reading

19 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: November 2018

19 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: November 2018

This month's book recommendations include works by Fatima Farheen Mirza, James Breakwell, Abigail DeWitt, Edwin Hill, Silas House, Nico Walker, and more!

19 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: October 2017

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.

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Daniel Ford: You can tell from the opening lines of The Last Ballad that Wiley Cash had this story in his bones. Based on true events, the novel tells the story of a fateful (and deadly) mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. Shifting between the perspectives of all those involved, Cash explores themes that are as alive today as they were in the 1910s.

On a recent podcast episode, Cash said he was chasing Ella May’s ghost the entire time he was writing the novel. That passion and research led to one of the most unforgettable and empathetic main characters you’ll read in fiction this year. If the book only focused on her, it still would have been great, but, to Cash’s credit, May’s supporting cast is just as finely drawn.

The Last Ballad is a special book, one that I think readers will fall in love with. Cash does the Southern storytelling tradition proud, and he adds even more to the remarkable fiction coming out of that region in the last couple of years.

Sean Tuohy: In the summer of 1987, a killer stalked the streets of New Bedford, Mass. He targeted young women who were addicts. He preyed on them, killed them, and left on the side of the road. In Boyle’s riveting narrative, the killer, a lurking, sinister figure, is left in the background. The author focuses on the victims, their family members, and the town itself. Boyle writes with a passion that shines in each passage, and she shares the pain of the victims.

Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades

Daniel: One day I’ll get to tell you my reaction to the final scenes of Nicole Blades’ cheeky and engrossing novel Have You Met Nora? Just know it made Blades “LMAO” in an email chain. Doesn’t get much better for a reader (or writer)!

We’ve come to expect great fiction out of Blades, and this novel is no exception. Have You Met Nora? (out Oct. 31) features a freight train plot and well crafted characters who deliver lines of sassy dialogue as if they were lightning strikes. Issues of identity, race, friendship, and family are all explored without beating you over the head with a blunt instrument. Blades gets bonus points for using punctuation in her title! 

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Daniel: I didn’t realize the recent paperback release of Yrsa Daley-Ward’s bone features 40 more pages of poetry not included in the original 2014 release until after I finished the collection in roughly one sitting. It says something about Daley-Ward’s talent that a publisher signed off on an expanded edition given today’s publishing market! What’s interesting is that none of these poems feel added on or misplaced (I can’t even imagine the process involved in narrowing them down for the first launch). The collection’s title is apt considering that each poem seems to be stripped down to only its essential components, reveling in their devastatingly honest and personal nature. There’s one section of a poem called “things it can take twenty years and a bad liver to work out” that could serve as a mission statement for most creative types:

There are parts of you
that want sadness.
Find them out. Ask them why.

Indeed.   

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Daniel: Gabriel Tallent's debut contains gut punches for days and will make you slam it down more much often than you anticipated. However, you'll keep picking up, sucking the marrow out of Tallent's prose. Turtle Alveston is a heroine for the ages, and the author gets inside her head in a way you won't find in any other fiction. My Absolute Darling also features one of the sweetest and well-earned denouements I've ever read.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Gary Almeter: I read this book immediately after Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling (see above). Sing, Unburied, Sing is also about a child, in this case, 13-year-old Jojo, let down and abused by parents. Jojo is a resilient and caring young man; his wisdom beyond his years is due in large measure to the patience of his grandfather, Pop, with whom he and his 3-year-old sister Michaela live, and the fact that he is tasked with caring for Michaela whenever their mother leaves them for days at a time. Jojo's white father, Michael, is at Parchman prison, the same prison Pop spent time in decades ago.

The whole book is teeming with ghosts. Leonie's brother was murdered and haunts her whenever she gets high; the rural Mississippi setting is haunted by the oppressive and omnipresent legacy of racism; Pop had a friend at Parchman prison whose memory stays with him. Woven into these ghost stories is a road trip to Parchman to retrieve Michael upon his release. The journey becomes a nightmare as everyone learns that there are absences that can never really be filled and ghosts that can never be outrun. Jojo perseveres nonetheless.

Read Adam Vitcavage's  interview with Jesmyn Ward .

Read Adam Vitcavage's interview with Jesmyn Ward.

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

Sean: Ronald Balson does not waste any time. He quickly pulls the reader into the story and allows his characters to build over the course of the story until they are almost too real. After a Holocaust survivor accuses one of the city's wealthiest men of being a Nazi, it’s up to a burned out lawyer to find the truth. Rich in history, Once We Were Brothers is a wonderful tale.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Daniel: Kellye Garrett's debut novel Hollywood Homicide is such a fun read. In Dayna Anderson, Garrett has created a sassy, determined, and sometimes confused heroine that will be entertaining readers for plenty of beach "Days" to come. Every supporting character is a gem, and the plot moves along like a binge-worthy TV dramedy. Garrett's voice is a welcome breath of fresh air, and I can't wait to see what it has to say next.

Daniel: Vanessa Grigoriadis' distinct voice and empathetic, curious reporting are used so well throughout Blurred Lines, a book that delves into the myriad issues surrounding campus rape in the United States. Grigoriadis tackles everything from "Mattress Girl" to Rolling Stone's errant reporting during the University of Virginia rape controversy and the new age of consent to Donald Trump. The author/journalist interviewed hundreds of people, including students, parents, administrators, lawyers, and advocates, and that dogged reporting led to an even-tempered (though not unemotional) narrative our polarized electorate desperately needs.

One of the most refreshing things about Grigoriadis' work here is her ability to include comments, research, observations, and facts that questioned her beliefs or hypotheses. She didn’t pretend to have all the answers or discard information because it didn’t fit into a concrete mold she decided on long before writing the book. Journalism like this is of the utmost importance because of our current political climate. Read this book and recommend it to others.

Daniel: There’s a reason Kat Howard is one of our favorite authors (check out her “Author’s Corner” below). She delivers opening lines like the ones found in her new novel An Unkindness of Magicians.

The young woman cut through the crowded New York sidewalk like a knife. Tall in her red-soled stilettos, black clothing, that clung to her like smoke, red-tipped black hair sharp and angular around her face. She looked like the kind of woman people would stop for, stare at, notice.

None of them did.

Yeah, we can get down with that. What we’ve read so far of An Unkindness of Magicians proves why Howard has amassed the following she has. This fantasy thriller, which features competing magicians fighting to preserve (or maybe it’s to demolish) the magical system that binds the world, is the perfect read headed into the Halloween season.

Dreamfield by Ethan Bryan

Daniel: I found myself grinning ear-to-ear reading fellow 50/50 Press author Ethan Bryan's debut novel. I think Sid Sanford and his main character “Ethan” would get along just fine. Ethan finds himself transported back to high school, where he has a chance to relive his dream of being a star baseball player (yes, Bryan made me an offer I couldn’t refuse). Part “Field of Dreams,” part “The Rookie,” Dreamfield is a fun meditation on time, religion, family, and baseball.  

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Daniel: There is officially no limit to Tom Hanks’ talent. In his debut short story collection (out Oct. 17), the actor brings all of the traits that define him on the silver screen: honesty, irreverence, humor, and unending empathy and passion. Be warned, this is absolutely one of those collections that will cause you to stay up way past your bedtime and mutter, “Okay, just one more.” If these are the types of stories we can expect from Hanks and his typewriter in the future, we’re all very lucky readers.

Author’s Corner

By Kat Howard, author of An Unkindness of Magicians

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

I try to always have one book of poetry that I’m reading. This is the sort of collection that I’ll turn to again and again. Smith’s writing is clear-eyed, precise, and full of beauty. It gives me hope.

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

One of my very favorite books, and a quintessential October novel. Haunted and full of melancholy, it is also gorgeously written. I mean, it’s Bradbury.

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

The first of the completed Metamorphoses trilogy, it’s myth and Seattle and brilliant and a book I’ve reread at least once a year since it came out.

From the To Be Read pile:

Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Okay, so maybe Baba Yaga doesn’t spring immediately to mind as the sort of person you’d go to for life advice. But I loved this column when it ran on The Hairpin, and I’m really looking forward to picking this up.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

Ben’s first collection, Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day, was a book I absolutely adored. He writes strange tiny gems of things, and I can’t wait to see what he’s done here.

Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Okay, no one needs me to tell you to read this collection, because it is winning all the awards, getting rave reviews, and is one of the most buzzed about books of the year. If you’ve ever read Machado’s writing, you know the praise is deserved. If not, you are in for a treat.

#NovelClass

Dave Pezza and Daniel Ford discuss Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher.

11 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: December 2016

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.

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Daniel Ford: Jade Chang’s debut novel, The Wangs vs. The World, crackles with angsty verve, frustration, and familial crisis. The Wang family is incredibly dysfunctional, but also fervently proud and wondrously entertaining. Patriarch Charles Wang’s delusions of reclaiming ancestral lands in China, which exacerbate after losing his cosmetic empire, set the story in motion, and events quickly envelop his unsuspecting, and somewhat damaged, children. A tragically comedic family road trip ensues, offering one cringe-worthy humiliation after another. Chang brilliantly shifts perspectives between the main characters—including the car Charles repossesses from his hired help!—and doesn’t let the narrative let up for a moment.  

While the plot and tone certainly make for exciting reading, what distinguishes The Wangs vs. The World is its truly unforgettable characters. One can’t help but love the self-made (and self-destroyed) Charles, his successful, yet recently disgraced, eldest daughter Saina (whose Upstate New York house the family is fleeing to), and his youngest daughter grace, a financially needy social media star. However, for me, Andrew, the lone Wang son, stole the spotlight. He’s unfailingly earnest and sweet, even when he’s bombing on stage trying to get his stand-up comedy career off the ground. To be sure, each of them faces issues that are serious and potentially ruinous, but the Wangs also make you laugh out loud while you watch them burn their lives to the ground.

In The Wangs vs. The World, Chang explores many of the themes you’ll find in the other novels we recommend this month—family bonds, the struggle with the American dream, the immigrant experience, wealth, financial ruin, and race—but does so with an unparalleled joie de vivre. This novel is landing on a lot of “Best Of” lists for 2016, and deservedly so. Don’t miss out on one of the most fun reads of the year! 

The Infinite by Nick Mainieri

Daniel: I picked up Nick Mainieri’s stellar debut novel The Infinite thinking I’d only read a few chapters to get a feel for his work so that I was prepared for my interview with him. I ended up racing through 100 pages, and only put the book down because my eyes had dried out, my hands were cramped, and morning was rapidly approaching outside my window.

The Infinite’s star-crossed teenage lovers, the unflinchingly loyal Jonah McBee and Luz Hidalgo, an illegal immigrant trying to outpace her “ghost runner,” are two of my favorite characters from 2016. Jonah attempts to hold everything in his life together with baling wire and a dream, while Luz struggles to find acceptance both in New Orleans and across the border in Mexico. When an unexpected pregnancy tears their relationship apart, Luz and Jonah travel paths that converge, but never really intertwine as tightly as during their charmed beginning. Luz’s experiences in particular are jarring and violent, ending in a place far different than you might imagine.

That’s the other hallmark of Mainieri’s freshman novel. It is a constant surprise that never feels overburdened with red herrings or unnecessary plot devices. John Irving once remarked that good writers shouldn’t indulge in twists and turns that the reader doesn’t see coming. He said the most effective literary surprises are those the reader will look back on and think, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” That logic is exactly what Mainieri expertly deploys in The Infinite. Jonah and Luz’s fates feel earned and appropriate.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a debut novel. Much like Taylor Brown’s Fallen Land, Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank With Me, and M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away, The Infinite reads like it’s penned from a well known master storyteller. Mainieri deftly explores post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans and a drug war-addled Mexico in pursuit of discovering the true natures of his main characters. I very much look forward to what Mainieri does next.

Adam Vitcavage: Kathleen Collins might not be a name you recognize. She was a playwright, filmmaker, writer, and an African-American civil rights activist who died in her forties in 1988. So why is this 27-year-old white guy, whose life never overlapped with the author’s, writing about her? A collection of her stories called Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? knocked me on my ass, that's why. Her sixteen stories offer poignant insight into everyday life for African-Americans in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Collins earnestly invites readers into intimate stories like they were lifelong bosom buddies. The ease of the author’s writing balances the explosive content filling the collection, and while these stories are decades old, their themes are more relevant than ever at the close of one of the most racially turbulent years in modern history.

The Loved Ones by Sonya Chung

Daniel: Sonya Chung’s The Loved Ones is a compulsive read that is exquisitely structured. The novel’s crunchy, broken characters tell a mutigenerational immigrant saga, a mixed race family struggle, and a coming-of-age tale all at once. Chung juggles these multiple perspectives and cultures with ease, and allows her themes to unfurl deliberately throughout a narrative that’s set primarily in Washington D.C. during the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

You can’t help rooting for Chung's characters despite some of their actions. Charles Lee, the African American patriarch whose father abandoned him, tries to do right by his family while also fighting against his inner demons and an increasingly distant wife. Hannah Lee, the teenage daughter of Korean immigrants who were shunned by their own family for falling in love, uncertainly steps into adulthood and becomes tragically intertwined with Charles’ family. Hannah’s parents silently internalize being ostracized, while also stubbornly clinging to their once forbidden love. Charles’ daughter Veda anchors the novel’s final act, coming into her own without being hurt too much by her family’s dysfunction.

A death early on in the novel sets all of these threads in motion, and sends Chung’s main characters in various, and often times opposite, directions. The second half of The Loved Ones is a fascinating exploration of grief and self-discovery that pairs so well with the author’s heartfelt prose and poignant dialogue. The resolution to Hannah Lee’s parent’s story, in particular, is one of the most moving scenes I’ve read in fiction this year. I’m getting dusty in Writer’s Bone HQ just thinking about it.  

Chung’s voice isn’t just a welcome one in the literary world; it’s a necessary one as we try to make sense of our increasingly uncertain future.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Daniel: I would pay good money to write like Zadie Smith. There’s real craftsmanship behind her prose, dialogue, and characters, and she asks big questions without beating you over the head them. Her exploration of a lifelong friendship touches on myriad themes that could easily be extrapolated into individual novels. Race, class, philanthropy, politics, family, friendship, companionship, globalism, identity, wealth, poverty, fame, commercialism, and art are all issues that are examined through her ever-evolving narrator’s eyes.

Swing Time lives up to its name, swaying effortlessly through multiple decades of the main character’s life and cities and villages around the world. However, with the exception of a scandal hinted at in the prologue, there’s nothing that necessarily propels the narrative forward; you’ve got to completely buy into a character study that, as a Kansas City Star reviewer pointed out, lacks a certain mirth at times. Rather than a weakness, I think that Smith’s straightforward, unadorned style is a strength; she’s much more interested in her characters’ search for joy than whatever cheap thrill one might feel when watching a performance of “Guys and Dolls” or a Fred Astaire film.

Swing Time will certainly inspire discussion and debate between readers, and I imagine those conversations will intensify once the novel is brought to the small screen.

The Pavilion of Former Wives by Jonathan Baumback

Daniel: There's something Paul Auster-like about Jonathan Baumbach's new short story collection The Pavilion of Former Wives. You may not always be able to figure out what’s real and what’s imagined in his characters’ lives, but you will appreciate the author’s determined pursuit of universal truths. Baumbach utilizes tough, but tender, dialogue, and provocative prose to explore the nature of relationships. This collection features a man who gets to re-live some of the most sorrowful moments of his life, a relationship purely defined by emails, a man who loses his parked car (!), and, my personal favorite, a stranded poet who meets a troubled woman at a train station. The Pavilion of Former Wives, much like Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble, finds the humanity in oddball stories that will haunt you well after you put them down. 

Night School by Lee Child

Daniel: I’ve been reading Lee Child’s work since my college roommate put Killing Floor in my hands more years ago than I’m willing to admit. It was a pleasure being the audience while Child discussed Jack Reacher and his approach to writing with Stephen King last year at Harvard. It was even cooler hearing Child’s passion for his character and future plans during his appearance on “Friday Morning Coffee” with Sean Tuohy. We recommend a lot of weighty fiction, particularly this month, but it’s important to remember that reading should also be fun. There’s no better literary palate cleanser than a Jack Reacher adventure, and Night School is no exception. It’s pure escapism that will remind you why you started reading in the first place.

Author's Corner

Murdery Delicious author Peter Sherwood shares four novels you should put on your shelf ASAP.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Dive into the pages of Margaret Atwood’s recently published Hag-Seed and suddenly find yourself caught up in a play within a novel within the retelling of another play. Part of Hogarth’s new series where contemporary authors were asked to reinterpret several of the Bard’s texts in a modern day setting, The Tempest is the tossed landscape here. Atwood’s task was considerable and the resulting novel is as touching and beautifully orchestrated as are the magical works of Prospero himself.

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s haunting coming of age novel Other Voices, Other Rooms is exquisitely crafted and filled with fluttering, unforgettable characters clinging to a lazy, long ago South, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. If you haven’t read Capote’s explosive debut before or lately, the Master awaits.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch certainly takes its time, but anyone familiar with Donna Tartt knows there is no rush when she’s telling the story. While the novel winds mostly around a shadow-struck Manhattan, it also feels lush and richly told as our hero navigates his Salinger-esque way through the sudden loss of his mother and the uncertainty of what else could possibly happen afterward.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Finally, when someone says, “There are no words” to describe something, tell ‘em to pick up a copy of Moby Dick. Extraordinary.

Be sure to listen to the audio edition of "Books That Should Be On Your Radar!"

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: November/December 2015

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.

The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin

Daniel Ford: I’ll admit, I picked up The Axeman’s Jazz because of its stellar cover. However, after a slower start than I anticipated, Ray Celestin’s macabre novel proved just as good inside its book jacket. The book is set in 1919 New Orleans and features troubled detectives, plucky Pinkerton investigators, and even jazz great Louis Armstrong. The plot, which revolves around a Crescent City serial killer who loves bludgeoning his victims with an ax and New Orleans’ signature sound in equal measure, moves along at a good clip, but the book’s emotionally heart lies in the relationship between Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot and his young protégée. Celestin expertly crafts a mood befitting an immigrant story, turn-of-the-century noir, and suspenseful thriller, while also touching on topical subjects like race relations and women’s rights. Based on true events, The Axeman’s Jazz will have you tapping your toes while diving under your bed to avoid the killer’s wrath.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Daniel: I was reluctant to sing the praises of Marlon James’ meaty Jamaican epic after it won the 2015 Man Booker Prize over Writer’s Bone favorite Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen, but it was as good as advertised. James’ haunting characters, crackling dialogue, and Caribbean locale made every page in the weighty tome a true pleasure to read. Also based on the true-life shooting of Bob Marley, A Brief History of Seven Killings follows gang members, American journalists, shadowy government agents, and everyday Jamaicans throughout several turbulent decades in Jamaica. The cast of characters seems unwieldy in some sections, but it’s anchored by love struck Nina Burgess’ story. At the beginning of the novel, she’s pining for “The Singer,” hoping he’ll remember the night they spent together, but by the end she’s a lot like the Jamaica James depicts throughout the book: battle-scarred, weary, untrusting, but still proudly standing.

All lovers of language will appreciate the words and phrases the author employs to tell his tale. “Bombocloth,” “r’ass,” and “fuckery” are all words I quickly came to love and would use daily if I were the right skin color. Much like Dimitry Elias Léger's God Loves Haiti, James’ award-winning novel not only tells a passionate, violent story, but also sheds a light on a country America knows too little about despite our close proximity.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Sean Tuohy: If you need to get yourself into the mindset to write your next novel, short story, or screenplay, pick this book up. Written by two ex-Navy SEALs, Extreme Ownership helps you develop the mental skills necessary for you to meet your goals and complete your tasks. Helpful, well written, and filled with thought-provoking stories, this book is a must for the nightstand.

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

Daniel: I originally read (and fell in love with) Colum McCann’s short story “Sh’khol” in The Best American Short Stories 2015, so I was pleasantly surprised that I had the opportunity to enjoy it all over again in the author’s collection Thirteen Ways of Looking. The short fiction compilation only includes a novella and three short stories, but what it lacks in pages, it makes up for with punch. The title novella, which features the final day in the life of an elderly judge, perfectly captures a wintry New York City and seamlessly mixes past and present. “Treaty” throws faith, violence, forgiveness, and ambiguity into a tale about a broken nun with fantastic results.

However, “What Time Is It Now, Where Are You?” might be the story must useful for aspiring writers. A writer struggles to develop a fiction piece for The New Yorker, but ends up brainstorming a story that is just as captivating as the author’s writing process. I felt I learned more about writing and reading in 10 pages than in the thousands of pages I’ve read throughout 2015. I’m a neophyte when it comes to McCann’s work, but I’m eager to pick up the rest of his oeuvre in the new year. You should do the same.     

Cold Hit by Stephen J. Cannell

Daniel: Sean Tuohy has this uncanny ability to put the right book in my hands at the right time. Coming off of A Brief History of Seven Killings, I needed something light and adventurous. Dr. Tuohy proscribed television guru Stephen J. Cannell’s Cold Hit, which I breezed through during my Thanksgiving break. It had everything I could possibly want from a thriller: wise-crackin’ detectives, a zippy plot, a calculating serial killer (that’s two in one post…maybe I have a problem), and shady authority figures. Was it a little hammy in parts? Of course! I really could have done without the subplot featuring Detective Shane Scully’s son getting recruited by college football coaches, but it didn’t take away from the tender moments the surly gumshoe had with his wife (who is also his superior) throughout the novel. Scully also has to deal with a drunk, broken partner who threatens to ruin Scully’s case and career multiple times during the narrative.

Cannell also makes some really insightful comments on our national security/criminal justice system following 9/11 that most thrillers don’t take the time to dive into. How many personal liberties are we willing to give up to assure our security? Does stooping to the terrorists’ level in hunting them down strip away our moral imperative? Cannell doesn’t necessarily provide concrete answers to these questions, obviously, but the fact he was raising them made me feel a lot better about where this genre is headed.   

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: July 2015

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.

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

The Sunlit Night By Rebecca Dinerstein

Daniel: We’ve met Frances and Yasha, the two main characters in Rebecca Dinerstein’s charming, quirky debut The Sunlit Night, in literature before. They are two young people who find comfort and passion in each other while avoiding something else—Frances escapes her parents’ separation and a douchey boyfriend in New York City, while Yasha has come to Norway to bury his beloved father at the “top of the world.” With a supporting cast that includes a neglectful mother, an artist who paints only in yellow, and a Norwegian desperate to be lovestruck, The Sunlit Night makes your heart swell one moment and then shatters it the next. Dinerstein is smart though, she sews the pieces back just enough to make your ticker work again, but not so tightly that you feel whole. Most importantly, the novel is littered with beautifully crafted sentences surrounded by exuberant, honest dialogue. Plus, thanks to the Gregoriov Bakery, the novel features plenty of yummy baked goods!   

New Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford

Sean: The second book in Charles Willeford's unfortunately short-lived Hoke Moseley series is the possibly the best South Florida crime prose ever written. The novel follows a depressed and money-strapped Miami detective who finds himself in the middle of a homicide investigation with a partner going through a life crisis, his estranged daughters entering his life, and no way to pay for anything. Willeford is a true master who blends together pitch-black dark humor, hard-boiled crime, and moody characters to make the perfect crime novel cocktail.

The Knife by Ross Ritchell

Daniel Ford: Ross Ritchell’s The Knife has all of the hallmarks of a military novel: firefights, desert maneuvers, and solider hijinks. What makes it stand apart from many of the recent books about Afghanipakiraqistan is it’s clean, inspired prose and the quiet moments before and after each Special Ops mission (Oh yeah, did I mention that Ritchell is a former soldier in a United States Special Operations Command direct-action team that conducted classified operations in the Middle East? No big deal.).

The opening chapter set in a diner before the main character heads off to war and a chapter midway through the novel featuring a young Muslim by the name of Ahmed blew me away. I knew I’d enjoy all the military scenes and the brotherly banter, but those two scenes are maybe the best I've read all year.

Ritchell also writes about the desert conflict in a way that makes it more haunting and visceral than any newspaper feature or recent novel. An example: "As they flew on, the earth looked like the chalked bones of pale skeletons." That’s good stuff.

I emailed Ritchell back and forth while I was reading the book (he’s become a literary Obi-Wan Kenobi to me) and he said that he “tried to just write stuff that didn't feel like bullshit” to him. He added, “You shouldn't feel awkward or fake with any of your stuff.”

I can assure readers that there is not one ounce of BS in The Knife, and it has an ending that will leave you swearing through your tears. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Daniel: I told myself I wasn’t going to read another post-apocalyptic novel. I devoured books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Jose Saramago’s Blindness, and Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, and felt like I had consumed enough literature of that ilk to last me until the actual end of days. However, I picked up Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven while perusing the stacks at Barnes and Noble on a coffee run one afternoon and fell in love.

The story weaves in and out of the past and present, and mostly follows The Traveling Symphony—a band of survivors who perform Shakespeare and music throughout a landscape violently altered by a flu epidemic. The prose is lyrical, packed with heart, and infused with a passion for the arts. There are harrowing moments for sure, but if humanity follows main character Kirsten Raymonde’s lead after all hell breaks loose, we might be okay. 

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos

Daniel: I hate to damn Dean Bakopoulos’ Summerlong by saying it’s the perfect beach read, but damn if it’s not best enjoyed near a body of water—or in my case, the Atlantic Ocean—with copious amounts of ice-cold alcoholic beverages to cool you off. You’re going to need them because everything in this novel is on fire: the Midwestern weather, marriages, potential, sexual urges. The characters are so intertwined that they particularly have to say, “Excuse me,” to each other as the scene shifts perspectives. A couple’s marriage falls apart owing to neglect, lies, and boredom (but not sexual passions, my god), a young woman named ABC longs to join her dead lover while enjoying as much pot as possible, and a disillusioned actor comes home to deal with his sick father (the old guy may have failed at being a writer, but he was hell of a creepy ladies man). This book is eight kinds of hilarious, and I guarantee that you’ll be cackling in public places the whole time you're reading it (and possibly blushing when you get to the really juicy parts).   

Also, Bakopoulos has one of his main characters utter this spectacular line of dialogue: “I’m living in a Bruce Springsteen song.”

Reader for life!  

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: April 2015

By Daniel Ford

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.

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

I haven’t learned so much while reading a fictional novel in quite some time. I, sadly, don’t know much about India in general, and even less about its history, which is one of the reasons M.J. Carter’s The Strangler Vine was such an enjoyable and educational experience. Set in 1837, the novel follows William Avery, a young soldier with the East India Company, and Jeremiah Blake, a disillusioned, bitter former officer, as they track down a missing writer. During their investigation, the pair runs into both historical and fictional characters that showcase the clash of cultures between England and India during this time period. The Thuggee cult also plays a mysterious role that will keep readers guessing until the end. Tiger fights, caravans on dusty roads, ladies of high society, and plenty of swashbuckling make The Strangler Vine the perfect blend of history and fun.  

What I love the most about this novel is that the relationship between Avery and Blake evolves from mutual suspicion and disgust into begrudging respect. However, the change doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. They don’t become two different people at the end, but their worldview has changed just enough to support a potential partnership.  Carter told me during our interview that there was a bit of her in Avery—“keen, clueless, blurting things about before thinking about them”—and that his voice was easier to write than Blake’s. I fully anticipate Carter will have no trouble finding either voice in future novels and I very much look forward to what trouble the pair gets into next in the sequel The Infidel Stain (to be released in Spring 2016).

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

While I was reading Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek, I took to Twitter in order to decide if I should be drunk or really drunk during the experience. Henderson set me straight.

Fourth of July Creek reminded me a lot of certain scenes during “American Hustle.” Whenever Henderson shed a light on social worker Pete Snow’s personal life, the prose swayed a little looser, drunker, and, occasionally, more violent. Here was a guy that makes a living helping families in rural Montana in the 1980s, but can’t maintain his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter (who eventually runs away, adding even more depth to one of the central themes of the novel: freedom). Between trying to gain the trust of a young boy and his disturbed father Jeremiah Pearl, Snow falls for a damaged woman who lies to him about sleeping with multiple men, gets his ass kicked on more than one occasion, and crosses the FBI agent who takes an interest in Pearl’s case because of the old man’s ranting and preparations for the end of times. Henderson employs an innovative structure, shifting perspectives from Snow to his missing daughter by interjecting a social worker-type interview with the young, impressionable teenager. Every character, including secondary characters such as Ten Mile’s judge, Snow’s brother, and assorted Montana town folk, are fully formed and invigorate this mediation on American ideals. Many of the reviews of the novel talk about the confidence in which Henderson writes, and they couldn’t be more right. There’s a controlled bravado that singes each page and keeps you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the lines that forced me to pour some bourbon into a heavy glass were:

“Think of getting old. Think of being only thirty-one yourself and having gotten so much already dead fucking wrong.”

Damn you, Smith Henderson (just kidding, but, seriously)!  

One More Thing: Stores and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

I shouldn’t have been surprised that B.J. Novak, best known for his work on the U.S. version of “The Office,” would produce such deft, subtle, and hilarious short stories that are found in his One More Thing: Stores and Other Stories. I expected the sharp humor and spot-on observations about everyday life, but what I didn’t anticipate was the amount of heart and outright skill featured in each story. I picked up this collection in Dave Pezza’s writing cave in Rhode Island during our Bob Dylan concert weekend, and read the first story about the hare taking revenge on the slow, addled turtle that famously beat him years before. I resolved to purchase my own copy after reading the line: “slow and steady wins the race, till truth and talent claim their place.” Um, hell yes!

One of my favorite stories, “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg,” is such a funny and insightful mediation on death that I wasn’t prepared for the absolutely laugh-out-loud final scene. I was lost in my own thoughts about dying, and then the main character’s Nana *spoiler alert* admits she’d rather blow Frank Sinatra than spend time with her beloved grandson. That’s…good stuff. Other stories include the guy who returned a sex doll who falls in love with him, how to land a date through Missed Connections, and the reason why carrot cake has the best frosting. I don’t want to damn this book by saying it’s a great beach read, but I can’t imagine a better place to laugh in public without people thinking you’re crazy (everyone on a public beach is crazier than you are). I’m sure Novak has other projects on his docket, including perhaps another well-reviewed children’s book, but I’d love to see how he’d handle a complete novel.

The Red Chameleon by Erica Wright

Erica Wright’s debut crime novel is making the rounds at Writer’s Bone and earning rave reviews. Wright’s brassy private investigator Kathleen Stone's identities are as hard to keep up with as her multiple boyfriends (complete badasses in their own rights). Stone blends into the background, but not perfectly, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed the novel so much. She may have been a great police officer and even better undercover agent, but Stone is still finding her way in her new profession. She gets made often by her male counterparts, her secretary, and her drag queen friend. The plot moves at a quick pace, like many good crime novels, but Wright takes enough time to flesh out Stone’s personality, habits, and demons. Wright’s prose is also crackling with dark humor and sarcasm that matches its New York City setting. During our interview, Wright mentioned that she was like a “fainting goat” when it came to all the positive reviews the novel has garnered since its publication. I’d advise her to get used to it, because it sounds like Kathleen Stone is a heroine readers are going to demand stick around as long as she can find a decent wig.

Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade

You may have noticed from this list that I went on a run of crime/historical/brassy/masculine books in April. Reading Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiestas to finish up the month has proved to be the perfect tonic to realign my fiction priorities. Set mainly in New Mexico and the Southwest, Quade’s collection of short stories prove that she is more than worthy of being selected as a 5 under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation. Without revealing too much of my interview with Quade (which will go live sometime in May), I can tell you that the author sought to write about “family and the little betrayals that can occur between parents and children, brothers and sisters.” That’s what gives the collection its power, themes that readers of all cultures can identify with. Readers will put themselves in a teenage girl’s shoes when she finds a sack of money on a bus driven by her father in “Night at the Fiestas,” feel the internal rage a young man has for his degenerate father in “The Guesthouse,” or the desperation and fear that surround a mother living in a trailer in “Mojave Rats.” The New York Times Book Review threw around words like “legitimate masterpiece,” “haunting,” and “beautiful” in its review, and those adjectives couldn’t be more apt (the reviewer also admitting to weeping several times while reading the novel). Much like Novak’s short stories, Quade’s tales will stick with you long after you finally put the book down on your nightstand deep into the night.  

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: March 2015

5booksmarch.jpg

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.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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.”

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

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.

If We Lived Here by Lindsey Palmer

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.

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard

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.

The Painter By Peter Heller

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. 

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: September 2014

Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew will review or preview books they’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.

By Daniel Ford

High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire

I’m not including Cheshire’s book just because he was a great interview. His book had me jonesing for Queens, N.Y. something awful. He included so many New York City landmarks that meant something special to me while I was living there, including Forest Park and the 59th Street Bridge (which he brilliantly described as a “shipwreck hull”).

Anyone who picks up this novel (unbelievably his first) will notice right away it’s beautifully written in a style that perfectly fits its characters and settings. Relationships and religion are explored in honest and intriguing ways, and your heart will ache throughout the novel without ever completely losing hope (or faith for that matter).

My favorite line comes half way through, when the main character describes meeting his future wife after one of her workouts. “And my God,” Cheshire writes. “is there anything in the world as intoxicating as that pink rise of hip skin all crimped from the elastic band on a pair of running shorts—has to be shorts—and peeking out from where you shouldn’t see, like a rosy and puckered sun; I wanted to press my face against the skin of her hip.”

That is the kind of author I want to follow religiously (bad puns are for free) for years to come.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

I’ve been a devoted reader of Blow’s column in The New York Times for years now. His voice is distinct in an increasingly angry and divided media because of the care and consideration it gives to those less fortunate in our society. He blends pertinent statistics and illuminating narrative to shine journalistic light in dark places.

Unlike some columnists, one can feel the heart that pumps out each word. Blow believes firmly in everything he writes. Most importantly, he allows himself to debate issues that he’s not entirely sure about (his Twitter handle @CharlesMBlow is a must follow). The world needs much more of the candor and integrity found in Blow’s style.

I’ve been excited to read his memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, for some time now. I was able to obtain an advanced copy (the book comes out September 23, 2014) and it lives up to every expectation I had. I can add “ferocious” to the words to describe Blow’s prose. His harrowing story of poverty, sexual abuse and confusion, and finding his writing voice will leave a lasting impression on every reader that picks up this book. In an interview in Upscale Magazine, Blow says that one of the reasons he wanted to set his story to paper was the need to “write and write well” and that he had to “write it because it demanded to be written, to be exhaled, to be brought into creation.” There’s no greater urge for a writer than to write his or her own story, and Blow accomplishes that feat with heartbreaking beauty.

I also suggest reading Alice Walker’s book jacket quote. That woman writes her own name better than most people write novels.

Hollywood Animal by Joe Eszterhas

I lived vicariously through Sean Tuohy as he was reading screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ gonzo memoir.

Here are some of the emails I received from my brother in podcast:

“Picked up Hollywood Animal. Holy shit, it is amazing. His story about Mick Jagger is awesome. Pick it up.”
“You need to read this book. It is amazing. He is talking about how Sharon Stone thanked him for writing such a good movie, about writing a movie script in which he bashes Elliot Ness, and how he made fun of Bob Dylan for having a smaller house without a view.”
“There are moments of huge truth in that book that break the soul. Then there are moments were I can't tell if the truth is fully there or if bullshit has started to slip in.”

I’m pretty sure Sean had to towel himself off after reading this book, which means it is well worth your time.

Dear Life by Alice Munro

I have a feeling Alice Munro is going to end up on our Badass Writers of the Week list sooner rather than later. You don’t win the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 82 (becoming only the 13th woman to do so) without having some serious skills.

I haven’t read Dear Life in its entirety as of yet, but I’ve been sneaking passages in between other novels. The Canadian writer makes keen observations about human relationships in a short story that most authors can’t investigate in a full novel.

One day soon I’m going to have the time to sit down and devour all of Munroe’s short story collections. In the meantime, I’ll be happy visiting her world in bits and pieces, savoring her concise style, and pondering her prose long after the words leave my eyeballs.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I saw this book on a table in Barnes & Noble recently, and just seeing the cover reminded me how much I adored this novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It featured multiple story lines from different eras, but the book never made your head spin and wish for a more streamlined narrative. Every word, every paragraph, every deep, affecting character moment propels you to keep reading long after your bed time. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo, who will find himself on this list sooner or later, called this book “an absolute masterpiece.”

Pasquale is one of those main characters that stays with you long after you’ve foolishly lent your copy to a friend you know isn’t going to return it. I rooted for the Italian innkeeper the way some men root for sports heroes. Never have I wanted to own a small hotel on the Italian shore more than when I was reading this novel.

The pages will fly by and you’ll beg them to stop by the end. Savor every morsel of this indeed “beautiful” story and hope that Walter keeps giving as more in the very near future (He did publish a collection of short stories, We Live in Water, in 2013, which I need to check out before I can officially recommend it).

Other books worth taking a look at: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas, Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright, The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, The Runner by Patrick Lee, Pretty in Ink by Lindsey Palmer.

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY

6 Literary Recommendations Destined to Become Your Nightstand’s Best Friends

Need something to read while you’re bundled under the covers and trying to forget about the snowplow rumbling futilely down your street? Or are you lucky enough to need a poolside companion while you brown your skin and sip drinks more colorful than Elton John’s wardrobe?

Either way, Daniel and Sean have you covered. They each recommended a short story, comic book, and novel that should become your nightstand’s best friend sooner rather than later.

Have a few things you’d like to add to list? Great! Let us know in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Short Stories

Sean: A Matter of Principal” by Max Allan Collins.

This a short story for lovers of tough guy, anti-hero storylines. This was my first meeting with Collins' now famous hit man named Qurrey.

The story starts simple enough, a retired hit man talks about his issues with sleeping. He can't sleep because, well, he's bored as a retiree. While on a late night junk food run he stumbles in to a kidnapping. From this point on, Collins does an incredible job of making you feel as excited as Qurrey as he blows dust off his gun and goes to work.

Collins is like me because he grew up a huge fan of Mickey Spillane and it shows in his work. The story is bare bones and it keeps you rooting for the bad guy.

Daniel: Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway.

As much as I love “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “A Farewell to Arms,” I think my favorite words by Ernest Hemingway come from his 1927 collection of short stories titled “Men Without Women.” The short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is classic Hemingway; straight forward dialogue that speaks volumes about the characters uttering it. Two lovers talking to each other while waiting for a train, but neither one actually listens or understands anything the other person is saying. Their conversation centers on whether the woman should have an abortion or not, but really, it’s about the death of their relationship. You feel every ounce of that death with the woman’s last line, “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.” That’s damn good writing by one of the best.

Comic Books

Sean: Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell.

Like most everyone else, I am huge Batman fan, but I hold a special place for Oliver Queen, aka The Green Arrow, in my heart. He's a lot like Batman, but with less brooding and more of an attitude. The mini-series Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is a stand out in the DC world. Besides the jaw-dropping artwork, the story puts you on the edge of your seat. It pushes the Green Arrow to the breaking point by attacking his personal life and his career as a crime fighter. The story holds up despite being published in the late 1980s.

Daniel: Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

I wanted to go against the grain and pick something other than a Superman comic, but, alas, I could not. This Superman comic book is just too good. The artwork is a perfect modern take on old comic book styling and blends perfectly with the stories being told.

It makes Superman relatable without having to rely on the copious amounts of bearded brooding featured in “Man of Steel.” There’s something fundamentally optimistic about Superman that I think this comic captures beautifully. The recent film versions of Superman are much more cynical, which I guess reflects the times we live in. Loeb and Sale accomplish so much more by showcasing the world through Superman’s adolescent eyes rather than through a pessimistic adult’s.

Novels

Sean: Tie. The Shining and Cell by Stephen King.

I love Stephen King. When someone asks me to narrow something down that involves the New England-based writer, I can't do it. So for this, I managed to narrow it down to my two favorite Stephan King stories to read while trapped inside.

A lot of readers and movie lovers are about to be very angry with me. I am not a huge fan of the movie “The Shining.” Okay folks, put the pitchforks down and listen to me. The movie looks great and it's scary. But after reading the book, one can see that movie has no story, it's very empty. The movie is just about an already crazy man going more batshit crazy and attacking his family. In the book, King tells a tale of a family man who struggles with demons fueled by booze and rage and tries his best to be a good father and husband. Add in the fact that you are seeing the horrors through the eyes of a little boy with a power he doesn't fully understand and you are in for one hell of a ride.

Cell was King's homage to George Romeo's “Night of the Living Dead” series and it's fantastic fun. The book starts with a bang and then just keeps going. It's filled with over the top violence that makes you go "eww” in a good way. This book is also chock-full of King’s signature meaty, well-rounded characters. Unlike some of his other work that tends to be long and drawn out, this tale is short and sweet. The best part of this book is you can tell how much fun King had writing it; the joy and fun flies off the page to hit you in the face. Strap in for the ride and dive in to Cell.

Daniel: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I already recommended this on my personal blog “Hardball Heart,” but I just can’t help doing it again. This book is just so beautiful not to be enjoyed with a glass of red wine and a lover cuddled up next to you. Every line drips with love, passion, and romance, and you’ll never be able to forget the heartbreak and fiery exuberance of the novel’s final lines. If you don’t fall for all of the characters in this novel, well, then you have no idea what love is. This should be required reading in order to be a human being. In fact, people should have to read this book every year to make sure they remember what love should feel like.

MORE FROM WRITER'S BONE'S LIBRARY