Vote for ten books you want to read (or reread) from the year in which the Concord made it’s maiden flight, the Beatles disbanded, and Apollo 13 aborted its mission to the moon.
Last year we launched our first book club, reading 10 books first published in 1969. This year we’re moving on by announcing the 1970 Book Club. Fifty years ago, Richard Nixon was in power, the Beatles were over, and the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the dissident writer who helped expose the Gulag labor camps. One year after Neil Armstrong’s “small step for mankind,” it was “Houston, we have a problem.” What, if anything, do the books of that year reveal about the concerns of the time, and how do they speak to us today? The year was ablaze with brilliant, groundbreaking works by Joan Didion, Milan Kundera, Toni Morrison, and Saul Bellow, as well as a Nordic Noir classic by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. What’s more, all of these titles have all had five decades to demonstrate their longevity and worth. Which ten of 20 selected titles do you want to read in 2020.
Read More The 1970s Book Club is Here
One Grand has partnered with 2 Queens to create a unique gift for the tea-drinking, book-loving person in your life: This collection of three Nancy Mitford titles (chosen by Tilda Swinton, Rufus Wainwright, and Marianne Faithfull), is accompanied by 4-oz of specially-blended loose-leaf English Breakfast tea crafted by Narrowsburg’s very own 2 Queens, plus an infuser, all packaged in a gorgeous presentation box. Each book is a numbered edition of 50, and is accompanied with a custom-designed bookmark to remind you who chose it and why. Order by Monday December 16 and your order will be bumped to PRIORITY shipping on us.
Purchase here while stocks last.
The Worst Kind of Want by Liska Jacobs
The Bishop’s Bedroom by Piero Chiara
For anyone who has ever experienced burnout, there’s the moment when the desire to flee daily responsibilities becomes almost overwhelming. And despite the temporary reprieve sought in vacations or small acts of self-care, it’s only natural to still harbor long-term fantasies of escape.
This month we’re indulging our fantasies of freedom with two stories of literary escape before the inevitable return to real life: The Worst Kind of Want by California author, Liska Jacobs and The Bishop’s Bedroom, a reissue of a 1976 novel by Piero Chiara (it was made into a 1977 movie by the Italian comic master Dino Risi). Similarly set in picturesque Italy, both feature main characters worn-down by a sense of responsibility — One a man returning from WWII, the other a successful movie producer charged with caring for her recently motherless niece. While set in vastly different eras, both main characters pursue frivolous romances as a means of escape from more adult responsibilities.
Read More Two Novels Offer Cautionary Tales of Heedless Hedonism
Two books dealing with conflict shed light on these divisive times.
We’re arguably living in one of the most divisive times in recent history, and violent nationalist language has steadily been creeping out from the dark corners of the internet, confronting us with violent deaths, hate crimes, and college students giving the Nazi salute. And while man-made borders have exacerbated violent rhetoric, they certainly don’t confine it. Read More What We’re Reading in September
About the time that A.A.Milne began writing his tales of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, and 12 years before the arrival of Curious George, the Minnesotan artists Wanda Gag, the daughter of impoverished immigrants from Bohemia, was quietly, almost inadvertently, launching a revolution in book publishing. Her first title, Millions of Cats, the oldest American picture book still in print, was the touch paper for a new era in which children’s book were conceived, written, and illustrated by a single artist. Not many books, for children or otherwise, become a classic overnight, but Gag’s tale of “thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats,” was a hit from the moment it came off the presses. Read More Children’s Author of the Month: Wanda Gag
“I really only do one thing,’ the writer Toni Morrison, who has died at the age of 88, told Hilton Als in 2003, when she was profiled for The New Yorker. “I read books. I teach books. I write books. I think about books. It’s one job.” Read More Remembering Toni Morrison
Three Very Different Books Connected By a Quest for Identity
The Gooze Fritz, by Sergei Lebedev (New Vessel Press)
There’s a natural inclination to fill in the missing pieces of our personal narratives. It partially stems from the belief that understanding where you come from, can ultimately shape where you’re going. Such stories allow us to elevate our unknown ancestors to mythical proportions — a missing father can become a war hero, or a grandfather a healing wizard — offering the descendent a chance to create order from chaos and reframe their roots.
Kirill, the main character in The Goose Fritz by Sergei Lebedev, doesn’t initially set out to elevate his ancestors, but he does attempt to control his destiny by creating a linear arc of the past. As a child, Kirill was the sole companion of his grandmother Lina, as she took secretive trips to the German cemetery in Moscow. Unquestioning, he accompanies her for years before understanding the family’s German origins. It’s a secret that seems so far removed from the American psyche — a nation of immigrants — yet so apt in a time of increased nationalism.
Read More What We’re Reading in April
If Peter Buttigieg was only the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Twitter would care less about what he reads. But he is running for the highest office in the land, and that makes a difference.
People love lists almost as much as they love to hate them. Take our latest, by the Democratic candidate for President, Pete Buttigieg. I was heading to LAX airport to catch the redeye last Thursday when I noticed some unusual activity on Twitter. Many of the people in my feed were tweeting about Ulysses, the novel that is widely considered a cornerstone of modernist literature, and which Buttigieg had just selected as one of his ten favorite reads for One Grand Books. “James Joyce is trending, so I have to give Pete Buttigieg credit for that,” tweeted Jeet Heer, a contributing editor for The New Republic.
Read More Pete Buttigieg and the Love that Dare Not Speak its Name
“All of this happened, more or less.”
The famous opening line of Slaughterhouse-Five, is a tease of a sentence. Is Vonnegut giving us a memoir, or fiction? Or is he challenging the very nature of memoir? Who says that fiction is any less true than non-fiction? In an era when memoirs are frequently unmasked as fiction, why do we even bother with the distinction? To quote Oscar Wilde in his essay, The Decay of Lying, “There is such a thing as robbing a story of its reality by trying to make it too true.” Read More Wheels Within Wheels: Revisiting Slaughterhouse-Five
If you’ve wrapped Slaughterhouse-Five (details on this weekend’s discussion below), you should be ready for book two of our 1969 Book Club list: Graham Greene’s comic novel, Travels with My Aunt.
Read More Your Next 1969 Book Club Assignment is Here