It’s rare to find a novel that both demands philosophical reflection and is a genuinely fun read, but Tom McCarthy pulls off that balance perfectly in his refreshingly unorthodox debut. The plain weirdness of the story and its sparse, restless prose will be the first things to grab you, but it’s McCarthy’s thoughtful treatment of the no-man’s-land between artificiality and reality that will keep Remainder in your head long after you put it down.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury caused by an accident that he is legally prohibited from speaking about (and that he cannot remember), Remainder’s nameless narrator must relearn even the simplest of actions, leaving him with a stifling sense of his own inauthenticity. The £8.5 million settlement he receives does little to relieve his confusion. But when the sight of a uniquely shaped crack in a bathroom wall triggers a sudden memory, the narrator feels momentarily connected to reality in a way he thought he never would again.
Jurassic World is the smash-hit blockbuster of the summer. It has been crushing industry records with its winning combination of thrilling, fast-paced plot, a talented (and attractive!) cast, amazing special effects, and plenty of awesome dinosaur action. But does every other movie you’ve seen since just seem . . . not as cool? Are you wondering what to turn to in the wake of your encounter with the Indominus rex? Never fear—here are nine books to cure your Jurassic World “hangover.”
During my academic career I read all the coming-of-age greats—The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, The Giver, Lord of the Flies, even Into the Wild—but female-driven narratives were conspicuously missing from assigned summer reading lists and liberal arts syllabuses. It wasn’t until three years ago, trolling for something to read on my parents’ bookshelf one lazy Thanksgiving, that I first picked up Sylvia Plath’s classic novel, The Bell Jar.
As an associate editor at Emily Bestler Books, I have a wonderful list of authors, all of whom I adore. They’re moms, and former military, and screenwriters, and Australians, and stay-at-home dads. They live in cities and in the country; they are male and female; they’re tall and short and in-between.
But only one of those authors is my personal hero.
While perusing my overloaded bookshelves, so many of the books I see are filled with dark character arcs and shocking deaths (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones—but I still love you). I get that life is dark and full of terrors, but Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments was a rare, treasured experience that I never wanted to end.
Every once in a while, a novel comes along that reinvigorates and inspires and is a call to arms for a publicist. A novel that reminds me that I work hard for books because I love reading. I love new ideas. I love big words. I love discovering and unwrapping characters, the emotions that a wonderful work of fiction can stir in you, the conversations that a good book can inspire. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is one of those novels for me—a novel that became a passion, a novel that makes the art of publishing feel meaningful.
One effect of being an avid reader is that almost everything reminds me of a book. I’ll see a story on the news about a prison break and think, That’s just like Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Anytime someone mentions taking a break from Facebook or Twitter, I think of The Illustrated Man. Every mention of King Arthur and his knights triggers memories of The Mists of Avalon. Recently, I was watching the first episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I thought to myself, This really makes me want to reread The Never List.
I don’t think it is much of a stretch to say that narrative voice is the single most important element in fiction. Let’s call it some ephemeral mixture of tone, timing, sensibility, word choice, and thematic vision; when these successfully coalesce, they create an unseen yet hugely powerful psychic entity that beguiles and welcomes the reader into that willing suspension of disbelief that makes novels, and what happens in them, not only possible but plausible and even inevitable.
I love food. If you ask any of my friends—nay, even my acquaintances—for two of my defining characteristics, first they will tell you that I am an enthusiastic conversationalist, and second, that I love food. I am a refugee from a theatrical career, and there was a time when I dreamed of spending my life belting out a tune on Broadway. However, a life rich in delicious meals and a life spent in the harsh spotlight of the stage do not exactly go together, so I decided to leave the theater and keep the food. Of course, this was not the only reason, but this was why Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her struggle with food and acting appealed to me like a great big chocolate-covered gummy bear.
To begin, I ought to include a disclaimer: I am a glutton for dark and difficult reading. But no matter your tolerance for discomfort, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim is an astounding work of literature.
The memory factor for thriller writers is so brutally short that it’s hard to remember who was published last week, much less last year. I don’t even remember some of my own books! Stephen who?
But the thriller that made me want to write thrillers, the one that obsessed me from my first reading and has always lingered, floating just offshore on the vapors of memory, is Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate. I read it in a single sitting, on New Year’s Eve in 1962. Fifty-five years later, it’s probably the only memorable New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had.