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Feature: Ten Timeless Beach Reads


Photo: Toa Heftiba

From André Leon Talley’s The Chiffon Trenches to Emily Henry’s aptly-named rom-com, Beach Read, there are plenty of just-published books that are ripe for reading poolside, preferably with a daiquiri in hand. But there are also page-turning reads that never get old, some even attaining the venerable status of literary classic. We plundered the One Grand Books archives to identify ten picks from ten different curators that will elevate your beach towel this summer. If you go easy on the daiquiris you might just read them all in time for fall.

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault (selected by Sarah Waters)

For: Those who love epic tales of same-sex love, war, and world domination.

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper.

Sarah Waters wrote: “Renault was one of the great historical novelists, able to do justice to the strangeness of the past, even while bringing it to life for modern readers. The Persian Boy, I think, was her masterpiece.”

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (selected by Rufus Wainwright)

For: Grown-ups who understand that even when life is sad, you can still find it funny.

Wishful Drinking is the true and intoxicating story of Carrie Fisher’s life, from being picked, at 19 years old, to play Princess Leia in Star Wars to her battles with addiction and manic depression, to the vicissitudes of a privileged life from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon. And then there was the time she awoke one morning to find a friend dead beside her in bed.

Rufus Wainwright wrote: “It’s all true, and it’s all good.”

Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin (chosen by Trevor Noah)

For: People interested in how the (very funny) sausage gets made.

Born Standing Up is testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time. In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

Trevor Noah wrote: “One of the best accounts ever written about the art of stand-up and the life of the stand-up comic.”

Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin (chosen by Kathy Najimy)

For: Fans of hilarious, snappy, overheated generational touchstones.

Tales of the City teleports the reader into San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests.

Kathy Najimy wrote: “I discovered this series at a small gay bookstore when I was living above a hardware store in San Diego in the ’80s. I read the first book in 24 hours straight, no sleep. Then I devoured every other novel in the series — all of them — in one day each.”

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (chosen by Greta Gerwig)

For: People who want their world view expanded (served up with a dash of romance)

Americanah follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, who depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Blocked from following her after the September 11 attacks, Obinze plunges instead into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Greta Gerwig wrote: “Ms. Adichie has constructed a full on romance that has the addictive power of a Jane Austen novel but with the specifics of life in Nigeria, as well as life in the United States as an immigrant. I fell in love with Ifemelu and Obinze in a way that I haven’t felt since I was a child reading novels for the first time.”

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan (chosen by Lisa Ling)

For: Readers who gravitate to stories about intergenerational and cultural disconnect.

The Joy Luck Club begins in 1949, when four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan’s debut novel—now widely regarded as a modern classic—examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters.

Lisa Ling wrote: “This emotional journey compelled me to want understand the past of my own Taiwanese mother better. It is the story of four Chinese American women in San Francisco and how their mothers’ struggles in the Chinese homeland made them who they were. It is a highly emotional and exceptionally beautiful story.”

Waiting to Exhale, by Terry McMillan (selected by Janet Mock)

For: Readers who loved Sex and the City, but wondered what it would be like with a black cast.

Waiting to Exhalefollows the lives of Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin as they find new strength through friendship, and regain stability and an identity they don’t have to share with anyone.

Janet Mock wrote: “This was the first book to give me a thrill, the first to make me feel as if I was doing more than merely eavesdropping on grown folks’ business — I was one of the girls. At 12, I loved this novel so much that I never returned it to the library.”

The Snapper, by Roddy Doyle (selected by Simone Rocha)

For: Lovers of a big, bawdy, feisty characters, and an Irish accent.

The Snapper was Roddy Doyle’s second novel, after his smash hit, The Commitments, and like that book was centered on the Rabbittes, a working-class Dublin family.

Simone Rocha wrote: “I re-read “The Snapper” last year when I was pregnant, and it turned my crying into laughter. I read these over and over again when I want to think of home.”

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguru (selected by Nia Vardalos)

For: Fans of multidimensional dystopian thriller, with heart.

Never Let Me Go zeroes in on the lives of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, former students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Nia Vardalos wrote: “At once achingly bleak and endlessly optimistic. Also, this is the most romantic book I’ve ever read.”

Lucia in London / Mapp and Lucia, by E.F.Benson (selected by Kelly MacDonald)

For: Anyone who loves to dish tea on their neighbors.

Mapp and Lucia are gossipy, waspish social climbers in 1920s rural Britain. Both Mrs. Lucia Lucas and Miss Elizabeth Mapp are accustomed to complete social supremacy, and when one intrudes on the other’s territory, war ensues. Lucia sees herself as a benevolent—if ruthless—dictator, while Miss Mapp is driven by an insatiable desire for vengeance against the presumptuous interloper.

Kelly MacDonald wrote: “This book entertained me during a pregnancy. It’s set in the a small English village in the 1930s and is a battle of wit and wills between two women. It’s all fetes and musical soirées and fighting tooth and nail to be top dog. My baby got jiggled for days on end with my laughter.”

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Required Reading: Ten Books Chosen by Ten Black Notables from Lupita Nyong’o to Ta-Nehisi Coates


The fight for America’s soul continues. If you want to understand what’s at stake, start reading.

In this tragic week in which the failures of the America’s promise to its citizen have been made abundantly clear, we have looked in our archives to identify ten books by Black writers chosen by Black notables. All should be required reading.


By Nelson Mandela (Chosen by Uzo Aduba)

One of the last great men. His entire life was an education on how to be better, and this book reflects two things for me: greatness and the measure of a human, and how the essence of bravery can take many forms.


By Octavia E. Butler (Chosen by Lupita Nyong’o)

I was stunned by how relevant the themes of the book are to today. I did not imagine that sci-fi would be an enjoyable genre to get into for me, but Butler writes with such a familiarity that the alien is welcome and intriguing. She really artfully exposes our human impulse to self-destruct.


By James Baldwin (Chosen by Yara Shahidi)

Through a series of essays, Baldwin discusses the significance of actors, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier and others, all mainstream entertainers and pivotal members of the Civil rights movement. Their on- and off-screen lives became political statements around the racial landscape of America. Baldwin recognizes the double-edged sword of media: A celebration and suppression of the Black community.


By Danez Smith (Chosen by Roxane Gay)

The level of craft at work in each of the poems in “Don’t Call Us Dead” is exceptional. These are poems about black men and their imperiled, impassioned bodies, what it means to live with HIV, and so much more. There is pain here but there is so much joy, so much fierce resistance to anything that dares to temper the stories being told here.


By Yaa Gyasi (Chosen by Trevor Noah)

Thanks to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, America and Africa are linked in more ways than we usually think about. This is a fascinating novel about the legacy of slavery and white supremacy on both continents.


By Roxane Gay (Chosen by Gabrielle Union)

My first introduction to Roxane Gay’s writing — it changed me. I saw myself eerily and perfectly reflected on the pages of her harrowing debut novel. I finally felt understood as I sat frozen reading this book.


By Toni Morrison (Chosen by Marlon James)

Three quarters of the way in, and Song of Solomon is merely one of the three best books I’ve ever read. But the last 60 pages are one of the most astonishing feats of writing I’ve ever read. I remember reading it standing up, almost in this fever, and so thoroughly believing the ending that I almost jumped off my balcony.


By James Baldwin (Chosen by Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Basically the fines essay I’ve ever read. It’s technically two essays but it feels like one. Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.


By Sylviane A. Diouf (Chosen by Questlove)

This book represents my chapter in American history—my great great great grandfather was on this ship. I’m his dream manifested.


By Hanif Abdurraqib (chosen by Samantha Irby)

Cracks my heart wide open every time I read it, which I’ve done multiple times. The way he writes about music is straight up beautiful. Do you know who can move you to tears over fucking Fall Out Boy??? Hanif.

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Feature: Notes from a Small-Town Bookshop


Serenaded by Nina Simone and an artist’s journey through the mind’s wild frontier

By Aaron Hicklin

Among the pleasures of running a small town bookstore is not just the stories surrounding you but the stories that walk through the door. It’s a cliche to say that everyone has a book inside them, and in less charitable moments I think of Christopher Hitchens who added a caveat: “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” But I trained as a reporter, and I interview people for a living, and despite my restless, impatient nature I have (mostly) learned to listen for stories when the opportunity presents itself. Often it’s when I least expect it, or feel most tired or irritable, that a routine pleasantry turns into the kernel for a story or recollection that scrambles my preconceptions.

Take Ellen Bay, a customer in her late 70s who came in one recent weekend to order a book on the famous street photographer Bill Cunningham. After a few observations on our narcissist-in-chief, we landed on the current plight of New York City’s hospitals. I happened to mention St. Vincent’s hospital in Chelsea (now a luxury condo, natch) and the frontline role it played during the AIDS crisis, only to realize that Ellen didn’t need history lessons from me. She’d been an active member of the AIDS coalition, ACT UP, in the 80s and 90s, including protests inside St. Vincent’s. She knew Larry Kramer, and had opinions. It’s commonplace to see casual insults directed at Boomers on social media, and Ellen reminds me why I find them so aggravating. They serve to erase stories like hers, boxing an entire generation into a set of lazy assumptions and reductions. Stories are how we bridge the divide, but first we need to listen to them.

When Ellen returned for her book a week later, she conjured an image of her 20-year old self, answering phones at The New Yorker, and quietly working on a submission that Brendan Gill helped steer to publication in 1963 (you can find it here between ads for vacations in Jamaica and fresh Maine lobster). Ellen had other stories, too, including a thankless escapade around New York hunting white nail varnish for Nina Simone (she was producing her show at Newark’s Symphony Hall). Ms. Simone had a reputation for being testy, and Ellen did not contradict it, but then came a tale of utter grace. In the car Ms. Simone asked Ellen’s colleague (and future husband) to name a favorite song. He chose a track by Leonard Cohen. Unbidden, Simone began to sing it. Imagine it! Undone by that powerful voice, he stopped the car and wept. Although it’s easy to become jaded by humanity’s infinite capacity for stupidity and greed, small daily interactions like these constantly remind me that everyone’s life is a narrative filled with triumph and tribulation, comic interludes, griefs small and large, and moments of reprieve.

The cover of The New Yorker, June 22, 1963; an Act Up protest; Nina Simone

Something else you discover when you run a small bookstore like mine: almost everyone has a talent that illuminates who they are. A young boy, Arthur, who comes in annually to spend his birthday money on books, turns out to be the most incredible graphic artist with a wild and loose imagination; an opera singer, with a passion for preserving the legacy of composers murdered in Theresienstadt, once demonstrated her pipes by singing an aria in the store; a former schoolteacher is also an expert ice cream maker. When I first conceived a literary festival for Narrowsburg, most of those who ended up participating were initially customers who walked through my door (ice cream maker and opera singer included). I kept telling people that some divine synergy was at work, but of course synergy was just another word for community. We are all part of a community, but from the intimacy of a bookstore the sheer richness and vitality of a place, even a tiny one like this, achieves a beautiful clarity.

I don’t recall when Dasha Ziborova first visited the store, or what she brought, and neither does she (although she thinks she probably picked up Marlon James’s Book of Night Women or Stupid Model by local author Barbara de Vries), but what I do remember is her bright and generous energy. When such a person enters a bookstore, it can feel like a hit of dopamine. It was a good deal later that I discovered she was an artist and comic book creator, one with a dream-like eye for oddity. One of her comics is titled Sex Life of Sheep, based on a visit she made to the Scottish Highlands; another, Lesson 21, focuses on her experience of school in the Soviet Union; she graduated high school just as Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. “You wouldn’t believe how, in two or three years, everything changed,” she recalled during a recent conversation. “It was so rapid, but when I was growing up communism seemed like it was forever.”


Dasha frequently uses a Risograph to create her art, and if you don’t know what a Risograph is you’re probably in good company. You can find more on that here. When, in 2018, I put together the inaugural Deep Water Literary Fest, Dasha came to multiple events and created a series of images from the performances and readings she attended. The following year she created a multiple-page memento of the festival complete with fold-outs that captured specific moments, like the musician David Driver performing a cover of “What the World Needs Now” during the opening night dinner. Last week, her festival book was chosen to be included in American Illustration 39, an annual compendium of the best artists in the field. 

How do people end up where they do? When people ask how I ended up opening a bookstore in this town of 431 (the 2020 census may change that), I respond flippantly that I threw my hat in the air to see where it landed, but even as a metaphor it’s not quite true. My in-laws live 40 minutes away, and I had a passing familiarity with the area (if not the town), but I was sold on my first visit, largely on the charm of the Delaware River, around which the town snakes. We have rivers in Britain that would never make the grade in the U.S., where the rivers are wide and majestic. From the shop window I will occasionally spot a bald eagle as it swoops down to the water and back up, carried on the eddies of air. And where else can you stop for a dip in the river before opening up a bookstore?

Although Narrowsburg is tiny, truly a one stoplight town, it seems to have a magnetic pull that brings in the most interesting people. Dasha (who lives in nearby Hurleyville) is among them. She moved up here shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Married, with a newborn, it made sense to be well away from the acrid smoke and fear of New York. But her actual story starts in Saint Petersburg, where she was born in the same apartment that her grandmother survived the Siege of Leningrad, the subject of a graphic novel that Dasha has written and will one day publish. Like so many people she owes her calling to an observant teacher who, spotting her talent, called her mother to the school and strongly suggested that Dasha be sent to a special art school. Her mother took the advice. “That girl disappeared, but she was like a guardian angel in the form of a teacher,” Dasha recalled. Four years later she moved on to what she called an “art high school,” one so old and prestigious that it was founded by Catherine the Great. She hated it. “It was so rich in history that there was no room for new ideas,” said Dasha. “They trained us like shoemakers – everything was about the craft, nothing about thinking. I didn’t know anything else, since I wasn’t from an artistic background, and knew no underground artists. They absolutely killed any creativity in me.”

What reignited her creativity was moving to New York, hot on the heels of the 1991 putsch when Boris Yeltsin memorably stood on a tank defying an attempted coup, while Gorbachev was being detained during a trip to the Crimea. Dasha was in St. Petersburg, and joined the pro-democracy protests, but left shortly after to visit an old friend from art school who had moved to New York. She recalls knowing she found home even as the airplane circled above the city.

In New York Dasha hopped from gig to gig–computer animation, graphic design, textiles–until one afternoon in Barnes & Noble she had an epiphany. “Suddenly I saw a Maira Kalman book, Max the Dog, and it blew my mind,” she said. “It was the first time I realized what a children’s book could be, so I created my first children’s book, Crispin the Terrible.” The book, about a snotty cat with text by Bob Morris, was published, and several more after it. She had a baby, and her art changed. “I started to create very strange drawings of people shedding blood, eviscerations, really disturbed pictures,” she recalls. She submitted her work to a gallery in Chelsea, New York, that immediately offered to represent her.  “I think I had a lot of beginner’s luck,” said Dasha. “I thought everything was easy: you write a book, you get a publisher, you submit something to a gallery, it agrees to represent you.”

Deep Water Literary Fest 2019 souvenir

Nothing, of course, is easy. Or not for long. When Dasha began homeschooling her son, her art work took a hiatus. And despite her love of New York, she never lost the sense of being an outsider. “I had a lot of luck at the beginning but this luck did not translate into a career,” she said, not with self-pity, but as a simple fact. “I didn’t understand what to do with this luck.” But she has finished homeschooling her son, and all that energy is now being channeled into her art again. In 2016, and again in 2019, she was accepted for a retreat at The Cabins, in Norfolk, Connecticut, set up by the writer Courtney Maum. She launched Real Time in Ink, which she describes as “an ongoing sketching project that focuses on travel, events, and cultural and political gatherings.” Her sketches, often on recycled paper or old books, have a wonderfully loose and fluid style, as if she is letting the pen lead her rather than the other way around. “I am a daydreamer,” she said. “A lot of my stories come while I take a hike or a walk. It’s like a movie in my head; it unrolls into an absolutely crazy story. And I get emotional, I can cry over it.”

Detail from The Sex Life of Sheep

As a young woman, studying chemical engineering in Leningrad, Dasha’s mother succumbed to similar flights of imagination. Far from home, where her younger brother lived with their mother, a geologist, in the vast wilderness of the North Pole – in Chukotka to be precise – Dasha’s mother succumbed to fearful visions. “There was a little aerodrome nearby and for some reason my mother started imagining that a small plane would fly over the yard, and crash on top of her little brother,” recalled Dasha. “She started crying uncontrollably. People started asking what had happened, but she was too embarrassed to tell them.”

It is, of course, a story about the power of imagination, and what we can achieve when we harness it for art. When we began chatting I asked Dasha if she considered herself an artist or a comic book creator. She gave the question some thought, and then answered: neither. “Actually, what I think I am is a storyteller,” she said. “I just use a different media to tell my stories.”

You can read more on Dasha Ziborova here.

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Feature: What We Love Right Now


Lord Edgware Dies conjures a London steeped in intrigue

In which we share our current obsessions

1. Lord Edgware Dies, BBC Radio 4

There is no shortage of Agatha Christie adaptations, for screen or for radio. But this, originally recorded by the BBC in 1992, feels like the warm familial hug we need on a blustery spring day. It stars the wonderful and under-appreciated John Moffatt, a British stage actor with pitch-perfect timing. Moffatt, who died in 2012 just shy of his 90th birthday, established his career in the era of Noël Coward and John Gielgud, as well as a whole posse of British dames, including Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith (with whom he starred on the stage in a 1970 production of Hedda Gabler directed by Ingmar Bergman). A master of comic timing, he make a wonderful Poirot, just the right balance of conceit and scorn. The adaptation is in five half-hour episodes, a perfect length to listen to while you’re making dinner.

Listen Here.

2. The Case of Agatha Christie, London Review of Books

As a companion piece to Lord Edgware Dies, take time out to read this wonderful essay by the writer John Lanchester. It’s been 100 years since Agatha Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was also the first outing of Inspector Hercule Poirot, surely the best loved fictional detective in the world (though not perhaps the best known; that may be Sherlock Holmes). In this engaging journey through the Christie canon, published in the London Review of Books in December 2018, Lanchester set about asking himself why Christie was the only author he could read while he was engaged in his own writing.

The plain, unvarnished quality of her writing, her focus on the mechanics of the plot over character development, made her novels more timeless than those of her contemporaries.

Even as he admitted that Christie’s prose was “flat and functional,” and her characters “on a spectrum between types, stereotypes and caricatures,” Lanchester hatched a theory to explain the longevity of Christie’s work: the plain, unvarnished quality of her writing, her focus on the mechanics of plot over character development, made her novels more timeless that those of her contemporaries, like Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. Although arguably better, more stylish writers, their effort to be au courant and somewhat progressive has left their books feeling anachronistic. There is much more of this, including an audacious argument that Christie belongs to Virginia Woolf and James Joyce as a great formalist. As he points out, “Christie produced a range of formal experiments so extensive that it’s quite difficult to think of an idea she didn’t try, short of setting a Poirot novel in a school for wizards.” 

Read Here.

Yoko Ono, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4

We’re unabashed fans of BBC Radio, and this radio show, on the air since 1942, may represent the world’s greatest single catalog of 20th century icons discussing life, love, and music. The format is simple: each week a celebrated guest is “cast away to a desert island” and must choose eight musical tracks that define their life (they also get to take a luxury and a beloved book!). In it’s near 80-year history the show has had only five different hosts, including (from 2006 to 2018) the sparkling Kirsty Young who could give Terry Gross a run for her money for the sparkling charm she deploys in steering her guests to their most tender and heartfelt confessions. This episode with Yoko Ono is a case in point. The artist talks warmly and generously about her life with John Lennon, and her account of his murder will leave you in tears. Her musical choices, from Bob Marley to Edith Piaf, are pretty wonderful, too.

Listen Here.

Nigella Lawson’s Zucchini and Chickpea Filo Pie

Lockdown has turned us into a nation of bakers, but many home bakers in the U.K., can date their enthusiasm for pastry and dough to Nigella Lawson’s 2001 masterpiece, The Domestic Goddess, a bestseller that has become a classic. Lawson, who has her own shelf of favorite books at One Grand, revels in rich and unctuous cakes and pies, but also finds room for a savory pie or two. This one is simple and quick with a short ingredient list, although separating the filo sheets can be fiddly. And if you grow your own zucchini, it’s an excellent way to use them up come June.

Cook Here.

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Feature: Children’s Author of the Month: Wanda Gag


Wanda Gag


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

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Feature: Remembering Toni Morrison



“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

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Feature: Pete Buttigieg and the Love that Dare Not Speak its Name


Ulysses Buttigieg composite

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.

Aaron Hicklin

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

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Book Club: Wheels Within Wheels: Revisiting Slaughterhouse-Five


Slaughterhouse-Five 50 Years On

“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

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Extract: If I Grow Any Taller Will I Still Be Loved?


Photo: Eddi Aguirre

In his book Fascination, his memoir of gay life in 1970s Long Island, a leading proponent of the New Narrative movement recalls his coming-of-age in a “seedy, Burroughs kind of place.”

I grew up in Smithtown, a suburb of New York, a town so invidious that still I speak of it in Proustian terms—or Miltonic terms, a kind of paradise I feel evicted from. Smithtown, Long Island, kind of an MGM Norman Rockwell hometown, a place so boring they gave it a boring name . . . When I was 14 I began to go to New York on a regular basis, sometimes on the train, sometimes hitchhiking there, looking for a jungly eroticism I supposed Smithtown, with its manicured lawns and its country club airs, couldn’t afford me. I was right and wrong at the same time.

Read More If I Grow Any Taller Will I Still Be Loved?

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Book Club: The 1969 Book Club is Here


Vote for ten books you want to read (or reread) from the year of Woodstock, Stonewall and Nixon’s inauguration – and join us on a literary journey.

1969 Book Club
Man on the Moon: 1969 was a momentous year.


One Grand Books is launching its first book club, and we’re inviting you to join us—whether local or long-distance readers. In the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Stonewall, and Neil Armstrong’s “small step for mankind,”  the 1969 Book Club will look at novels published in that momentous year – which began with the inauguration of Richard Nixon. What, if anything, do they reveal about the concerns of the age, and how do they speak to us today? In literary terms, it was an extraordinary year, with groundbreaking novels by Philip Roth, Ursula LeGuin, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as some enduring bestsellers, among them Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. It was also a year in which second wave feminism made its influence clear in novels by Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch, among others, and when the singular talent of Maya Angelou was announced with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. What’s more, all of these titles have all had five decades to demonstrate their longevity and worth.

Read More The 1969 Book Club is Here

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