Staff Pick

Set during Christmas, Smith’s follow-up to Autumn explores winter as a time of recurrent rituals and natural cycles as well as a moment that charts “a new meanness in meaning.” Despite the reflexive exchanges of “Merry Christmas,” there’s not quite enough goodwill in 2017 to extend to all humankind. The immigration crisis continues, as does as the epidemic of lies and betrayals of trust. Smith neatly sums up the current political arc as “Panic. Attack. Exclude.” This portion of the novel is crystallized in the prickly relations between two  middle-aged sisters. Iris is a long-time activist who cut her teeth at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the 1980s and now works with Syrian refugees in Greece. Her sister Sophia is a businesswoman who lives in a huge “house full of empty bedrooms” (fifteen of them), with an empty refrigerator and an apparently empty heart to match. But Smith doesn’t condemn her. Rather, in a nod to her own The Accidental, she draws out Sophia’s humanity by way of a stranger who wanders into the family and makes herself –and her hosts—at home. As whimsical as it is political and topical, Smith’s enchanting novel embraces a wide range of literary allusions, dreams, myths, and ghosts. She pays homage to Dickens with a set of church bells that strike midnight on Christmas Eve not once, but several times, each toll sending characters into a Christmas past or future. As Shakespeare did in his romances, Smith grounds her socio-cultural critiques in a wondrous, shape-shifting narrative. As she reminds us, “where would we be without our ability to see beyond what it is we’re supposed to see?” Smith’s winter is not a down time but a rich and lyrical vision of compassion and transformation.

Winter Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781101870754
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Pantheon Books - January 9th, 2018

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Staff Pick

Mukherjee’s powerful novel starts with a man returning to his homeland, only to discover that he feels like a “tourist in his own country.” This jarring experience turns nightmarish when his efforts to heal his son’s “disconnection” from Indian culture by showing him the Taj Mahal backfire in a strange and inexplicable way. Brief and surreal, this opening section is the gateway to a deeper view of today’s India, as Mukherjee takes the piece’s seemingly isolated details and expands on them in the following four narratives. A man and his dancing bear focus a blunt look at economic servitude, the man struggling to support his large family with the bear’s “dances,” which are symptoms of the animal’s suffering. Meanwhile, the man’s brother, hoping for a share in the country’s building boom, instead contracts a lung disease from the materials he works with. In another narrative line, a Bombay-born, London-based designer returns to do research for a book on regional Indian foods. He transgresses traditional caste-lines by visiting his parents’ servants homes, where he feels both morally superior to his class-bound father and disturbed by what he sees—as well as by how easily he turns people’s lives into “a different kind of tourism.” As Mukherjee takes us through urban slums and rural villages, he shows us communities galvanized by poverty and superstition, places where suspected thieves have their hands cut off, eight-year-old girls are taken out of school to work as maids (and kept prisoner by being forbidden to go out), and people can’t afford the bus fare to the nearest hospital—a day’s journey away. But with his lyrical, compassionate prose, Mukherjee also shows us a great resilience and faith in a better future, whether at home or in some distant land.

A State of Freedom Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780393292909
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 2nd, 2018

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Staff Pick

In this deceptively simple meditation on silence, Kagge constructs a graceful mosaic of definitions, statements, and paradoxes. What exactly is silence? He has a “primal need for” it, Kagge states, and it’s a “practical method” for understanding yourself, a state of mind that lets you tune out the world while being drawn into it more deeply, While it’s “the new luxury“ in this noisy world, silence isn’t the absence or the opposite of sound, since “to speak is precisely what the silence should do.” Kagge’s children think it’s “nothing”; if so, Kagge would have it be the “full emptiness” Marina Abramovic strives for, rather than the empty emptiness of distraction. Though it’s found most readily inside, Kagge, an explorer, traveled to Japan to look for it in meditation and yoga. He walked to Antarctica in search of it, spending fifty days alone—a trek that ended in the shock of hearing voices again. But silence does not depend on place or techniques. “You just create your own silence,“Kagge says, and it’s as unique as your soul and as conducive to joy and wonder as “the visual silence” of stars. Made up of thirty-three brief sections (perhaps an homage of sorts to Cage’s 4’33”) and ending in a blank page, Kagge’s spare essay leaves plenty of room for the silent reader’s own reflections, demonstrating the kind of active engagement Kagge believes silence invites.

Silence: In the Age of Noise Cover Image
By Erling Kagge, Becky L. Crook (Translator)
$19.95
ISBN: 9781524733230
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Pantheon Books - November 21st, 2017

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