As part of my Christmas present, Michelle renewed my subscription to Bookmarks Magazine, which I love. I’ve already received the first issue of the new year, and have added the following titles to my to-read list:
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich: Irene America keeps two diaries – one she knows her husband is secretly reading, and one that contains the truth about their unraveling marriage and life with three children.
The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton: Impoverished Nick and Suzy are fond of each other but determined to find rich spouses. They marry anyway so that they can live off the wedding presents and honeymoon villas offered by their wealthy friends – but with the understanding that either can leave the other if a better offer appears. As they negotiate society with a satiricial eye, they find that things aren’t quite that simple.
Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda: It tells the story of Camille, a literally starving artist; Philobert, a socially awkward history buff; Franck, a foul-mouthed chef; and Franck’s grandmother, Paulette, who is desperate to avoid ending life in a nursing home. Each has a past of rejection to overcome in order to form a new and unconventional family.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford: Michael Crawford, who grew up in a commune in California, has always led something of a dual life. One part of him is in love with motorcycle engines and the type of people who repair them, while the other part is committed to the pursuit of knowledge. But according to the argument of Shop Class as Soulcraft, those two parts of the human experience ought not to be in conflict: physical work has a highly intellectual component requiring real knowledge and practice. Crawford first reports (and laments) how we’ve arrived at such a conflict in American life. He then draws alternately on his philosophical background and the daily experience of motorcycle work to argue for a new dedication to working with one’s hands.
Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon: Michael Chabon is a father of four, and despite his success as an author, he is still willing to define a father as “a man who fails every day.” This essay collection might be called an effort to come to peace with his definition, but the effort sounds far too serious for a book that also includes an invective against Captain Underpants and a praise song for Planet of the Apes (the TV show, mind you), as well as reflections on Judaism and the value of Chabon’s MFA program. Somewhere between the two extremes, the explorations and epiphanies of earnest father and geeky kid, Chabon finds his voice – and it turns out to be the same one readers already love.