Staff Pick

Originally published in Polish in 2009, Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (Riverhead, $27) is more linear than the buoyant Flights, but what may seem a breezy and almost comic story of small-town eccentrics is imbued with Tokarczuk’s wit, intelligence, and inimitable, subversive literary style. Both the narrator and the story are ingenious and winning creations. An involuntarily retired teacher and former bridge builder, Janina Duszejko is one of a handful of year-round residents in a rural outpost that serves as a summer getaway for the
wealthy. She spends her days checking on empty estates, casting horoscopes, helping a friend translate Blake (source of the novel’s title and stunningly apt epigraphs), and developing theories on everything from “testosterone autism” and why the feet—“our plugs into the socket”—are the most revealing part of the body, to why anger, which “has the power to exceed any limits,” is “the source of all wisdom”—revealing herself, like Blake, as a down-to-earth mystic. Then the murders start. The victims are all men who hunted and Duszejko believes they were killed by animals, as punishment for their cruelty. When the police laugh her off, Duszejko’s moral outrage grows, and Tokorczuk makes a powerful argument for the wisdom of the marginalized—whether old women, wild deer, or stray dogs.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel Cover Image
By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translated by)
$27.00
ISBN: 9780525541332
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - August 13th, 2019

Staff Pick

Olive, Again (Random House, $27) reprises the irrepressible protagonist of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, but no prior experience is necessary to savor this delightful
and moving novel. Described as “difficult,” even “formidable,” Olive, a retired seventh-grade math teacher, is blunt to a fault—she’s a woman who “thinks everything is crap.” Well, yes and no. “Anything could be true with Olive,” someone notes, and as Strout shows in thirteen interlocking stories, Olive is also needy, regretful, and always surprising. Nor, despite her considerable reputation, does she always steal the show. Strout gives her a strong supporting cast, and we meet a first-time mother who goes into labor at a friend’s baby shower; an eighth-grader whose difficult adolescence fits eerily into the drama playing out in the home of the elderly couple she cleans for; a mediocre student who becomes the U.S. Poet Laureate; and two brothers from Strout’s 2013 The Burgess Boys, still coming to grips with the childhood accident that killed their father. Presented with deep compassion, each of these characters is fully realized, as is Crosby, Maine, where, through its neighborhoods, shops, and old age home, Strout shows the limits of the adage that everyone knows each other in a small town. Rather, “there are always secrets.” Ranging from unfaithfulness to abuse, these boil down to “the essential loneliness of people,” which not even Olive is immune to.

Olive, Again: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812996548
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Random House - October 15th, 2019

Staff Pick

If the roar of leaf blowers, chain saws, and other landscaping tools strikes you as a war on nature—that’s because it is. As Tree reports in her outstanding book about converting farmland back to wild land, after World War II “tanks converted to tractors; poison gas to pesticides and herbicides,” and humans managed the land more aggressively than ever. It’s been a deadly process. As insect “pests” have been eradicated, so have the earthworms, fungi, honey bees, and hosts of other creatures essential to healthy soil, and the soil itself has been turned into a hotbed of chemicals inimical to life. Like many landholders, Tree and her husband followed intensive modern farming methods on their Knepp Estate in West Sussex until, by 2000, it was too expensive to keep up. What would happen if they simply left things alone? They tried it—not without resistance from neighbors, who were outraged at the idea of land left “unproductive” on purpose—and what happened was amazing. The soil recovered. The waters ran clear. The grounds attracted butterflies, plants, and birds in numbers—and sometimes kinds—not seen in Britain in decades. Tree writes beautifully about this explosion of biodiversity; she’s genuinely charmed by nature’s ways and her vivid descriptions of life in its many, wondrous forms—from dung beetles to oak trees to her beloved turtle doves—aren’t just informative, they’re magical.

Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm Cover Image
By Isabella Tree, Eric Schlosser (Introduction by)
$19.95
ISBN: 9781681373713
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: New York Review Books - September 17th, 2019

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