Staff Pick

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume epic, My Struggle, astonished us with its brutal candor and self- awareness. It primarily centered on the author’s painful relationship with his father. By contrast, Autumn (Penguin Press, $27) is a slender book with beautiful illustrations by Norwegian artist Vanessa Baird. It is the first in a projected quartet, and gives us Knausgaard as a tender father speaking to his unborn daughter about everyday objects. His descriptions run about two-and-a-half pages in length, and flow in a seemingly random cascade, on subjects as diverse as doors, porpoises, vomit, and labia; buttons, apples, and chewing gum. “It is primarily for my own sake that I am doing this,” he writes, “showing you the world, little one, makes my life worth living.” In one piece he writes of a family photograph where everything about the lives has been stripped away so that what remains is “what we ourselves don’t see… that our lives are written in our faces and our bodies, but in a language so foreign we don’t even know it is a language.”  Knausgaard’s perspective is compelling and razor sharp, and as in My Struggle, he makes the ordinary feel vivid again, and strange.

Autumn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399563300
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Press - August 22nd, 2017

Staff Pick

In the spring of 2011, Daniel Mendelsohn, a professor of classics at Bard College, taught one of his most challenging students: his father, eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn, a retired mathematician. Mendelsohn père, a man always bothered by things left half-done, joined the class to continue his long-interrupted study of the classics. He proved to be an uncompromising student, always ready to speak up, and also always ready to listen. He charmed his fellow students, making it a lively, indeed, unforgettable semester. His son’s engaging memoir, An Odyssey (Knopf, $26.95), includes many of the discussions from Classics 125: The Odyssey of Homer, along with background on the epic, etymologies of key words, profiles of the characters, and an appreciation of Homer’s narrative strategies, including his use of ring composition, a series of stories that seem to wander but in fact know exactly where they are going. Mendelsohn himself employs such loops, intercutting the course’s linear progress through Homer’s poem with a series of memories, family stories, the “Retracing the Odyssey” cruise he and his father took, and reflections on his father’s final months. An Odyssey is an illuminating work of literary criticism that makes Homer’s masterpiece not just admirable but truly urgent and exciting. Mendelsohn draws on Homer’s timeless insight into fathers and sons for his evolving understanding of his own father, a man who had always stumped him, and who, with Homer’s help, teaches Mendelsohn more than he expected.

An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385350594
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - September 12th, 2017

Staff Pick

I read everything that David Sedaris writes.  And when I have finished his latest piece, I always miss his voice.  That melancholy was even greater when I finished Theft by Finding, Diaries 1977-2002 (Little, Brown, $28).  Sedaris says this is the first volume of his diaries, edited, to be sure, because the man writes every day of his life.  Some of the entries are lengthy stories about the events of his day.  Some are observations about his friends and family.  Many, though, are short treats —funny or poignant or devastating bits from the world around him, written at the time he was experiencing them.  I made a mistake when I read this book.  I was so excited to have it, that I read the whole thing in just a couple of days.  On a road trip with my mom, I read choice passages to her while she drove.  It was a nice way to enjoy someone else’s diaries, but if I had it to do over again, I would have taken my time and savored each entry even more.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316154727
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - May 30th, 2017