by Elisa Albert
Stoner by John Williams
An unfortunate title, given the fact that this is not even tangentially about smoking pot. It’s a simply stunning story of one man’s life. Either deeply tragic or deeply blessed (depending on your own projections, like most everything worth reading) William Stoner is a beautiful, beautiful character. The prolific Steve Almond wrote a great piece about it in Tin House’s Lost and Found column a while back, but do yourself a favor and read the book before you read about reading it.
The Love Wife by Gish Jen
I try not to be all knee-jerky about girl-rights, ‘cause it estranges those who need to hear it most, but I think if Jen were a dude she’s be way famous-er. And she certainly wouldn’t get Amy Tan’s rejected cover art. It’s written in the form of a family conversation, which takes some getting used to but is rather fabulous. A good book will sort of teach you how to read it, if you let it.
The Driftless Area by Tom Drury
Knock-out. Love him for his refusal to pander to his reader. He’s not aiming to be universal (which is why he's sorta universal). He’s simply going to lay out his story the way he wants and you’ll be on board or you won’t. The voice is impeccable. The arc is unexpected. There are laugh-out-loud moments but he's never trying too hard.
Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene
Described by Greene as the only book he ever wrote “for the fun of it”. Aunt Augusta is a singular literary creation, and she arrives bearing a vital message: travel is a way of making our lives feel longer. So very relevant to book touring (minus the war criminal plotline).