Saturday Book Selections
Emily Lavelle & Kurt Zwolfer
“Not that she objected to solitude. Quite the contrary. She had books, thank Heaven, quantities of books. All sorts of books.”
So wisely wrote the nineteenth century novelist Jean Rhys, who could never have predicted the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing forced solitude of 2020, but whose words nevertheless resonate.
Whether you are social distancing with a house full of people, with a furry friend or two, or solo, this time of quarantine can leave us collectively experiencing ambiguous feelings of isolation and grief. In the spirit of Jean Rhys, The Cabin offers our first in a series of book selections to keep you company in the coming weeks.
One You’ve Been Waiting For: The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel delivers an epic close to the trilogy that chronicles the rise of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII. If the first two books — Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies — taught readers anything, it is that Mantel has a novelist’s mastery of prose and an archivist’s soul. Both are on display in The Mirror & The Light, as Mantel grounds the dramatic storytelling in rich, vivid historical context, as is her trademark. Clocking in at more than 700 pages, this one is our choice for a truly immersive read to sustain you over the next few weeks.
One that Will Make You Savor Solitude: At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life by Fenton Johnson
In this gorgeous, lyrical book, Fenton Johnson holds solitude to the light and considers it from every angle. Johnson — a self-identified solitary — draws examples from a dozen historical figures from Emily Dickinson to Amelia Earhart to Bill Cunningham to Paul Cézanne and illustrates how we may all benefit — creatively, spiritually, and societally — by courting more solitude in our lives. At the heart of the book is the question: What might we nurture if we aren’t nurturing a romantic partnership and instead turn our full attention to creativity, friendships, community, and our own inner worlds? The opportunities, considered in Johnson’s almost divine prose, seem limitless and seductive.
One to Make You Laugh: Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
The author of the bestselling comedic essay collections We are Never Meeting in Real Life and Meaty outdoes herself with this bundle of unabashed, hilarious, honest, and timely essays. In essays including one titled “A Case for Remaining Indoors,” Irby covers topics from her expertise with self-isolation (long before Coronavirus made it popular!) to race, gender, and body functions. Irby’s pen drips with a signature, impossible-to-replicate sarcasm, wit, absurdity, and self-deprecation. If you need the voice of a best friend who calls it as she sees it, look no further than Samantha Irby.
One to Read with the Family: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This international bestseller published last October and is experiencing a surge in popularity this month — and it’s no wonder why. A modern-day fable about the unlikely friendship between a fox, a horse, a boy, and a mole, this warm book offers gentle lessons on the universal topics of kindness, bravery, and vulnerability. The characters ask — and answer — questions such as: “What do we do when our hearts hurt?” “Home isn’t always a place, is it?” and “What do you think success is?” The reply to the last one? “To love.” Families will find this quaintly illustrated book reassuring, hopeful, and grounding during such uncertain times.
Readings & Conversations: A Reading List
As The Cabin’s community looks forward to the 2020-2021 season of Readings & Conversations, let’s take a moment to review some of our past authors and look at their latest releases to help jumpstart a shelter in place reading list.
Colson Whitehead (February 2018) followed his magical realistic story of America’s legacy of slavery, The Underground Railroad, with a novel that takes a more direct approach to historic events. Nickel Boys is a fictionalized account of two children trapped in a horrific 1960’s juvenile reform school that is based upon the now shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Through expert storytelling, Colson connects his readers with the broken lives of his two protagonists while exposing the institutional corruption and discrimination of the Jim Crow South.
Lauren Groff (April 2017) switched gears after her bestselling novel Fates and Furies and released an intimate short story collection named after her home state. Although each story in Florida stands by itself, the entire collection links together thematically allowing the reader to consume the book in small pieces or swallow it up in several extended reading sessions. It’s the perfect geographic escape for those willing to trade the mountains of Idaho for the swamps and heat of the Sunshine State.
When Colum McCann visited the Readings & Conversations’ stage (November 2016), he read from his latest collection of short stories, Thirteen Ways of Looking. After four years of writing, Colum just released his next novel. Fans of McCann know that the National Book Award winner often explores historic events and the shared humanity between people from varied and unfamiliar backgrounds. Apeirogon is the story of two men, an Israeli and a Palestinian, who are linked when each of their families experiences a tragedy resulting from the long-running Middle Eastern conflict. Like Colson Whitehead’s latest work, Column based this novel on a real story of ordinary people trying to overcome the madness of the world around them.
If you are a fan of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Elizabeth Strout’s (March 2012) Olive Kitteridge, you might already be aware that she published a sequel last year. Olive, Again is the chance to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with Strout’s lovable but curmudgeonly character while exploring the lives of a small town in Maine.
David Sedaris (April 2003) has produced a stack of books since he helped kick off the first season of Readings & Conversations. His latest collection of humorous essays, Calypso, is a sure fire way to brighten your mood during home confinement. In usual Sedaris fashion, Calypso skewers both himself and his family in the sometimes bittersweet tales of his middle age years.
All these books can be ordered directly from our favorite local, independent bookstore — Rediscovered Books. Click here to learn more.
Crowdsourced Reading List
Reading something swell that you think everyone should read? (Or at least folks who like the same kind of books that you do?) Add it to our Community Crowdsourced Reading List and scroll through to find suggestions from other readers!