Normal People

Summer Reading Lists - Allie Levy

Hanover is so lucky to have Allie Levy in town. Allie gave us a little behind-the-scenes tour at Still North Books & Bar, and we can assure you, it’s going to be a fabulous space to gather this fall. In the meantime, we have Allie’s summer reading list for you. We love how Allie gives a nod to rereading old favorites. Don’t forget: you can still play Summer Reading Bingo to win a Still North tote! Thank you, Allie!

 
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I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. Despite the popularly held opinion that summers are for relaxing by a body of water, it often feels like the least relaxing time of year up here. The extra daylight hours and warm weather create a kind of mania—squeeze as much work and play into the summer months or risk devastating regret come September. With so much to do, my reading time and brainpower have been limited, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for rereading. As such, I give you my favorite books of the summer—a few new or new to me, and some I’ve been happy to revisit.

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

A gorgeously written, contemplative post-apocalyptic adventure story. Peter Heller began his career as an outdoor journalist, and his background shines through in his depictions of the natural world. Dog Stars is the first of Heller’s now four novels. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but more hopeful in its devastation.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb

It says a lot that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was published in April and I’ve already begun a second reading. In it, therapist/writer Lori Gottlieb demystifies the therapeutic process by sharing the journeys of several of her patients (fictionalized to protect patient confidentiality), as well as her own experience on both sides of the couch. Part memoir, part self-help, part exploration of the mechanisms through which therapy works, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book for anyone who is currently in therapy, has thought about therapy, or would never even consider going to therapy.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

Originally published 25 years ago, Octavia Butler’s story about a teenage girl who physically feels the pain of others is set in a near-future dystopia. Society has fallen into utter chaos, and the preceding circumstances have many uncomfortable similarities to our current predicament. Tackling climate change, racial violence, retrograde politics, and religion in one fell swoop, Parable of the Sower is the kind of novel that proves the importance of fiction.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Reading Normal People, in some ways, felt to me like re-reading Irish author Sally Rooney’s first, excellent novel Conversations with Friends—in a good way. Once again, Rooney deftly deals with the emotional landscapes of a young couple and the concentric circles of relationships surrounding them. Rooney has an uncanny ability to distill complex emotions and self-contradictory behaviors into crystalline sentences. In Normal People, she follows one couple from their high school almost-romance through their days at Trinity College. An unputdownable romance with substance.

The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo

When it comes to the number of times I’ve read a book, The Body Artist may be second only to the third Harry Potter. An intimate portrait of the ways in which we grieve, DeLillo’s novella tells the story of a performance artist coping with her husband’s suicide. As the grief sets in, her reality begins to fragment. The Body Artist is short and strange, alienating yet familiar.

Summer Reading Lists - Ben Cosgrove

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.

Friday Reads - December 14, 2018

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I just finished Normal People, by Sally Rooney. I read this book in two days and highly recommend it! Rooney is great at writing dialogue and characters that feel real. This is the UK edition with a cover I much prefer to the US edition coming next summer. —Shari

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I’m reading Erebus, by Michael Palin (yes, that Michael Palin). History, adventure, polar exploration, seafaring, smart writing, loads of research, maps and black-and-white photographs. What’s not to love? Also, yes, this is the UK cover. Why is the UK cover always so much cooler? —Rebecca