Our Near Future, Our Distant Present, and The Past

Carriage Return, week of 4/11/2017

Photo by John Ganiard

Carriage Return is The Ribbon’s round-up of recent Literati Bookstore staff favorites, as well as an occasional place for useful links and news from around the literary web regarding upcoming events at the store.

If you’re looking to have a brand new first edition book in your life every month, hand picked by Literati Bookstore, and including custom made ephemera from our typewriter and the amazing folks at Wolverine Press, you might consider signing up for Literati Cultura: A Collector’s Club. April’s pick is Omar El Akkad’s novel American War, which kicks off our review round-up this month, followed by a suite of impressive new paperbacks for the sunny outdoor and rainy indoor spring days.

Recent Staff Favorites (in Hardcover)

Knopf (4/4/2017)

American War, by Omar El Akkad

This book has rendered me almost speechless. I immediately fell into the story; El Akkad’s writing is electric and thirst-quenching, and the narrative itself pulls you along with it until you are no longer able to differentiate your own thoughts from those of the narrator. Set in the future, near the end of the 21st century, American War tells the story of the second American civil war, through the life and experiences of Sarat Chestnut, a woman who comes of age within that divisive and violent climate. El Akkad crafts a story that is horrifically terrifying, heart wrenching, and lovely. This is a timely novel that has the potential to instill within its’ audience a sense of foresight and understanding that we’re all desperate for. — Charlotte

Ballantine Books (4/11/2017)

The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova

A unbelievably raw and heartbreaking tale of undying hope & love, this fast-paced travel mystery will have you on the edge of your seat shortly after the opening pages. — Shannon

Recent Staff Favorites (in Paperback)

Penguin (4/11/2017)

Daredevils, by Shawn Vestal

Two Mormons and Evel Knievel walk into a bar… Daredevils is Shawn Vestal’s first full length novel and he certainly did not disappoint. Loretta, fifteen year old sister wife, aching for freedom meets Jason, Evil Knievel devotee coming of age in a Mormon community nestled in rural Idaho. Vestal forgoes what we’ve come to expect from a coming of age story in favor of something that both challenges and inspires us. Loretta is everything I want out of a protagonist: sharp, unyielding, and incredibly brave. This story is equal parts humor and heartache, and you will find yourself rooting for Loretta till the very last page. — Tara

Random House (4/4/2017)

The Return, by Hisham Matar

It’s a remarkable book that can have me dogearing, underlining, looking up political history, and holding back tears within the span of a page, but Matar’s memoir is beyond remarkable. Thoughtful, nuanced, wildly intelligent, and heartbreaking at every turn, Matar’s reckoning with his father’s arrest, imprisonment, torture, and probable but unknown death is nothing short of genius. — Mairead

Graywolf Press (4/4/2017)

A Little More Human, by Fiona Maazel (paperback original)

I was hooked on this thriller from its first sentences (“He came to on the back of a horse. Weeping into his chest. The dreams he’s had, the man he was.”) to its final perfectly wrought and helplessly hopeful sentence. It has both an endearing, wackly appeal (one character has a weekend gig at a local toy store, playing a mind-reading superhero called Brainstorm — the twist being that, unbeknowst to everyone, he actually has this ability, and it is used to both comic and poignant effect), but also an intriguing futuristic element (the research being done at a biotech facility calls into question whether science is making us more, or less, human). It is Maazel’s insight into human nature that makes this so much more than a really good page-turner. I found myself struggling with resentment, anger, forgiveness, and empathy along with the cast of characters. What more can we ask of a book than to entertain, enlighten, and enrich us, to make us a little more human , perhaps? — Jeanne

The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson

By the author of the lovely novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, this book portrays the lives of people in a very small British Town on the eve of World War I. Newly independent Beatrice Nash arrives to begin her career as a Latin teacher, unaware that she is the cause of the latest escalating feud between the town’s two doyennes. Changes have come to Rye in 1914 — telephones, suffragettes, photography, but nothing can prepare the citizens for the cataclysm that will soon engulf them. Charming and poignant. — Deb

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