Maureen Corrigan recommended and referenced many books during her AViD presentation on Saturday, April 22. Here is the list, we hope we got them all!
Recommendations with comments:
- The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt. Great work of non-fiction about how the discovery of one book “kick-started” the Renaissance.
- In the Country by Mia Alvar. Terrific debut short story collection about Filipino “guest workers” around the world. Affecting, beautifully written, and illuminating.
- The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan. Wonderful debut collection of short stories most of which are set in and around the Kennedy Space Center.
- Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Her new book of linked stories includes some of the characters from My Name Is Lucy Barton.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. A Must-Read. Speculative historical fiction. Whitehead imagines the Underground Railroad was an actual train.
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Amazing novel about the death of Lincoln’s son Willie, Lincoln’s titanic grief, and an America that’s torn apart.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Powerful debut novel about two enslaved sisters and the lives of their descendants over the next century.
- Last Night at The Lobster by Stewart O’Nan. A great novella about the last shift at a Red Lobster restaurant that’s about to be closed down. Unsentimental and powerful about the importance of doing a good job and what it means to lose one.
- Searching for Tamsen Donner by Gabrielle Burton. Powerful memoir by Burton who took her husband and five small daughters “on the road” in a station wagon in the late 1960s in order to trace the path of the doomed Donner Party. Burton was fascinated by the mystery of Tamsen Donner, who elected to stay with her ill husband even when a rescue party arrived to lead the pioneers out of the mountains.
- The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Great speculative “what if” historical novel about Charles Lindbergh defeating Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election.
- The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman. I have given this novel to many, many young women. Waldman brilliantly enters into the mind of a hipster young man in Brooklyn and the women he dates.
- Commonwealth and The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett. I love everything Patchett writes but her latest novel and this older one are standouts.
- Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Another great novella—this one about the last days of the West and a lonely settler who works the land.
- Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Ideal for anyone who teaches! A funny and ultimately moving novel deftly constructed out of a series of recommendation letters a weary professor writes for his students.
- Swamplandia and Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. A wonderful “tall tale” of a novel set in Florida and an eerie, moving collection of short stories by the gifted Russell.
- Stuffed and Shocked by Patricia Volk. Volk is a wonderful memoirist. Stuffed is about her family’s deli in the Garment District of NYC that operated in the 1940s and 50s. Shocked is about her mother, a great beauty, and Elsa Schiaparelli, the famous designer, who each gave Volk a different model for womanhood.
Two great non-fiction works about the history of slavery:
- Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild. Incredible story of a small group of men in the early 1800s in England who individually came to the realization that slavery was wrong and spent the rest of their lives fighting to end it. Suspenseful and moving.
- The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin. True story of a slave ship whose chained “passengers” revolted and took over the ship. The story that inspired Herman Melville’s great novella, Benito Cereno. A must read.
Other mentions by Maureen during her AViD presentation:
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
- Pale King by David Foster Wallace
- Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and The Woman He Loved by Judith Freeman
- Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
- Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
- Just Kids and M Train by Patty Smith
- House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
- A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon
- Age of Grief by Jane Smiley
- An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn
- Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Hard Boiled Detective Genre:
- Farrell Coleman
- Steve Hamilton
- Dashiell Hammett
- Raymond Chandler
- James M. Cain
Literary: Richard Ford (Basecombe novels)
Iowa Greats to Read: Jane Smiley, Marilynne Robinson, Bill Bryson, John Irving
And of course...F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.