This first novel begins the epic adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship’s physician, naturalist, and unlikely international spy, Stephen Maturin, during the Napoleonic Wars. The series is astonishingly rich in character development, history, thrilling adventure, humor, high drama, romance, and the details of a life at sea in military service. The surprises and pleasures throughout are constant. I’ve read all twenty in the series, and look forward to reading them all again! ~ McNevin
Told hilariously in breathless, dizzying, fragmented stream of consciousness, this novel depicts a young woman whose job is to lecture about the internet (or ‘portal’) to which she is addicted. She is incredibly smart, self-aware, feminist--and perhaps on the verge of losing herself. Then reality strikes in the form of a family tragedy. This is a wholly unique voice, filled with poetry, insight, absurdity, humor, the profane, and deep heartfelt empathy. I read this one straight through twice and am sure I will again. ~ McNevin
This is a collection of fragments and micro-stories uncovered by Kafka biographer Reiner Stach, and translated into English by renowned poet Michael Hofmann. Some stories are a few pages; some a few paragraphs; and some are only a few lines in length. Each is powerful, fascinating, as well as revelatory and mysterious. None feel incomplete, and all ring with the resonance of the most powerful dreams. This is Kafka at his hilarious, insightful, anxiety-ridden, reality-bending best. I feel transformed by this thin volume. I can barely express how grateful I am for the existence of this book.
I reread paragraphs and entire chapters of this novel immediately after finishing them for their sheer beauty and surprise. But how to explain this novel? It feels like living inside a labyrinthine myth. It follows a boy who is transported to another realm in which he has been transformed into an adult man, enchanted, and assigned a quest. The story is told in the form of an endless letter from that boy after he has disappeared from our world. As the story progresses a single line of description or dialogue will change one's entire sense of what is transpiring. Mysteries transform into still greater mysteries—and into dazzling revelations—with masterful finesse. And brief recognitions will reframe the book's universe. Heroic, beautiful, and haunting. ~ McNevin
In this brilliant classic of African-futurism, Binti - a young Himba woman who is a brilliant mathematician and skilled with mysterious alien technology - is chosen to leave her little village for attendance at a prestigious university. On the interstellar flight, her ship is attacked and the crew killed by a jellyfish-like race of warriors, the Medusae. Binti is left to fend not just for herself, but to find a means to broker peace between complex warring races. Sweeping in scope but anchored by the deep humanity of Binti, her story is fresh and fascinating and wholly original. Told in three novellas, collected here in one volume with an added short story. ~ McNevin
Hilarious and often frightening. In Northern Ireland, nothing is safe and you can’t hide, though you can try to live. Names are dangerous. Suspicion is constant. The novel is told from the point of view of “middle sister,” whose life is utterly disrupted by the appearance of The Milkman, who insinuates himself into her life, bringing danger she has spent her life trying to avoid. The language and cadence in this one need to be experienced! ~ McNevin
Kurt Andersen found himself, like many of us, trying to understand how we ended up, as a nation, in a time of post-truth, alternative-facts political reality. The more he dug, the more he found that, hey, we’ve always been this way. Tracing American history back to the Protestant Reformation and through until today (or at least last year) he carries us through story after fascinating story of our American ability to believe whatever takes our fancy, even when we’ve made it up our very own selves. Stimulating, hilarious and frightening, but always illuminating, this one is well worth your time. ~ McNevin
A frequently-lauded best book of 2017, this memoir had me bursting into laughter throughout. It recounts the author’s upbringing as the daughter of a rogue and eccentric Catholic priest and her enabling mother; her escape; and then her return home to live in a time of dire financial straits. Lockwood’s gifts of insight and language combine organically with the outrageous nature of her personal history. It is not a surprise that she is a poet with a highly original voice. Everything about this book is a treat!
Cartoonist Roz Chast, in this nakedly uncomfortable confessional memoir, takes us through the process of caring for her aging, ailing parents. Perhaps you know Roz Chast from her New Yorker cartoons. If so, you will not be surprised by the laugh-out-loud humor in her story, though you might also be moved by how deeply touching it is. For all her parent’s idiosyncrasies, as well as her own, this is a universal story of something many of us have lived through, or will. As an added bonus, if you were to tell me you do not connect with graphic novels, this is the one I would tell you to read. ~ McNevin
One of my very favorite science fiction stories ever begins here. Ancillary Justice is told in first person, by Breq—an AI robot. that began as the intelligence network of a massive imperial starship and its crew of ancillaries, and then morphed into a lone soldier on a daring mission. With both the thrills of a solid space opera and the deep intelligence of the smartest science fiction, the Imperial Radch trilogy rewards reading and rereading. ~ McNevin
A friend recommended this classic as possibly the best novel he’s ever read. I wholeheartedly agree on its excellence. George Eliot’s clarity of perception and deep empathy, even for characters with pronounced unsympathetic traits; the suspense she builds over the fate of all characters; her ability to weave an entire social tapestry in an enlightening and inspiring way; and the way she drops an aphorism on just about every page—all are reasons to love this book. Also, she’s really funny. ~ McNevin
In a Tokyo suburb, a young man searches for his wife’s missing cat—and soon, for her as well, through a mysterious netherworld of shifting realities. He encounters a psychic prostitute; his brother-in-law, who is a malevolent but mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria. Mesmerizing, surreal, strangely touching and darkly funny, with a distinct touch of David Lynch at his best. ~ McNevin