Do you know what is older than the pandemic? This newsletter. This newsletter is . . . hang on . . . divide by 4 and carry the six and . . . Oh, quite old. Not old enough for long pants, and certainly not old enough to sass the youngsters, but definitely old enough to feel the change in barometric pressure in its bones. And to celebrate this momentous milestone (300!), we're going to do something a little different.
. . .
No we're not. This newsletter is like an old hound, fixed in its ways and as liable to diddle on the carpet as it is to chew on your slippers. And, like all aged, moribund, half-blind, nearly- hairless-on-the-back-half mutts that spend most of their day sleeping on the couch, let's not set the bar too high for any real pyrotechnics. If we're lucky, the book covers will match the commentary.
First up is The President's Daughter, which is the second collaboration between James Patterson and President Bill Clinton. It's got one-man special ops missions, dedicated fathers, daughters in danger, and probably a half-dozen other tropes that are the lowest hanging fruit in the literary garden. One of these guys has dedicated his career to the elevation of the American Dream and the other one is an ex-President. Neither expects to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nor does their audience expect them to try. But hey, stuff blows up and yada yada yada . . .
Next up is Will McPhail's In, which is the story of a young man who isn't very good at talking to people and who yearns to connect. Naturally, his efforts alternate between cringe-worthy dumpster-fire dramas to nearly earnest authenticity. What makes this journey enjoyable for the reader (instead of that creeping horror of "oh sh*t, this is my life") is that this is a graphic novel and McPhail deftly moves between simple black-and-white cartoons and lush impressionistic paintings. This one holds nothing back, and the journey is all the better for it.
Meanwhile, over on the sportsball shelves is Andy Martino's Cheated: the Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing. A couple of years ago, the Houston Astros slimed their way to a World Series title by recording hand signals passed between members of opposing teams and banging out codes with garbage cans. It was both a high- and low-tech scheme, and not surprisingly, was eventually discovered. Martino's journalistic style and deep research makes for a very readable story while you're enjoying a slice of warm schaudenfraude pie.
And speaking of pie, you can find the recipe for Arden Apple Pie in Chelsea Monroe-Cassel's new World of Warcraft cookbook. That's right. It's time for "New Flavors of Azeroth"! Like the aforementioned apple pie. Or Gnomeregan Gnuggets, which, when threaded onto wooden skewers, are served Darkmoon Faire-style. Or Quiethounds, which are dusted with a Medley of Transplanar Spices. Mmmm. Whatever are these delicious delicacies?
Which reminds us that it has been at least an hour since we got on our soapbox about the lack of food trucks in downtown. Hang on. We're going to go rage for a minute or two. Page through Valentina Mussi's Unofficial Tiktok Cookbook while we're gone.
Mussi's cookbook features seventy-five Internet-breaking recipes for snacks, drinks, treats, and more! Become the next viral sensation by . . . um . . . making strawberry milk on camera . . . ?
Frankly, we're not sure how any of this works anymore, which shouldn't be a surprise given how ancient and decrepit we are. We're three hundred, for crying out loud! Three hundred weeks. That's what? . . . divide by 6, carry the 4 . . . Well, it certainly seems longer than that, especially in dog years, which we likened ourselves to earlier.
Hello and welcome to A Good Book's book newsletter, where we fully embrace the Heraclitean model of the stream of consciousness, which is to say: if you're not following along, give it a second, and then dip your toe in again.
Also, while we were raging, we were reminded that there will be food trucks during Sumner's evening markets on Fridays in July. Yay!
Anyway, while we are waiting for the follow-up to Atlas Obscura (only a few more months!), here is Gideon Defoe's An Atlas of Extinct Countries. If we've learned anything in the last year, it's that exotic places other than our own living rooms have become even more exotic. However, the downside to actually going someplace these days is compounded by the fact that other people are going to be there. This is where Defoe's new book comes in handy. It's all about places you can't visit! Armchair travel at its finest!
And speaking of armchair travel, Chaney Kwak's The Passenger is a recounting of the twenty-plus hours he spent on a floating cruise ship. And by "floating" we mean "without power and drifting perilously close to shore as it slowly capsizes." Alternately hilarious, poignant, and life-affirming, The Passenger is a delightful meditation on what the f*ck any of it means when it might all come to an unexpected end. Definitely put this one on the list of 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.
And speaking of unexpected examinations of mortality, Wolf Erlbruch's Duck, Death, and the Tulip is our newest favoritest book about life. It's been out for quite some time, and we are terribly late to the party, but whatever. Erlbruch's book is, ostensibly, a children's book, but it's going to wreck every adult in the room when they try to read it aloud to the tykes. Put this on the shelf next to Brian Lies's The Rough Patch, also a classic heartbreaker.
Oh, hey. Here's something a little more uplifting: a new oracle deck illustrated by Georges Barbier. Oh, it's very late nineteenth century in its imagery, but also very scandalous by the mores of that time. Grecian in influence. Art Nouveau-ian in execution. But more Beardsley than Mucha—nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
[It's very red band, but mostly because the weather's been a bit on the chilly side recently.]
And speaking of tittering behind our hands like twelve-year olds, Rivka Galchen's new novel Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch is a deliciously scathing and charming novel about Johannes Kepler's mother. That's right. That Johannes Kepler. Apparently, gossip and rumor were just as bad for neighborhoods back in the 17th century as they are today, and Katherine Kepler had the audacity to be an outspoken and independent widow. Jealousy and distrust devour the brains of the townsfolk, who eventually decided that Ma Kepler must be a witch (because she floated like a duck, right?). Galchen dials in the Kafka to the point of absurdity, but never lets the book become an outright farce. Instead, she pens a narrative that skewers our penchant for illogical fears about the unknown and the different. Recommended.
And finally, here is Terry Miles's Rabbits, which is the book most likely to melt your brain this week. It's about a mysterious podcast, a clandestine alternate-reality game, characters named "K" (how many references to Kafka does it take to make a conspiracy?), and eighty million layers of paranoia. You may think you know where the story is going, but turn the page and you'll swiftly discover yet another rabbit hole that will swallow you up. Rabbits is a wild ride that will pretzel you in a very delightful way.
And with that, we are out. Thank you for joining us over the past three hundred or so weeks. We shall endeavor to be here for at least three hundred more. Plan accordingly.