Bookshelf Business--Novels

I was only going to do three books, and keep this symmetrical with the post on short story collections. But, because I’ve been delinquent, the last five novels I’ve read:

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates—I bought this book about six or seven years ago with every intention of reading it back then. But, alas, it became one of several hundred books lining my shelves that I purchase and then don’t read. So, by the time I got around to it recently, its pages were yellowed with dust and cigarette smoke. Once I finished, I wished I’d read the thing as soon as I bought it, and about nine or ten times since then. It’s possibly the saddest and most depressing book I’ve read. I loved everything about it.

Gone, Baby, Gone
by Dennis Lehane—I was until fairly recently a snob. I would only read literary fiction, and in fact wouldn’t even pick up what my friend Jeff calls fat books: mass market paperbacks. Then, a few years ago, I was assigned a detective novel in grad school and soon after became hooked. This is the third Lehane book I’ve read (Mystic River is fantastic, by the way, and if you haven’t read it, go do it now). And Gone, Baby, Gone, which is going to be Ben Affleck’s directorial debut soon, is a rockin good time, too, with strong characters and plenty of strangeness. Lehane writes as well as anybody.

Next Door Lived a Girl
by Stefan Kiesbye—This is a little book that won Lo-Fi Press’s novella contest a few years back. This thing was kind of sexy, despite the fact that most of the sex was incestual, and plenty disturbing (in case the incest thing didn’t already rub you that way), and I ate it up. I can’t wait for something else by Kiesbye. Lo-Fi Press recently put out a collection of stories by Jason Ockert called Rabbit Punches, which I am totally looking forward to. [Oddly, Jeff Parker, who randomly made his way into a post yesterday, is affiliated with Lo-Fi Press: queue “It’s a Small World After All”]

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch—Nominated for the National Book Award in YA last year. I first heard about this book when it was reviewed on NPR around the time it came out. I believe that review discussed how the book, told from the point-of-view of a teenager who commits sexual assault, was a little shocking in its humane treatment of him. I suppose that’s true, but as we see Keir’s side of things, it becomes way more than mere humane treatment. It is heartbreaking, and kind of beautiful in its delivery. I’m writing a YA novel myself, and now I want to read everything by Lynch.

Life as a Poser
by Beth Killian—Beth Killian is really somebody else, and she is a friend of mine. This is another YA novel, put out by MTV’s Pocket Books, and while I wanted to truly dislike it, and to bash my friend for ruining the brains of young girls everywhere, I was sucked into this thing and once I turned the last page, I didn’t want it to end. This thing was pure candy, and honestly, I’m ashamed of myself for getting into it the way I did. But the sequel comes out in August, and I’ll be there on the day it arrives, since it appears my friend isn’t going to send me an advanced reader’s copy.

The next three on the shelf:
The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner—I loved Orner’s Esther Stories, and can’t wait to read this novel, which is comprised of what look like very short, almost flash-fiction-like chapters.

A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O’Nan—I’ve never read anything by O’Nan, but a few of my students were nuts for this, so I’m going to check it out. One of the blurbs calls it the bastard child of Shirley Jackson and Cormac McCarthy, or something like that, which has me intrigued.

Plenty Porter
by Brandon Noonan—my wife discovered this one. Apparently, it’s a YA novel set right here in Galesburg. She ordered a review copy from the publisher yesterday so she can review it for the paper. I’ll get at it when she’s through with it.

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