We’ve been in a funk this week. One of those “why is it still raining in June” sort of funks. Or maybe it’s one of those “can we take the afternoon off to read?” sort of funks. Or maybe it’s just a funkier sort of funk that has no name yet. Regardless, there’s a sensation of drowning going on, and it might have something to do with the general trend in color tones on the new release table. Or it might not. Either way, this week’s newsletter is written with an eye towards Books Useful in Instances of Funkitude. 

Book Most Useful in a Labor Uprising. Adam Rakunas returns to the rum-soaked worlds of Occupied Space with Like A Boss. Labor organizer Padma Mehta is trying to settle in as the new owner of a rum distillery, but things start going awry when sugarcane workers start disappearing. Soon enough the Union president is asking her to quell a strike that might bring down the whole planet. While Das Kapital might still be the hoary old benchmark for labor discussions, Rakunas has figured out how to make this sort of talk racy and filled with fisticuffs. 

Book Most Likely To Start Weird and Get Weirder. Jeremy P. Bushnell’s The Insides. It starts with a girl named Ollie meeting a warlock (and a friendly dog), moves on to Ollie turning into a successful butcher for a high-end restaurant called Carnage, and then adds in a bit of daring and mayhem about a magical knife. And apparently space-time gets wonky along the way. 

Book Most Likely to Take You A Year To Read But Will Probably Win The Pulitzer And You Want To Be Ahead of the Curve, Don’t You? Annie Proulx returns with Barkskins, a three-hundred year odyssey about the deforestation of the world. It’s the size of a brick, verdantly articulate, and probably worth all the brainspace it is going to require of you. If your bookclub is going to pick this one, they should pick it now and plan to meet next summer when everyone will run out of excuses for not having finished it. 

Hang on. If we’re in a funk, how is a book brick going to correct our course? We could beat our heads against it, but that’s not going to help. A real brick is cheaper, right? What’s the secret here? Oh, maybe lines like this: 

“In early July the pine trees loosed billows of pollen, yellow plumes like citrine smoke drifting through the forest, mixing with the smoke from burning trees. One morning an old man, his back bent beneath a bundle, his glaring eyes roving left and right, came ricketing out of the pollen clouds from the west trail, which led, as far as René knew, to the end of the world. 


“The Garden of Delightful Confusion pulled something inside Duquet as a child pulls a toy with a string. He had not known such places existed. They walked slowly along a mosaic path of tiny pebbles arranged in a pattern Fuqua said was ‘plum blossoms on cracked ice.’ At every turn there were rare views of flowering shrubs, moon gates; the Cloud-Piercing Tower appeared, then the coarse lacework of Lake Tai rocks in the shape of a mountain. From its highest crag fell a waterfall no wider than three fingers, wrinkling the pool below.” 

Book Most Likely to Replicate Getting Away From It All. A. J. Hartley’s got a new fantasy novel out called Steeplejack. High wire act on the cover. Lots of ladder motifs on the pages. Political intrigue. Scrappy heroine. Well-fleshed out world building. What’s not to love? 

Book Most Most Likely to Make Us Feel Better About Our Lives. Mary Roach has made a career out of exploring the secret worlds of certain aspects of our culture that we’d rather not talk about, be it sex or death or the afterlife or whatever was that weird thing you swallowed and what is it doing to your throat. This time around she’s tackling the strange and surreal world of the science behind keeping our boys and girls in uniform safe. She wonders how we deal with exhaustion, heat stroke, shrapnel, gory war wounds, zippers, and unexpected noises while in combat, and figures we’re curious about all these things too. 

Book Most Likely to Make Us New Friends. More Friends Than We Really Want. Like, We Wish They’d All Go Away Now. Like, We Really Don’t Want To Share. 

Overheard At The Store »»

Colby: Oh, hello, Bob. It’s been awhile. 

Bob: Yeah, I’ve been busy. 

Colby: Have you seen Alice lately? 

Bob: Yeah, I saw her last night. 

Colby: And . . . ?

Bob: And we had dinner. 

Colby: And . . . ?

Bob: We skipped desert. 

Colby: And . . . ?

Bob: And what? 

Colby: Did you . . . ? 

Bob: Did I what? 

Colby: You know . . . ? 

Bob: Here’s the thing, marmot. If I acknowledge what I think you’re talking about, then that means I’ve just had a conversation with a rodent about a rather personal and intimate aspect of a relationship between two grown adults, and I’m not sure I want to know that you’ve thought about that sort of intimate relationship between consenting grown-ups. Because then I would be thinking about a rodent thinking about two humans being . . . you know . . . And I just don’t want that in my head, okay? 

Colby: Wait. “Intimate”? Like . . . 

Bob: Stop! Don’t say it. Don’t even think it. 

Colby: I’m not sure what I’m not supposed to be thinking about. 

Bob: Let’s talk about the weather. 

Colby: I don’t want to talk about the weather. It might rain this weekend, and we’re trying to have a sidewalk sale. And it’s hard to put books outside on tables when it is raining. Which means we’ll have to have the sale inside. Which means we’ll have tables everywhere, and it’ll be cluttered and complicated and . . . and . . . and . . .

Bob: Are you hyperventilating? 

Colby: I might be!

Bob: Do you need a paper bag? 

Colby: You are not going to put me in a sack, beardy man!

Bob: No, you breathe into it. It helps calm you down. 

Colby: I am calm!

Bob: You don’t sound calm. And your fur is getting all . . . 

Colby: All what? 

Bob: It looks like you’ve been in a dryer or something. It’s all fuzzy.

Colby: It’s the barometric pressure change, you daft man! Doesn’t it mess with your beard? 

Bob: My beard? No, it’s naturally curly like this. 

Colby: Ooooh. I dislike you, beardy man. 

Bob: I’ve missed you too, marmot. So . . . read any good books lately? 

Colby: Did you kiss her, you fool? 

Bob: It’s none of your damn business, marmot. 




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