It isn’t often that you find literature offering an extended treatment of work. Which is odd, because work is where most of us spend the (at times disheartening) preponderance of our energy and time each day, each year. Perhaps books neglect labor because we turn to literature for the very purpose of “’forgetting” our daily toil? Be alienated no longer! With The Pleasures And Sorrows Of Work (Vintage, $15.95), Alain de Botton (The Architecture of Happiness, How Proust Can Change Your Life) reports on ten distinct occupations and industries. It is a “hymn to the modern workplace,” evoked in rich, wry detail with anthropological care, all the while seeking to answer the question, “when does a job feel meaningful?”

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Vintage International) Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307277251
Availability: Backordered
Published: Vintage - June 1st, 2010

Though implausible, the most chortlingly funny book I’ve read in years is about graduate school. Elif Batuman’s story-telling is disarming and her relentless enthusiasm for books is contagious. In the seven essays of The Possessed: My Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15), Batuman, a Turkish-American, recaps her immoderate enamorment with Russian literature and how this love leads her to Stanford’s Comp Lit department and a cohort which she likens to the spiraling madness of Dostoevsky’s Demons (a k a The Possessed). Her love also takes her farther afield, to a mystifying summer in Samarkand studying Old Uzbek epics; to an International Tolstoy Scholars Conference and suspicions of foul play; and to the Neva River to investigate the curiously sinister backstory of an ice palace for The New Yorker. Familiarity with Babel and Bakunin aren’t prerequisites; Batuman’s book is a clever treatise on the reasons we read.

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780374532185
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - February 16th, 2010

The only thing that distracted me from my engrossed reading of All The Living (Picador, $14) was my delight and wonder at having discovered the young, first-time novelist C.E. Morgan. Young Aloma is an aspiring pianist who comes to live with her boyfriend, Orren, on his struggling tobacco farm. Grounded by a loving mastery of the lay of the land, and the grit of Morgan’s rich, quotation-mark-free dialogue, the story of the couple’s tense love and their clumsy efforts to relate to each other take on an earthy authenticity. The story has a rustic timelessness about it, which puts it in a long tradition of first-class American writing.

All the Living: A Novel Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780312429324
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - February 2nd, 2010

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