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.
Sean Tuohy: Oh. My. Goodness. The Martian is amazing. An astronaut is left behind on Mars after a mission goes wrong. Now, completely alone on an alien planet, he has to figure out how to survive. If that doesn't get you going, then something is wrong with you. The pacing in this book is fantastic; one moment you’re on the edge of your seat and in the next, you are bent over laughing non-stop. Great read.
One of my favorite quotes:
“Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be ‘in command’ if I were the only remaining person. What do you know? I’m in command.”
Daniel Ford: I sat down with Tania James’ The Tusk That Did the Damage expecting only to read a couple of chapters to get a feel for her style. Well, I finally put the book down completed two nights later after devouring every perfectly crafted sentence. James utilizes three narrators—including an elephant named The Gravedigger!—and weaves a tragic story while providing a deep back story for each one. When you’re not rooting for the resilient, emotionally broken elephant, you’ll be ensorcelled by a young man whose loyalty to his poacher brother knows no bounds, or troubled by the passive-aggressive filmmaking shooting a documentary on an elephant rehabilitation clinic. The reviews for The Tusk That Did All the Damage have been overwhelmingly positive, including a glowing review in The New York Times Book Review, so I have no doubt James is an author whose best is yet to come.
Learn more about James and her work by reading my recent interview with her.
Stephanie Schaefer: Do you find yourself inundated with social media posts highlighting your peers’ engagements, promotions, new homes, and pregnancy announcements all while wondering when the pieces of your life will fall into place? Then you’ll certainly relate to Lindsey Palmer’s If We Lived Here. The novel follows a couple in their early 30s as they search for the perfect Brooklyn apartment while dealing with judgmental landlords, gold-digging best friends, and the everyday struggles of young adulthood in today’s world. Take a break from social media and pick up Palmer’s second novel when it debuts on March 31.
You can learn more about the witty book by checking out my recent interview with the author.
Dave Pezza: Jim Shepard's latest novel, The Book of Aron (due out in May 2015), is told from the first person perspective of a Jewish boy named Aron who lives with his family in Warsaw, Poland during World War II.
The force of this book lies not in the broad strokes of Jewish suffering in the Warsaw ghetto, nor in the survival drama played out in stories like Elie Wiesel's Night. The Book of Aron stands out as a work of powerful fiction because hell is viewed from the perspective of a prepubescent boy.
Let's not be coy; the book's ending is evident from the onset. This boy's fate, and the fate of everyone he knows, is signed, sealed, and delivered within the first few pages. Aron has a dream in the first chapter that sets the book's dark stage, "...I dreamed that a raven was sitting on my shoulder in the wind and a black cloak was streaming out behind me." It is the slow, stark unfolding of Aron's story that makes Shepard's work so crushing and so necessary. From the suburbs, to the city, to the ghetto, and finally an orphanage, Shepard relates the destruction of innocence through a boy's unfathomable suffering. Aron is forced him to live with choices and realities that you wouldn't' wish on your worst enemy.
The Book of Aron is a must read, and I'm certain it will become a new mainstay in the pantheon of Holocaust literature. Be warned, this is a tough, tough book to get through. Tough not only for the reason’s I’ve described, but also because of such soul crushing lines as, "...I hated myself for making me feel the way I did and hated myself even more for not just being dead somewhere." But it's an important story, loosely based on the story of Janusz Korczak and the Warsaw ghetto orphanage he supported and operated, to remember what hate and ignorance can do to one life's most beautiful experiences.
Daniel: I’m an unabashed fan of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, so I couldn’t wait to read his most recent novel, The Painter. Boy, it doesn’t get much better than an author who has supreme confidence in his ability. The Painter begins with the main character, Jim Stenger, shooting someone in a bar after a man makes lewd comments about Jim’s daughter. Stenger does his time (the man he shoots survives) and then becomes a well-renowned artist (and avid fly fisherman), but can’t quite shake his dark, angry impulses. The tale Heller orchestrates through Jim’s perspective is brutal, but not devoid of all hope. You’re squarely in Jim’s corner despite the horrible acts he continues to commit. Heller’s supporting cast is equally as colorful and deep. Every sentence and line of dialogue in this novel is a masterful brush stroke of literary talent. In our interview last July, Heller said that his writing process for The Painter was to follow “the music of the language.” We should all be so lucky to hear language such as this.