To mark this year’s Australia Day, we’ve returned to the work of Shirley Hazzard, the Sydney-born author who died on December 12, 2016. We had the pleasure of discovering Hazzard’s work in the best of possible ways, through the recommendation of a beloved writer.
We’ve already flashed our stacks and dropped our reading resolutions for 2017, but as all readers know, a great new title (or two or three) can transform us into fickle, flighty lovers. To try to help us from being blindsided (and to aid our enjoyment—studies show that knowing ahead of time about a treat enriches the experience), here are some of the titles (55!) due for release in the first seven months of the year (plus one bonus August title from a favorite writer) that we can’t wait to get our hands on.
It’s inevitable. Every time I walk into a bookstore, I find myself longing to buy stacks of books—and I don’t mean stacks of just any books. My great desire has always been to leave the store with copies of books that I already own. I want reading copies. I want pristine copies. I want editions with different introductions, American editions, English editions, French editions. Then I want a few more copies just in case, the kind to give away when the right reader comes along.
Kevin Rabalais revisits Zbigniew Herbert.
“The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.” —Samuel Butler
Our collective reading resolutions include crossing more borders and milling between more genres, reading more nonfiction and poetry, taking more chances on debut novels, reading books we already have on the shelves.
One of the best ways I know to judge the quality of a novel and its endurance rests in its ability to transcend subject matter—and the potential reader’s innate prejudices and proclivities. The Mothers, Brit Bennett’s Leonard Prize-shortlisted debut novel, manages this so slyly and with such unassuming gusto and finesse that I’m pleased to have it as one of my final and favorite reads of the year.
From 1936 to 1939, writers and soldiers, nurses and other volunteers from around the world travelled to Spain to help the Republicans prevent that other side—the Fascists—from seizing control of the country. The war that lasted one thousand days ended, however, with that other side prevailing.
In the collective psyche, World War II has eclipsed the Spanish Civil War, but the lessons of that conflict resonate today.
In early December, I spent a few days in Sydney, moving with my camera and a backpack full of books among the city’s beaches and arcades, its cafés and bookstores. Thanks to its subtropical climate, Sydney offers endless opportunities for outdoor reading. For those who don’t want the sand of Sydney’s many beaches on their pages (occasionally kicked up by surfers racing toward potential waves), the grand buildings in the central business district, among them the majestic Queen Victoria Building, offer reading havens.
As the year draws to an end, we asked a few of our favorite people in the book world—novelists, poets, booksellers, critics and translators—to share their most memorable reading experiences over the past twelve months, regardless of publication date. Other than reading itself, few things in the life of a reader are more exciting than hearing from others who share our passions.
On November 5, John Berger—storyteller, artist, poet, novelist, critic—turned ninety. That day and in the weeks since, I’ve celebrated by reading and rereading a selection of Berger’s essays, notebooks and fiction. In that work, I’ve found a worldly guide, one who gazes far and wide at art, literature and the stories of individuals and crowds, with urgency and enviable energy.
They appeared in magazines and literary journals with the frequency of periodic comets, and for those of us who ordered our days so that we could live inside of literature, navigating through the prose and plots and poetry and places of the great works that tell us who we are and who we can be, the mere rumor of a new story by Stuart Dybek incited exhilaration.
As long as there are new audiences, novels will continue to speak. Lovers of literary quotes know that the most famous sentences can stand independent of their book’s plots and characters, making their own way into the personal mottos and mythologies of readers around the world.
But Jennifer Levasseur finds that often when she most needs the comfort and escape of a novel—in times of grief, of uncertainty and anxiety—she's too fragile and too distracted (perhaps too afraid of losing even more of herself) to fully enter a fictional landscape.
So how to dive back in?
Leonard Cohen, poet, musician, novelist, icon, died on November 7, 2016. Throughout his career, he investigated everything from love and loss, religion and history, politics, inheritance and sexual longing. His songs segue from sensual beauty to affirmation of the world’s delights to apocalyptic worry.
As we celebrate his life, we take another look at this work, particularly his two novels, Beautiful Losers and The Favorite Game.
Kevin Rabalais has a chance encounter in a bookstore, the kind that sends us home to read a special new book right now, even though there are stacks of unread ones waiting.
In Idra Novey's Ways to Disappear, a Brazilian writer disappears up a tree with a suitcase and a cigar. Before long, she has everyone—her daughter, her translator, an ominous man with a gun—searching for her and trying to decipher her secrets.
At this year's Louisiana Book Festival, Jennifer Levasseur reflects on Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, its long life, the ways it continues to provoke, and how she's carried with her this story of a war veteran who chases his secretaries and escapes into films, all in the shadow of Mardi Gras.
More than fifty years after its publication, The Moviegoer speaks to how we should live, what we might be searching for, and even helps us understand the current US presidential campaign.
As Halloween approaches, Daniel Stephensen finds himself wondering what else Poe would have written had he not died at age forty, what strange treasures we would have received. The book of Poe's to make him wonder most in this direction is Eureka: A Prose Poem, an ambitious metaphysical investigation into the cosmological principles of what Poe calls the “Universe of Stars.” It is by turns measured and logical, vision-struck and enraptured.