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.
Death With Interruptions by José Saramago
Daniel Ford: Dimitry Elias Léger mentioned José Saramago’s Death With Interruptions during our podcast interview this past March and I finally rediscovered it in my hidden pile of books. Saramago begins his novel simply, much like he did with his masterpiece Blindness, stating, "The following day, no one died." Great news, right? Once the phenomenon is confirmed, Saramago's characters do rejoice, but only for so long. Important questions are raised that don't find easy answers. What is the government’s role in helping care for people who remain between life and death? What becomes of the undertaker, whose business depends on people expiring? How would family dynamics change in an event as peculiar as this? Saramago explores all of these themes poignantly and, at times, humorously, but it's his portrayal of death that makes this novel a true marvel. She—yes, she—is locked away in a stuffy office doing her job well until she decides to conduct an experiment halting human death. Her reappearance on the scene and subsequent actions turn the last third of the novel into a thrilling character study. The last three chapters are exquisite literature and will force your mind to ponder this question: What if death fell in love?
99 Percent Kill by Doug Richardson
Sean Tuohy: Look, we all know that I am a Doug Richardson fan. He’s a solid writer that always delivers. The first page of the “True Believers” script has more tension than most 90-minute movies. Blood Money is a slam-bang book that hits the ground running and does not let up. But 99 Percent Kill brings Richardson to a new level. Sometimes Sheriff Deputy Lucky Day, brought over from Blood Money, is hired to track down the missing daughter of a wealthy Midwesterner. Easy and straight forward. Suddenly, readers find themselves traveling head long down an always twisting and turning maze where nothing is what it seems. The characters pop off the page in this tight and well thought out thriller. But Richardson is able to bring Los Angeles to life in the same rich style as Michael Connelly or James Ellroy, but in his own very distinct voice. Like always, Richardson crafts a solid story that readers will not be able to put down, but he brings so much more to the table this time.
Stephanie Schaefer: Aliza Licht (aka the former Twitter celeb DKNY PR Girl) has the wit of Carrie Bradshaw and the drive of Samantha Jones. Her debut book, Leave Your Mark, is a must read for young professionals who dream of climbing the corporate ladder in designer heels—even if all they can afford right now is knockoffs. Licht touches upon everything from building your own brand to switching careers and turning happy hour into a networking opportunity. Even though the book is geared to those in the media industry, everyone can profit from its lessons. Check out my recent interview with Licht to learn more about the secrets of success.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
DF: I don’t know the America in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ stirring and honest letter/essay to his teenage son. I know it exists and I’ve always been aware of the duality that exists in the American experience. All of the progress and good that’s come out of the United States has been matched by intolerance, oppression, and hatred. I don’t know about the fear Coates felt growing up with armed kids his age or from white police officers with the power to “break” his black body. My struggle in America has been economic, but I know that my skin color and suburban upbringing has softened the weight of “the boot” on my neck. However, there were moments when I identified strongly with Coates’ experience such as:
“I wish I had known more, and I wished I had known it sooner.”
“It was like falling in love—the things that get you are so small, the things that keep you up at night are so particular to you that when you try to explain, the only reward anyone can give you is a dumb polite nod.”
“In New York, everyone wanted to know your occupation. I told people that I was ‘trying to be a writer.’”
“But this girl with the long dreads revealed something else—that love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.”
Between the World and Me is visceral and poetic in its brutality. It raises necessary, hard questions that I wish this Presidential election would try to wrestle with. Author Toni Morrison called this work “required reading” and I couldn’t agree more. Also, President Obama included it in his summer reading list and I suggest you do the same regardless of your political, racial, or economic place in this country.
The Suicide of Claire Bishop by Carmiel Banasky
Steph Post: Carmiel Banasky's psychological whirlwind of a novel The Suicide of Claire Bishop hits shelves on Sept. 15 and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be one of those novels everyone is talking about this fall. The premise is a little complicated: Claire, a 1950s Greenwich Village housewife, convinced for most of her life that she will die of hereditary madness, is drowning in the knowledge that insanity actually doesn't run in her family and so she is doomed to continue in her oppressive and stagnate marriage and life, without the heralding of an early death on the horizon. As the novel opens, Claire is sitting for a portrait that ultimately depicts her fragmented suicide and will drive her to freeing, if irrational, actions. Flash forward to 2004 and West Butler takes the stage. Truly schizophrenic, and the very definition of an unreliable narrator, West becomes obsessed with Claire's portrait and the past and present become intertwined in a twisted tale of art and perception.
Complicated? Yes. Mesmerizing? Yes. Gorgeous, powerful, unsettling and replete with all of the hallmarks of modern risk-taking fiction? Absolutely. Banasky's characters are reckless, but her language is crafted with diamond-edged precision and her style immerses the reader fully into a New York state of mind. Even if that mind might be rife with madness...