I won't mince words. This is not a beach read. I read it on a plane, but it was very cumbersome. The plot does not turn on every page, though it is an outrageous plot involving children, fist fights, master plans, revolution and vandalism. However, The Instructions is an unyielding examination into the personal motivations of humans; it is the scripture of Gurion, an Ender-like kid who might be the messiah; it is a novel that is more than fun, more than a "great read." It is an experience.
ALL IS FORGOTTEN, NOTHING IS LOST (W.W. Norton, $23.95) is a small book with a lot of power. Lan Samantha Chang follows Roman from his time as a desperate, aspiring poetry student to his later success as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writing professor. His life takes a turn when he begins an affair with Miranda, his mysterious, confident poetry professor. In the years ahead he struggles to come to terms with what the affair meant to his career, his art, and his heart. With delicate, beautiful prose, and a unique yet oddly familiar story, Chang pierces the depths of friendship, love, art, nostalgia, and regret with breathtaking precision. This is the kind of novel you can’t leave without knowing a little more about yourself.
I FOUND THIS FUNNY (McSweeney’s, $25) is an anthology of stories, skits, essays, poetry, and cartoons that manages to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, depressing, and enlightening all at the same time. Writer/director Judd Apatow, of Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up fame, does a fantastic job as the editor of a collection that includes Raymond Carver, Conan O’Brien, David Sedaris, Flannery O’Connor, Adam Sandler, Jon Stewart, and many more. Apatow doesn’t feel the need to stick to stories that are obviously funny. He also chooses writing that is strange or heartbreaking, non-fiction and fiction. The variety of this collection makes it a constantly surprising reading experience. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Apatow’s work, but also to anyone who likes well-told strories, sharp insight, and a good laugh.