More New Releases

The wonderful Powell’s in Portland, Oregon has released a list of their picks of the year.  As any good reader, I immediately perused this, and furiously scribbled down around half of their choices.  These are the real standouts for me, and those which I hope to get to during 2016.

97805474858501. 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor
‘”The Best American Short Stories”is the longest running and best-selling series of short fiction in the country. For the centennial celebration of this beloved annual series, master of the form Lorrie Moore selects forty stories from the more than two thousand that were published in previous editions. Series editor Heidi Pitlor recounts behind-the-scenes anecdotes and examines, decade by decade, the trends captured over a hundred years. Together, the stories and commentary offer an extraordinary guided tour through a century of literature with what Moore calls all its wildnesses of character and voice. These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway’s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write as an aid to love-making. Nancy Hale’s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen’s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver’s minimalism, a term he disliked, and Grace Paley’s secular Yiddishkeit. Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Diaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American. Moore writes that the process of assembling these stories allowed her to look thrillingly not just at literary history but at actual history the cries and chatterings, silences and descriptions of a nation in flux.’

2. Slade House by David Mitchell
‘Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night. Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies. A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…’

3. After Alice by Gregory Maguire 9781472230430
‘When Alice fell down the rabbit-hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance? Gregory Maguire turns his imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings -and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sets out to visit Alice but, arriving a moment too late, tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself. Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts interrupt their mad tea party to suggest a conundrum: if Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or if Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is After Alice.’

4. Felicity by Mary Oliver
‘Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, celebrates love in her new collection of poems ” If I have any secret stash of poems, anywhere, it might be about love, not anger, Mary Oliver once said in an interview. Finally, in her stunning new collection, “Felicity,” we can immerse ourselves in Oliver s love poems. Here, great happiness abounds. Our most delicate chronicler of physical landscape, Oliver has described her work as loving the world. With “Felicity “she examines what it means to love another person. She opens our eyes again to the territory within our own hearts; to the wild and to the quiet. In these poems, she describes with joy the strangeness and wonder of human connection. As in “Blue Horses,” “Dog Songs,” and “A Thousand Mornings,” with “Felicity “Oliver honors love, life, and beauty.”‘

97814746022425. The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
‘It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter started to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before nineteen men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbours accused neighbours, parents accused children, husbands accused wives, children accused their parents, and siblings each other. Vividly capturing the dark, unsettled atmosphere of seventeenth-century America, Stacy Schiff’s magisterial history draws us into this anxious time. She shows us how a band of adolescent girls brought the nascent colony to its knees, and how quickly the epidemic of accusations, trials, and executions span out of control. Above all, Schiff’s astonishing research reveals details and complexity that few other historians have seen.’

6. Atlas of Cursed Places by Olivier de Career
‘This alluring read includes 40 locations that are rife with disaster, chaos, paranormal activity, and death. The locations gathered here include the dangerous Strait of Messina, home of the mythical sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis; the coal town of Jharia, where the ground burns constantly with fire; Kasanka National Park in Zambia, where 8 million migrating bats darken the skies; the Nevada Triangle in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where hundreds of aircraft have disappeared; and Aokigahara Forest near Mount Fuji in Japan, the world’s second most popular suicide location following the Golden Gate Bridge.’

7. The Givenness of Things: Essays by Marilynne Robinson 9780374298470
‘The spirit of our times can appear to be one of joyless urgency. As a culture we have become less interested in the exploration of the glorious mind, and more interested in creating and mastering technologies that will yield material well-being. But while cultural pessimism is always fashionable, there is still much to give us hope. In “The Givenness of Things,” the incomparable Marilynne Robinson delivers an impassioned critique of our contemporary society while arguing that reverence must be given to who we are and what we are: creatures of singular interest and value, despite our errors and depredations. Robinson has plumbed the depths of the human spirit in her novels, including the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning “Lila “and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Gilead,” and in her new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern predicament and the mysteries of faith. These seventeen essays examine the ideas that have inspired and provoked one of our finest writers throughout her life. Whether she is investigating how the work of the great thinkers of the past, Calvin, Locke, Bonhoeffer–and Shakespeare–can infuse our lives, or calling attention to the rise of the self-declared elite in American religious and political life, Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity are on display. Exquisite and bold, “The Givenness of Things” is a necessary call for us to find wisdom and guidance in our cultural heritage, and to offer grace to one another.’

8. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
‘In this magnificent reimagining of the form he originated, two stand-alone stories-the first in nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, the second in prose-create a beguiling narrative puzzle. The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale’s strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past. A gripping adventure and an intriguing invitation to decipher how the two narratives connect, “The Marvels” is a loving tribute to the power of story from an artist at the vanguard of creative innovation.’

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