciously bawdy debut, essential reading for these turbulent times, a kooky comedy of manners, and more.
I’m reading Imogen Hermes Gowar’s mesmerizing debut, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock. A Georgian romp reminiscent of Sarah Waters’s wonderfully bawdy Victorian ones, it follows the unlikely courtship of a celebrated courtesan and a decidedly undazzling and melancholy merchant. The latter has come into a windfall, owing to the sale of a deceased merbaby (just go with it—the writing is that good), but it turns out that their union isn’t just reliant on his having a heavy purse. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a treat of a read with clever, immersive dialog and enough twists and turns to make you wish that the word count was even more generous (it's 496 pages). Ms. Gowar, I'm hearing your siren song and I can't resist. --Erin Kodicek
It’s hard to imagine having as many deep thoughts as Yuval Noah Harari. His 2015 book, Sapiens, examined the human race through the vectors of history and biology, illuminating how each has influenced our behavior and evolution. Two years later, Homo Deus took us in the opposite direction, predicting the profound changes we will undergo as technology becomes increasingly intertwined in our lives and bodies. Just a year-and-a-half later (September 4), Harari turns his attention to more immediate concerns. 21 Lessons or the 21st Century uses the same lenses as his previous books, tackling urgent, shape-shifting topics that will shape our present and near future, including nationalism, religion, Big Data, and even the nature of Truth. He’s not always reassuring. —Jon Foro
A number of my fellow readers here have been raving (in a very good way) about Dervla McTiernan’s debut thriller, The Ruin. Calling it “Irish noir” doesn’t do the complex plot justice, but it’s still a good handle for this 20-year-long mystery that roils a small town and forever changes the detective who cannot forget the case. A nice bonus is that it’s in paperback—a format perfect for a long camping weekend in which space in the backpack is at a premium. Says Amazon editor Seira Wilson about this book, “A gritty, tense, and calculated mystery, The Ruin left me eager for Cormac Reilly’s next case.”
We all want something different from our summer reading. Sexy, scary, cozy, literary – there’s a book for every reader. But what I want right now is funny. Funny makes me happy; funny makes me nicer; funny makes everything better, even the news. So when I began reading French Exit, a forthcoming novel by (the very funny) Patrick deWitt, I was in bliss. The title refers to leaving parties without saying goodbye, and that’s exactly what Malcolm and his mother, a beautiful, formerly-rich widow do when they cash out of Manhattan and move into a friend’s empty apartment in Paris. Things get kooky fast: their cat, Small Frank, may or may not contain the spirit of Malcolm’s dead father, and a clairvoyant they meet en-route to France may or may not be able to speak to him. French Exit has social satire aplenty but deWitt makes sure there’s a good heart at its core. Other lovers of funny novels can look forward to its publication on August 28. It’ll still be summer, and French Exit will still be very, very funny. –Sarah Harrison Smith
I recently heard an interview on the radio with Seth Stephens-Davidowitz the author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are and it was fascinating. He talked about how Google is now the place many of us turn to with questions or interests we don't really want to share with another person. Google searches feel more anonymous, but in fact, they say a LOT about us, and that information is being gathered. My interest piqued by that interview, I'm now going to grab some time this weekend to dig into the book and learn more about the unexpected relationships between our searches, who we are, and who we purport to be. --Seira Wilson