Members of the Literary Arts Patron Advisory Council know good books when they see them. At a (virtual) meeting of the group last month, these avid readers shared books they have recently loved. We hope you will enjoy this first selection of picks.
The Bird King
by G. Willow Wilson
From Grove Atlantic: The Bird King is a fantastical journey set at the height of the Spanish Inquisition from the award-winning author of Alif the Unseen and writer of the Ms. Marvel series, G. Willow Wilson’s The Bird King is a jubilant story of love versus power, religion versus faith, and freedom versus safety.
“I loved this book so much . . . The Bird King is ostensibly the story of a journey, of the limits to escape—but it is also a journey into story, and faith, and refuge, the family we choose and the friends we find. It’s deeply beautiful and wondrously sad, and I can’t tell if it ended too quickly or if I just needed it not to—if I just wanted to dwell in a home built out of story for a little longer yet.” —NPR
The Man in the Red Coat
by Julian Barnes
From Penguin Random House: From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending—a rich, witty, revelatory tour of Belle Époque Paris, via the remarkable life story of the pioneering surgeon, Samuel Pozzi.
“A pleasure to read in every way. Barnes writes with elegance and wit, probes motives with a novelist’s imagination but also a historian’s skepticism, plucking memorable formulations—enhanced by his own deft translation—from letters, journals and newspaper squibs . . . Barnes succeeds brilliantly.” —Leo Damrosch, The New York Times Book Review
by Esi Edugyan
From Penguin Random House: Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning, and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. …Spanning the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, London to Morocco, Washington Black is a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, and of a world destroyed and made whole again.
“Edugyan has created a wonder of an adventure story, powered by the helium of fantasy, but also by the tender sensibility of its aspiring young hero.” —NPR
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking
by Anya Von Bremzen
From Penguin Random House: James Beard Award-winning writer Anya Von Bremzen captures life under the Red socialist banner in this wildly inventive, tragicomic memoir of feasts, famines, and three generations.
“Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking turns a bittersweet eye and an intelligent heart on Soviet history through food…Beautifully told.” —Los Angeles Times
A Widow for One Year
by John Irving
From Penguin Random House: Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character–a “difficult” woman. By no means is she conventionally “nice,” but she will never be forgotten. Ruth’s story is told in three parts, each focusing on a crucial time in her life. Richly comic, as well as deeply disturbing A Widow for One Year is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief.
“By turns antic and moving, lusty and tragic, A Widow for One Year is bursting with memorable moments.” —San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle
Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
by Pam Houston
From W.W. Norton: On her 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. In essays as lucid and invigorating as mountain air, Deep Creek delivers Houston’s most profound meditations yet on how “to live simultaneously inside the wonder and the grief… to love the damaged world and do what I can to help it thrive.”
“This is a book for all of us, right now.” —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
The Well-Tempered City
by Jonathan F. P. Rose
Kristi Wallace Knight
From HarperCollins: In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—a visionary in urban development and renewal—champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century.
“Huge in ambition, grand in scope, dazzling in accomplishment. You will never look at your city, yourself or your neighbors the same way again.” —Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience
“If man’s capacity for the fantastic took up as much of his imagination as his capacity for cruelty, the worlds, seen and unseen, might be very different.”G. Willow Wilson