American history is anything but a stodgy affair; it’s exciting, tragic, suspenseful, and horrifying. Probably even more surprising is that it can make you laugh—if you have the right teacher, that is. And Sarah Vowell, author of the new LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES and former editor of “This American Life,” is a great teacher. Her previous book, ASSASSINATION VACATION, is the perfect example of how history, especially when it is not about the victors, is fascinating, funny, and heartbreaking.
The story of man and dog is a story of partnership dating back almost 15,000 years, and the relationships we have with our dogs have grown into something we value and love today—they are members of our family. In literature, dog stories can be some of the most uplifting, and among the most heartbreaking, stories we tell. They are as varied and amazing as dogs themselves, capable of surprise and wonder, for in our dogs, we often see ourselves.
On a Sunday afternoon, I read the heartrending climax of Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, THE FISHERMEN, breathlessly. When I got up, I was in a literary-induced fugue: I stumbled into my car, momentarily forgetting how to turn it on, wandered the grocery store and left empty-handed, and even abandoned the rest of the day’s plans. My brain seemed to be emptied of everything but this engrossing Cain and Abel story that stupefies and confounds with every turn of a page.
Lauren Weisberger is the bestselling author of the classic dishy novel THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, which details the cutthroat world of fashion magazines. With her new novel, THE SINGLES GAME, hot off the presses, Off the Shelf was lucky enough to get an inside look at the eclectic mix of books displayed on Weisberger’s bookshelf.
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Stories of the ordinary, and of lives thrown together by chance and coincidence, have always fascinated me, and in Ruth Rendell’s wonderful PORTOBELLO, you will find both. Her characters are linked only by a postcode, living their small, unpeopled lives in the area of London’s Portobello market, until a simple twist of fate brings them together. Then their days become as complex, and as colorful, as the market itself.
If online dating has taught me anything, it’s to grow a thicker skin, lower my expectations, and just get used to its superficial nature. After all, we’re allowing our romantic fates to be decided by one (likely Photoshopped) picture and the swipe of a finger. While I haven’t found true love there yet, I have happily found a few good books about love in the modern age. One of them is the unusual and sneakily funny novel THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY by Amanda Filipacchi.
From “Serial” to “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” the true crime genre has seen a recent renaissance in pop culture. Tales of murder, mayhem, robbery, and corruption have always been compulsively readable for true crime fans. Here are expertly written true crime books where you can discover some of the darkest and oddest moments in history. Even if you’re not a true crime junkie, you’ll enjoy these compelling narratives and fascinating tales.
Over the course of my lifetime, several noteworthy relationship guides have emerged from a generally uninspiring landscape. In the early ’90s, it was MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS. If you came of age in the early aughts, you had HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Until now, that was my personal bible on matters of the heart (it’s EMPOWERING, okay?). But then, on a sunny day in June 2015, came the relationship book to end all relationship books: Aziz Ansari’s MODERN ROMANCE.
For me, picking a single favorite book is a little bit like picking my favorite child—the question seems terribly unfair, and the answer changes by the hour. But naming my nine favorite books is easy; I came up with this list in the time it took to brew a pot of coffee. These are the ones that found me at the exact right moment, whose characters still whisper in my ear. I’ve listed them in the order in which they appeared.
Did you hear? A Shakespeare first folio was recently discovered in Scotland. My instinct was, naturally, to post this news to Facebook. My mom commented, “I want to live in Scotland.” I replied, “I want to live in a Shakespeare first folio.” That throwaway line suddenly, unexpectedly, led to a palpable need to revisit THE EYRE AFFAIR, one of my favorite books.