Staff Pick

Using the trees that figure so prominently in his tremendous novel as models for its structure, Richard Powers follows nine characters in rotation, building a strong, complex narrative from their stories the way a tree grows from one growth ring to the next. Focusing on the many kinds of relationships people can have with trees, The Overstory (W.W. Norton, $27.95) dramatizes our casual appreciation of nature and our ignorance of it, our increasing exploitation of it, and our shock and regret at what we’ve done to it. But while some characters want the clearcutting to stop, and break human laws in favor of higher ones, others see only the economic reasons why logging should continue. Force doesn’t work for either side, Powers shows, so what is the answer? Meanwhile, another character builds video worlds of stunning verisimilitude. Yet another character collects seeds for a world seed bank, acutely aware of her inability to preserve the ecosystems that nurture these seeds. She’s also done pioneering research, discovering that trees communicate with each other, warn each other, heal each other; this is perhaps the true “understory” we’ve lost, so absorbed by the deafening “overstory” of our own kind that we can’t recognize anything else.

The Overstory: A Novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780393635522
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - April 3rd, 2018

Staff Pick

Drawing the title from Gertrude Stein’s often misunderstood remark about Oakland, “there’s no there there,” Tommy Orange in his tremendous There There (Knopf, $25.95) wants “to bring something new to the vision of the Native experience” by presenting the untold and as yet unstereotyped “Urban Indian story.” He brilliantly accomplishes this in twelve vivid interwoven profiles that tap into the “real passion…and rage” of Native Americans in contemporary Oakland. Powerful and moving, these virtuoso narratives bring us into the lives of children and grandparents, single mothers and drug thugs, recovering alcoholics and victims of abuse. All have complicated relationships with their heritage. Some are members of one or more specific nations, others don’t know where they belong. Some are always conscious of their identity, others feel Indian only when dressed in Indian regalia. For many, their heritage is too easily confused with patronizing images. Through intimate and urgent stories Orange recovers the “there” of a Native history that’s “been paved over.” At the same time he emphatically ends American Indians’s long struggle “to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant.”

There There: A novel Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780525520375
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - June 5th, 2018

Staff Pick

Laura van den Berg’s The Third Hotel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) is a marvel. The haunting story of a woman who goes to a horror film festival in Havana and sees (or does she?) her dead husband is one of the most stunning novels of 2018. The Third Hotel nods to its extensive cultural influences-- from feminist film fiction to Clarice Lispector—and then eats them all alive, absorbing and metabolizing these sources to create an entirely new world, strange and beautiful but entirely solid in its own universe. Above all it dives deep into “genre” (is it Literary Fiction? Mystery? Horror?) and turns it inside out, challenging all of our simplistic ideas of categorization.  There are moments of narrative freefall, but your vertigo is always intentional: van den Berg is an artist in utter, full-cylinder control of her craft. You’ll finish this gorgeous novel breathless, exhilarated, and forced into an uneasy reckoning with your secret selves.

The Third Hotel: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374168353
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 7th, 2018

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