RECENTLY READ AND RECOMMENDED
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
If I could require Donald Trump to read a book, it would be this. Exit West tells the story of two refuges from an unnamed war-torn country, who travel through magical doors in search of a stable home. The characters are not passive victims, but fully developed characters with strengths and weaknesses, who take action during difficult circumstances. It’s also a love story and funny in spots. Well-written, this novel contains some of the longest free-flowing sentences I’ve read in a while. I’ve put Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia at the top of my to-read stack.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Another refuge story, this time in the form of an illustrated memoir, the nonfiction version of a graphic novel. Maybe Trump would read this since he claims to be a “visual learner.” Politics aside, this well-written and compelling story follows the narrator as she examines her parents’ lives in Vietnam, her family’s refuge experience, their lives today in California and for the narrator, what it means to be an adult and parent. Funny at times.
The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
As a former software engineer, I steer away from novels about technology. Often tech is used as a gimmick or the author doesn’t understand it enough to sound credible. The Future for Curious People proved me wrong. People type in their name and that of a love interest, and the machine shows their future together. Who hasn’t wanted to see how their life would turn out without the messy, irrevocable work of living all those decades? Though the technology is critical to the book, the characters’ deep yearnings kept me reading, despite my bias, so two hearty thumbs up.
The Underground Railboard by Colson Whitehead
A masterfully written novel that’s an engaging example of “speculative history.” In April I was fortunate to see Colson Whitehead read and talk about this book. He’s such a smart and entertaining speaker, and this book looks like it may become one of my favorite reads of the year.
Best American Short Stories 2016 by Junot Diaz (ed.)
I belong to an office on Zoetrope.com that reads a BASS story each week and discusses the narrative strategies that make the story successful. So far my favorite is Lauren Groff’s “For the God of Love, for the Love of God.” As always, her prose is poetic and lyrical, and in this story Groff examines the lives and middle-aged friendship of two childhood friends.
I love reading and supporting literary magazines, and I’m always excited to get the latest AGNI. In this issue I especially enjoyed Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s “A Few Days Off” and Stephen Dixon’s “The Kiss.”
Gutshot by Amelia Gray
This is my first time reading Gray, and her collection of 38 flash fictions is riveting and unnerving. Do I dare write flash fiction again?