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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

November 11, 2018

Absorbing Dark Tale Set in the Literary World and A Welcome Short Story Sequel
  
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. This accomplished Irish novelist first gained notoriety in 2006 with the publication of his The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. His last work, The Heart's Invisible Furies, was released in paperback this past spring, and has been a popular title in independent bookstores. Now Boyne delivers a fascinating portrait of a relentlessly immoral man - Maurice Swift - whose obsessive drive to be a successful writer destroys others around him. The problem is that Maurice has no talent, so he needs to find and steal his stories from others. Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Swift engineers his first opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful but lonely older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. It's perfect material for Maurice's first novel - never mind that its publication will ruin Ackermann's life. Thus begins a quest for literary fame by a cunning, manipulative protagonist who invites comparisons to Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley.
 
In a starred review of the book, Publishers Weekly said,"Boyne's fast-paced, white-knuckle plot, accompanied by delightfully sardonic commentary on the ego, insecurities, and pitfalls of those involved in the literary world, makes for a truly engrossing experience."    
 
 
Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin. In 2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published   A Manual for Cleaning Women, a posthumous story collection by a relatively unknown writer, to widespread acclaim. It was a   New York Times  bestseller, and NPR, Time, Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune were among those that gave the book rave reviews. Meanwhile, the book's author, Lucia Berlin, earned comparisons to Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, and Anton Chekhov. Evening in Paradise is a careful and well-chosen selection from Berlin's remaining stories, a collection that showcases her autofiction style as it draws from her her  chaotic roller coaster of a l ife (which is described in an appendix). 
 
Writing in The Atlantic, reviewer Jordan Kisner wrote in part: "[Berlin] is a master at capturing women in states of disintegration . . . Much of the world that Berlin describes is harrowing for women, and yet her stories . . . cheerfully refuse to erase either the women or the brutality that deranges them. Instead, she rips them up further and pastes them together again, making ruined, radiant chimeras summoned from an unfrequented corner of 20th-century America."   
Buzz Book of Week - Michelle Obama's Memoir 
 
Becoming by Michelle Obama. I wouldn't be surprised if this much-anticipated autobiography - arriving in bookstores on Tuesday - is the bestselling book of the holiday season. The former First Lady is one of the most popular and admired people in the world, and in this memoir, she is said to talk candidly about her upbringing, marriage, political life, and what the future holds. The specifics of the book have been a tightly-held secret, although The New York Times got a hold of a copy early and did spill the beans about Obama's open and descriptive dislike of current president Trump. But in a volume of 450 pages, this is hardly another political polemic, and all reports are that Michelle's story is engaging, thoughtful, and inspiring.
  
WHERE TO FIND 
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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