This past year bore witness to the crumbling infrastructure, both physical and metaphorical, of a bloated capitalist society. How does one interact with this society, benefit from it even, without being sucked into its swampier depths of poverty, embitterment, and apathy? Poet and essayist Eula Bliss attempts to answer that question as she moves through her own day-to-day routine, working to untangle the concepts of work and luxury, accumulation vs. consumption, and the uncompensated value of time. Bliss asks herself and her class, “in what have we invested?”
Sometimes the only thing we can do about the human condition is to laugh at it. Wow, No Thank You: Essays, a compilation by Samantha Irby, does just that—pointing out the hilarious subtleties and nuances of everyday life constantly bombarded by social media, marketing campaigns, and fashion trends. Irby’s compilation is a quick, satisfying, and delicious read, a riotous book sure to lift the lowest of spirits.
The intricacies of female relationships can be complicated and hard to process, but J. Courtney Sullivan has made easy work of it in her new novel, Friends and Strangers. Following an unlikely friendship of two women in vastly different stages of life, this novel is an exceptionally authentic read that will let you ponder the nuances of interpersonal relationships without sinking too heavily into despair. Friends and Strangers is a great novel for new moms wading through the murky waters of power dynamics, motherhood, and modern-day childcare.
In this powerful dystopian novel by award-winning author Gish Jen, a partially submerged remnant of years’ past, AutoAmerica, is divided into two populations. The Netted are employed and live on (literal) high ground, while the jobless Surplus is forced to live in the swampland or on the water. Jen’s story centers around a Surplus family with a golden-armed daughter making waves in an underground baseball league. Powerful, poignant, and honestly, a bit too realistic of a futuristic prediction, The Resisters is a book you won’t be able to put down once you’ve started.
Endlessly curious and amazingly fascinating, scientist and writer Ainissa Ramirez has found a way to evaluate the human experience through clocks, light bulbs, and silicon chips. Major inventions that seem commonplace today worked to shape society as we know it, from the railroad’s role in commercializing Christmas to the telegraph’s influence on Hemingway’s writing. 2020 has shoved the good, bad, and ugly of the human experience in our faces, and Ramirez does an excellent job making sense of the chaos.
Two sisters attend a 1968 protest of the Vietnam War in Detroit and end up getting arrested. One sister jumps at the opportunity to protest the war in court. The other sister has an infant daughter, and therefore wants to avoid prison at all costs. Her Sister’s Tattoo navigates the delicate, thorny balance between family loyalty and political ideology. Even 52 years after the book’s events take place, fiction writer Ellen Meeropol has found a way to speak to everyone who has ever fought with family in the name of personal or political beliefs.
Madeleine L’Engle, author of the beloved novel A Wrinkle In Time, offers a posthumous collection of short stories that the New York Times says “inspires a great capacity for wonder.” The 18 short stories discovered by L’Engle’s granddaughter span from the author’s lonely childhood to life as a mother in small-town New England. From realism to science fiction to fantasy, there is a story for everyone in this magical collection.
Lizzie Benson is a part-time librarian, part-time armchair shrink when an old mentor approaches her with a new job opportunity. Benson is tasked with responding to mail sent in by listeners of her mentor’s famous podcast, Hell and High Water. The letters are from left-wingers who fear climate change and right-wingers who fear the decline of Western civilization. As Benson’s own family falls into disarray, she’s forced to address the deterioration of her own family, her country, and the world. Jenny Offill’s novel faces the problems of today’s society head-on with powerful wit and emotional intelligence.
When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry edited by Joy Harjo
Although the literal and metaphorical foundation of this country, the cultural contributions of Indigenous people are often unduly overlooked. The legacy of American poetry does not exist without Native American poetry, and yet it remained excluded for years. United States Poet Laureate and member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Joy Harjo, attempts to right this wrong by publishing the first historical anthology of Native American poetry, When The Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through. The comprehensive Norton anthology features nearly 160 poets from 100 Indigenous nations.
Located just beyond the edge of the ever-growing universe is a library filled with an infinite inventory of books. Each book offers the reader a story of an alternate reality, an augmented “what if?” look into the lives we would’ve led had we made a different decision, made that call, or took that chance. If the library itself isn’t enticing enough of a reason to dive into this ultra-meta novel, Matt Haig’s captivating writing style and imaginative scenescapes ought to do the trick.