Valeria Luiselli's debut essay collection immediately establishes her as an exciting writer to watch and admire.
Fountains of Neptune may be my favorite novel ever. It's tells the sea-soaked and wondrous story of a man who, like the patients in Oliver Sacks' Awakenings, falls into a long coma, only to awaken into a changed world. Ducornet's lush and sensuous prose will cast a spell on you, luring you into Nini's strange, phantasmagorical consciousness. This is a book like no other.
To call J.A. Baker's book a book about birds is similar to saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales. This is so much more than ornithology. It's a marvelously textured, understated, and beautifully written account of a man's quest to learn certain aspects of the natural world--to become part of the corner of the universe he's come to inhabit. Baker's language is precise and poetic and his insights, on the behavior of birds and man, are remarkable. I love this book all out of proportion.
Eliot Weinberger, a college drop-out turned tanslator (of Paz, Borges, Bei Dao, and others) writes essays unlike anything you've read. These pieces -- erudite, wide-ranging, poetic -- are of universal scope, touching on topics as diverse (and cohesive) as the varieties of Chinese wind, a history of the rhinocerous in Europe, the Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert, and a reverie on the stars that is breathtakingly beautiful. Weinberger's vast learning is matched by an equally encompassing sense of wonder, and his ability to draw the "exotic" closer, while still permitting it an air of mystery, is a thing to marvel at.
If the best books are those that make you itch for something new—or, in this case, something as ancient as walking—Robert Macfarlane’s poetic travel memoir is certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Tracing his ramblings across moors and seas, up mountains, and along meandering paths, Macfarlane describes in lush, precise prose a natural (and human) world that reveals itself leisurely, step by step. Full of remarkable scenes and a memorable cast of characters, The Old Ways brings to mind recent memoirs like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and classic nature writing a la Peter Matthiessen. I recommend it with only one caveat: read it with your hiking boots on; it’ll make you want to get up and go.
Marcel Schwob is likely the most influential writer you've never heard of. Criminally overlooked in the English-speaking world, Schwob--a sort of French Robert Louis Stevenson--nevertheless exerted influence over a diverse array of his more famous successors, including Alfred Jarry, Borges, Paul Valery, Roberto Bolano, etc. This new translation of the luminous and strange Book of Monelle will hopefully go some way toward reviving the status of a legendary writer of whom it was once declared, "Marcel Schwob was not a man, he was a romance."
Ten days after submitting the manuscript of Suicide, Eduoard Leve hung himself in his Paris apartment. It is inevitable, given the timing, to correlate the two acts. Is Suicide--ostensibly written as an unsentimental, possibly fictional portrait of a "friend" who killed himself years before--a novel? Is it a final testament? Might Leve's final work have been a culmination of his artistic output? It is left to the reader to decide or tease out the implications of these mysteries, which though tragic come across as strangely graceful.
One of the funniest, most cynical, and provocative novels I've ever had the pleasure (?) to read. If you like your comedy black (as in charred), this is the book for you.
You're the last woman alive. (Or are you?) You find shelter in museums, burn artwork to keep warm on chilly nights. You travel the world, piecing together what's been lost, hoping to find evidence that you are not alone. More than anything, you remember: ancient things like Achilles' rage and personal things like the loss of a child. David Markson's profoundly unsettling and affecting masterpiece--which was rejected fifty-four times--was called upon its publication "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country" by none other than David Foster Wallace.
A book about romantic love, "Eros the Bittersweet"is Anne Carson's exploration of the concept of "eros" in both classical philosophy and literature.
Julien Gracq's first novel reads like a dream. In richly symbolic and moody prose, Chateau d'Argol tells the story of a group of three friends unable to break the erotic and gloomy spell holding them captive. Reminiscent of Borges (although preceeding him) and Jean Cocteau, Gracq's small gem deserves a wider readership, especially in such an elegant translation.
Margarita Karapanou's Kassandra and the Wolf was first published in 1974, and went on to become a contemporary classic in Greece, receive international acclaim, and establish its 28-year-old author as an intensely original new talent, who garnered comparisons to Proust and Schulz.
Taking as his inspiration Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, Caspar Henderson set out to investigate those seemingly too strange to be real creatures that are, in fact, alive on our strange planet. From the axolotl to the zebra fish, this book demonstrates just how wondrous biology is and how bizarre the journey to get to this point has been.
No one will ever make sense of the 20th century, but Kapuscinski, who spent his life traveling through war zones and politically volatile situations, comes as close as anyone I've read to getting to the heart of modernity. The Shah of Shahs is an ideal introduction to his work and one that helped me get a better understanding of the current situation in the Middle East.