Here are the books I’m hot to read, but probably won’t because I have so much on my bedside table already. Or rather, I’ll finally get to them two years from now…
Whit Stillman: Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated
If you’ve seen Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona, or the delightful Metropolitan, you know he’s a Jane Austen fan. This is his tribute, a reimagining of Austen’s early epistolary novel, Lady Susan.
Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Trigger Warning, and The View From the Cheap Seats
Neil is so prolific that I can’t keep up with him, but he’s always worth reading–witty, humane, endlessly inventive, magical. Ocean is a novel and Trigger is a short story collection, but the one I am really lusting after is this new collection of his nonfiction with more than sixty reviews and articles on “authors past and present, music, storytelling, comics, bookshops, travel, fairy tales, America, inspiration, libraries, and ghosts.”
Alice Dreger: Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice
Dreger has spent her career advocating for and documenting the science of transgender people and intersex people, those who are born with ambiguous genitalia. In this controversial book, she discusses the tension between social activism and science, and makes an impassioned plea for intellectual rigor and responsibility.
Arlene Heyman: Scary Old Sex
This is a short story collection about the relationship between aging and sexuality: “A beautiful young art student embarks on an affair with a much older, married, famous artist. A middle-aged woman struggles with the decline of her mother, once glamorous and still commanding; their fraught relationship causes unexpected feelings, both shaming and brutal. A man finds that his father has died while in the midst of extra-marital sex and wonders what he should do with the body.” The stories sound clear-eyed, funny, and humane. Heyman, by the way, is a practicing psychiatrist in her seventies (and the first story mentioned above is based on her real-life affair with Bernard Malamud). I heard a radio interview in which she said she doesn’t want to stop being a sexual person just because she is aging. You go, girl!
Richard Russo: Nobody’s Fool and Everybody’s Fool
I’ve been reading Russo’s books for years, and I always find them satisfyingly funny and touching. These two are about a sixty-year old charmer/loser named Sully and the mess he has made of his life, and they are set in Russo’s familiar stomping grounds of upstate New York. Russo is a master at conveying character and feeling. The first book I read by him was the hilarious academic satire Straight Man, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Stephanie Danler: Sweetbitter
I’m a sucker for books about restaurants, especially if they run along the lines of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. This is a debut novel about a young woman waiting tables in an upscale Manhattan restaurant. It’s a coming of age story with wine, food, sex, and other drugs. Plus a beautiful, tatted-up bartender named Jake.
J. Ryan Stradal: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Another food novel: this one is about a girl from Minnesota who becomes a brilliant chef. Enough said.
Looking over this list, I seem to be drawn to tales of food, sex, wit and whimsy. Yep. That’s about right.
PS: I just added Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl to the list. It’s a novelized, contemporary take on The Taming of the Shrew.