Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.
Stephanie Schaefer: Equal parts humor and inspiration with a sprinkle of Boston sass? Yes, please! In Amy Poehler's autobiography, the funny lady touches upon everything from her childhood antics to her Hilary Clinton impersonation. Her memoir goes as deep as her post-divorce trip to Haiti and as light as the pranks she and her former "Saturday Night Live" castmates played on each other. Expect anecdotes about Poehler's famous friends, including Tina Fey and Seth Meyers throughout. All and all it's a quick, fun read that aspiring writers, fellow sassy Bostonians, and fans of Leslie Knope will definitely appreciate. Plus, Writer's Bone contributor Lisa Carroll once acted alongside Poehler in a Boston College production of Brigadoon, which is pretty badass.
Daniel Ford: I am an unabashed history fan boy for anything Harvard’s Jill Lepore writes. Two of her previous works, The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity and New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan completely changed the way I read and think about historical works. I was intrigued that she chose Wonder Woman as a topic for her latest work, but I can tell from what I’ve read so far she employs her insightful and colorful prose to wonderful effect in telling the story of the greatest female comic book hero of all time. This book contains an extraordinary amount of black and white and color illustrations, which makes the hardcover edition even more of a collector’s item/coffee table book. Just read the words because Lepore makes all of hers count whenever she sets them to the page. I’m secretly hoping she has plans for a Superman biography, or a novel featuring Superman going back in time to prevent the Salem witch trials. All I know is that whatever she writes next, I’ll be the first in line to buy it (or the first to email her agent for a copy to review).
Daniel: Here’s the first line of Matthew Thomas’ incredible debut novel, We Are Not Ourselves:
“Instead of going to the priest, the men who gathered at Doherty’s Bar after work went to Eileen Tumulty’s father.”
Even if the novel wasn’t set in Queens, N.Y., I would have jumped into this novel as fast as a skateboarder in Astoria Park. The novel follows Eileen, born to Irish immigrants, as she struggles to establish her own life in New York City while taking care of an ailing husband. You’ll be hard pressed to find a novel featuring more honest and compelling characters than the ones that inhabit this work. Joshua Ferris, an author who knows a thing or two about inspired writing, calls We Are Not Ourselves “a masterwork,” and I couldn’t agree more. The novel may seem a little intimidating at first because of its length, but you’ll be 300 pages in before you know it and start fervently hoping it never ends.
Daniel: I love literary debuts almost as much as I love short stories. Judy Chicurel combines the two in If I Knew…!
The short stories found in If I Knew… contain a coming-of-age story set during the “summer of 1972 in a down-on-its-heels Long Island beach town.” Chicurel said in our interview on Wednesday that it’s an “interesting challenge to make the characters as compelling as possible within the confines of the format,” and you can tell from the first page that the author met that challenge and then some. Her characters act and speak exactly how you imagine they should, which isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off. I’m just getting into the meat of the book, but I can’t wait to finish it and then see how Chicurel develops her obvious talent in the future.
Daniel: Some of us have self-induced angst and drama, and others have actual pain and misery heaped on them by outside forces. Do me a favor. Read this excerpt from Will Boast’s memoir and come back. I’ll wait.
Yeah, whatever you’re dealing with as a writer, it might not be as bad as that. And odds are if it is, let’s hope that you became half the person and writer that Boast has.
I’ve been holding off on reading this memoir because I just wrote an intense short story and if I added any more darkness to my world, Stephanie Schaefer would have left me. But I think the winter months are the perfect time to visit works like these because the weather allows you to stare off into the cold distance, or into a raging fire, and contemplate what every word and moment means to the author and to yourself. It’s never easy to read about someone else’s suffering, but the resilience the England-born Boast shows throughout his book makes the tears you’ll shed into your hot chocolate worth it.