‘Indy’ Staff’s Reading Picks
Books We Love — From Mystery to Romance to History
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Caitlin Fitch, Creative Director
The Dispossessed | Ursula K. Le Guin
An award-winning (for good reason) science-fiction novel from the ‘70s about a socialist utopian planet of revolutionaries that orbits an Earth-like planet of consumers and the attempt by a physicist to help the two societies communicate after years of isolation from each other. It’s fantastically written and covers issues of social justice while being exciting and magical the way a good science-fiction story should be.
Men Explain Things to Me | Rebecca Solnit
The inspiration for the word “mansplaining” can be found in this collection of seven essays on feminism that are accompanied by beautiful paintings by Ana Teresa Hernandez. Artfully written and powerfully worded, this book will inspire and ignite the way you think about feminism.
Sarah Sinclair, Director of Advertising
By Courtesy Photo
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life | Samantha Irby
I recently visited Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. I had to limit my purchases to fit in my carry-on, so I broke my usual novels-only tendency to purchase this book of essays. By the end of the short flight home, I had laughed, cried, and cringed, and was completely in love with Samantha Irby. Her tongue-in-cheek descriptions of situations in her life — from why she should be the next Bachelorette to why her career in customer service at a veterinarian’s office equips her for anything else in life — are endearing, searing, and cuttingly comedic. A fun, rollicking, and thought-provoking read that lodges deep in your heart.
Matt Kettmann, Senior Editor/Food & Drink Editor
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France | Kermit Lynch
First published in 1988, with a 25th-anniversary reissue in 2013, this is the legendary Berkeley wine importer’s colorful, opinionated, eye-opening travelogue of his early days meeting those vignerons from the Loire to Languedoc who have become the most coveted names in the fine-wine market.
Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Re-created | Patrick E. McGovern
This 2017 ale-by-ale tour shows how the world’s leading beverage archaeologist identified the world’s oldest fermented drinks, explains how they fit into the past, and then reveals how he made them with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, complete with recipes.
Emily Cosentino, Marketing and Promotions Manager
The Astonishing Color of After | Emily X.R. Pan.
This is a beautifully written magical-realist young-adult novel that follows Leigh, a Taiwanese American dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide alongside her absent father. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her estranged grandparents in hopes of connecting with her mother’s early life and homeland. Told in shades of color, this plot dives heavily into father-daughter relationships, suicide, and grief. Readers flirt with the Taiwanese language and traditions while being immersed in present-day Taiwan.
Nick Welsh, Executive Editor
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Any of the 18 books in Tony Hillerman’s mystery series about two Navajo cops
Jim Chee and his former boss Joe Leaphorn do their dance across the generations, solving murders most foul — but rarely gory — against the backdrop of Navajo and Hopi mythologies set in New Mexico. Their friendship is both tender and tense; it evolves from book to book. So too do their respective romances, and the women they love are real, not just props. Always the subplot is cultural identity; it’s never easy and always complicated. One of Hillerman’s great virtues is he’s never preachy. He writes simple, he writes plain, and he writes exquisitely when describing the landscape, which is really the star of the series. For people assaulted by the frenzied noise of news, a Hillerman book is a great place to park yourself. Soak it up; soak it in; exhale. Then turn the page. The Surgeon General is correct — they’re highly addicting.
The Quiet American | Graham Greene.
Greene was writing about Vietnam in 1955 and nailing it. It would take David Halberstam another 17 years to get the same picture when he wrote The Best and the Brightest, and about three times as many pages. Greene was one of the great self-loathing Catholics who still believed in spite of it all. The book is suffused with that spirit. Greene wore his cynicism with a raw, poetic beauty that still astonishes, in a time when America believed progress was its most important product. His is a cynicism of moral horror, not just a tired-out pose. Greene got that the world needed to be protected most from those who thought they were saving it. The writing is amazing, and the insight remains scathingly contemporary even with the considerable passage of time. His descriptions of the ravages of napalm are horrific and understated.
God Save Texas | Lawrence Wright.
Wright is best known for his nonfiction articles in the New Yorker and his book The Looming Tower, one of the most defining pieces on Al Qaeda ever written. But in God Save Texas, Wright shifts into gears you can only wonder at, telling an amazing story of his home state. The stories are great, but the writing induces whiplash. How the hell did he do that? you’ll wonder. How did he manage to even think that thought? One can only hope he suffered a great deal writing it; he makes it so irresistibly easy to read. It’s not fair.
True Grit | Charles Portis
Yes there have been two great movies made from this book, told from the point of view of a prickly stubborn, mean, smart, opinionated 14-year-old determined to avenge the shooting of her father. The writing of this book, published in 1968, is all of those things as well. The first movie version starred John Wayne and the more recent version Jeff Bridges. But truly, the star of the show is Mattie Ross, the main character concocted by Charles Portis, who, with True Grit, stuck his fingers into the light socket and gave us all the juice.
The Neighborhood | Mario Vargas Llosa
Steamy Peruivan potboiler detective story with lots of sex and more literary street cred than one can shake a stick at.
Ethan Stewart, Editor at Large
But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past | Chuck Klosterman
The latest offering from everyone’s favorite intellectual culture nerd, this book is about as big of a mind fuck as you can imagine. It requires some Olympic-grade mental gymnastics to keep up, but the reward is truly expansive for the reader. It is impossible not to think new things about our modern world after reading this book.
Bore Hole | Joe Mellen.
A real-deal, contemporary-times banned book, this memoir takes an intimate and fascinating look at the seldom-celebrated tradition of drilling a small hole in your head to forever improve your cognitive function or, as the author puts it, “to get high forever.”
Marianne Partridge, Editor in Chief
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A novel that shifts from the normality of Irish village life to the unimaginable horrors humans suffer every day. A gifted, lyrical writer, O’Brien skillfully shows the kindness and generosity of people while allowing the reader courage to read the evil that dwells inside us all. It’s a strong narrative story.
Great mystery that takes place in a clearly identifiable Santa Barbara.
An irreverent memoir about growing up half Mexican, half Polish, and 100 percent cheeky feminist in Santa Maria in the ’90s.
Exposing the current state of theater from the angles of artistry and business, professional theater artist Jordan Tannahill offers a wry, disenchanted view on the perpetuation of dull, tired, outdated theater that turns audiences away from this ancient and vital art form. The book also explores the divide between theater as art and as entertainment and attempts to isolate the process for creating powerful theatrical work.