Ben Cosgrove is an amazing composer, musician, and writer. As you might know, we’re big fans of all he does. After he performed at our very first event, the Mud Season Salon, we quickly found out that we share similar taste in books. We love these recommendations that Ben shared in his summer reading list and hope you do too.
p.s. We’ll be announcing a special project with Ben soon. Stay tuned!
Horizon, by Barry Lopez
Barry Lopez has long been one of America's finest and most well-respected living nature writers —Of Wolves and Men was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1978 and the peerlessly wonderful Arctic Dreams won it in 1986 -- and Horizon reads like a sort of capstone to a long career spent poking around the corners of the world, thinking hard about what they are like and how they are connected. Its sweeping, dreamlike narrative follows him nonlinearly across time and space, and we catch versions of Lopez in Africa, Australia, Antarctica, South America at a variety of different ages and stations. Its concerns are ultimately not just ecological but philosophical: what is the relationship between time, place, and experience, particularly in a wounded world?
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
Different friends of mine kept recommending this book to me for months, and I finally got my hands on a copy in June. I loved reading it. Rooney's writing isn't soaring or fancy; rather, it articulates with needle-precision the confusing and complicated internal dynamics of the sometimes-romantic-sometimes-not relationship between the novel's two main characters, a boy and a girl from a small village in western Ireland whose friendship grows, shifts, and readjusts as they head off to Dublin for university and then beyond. Her eye for detail is unbelievable, and lends a shattering realness to the novel. I thought it was wrenching and lovely, and frankly, as a fellow millennial, I felt extremely gratified to read about these people and their Byzantine, tortuous romance/nonromance.
Underland, by Robert Macfarlane
Macfarlane writes thoughtfully and beautifully about the natural world, but is especially remarkable for the special attention he pays to how people engage with it. Previous books of his have considered the language we use to talk about the landscape, or described the experience of traveling long distances on foot. His latest project, Underland, is a thrilling and often dark foray into the fictional and actual spaces beneath the ground, and winds up a thoughtful consideration not only of how humans tend to interact with the underground, but of Earth's journey through all-but-unimaginable expanses of time.
The Weather Machine, by Andrew Blum
Andrew Blum's last book, Tubes, was a detailed exploration of the physical structure of the Internet, and similarly, this follow-up is an engaging examination of the machines and methodologies undergirding our surprisingly detailed understanding of how weather works and where and when it will happen. As with Tubes, Blum is able to lend light and humanity to a story about infrastructure, and he elegantly traces the process by which a vast system of models and careful measurements have literally enabled us to predict the future.
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Powers's most recent novel, the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize in Literature, tells a sprawling, powerful story about people and trees. It moves an enormous cast of characters through an staggeringly vast timeline, but its narrative momentum never weakens and it grapples meaningfully with the fundamental alienation precipitating human civilization's coming existential crisis along the way. Few books have reoriented my literal view of the world as thoroughly as this one: I have actually found that I look up more often now.
The Favourite Game, by Leonard Cohen
This is Leonard Cohen's first novel (he wrote two), and it was published in the early 1960s, several years before its author found a career as a folk singer. Its lyrical narrative centers around the adventures of an extremely Cohenlike protagonist named Breavman, who ambles around Montreal wracked with internal torment and all but consumed by a broad set of spiritual, existential, artistic, and sexual concerns. Cohen's original Canadian publisher rejected the manuscript outright after finding it "tedious, egotistical, disgusting, and morbid in its preoccupation with sex," and the English house with which he finally placed it required that he cut it in half, but the result is a beautifully written coming of age story and an introspective, uncomfortably honest rendering of what it's like to be an anxious young man trying his best to figure out just how one ought to be in the world.