Readerly Top Picks – August 2015

 

I Was a Revolutionary  by Andrew Malan Milward (Harper) In much of popular culture, Kansas appears unprepossessing. However, the flatlands hide the stories of a number of charlatans, radicals, and vigilantes (among others) who have disrupted and displaced the history of the state. These stories are deep dives into little-known histories, but they continually reference profound questions of identity, race, and the echoes of history to the present day. They are contained individually but flow so beautifully that you cannot imagine them in any other order than which they appear. I Was a Revolutionary will have you looking at even the quietest landscapes in a new way, yearning to uncover the stories of those who influenced the smallest of details.—Jen Karsbaek

It’s About Love by Steven Camden (HarperCollins) When Luke meets Leia, it’s like they’re meant to be, except this is real life, so it’s not that simple. Seemingly geared to the YA audience, It’s About Love is an earnest look at all types of love: first love, familial love, platonic love. Camden doesn’t shy away from being realistic in the detailing of these loves. Love is difficult, and he wants his reader to know that. He also experiments with different forms, writing some sections as though they were taken from a screenplay manuscript and others as though they were journal entries. Fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower may have found its British companion in It’s About Love.—Adam Pribila

Joy: Poet, Seeker, And The Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ) The poet Joy Davidman is best remembered for her brief marriage to C. S. Lewis, beloved author of the Narnia series. Santamaria’s well-wrought biography, based in part on unpublished family papers and letters, focuses on Davidman’s struggle to overcome her sheltered childhood and on finding her own footing, both professionally and spiritually. As her first marriage unraveled, and after years spent in correspondence with Lewis, she traveled to England, hoping that he would return her growing infatuation. Santamaria details the poet’s significant, positive influence on Lewis’s late work and makes the case that Davidman should be remembered as a smart, productive, and strong person in her own right, not just as the woman who lured Lewis out of bachelorhood.—Candace B. Levy

Lolito by Ben Brooks (Regan Arts) A spin on Nabokov’s Lolita, Brooks’ version deals with a 15-year-old, Etgar, and his fleeting relationship with an older woman. Lolito is more than that, though. What’s here is a young novelist who is not only adept at storytelling but doing so with a commanding, singular voice and style. While the torrid May-December romance is pivotal to the plot, what stands out are Etgar’s keen observations, sharp wit, and earnest navigation through the beginnings of puberty.—Adam Pribila

Villa America by Liza Klaussman (Little, Brown) You may not know who Gerald and Sara Murphy were, but that doesn’t stop Klaussmann from weaving their lives into an absolutely fascinating tale. As Lost Generation American ex-pats, the Murphys hosted many artistic luminaries in their house on the French Riviera, a setting which inspired one of their guests (F. Scott Fitzgerald) to write Tender is The Night. Lost Generation artists have been a hot topic in historical fiction in recent years, but Klaussman has chosen a wonderfully rich set of characters – the Murphys plus American pilot Owen Chambers – and gives them all complex and distinct personalities which make Villa America psychologically satisfying book to read.—Jen Karsbaek