New Release Roundup: Recommendations for September 2012
Every month I'll be toiling in the dank, dark mines of literary obscurity, scouring the catalogues of every major publisher to bring the LitReactor faithful a few choice titles hitting the shelves. The following is a brief look at what's worth checking out in September. Full disclosure: unless otherwise noted, none of the below books have been reviewed by myself or other LitReactor staff. These are just a few recommendations based on publisher's notes and my own opinions. Without further ado:
Late last year, the world lost one of its most gifted and fearless voices in Christopher Hitchens, who passed away in Houston after fighting cancer for more than a year. After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June of 2010, Hitchens continued to write as he underwent treatment, churning out a volume of work made more impressive by his debilitated state. All the while, he remained steadfastly atheist, refusing the comfort of a higher power as he stared death in the face. This book is a collection of writings on the subject of death, disease, and man's relationship to the world, changed as it is by the premature end of life. A must-have for fans of Hitchens, and possibly a great jumping-in point for those who have just taken notice.
A second non-fiction entry in this month's list, A Wilderness of Error is a promising title for fans of true crime, police procedurals, and investigations into America's all-too-flawed legal system. Penned by the award-winning documentarian Errol Morris (treading territory made all too familiar in his breakout film The Thin Blue Line), A Wilderness of Error is an examination of the brutal 1970 murder of the MacDonald family, a crime for which the patriarch, Jeffery MacDonald, was arrested and incarcerated. Years of research, inspection, and critical thinking revealed that the evidence leading to MacDonald's conviction was almost entirely unreliable, and in some cases, revealed to be outright fabrication. Equal parts non-fiction thriller and meditation on the nature of proof, evidence, and justice, A Wilderness of Error is sure to please those non-fiction addicts who like their poison a little darker.
Science Fiction diehards forgive me, I'm not as up to speed on The Singularity as one might hope, but this latest novel sounds too mind-bending not to recommend, despite my own ignorance. At the end of the 21st century, the few "pre-posthumans" left on Earth are sometimes selected for "Tech Jury Duty", a civil obligation to pick through the periodic technology dumps gifted to Earth from the higher metaconsciousness of the universe and decide what is useful and what is too dangerous for simple, unevolved terrestrials. Huw Jones, potter, is our hero in this comic journey through a Sci-Fi geek's wet dream.
Holy genre mash-ups in a progressive world, Batman! This literary debut is the coming of age story of three friends in the military. Sounds like well-worn territory, right? Well, this time the three friends are Israeli girls whose lives are forever altered after beginning their mandatory military service. Set against the tense backdrop of Israel, this story follows the development of Yael, Avishag, and Lea as they become women in a world where literally anything can happen in the blink of an eye.
Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are two long-time friends, bandmates, and most importantly, co-owners of Brokeland Records, a little shop they run on the border between Berkley and Oakland. The two are hanging tough when Gibson Goode, ex-NFL star and johnny-come-lately entrepreneur, decides to open up one of his Dogpile mega-chain record stores on nearby Telegraph Avenue. Needless to say, Stalling and Jaffe are concerned that their struggling business is doomed, which is to say nothing of their wives, two semi-legendary midwives who find themselves in a professional predicament of their own. An engaging premise set in a vibrant community, there's no reason not to expect great things from the Pulitzer-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Wonder Boys.
What's that? Never heard of Stephen Toblowsky? Odds are you'd recognize him on the street, as one of dozens of memorable minor characters he's played in a long and storied Hollywood career (Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day being one of the most noted, perhaps). In addition to his skills as an actor, Toblowsky is also well-known amongst his peers as a gifted yarn-spinner, and this collection of short stories is chock full of tales that he's been relating to his established fanbase for years. (A personal sidenote: Toblowsky's grew up in my hometown, and though I've never heard it, his story of being involved in a bank holdup in a local shopping center is supposed to be a doozy.)
What more is there to say at this point? One of the most successful authors of all time, J.K. Rowling, long ago announced that she would be writing a novel for adults, and at the end of the month, it will finally be here. Oh, you want to know what it's about? Picky, picky! The novel is set in Pagford, a seemingly quiet little town that has its dark secrets upended when councilman Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly passes away, and the ensuing fight for his empty seat threatens to pull the town apart. J.K. Rowling channeling a little Stieg Larsson, perhaps? Only time will tell if there are any rape scenes or Quidditch matches.
Happy reading, everybody! As always, leave a few lines: do these sound interesting? Anything been overlooked? Picked up one of these titles and loved/hated it? Let us know!
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