Need some new books to read in 2014? Here are a few books the editors at Y&P read in 2013.
Colum McCann – “Transatlantic” (2013)
The latest fantastic multi-layered novel from Colum McCann. This one spans over 150 years and takes on voices as diverse as Frederick Douglass and a midwestern family surviving on the profits of ice sales from their lake. The novel is helmed by four generations of richly painted women and, like “Let the Great World Spin,” takes us up in the air on a heart-pounding feat over gravity. This time it isn’t a high wire walker, but the first flight across the Atlantic. Transatlantic’s themes make it perfect for your next long haul flight or week on the beach.
Truman Capote – “In Cold Blood” (1965)
Capote’s literary experiment to write a “nonfiction novel” came to life when he examined the stories and clues related to the death of the wholesome, Kansas family, The Clutters. All four family members had been murdered in the middle of the night in their old farmhouse for no apparent reason. “In Cold Blood” uses the murder of the Clutter family to discuss the United States death penalty, the American Dream, and mental health. Even to those who know the story, “In Cold Blood” is a page-turner, slowly revealing the haunting details of this true crime, and leaves you feeling a little un-easy, a bit suspicious, and slightly cold…
Mary Schmich – “Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now” (2013)
Now that I’m a Chicago resident, I’m eagerly devouring this one to get up to speed on my new town! Journalist Mary Schmich has been writing a bi-weekly column for the Chicago Tribune for over two decades. This anthology collects some of the 2012 Pullitzer Prize winner’s best works, which cover everything from family to holidays, life in Chicago and advice on writing. It also includes her 1997 column “Wear Sunscreen” – which was falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut (can you imagine?).
Jack Kerouac – “Lonesome Traveller” (1960)
A compilation of journal entries written by Kerouac while he was on the road in the US, Mexico, Morocco, the UK, and France. Discussing the people he meets, jobs he acquires, women he falls in love with along his travels, we see how Kerouac’s lifestyle is fast-paced, spontaneous, and all the while remains meditative, much like his writing style. His vagabond lifestyle is filled with marijuana and booze, loneliness and liveliness, hostels and brothels, ships, trains and automobiles. “Lonesome Traveler” is a travel memoir for the modern day Beat who wants a closer view of the life Kerouac explored in “On the Road”.
Vivek J. Tiwary. Art by Andrew C. Robertson with Kyle Baker – “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” (2013)
The man who proclaimed the Beatles will be “bigger then Elvis” takes center stage in this graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics. Get to know the man behind the success of arguably the greatest Rock N Roll band of all time. The story delves not only into Brian Epstein’s time managing the Beatles but also into the struggles of his personal life. This is not a history of the Beatles. The band is the supporting cast. This is the story of the man who was as much as part of their success as their talent. A fascinating read with some gorgeous art.
Gil Courtemanche – “A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali” (2000)
This one’s heavy, but hear me out. In October, Kigali’s Serena hotel hosted the Transform Africa Conference. This meeting of the minds debated how broadband internet access can be best used to transform communities, governments, and the private sector in Africa while promoting education and entrepreneurship. In 1994, a hotel a kilometer down the road protected 1,268 people from the genocide outside the lobby. What a world we live in.
Paul Theroux – “Hotel Honolulu” (2001)
American travel writer, Paul Theroux, takes us to Honolulu where we become a fly on the wall, actually, more like a fly on the shoulder of the manager at Hotel Honolulu, a multistory hotel filled with multiple stories of it’s guests and employees. The manager, unnamed, is a writer who moved from the Mainland to Oahu to reinvent his life, lands a job as the manager of Hotel Honolulu. He narrates the stories about the happenings at the hotel, and on the island of Oahu. The tales told in “Hotel Honolulu” are filled with sex, lots of sex, but also crazy stories about how people got to Hawaii (also filled with sex). Theroux’s descriptions of Hawaii are honest and his injections of Hawaiian history along native dialect adds to the realist quality of the book.