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Signal Boost: August Reads
A new monthly post of book recommendations from my TBR pile
I won’t pretend in the midst of this sad summer of worry and hardship that I’ve managed to keep up with every interesting new book that’s coming out right now. Nevertheless, a few have managed to cut through the noise and make their way into my TBR pile, and I wanted to share three of those with you now. All of them are set to be published in the next few weeks, so if you pre-order, you won’t wait long. They may even be waiting at your local bookstore already.
For when you need a lifeline.
The first is Real Estate, by Deborah Levy. It’s out August 24th from Bloomsbury in the US, but was published in Europe by Hamish Hamilton in May. It’s the third installment of a nonfiction trilogy Levy has dubbed “living autobiography.” I fell in love with the series one winter afternoon standing in Shakespeare & Co., when I pulled the first book, Things I Don’t Want To Know, off the shelf and read this opening sentence:
That spring when life was very hard and I was at war with my lot and simply couldn’t see where there was to go, I seemed to cry most on escalators at train stations.
From there, she takes the reader to a chilly hotel in Mallorca, amidst wood fires and orange groves, where she is tending to her writing in the aftermath of divorce, and then on through her South African girlhood and her journey to the writer she is today. It’s a slim book, as is it’s equally wonderful sequel, The Cost of Living. They are about thinking and becoming, and of being a woman artist in the world. Real Estate begins just as promisingly, with a banana tree bought in January outside the Shoreditch High Street train station, and a longing for a sense of home. I can’t wait to devour it.
For when you need a good story and good company.
The next is The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters, by Julie Klam, a nonfiction investigation into family stories and our mythologized selves, out August 10th from Riverhead. I’ve just started this one, but I’m looking forward to reading more. It opens with the specificity of a novel, and becomes a personal quest to discover the truth about her grandmother’s cousins, the Morris Sisters, four independent women—and alleged self-made millionaire spinsters—living in the early 20th century, whose lives had become the stuff of legend. Klam’s smart and breezy prose is a comforting companion, and her humorous asides add warmth to this tale of family secrets and self discovery.
For when you want to start a revolution.
Finally, we have Image Control: Art, Fascism, and the Right to Resist, by Patrick Nathan, out August 17th from Counterpoint. I’ve been looking forward to this one for some time, and immediately had to read the first two pages aloud to someone the moment I opened it. I especially like the way Nathan asserts his right to the material right off the bat:
I never thought I’d write a book about photographs and fascism because I knew nothing, I thought, about photographs and fascism. These are realms of what is called expertise, a term meant to dissuade those who seek to educate or inform themselves without borrowing large sums of money. This is the trap of “none of my business,” in which we surrender authority over what is indeed our business: living our lives alongside others. In our relationships with one another, with technology, with public health, and with government, there is no “objective” or “neutral.” In place of objectivity or neutrality, there is, it turns out, right and wrong, and it is both disastrous and immoral to allow what is wrong to perpetuate simply because it falls under someone else’s intellectual or professional jurisdiction.
Very much in the intellectual lineage of Susan Sontag, Image Control is both impassioned and erudite, and is sure to get you thinking, both about the digital world around you, and how we might work to change it.
I hope you all have a great start to your week.