How are those resolutions going? Have you made them yet? We’re sure there is still time. No one is looking. Just back-date that Post-It note to the 2nd. It’ll be fine. We made a few, mostly about reading more books, and, well, we’re pacing ourselves. Yes, that is what we are doing, because, well, we’re making room for new books. Right? Gotta have room for new books.
And what sort of new books might there be this week? Well, let’s go take a look.
First off, we have this pretty looking thing by Chloe Benjamin. The Immortalists follows four siblings who, in 1969, wander into Manhattan’s Lower East Side and end up visiting a psychic. Which is thrilling enough, but just how the book starts! The psychic tells the children when they will die, and it’s up to the kids to figure out if the psychic is a loon or a precise prognosticator. And therein lies a tale of four intertwined lives that spill out across the remainder of the 20th century, as Benjamin explores a variety of ways that one could deal with such an awareness about their lives. We’re hearing lovely things about this book, and we’re sure it is going to start a whole bunch of interesting conversations.
And speaking of conversations about how we spend our time, Daniel H. Pink is back this week with When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Now Pink has a long career of making us think about the seemingly inconsequential as a means to improve our lots in life, and this time around, he has crawled through all the Twitters (and a lot of other scientific data too) to learn about timing. When is the best time to cultivate an idea? Or to descend the stair? Or eat a peach? Reading this book is going to spin your world into a bit of a tizzy as you start trying to pretzel yourself so as to take advantage of the best time to do things.
It’s no coincidence that this newsletter drops around 10am on Thursday. (Smile, winky, nudge nudge.) [Ed note: Except when Mark schedules it for 10pm and ruins the joke.]
And speaking of timing and coincidence, also out this week is Mike Lewis’s When to Jump, a handy guide to helping you decide if it is time for a change in your life. Lewis, who quit his cushy job as a financial analyst to go off to New Zealand to be a professional squash player, has collected the stories of more than 40 individuals who have made dramatic changes in their careers. Lewis outlines the idea of the Jump Curve—the cycle one goes through as you prepare for making this change—and he offers all sorts of easy-to-swallow bon mots and platitudes along the way. Because change is hard, and if there’s a handbook to help you through that transition, well, we’ll be the first to sell it to you.
And speaking of things we’d like to sell you, here likes Nick Harkaway’s new book, Gnomon, a mesmerizing blend of science fiction, dystoptian near-futurism, social media watchdoggedness gone awry, and philosophical discourse regarding the final resting place of consciousness once the brain dies. This is your regularly scheduled dose of literary subversion. You should take it now so that the world-weary whackadoodle of 2018 won’t be able to get its claws into you. Armor up, my dears! Put some peculiar plates of persper-spackity over those lobes!
And speaking of winsome wordplay, we also have One Fun Day With Lewis Carroll, a delightfully illustrated edition of the Mad Hatter’s own jocular jargon. Written by Kathleen Krull and whimsically illustrated by Julia Sardaa, One Fun Day is a mischievous tumble down Carroll’s rabbit hole that is both a quick biography as well as an irreverent introduction to the wonders of Wonderland.
And speaking of intricacies spelled out across the pages, we have Gregory Blake Smith’s The Maze at Windermere, which has five parallel, but distinct, narratives. There’s the washed-up tennis pro in 2011, who falls in love with a crippled heiress; there’s the closeted gay man in 1896, who courts a well-off society lady; and then, in 1863, we have Henry James struggling to choose between art and everything else. Oh, and on these pages, we have the story of a British officer in the Revolutionary War, who becomes obsessed with a young Portuguese woman; and finally, we spin back to 1692, where a Quaker woman struggles to make good matches for herself and her household. It’s like five distinct novels, really, but Smith does a lot of clever cross-cutting in a very David Mitchell way, and manages to deliver a book that is much more than the sum of its parts.
And in a much less complicated narrative, we return to Scythedom with Thunderhead, the sequel to Neal Shusterman’s 2016 store favorite Scythe. Now, in Shusterman’s “post-mortal” future, death is sorta transitory unless you’re actually whacked in the noggin with a scythe. Naturally, there is trouble afoot among those who do the scything, and in Thunderhead, the titularly named AI which manages nearly all aspects of existence, starts to get a little squirmy about its relationship with humanity. Everything comes to a real whopper of a conclusion, so if you’ve been waiting to get Scythed, now is the time.
And let’s distract you from that terrible pun with Fools and Mortals, Bernard Cornwall’s entry into the history of the theater in the late 16th century. In Fools and Mortals, Richard Shakespeare—the lesser known brother of THAT guy—wants to get the juicier roles that men do, but because he’s pretty and well-liked by the crowds, he’s been stuck with the less-than-plum roles of female characters. Naturally, there are shenanigans and political machinations afoot (this is Elizabethan England, after all), and Cornwall adroit rolls up his sleeves and brings all of his considerable skill at writing historical war novels to bear on what seems like a light-hearted farce. Ah, but let us not forget the context in which the title of this book is uttered by one of Shakespeare’s most mischievous characters.
And with that, we will exit, pursued by a bear.