Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday and it’s more important to recognize than ever, what with Amazon steadily taking over all distribution of the written word. The day itself will be filled with all sorts of ways to show your love for your local readery, from a photo booth with authors at Greenlight to a free shot of Absinthe with purchases at Spoonbill & Sugartown. Of course, you can get books from your local bookstore any day of the year, so to encourage reading and local commerce, we asked some bookstore employees at local indie shops what new books and summer pleasures we should be reading so we can someday be smart and well-read like them.
Ezra Goldstein – Community Bookstore
God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson: A stand-alone, but also a riff, a spinoff and a meditation on Atkinson’s Life After Life, my favorite book of 2013.
The Land Breakers, by John Ehle: Written in 1964, but only recently brought back into print; a hyper-graphic, hyper-realistic tale of what it took–and what it meant–to be an American pioneer.
Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, by Lawrence Wright: Sounds boring but reads like a whodunnit, with three totally neurotic protagonists; newly out in paperback.
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro: A strange, haunting, otherworldly book about love at the far, as in aged, end of the spectrum.
Old summer favorite:
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: Only three years old, but the super-addictive entree into Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, a literary soap opera centered the intense, troubled, 60-year-long friendship between two Italian women.
Miles Bellamy – Spoonbill & Sugartown
Preparation For the Next Life, by Atticus Lish: With Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, with which it has very little in common, this book is a great reverie on post-9/11 New York.
MAP – Collected and Last poems, by Wislawa Szymborska: The greatest Polish poet of the last 50 years. Refinement of expression full with feeling.
The Strange Case of Rachel K., by Rachel Kushner A little beauty of an book, these earlier works presage the explosion that is Kushner’s way with words.
Old summer favorite:
Martin Dressler, The Tale of An American Dreamer, by Steven Millhauser: Martin Dressler, the 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner, should be read by all those who love fiction, love New York, or have known self-destructive obsession.
My Struggle Volume Four, by Karl Ove Knausgaard: As a bookseller, people are always asking me whether or not I think books will still exist in 50 or 100 years. My answer depends on my mood, but one thing I’m sure of is this: If people still read books in in the future, they’ll read this one. Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” is the most important to happen to literature this century. Book Four isn’t the best in the series but it’s still far and away my favorite thing I’ve read all year.
Preparation For the Next Life by Atticus Lish The book chronicles a romance between a PTSD-suffering Iraq War Vet and an undocumented Uyghur Chinese immigrant. Skinner, the vet, self-destructs, Zou Lei, the immigrant works long days in restaurant kitchens and together they struggle through a hand to mouth existence in Flushing Queens. Their relationship may be doomed but the novel triumphs. Lish writes with what can only be described as love for both his characters and their neighborhood. Along with being my favorite “Post 9-11″ book that directly concerns the war, it’s also one of the very best “NYC Novels” of the 21st Century.
The Whites, by Richard Price New York’s finest, Richard Price tried to write a pop thriller under a pseudonym. He failed. Instead, the result of his efforts, “The Whites” is another excellent Richard Price novel with his pitch perfect dialogue, complex characters and masterfully crafted plot.
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner: One of the best contemporary American novels I’ve read in years. With impassioned lyricism, The Flamethrowers follows a young woman in the 1970s as she rides a motorcycle across the US, and traverses the patriarchal subcultures of the New York art scene, the notorious LES Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers and the Italian Red Brigades.
Old summer favorite:
The Mandarins, by Simone de Beauvoir: Looking for a big summer novel that’s filled with people struggling as they attempt to make love, art and revolution? How about one that’s a roman à clef where the central characters are closely based on Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus and Algren? Perhaps one where the characters stay up all night in cafes smoking cigarettes and discussing philosophy with the same passion they put into making aioli? Ok, this is your book.