Your monthly roundup of suggested reading from DPL staff!
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (2007)
A tremendous international adventure through the world following two young writers, Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano (alter egos of Roberto Bolaño and Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, contemporary of Bolaño and inventor of the infrarealism movement), as told by their acquaintances, friends, lovers, and enemies as they strive to establish the literary movement "visceral realism" and search for the mysterious Mexican poet, Cesárea Tinajero. This is perhaps Bolaño’s best known work, and may be so because it is far less daunting than his behemoth 2666, but the format of this book may still be off-putting to some, as we never experience firsthand accounts from the main characters. It is Bolaño’s original storytelling and beautiful prose that makes the story flow in the same magical and gritty way as his other work, with incredibly rich characters that make you miss them and their travels when you finish. If you have read some of Bolaño’s other work you will notice a few common characters and places turn up in this one, e.g. the shattered town of Santa Teresa.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman (2018)
This title from renowned theoretical physicist Lightman is an extended meditation that is both reflective and outward facing. Composed during his time spent at a family home on a tiny island in Maine, Lightman explores our human quest for truth and meaning and the different methods of religion and science considered, appropriated and discarded. Included are discussions of mathematical theorems, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, a belief in the divine and eternal nature of stars, the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. And most of all, Lightman considers what it is to be human.
Devotion by Patti Smith (2017)
In this slim little wisp of a book Patti Smith takes the reader on a journey through her creative process. Smith draws inspiration from her dreams, other artists and writers, travel, and the magical, elusive well of creativity. The book begins with a glimpse into Smith’s day to day life, then segues into the story that was inspired by her experiences. It is mesmerizing to have an intimate view of an artist at work. The audiobook is also read by Smith herself, and she’s a fabulous narrator.
Devotion is part of the Why I Write series, based on the Windham-Campbell Lectures, delivered annually to commemorate the awarding of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale University.
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6'4", African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell (2017)
You may know W. Kamau Bell from his current TV show, United Shades of America on CNN or his hilarious and topical stand up act. He reads the audiobook version himself, providing additional entertainment. The true sign of a great audiobook, I found myself cleaning my car in the garage just to keep listening to it awhile longer, I was so engaged in the narrative. The book covers a wide array of deeply important topics and his insightful and playful take on them have you thinking deeply and laughing heartily at the same time.
Lock In by John Scalzi (2014)
Since the sequel, Head On, just came out, now is a great time to pick up Lock In. This mashup of near future science fiction and mystery is told through the eyes of Chris, who has Haden's Syndrome. Haden's leaves folks "locked in" to their bodies and minds, but technological advances allows them to interact with each other through the world of the Agora and interact with the physical world through "threeps" or personal transports. The world building is detailed and the concepts and mystery are intriguing.
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward (2014)
In this memoir, the author of Sing, Unburied, Sing recounts the deaths of five men, all young, and ponders this peril of being a Black man in the rural south. These deaths--by drugs, accident, suicide--shaped her life and forced her to examine the history of racism and the current conditions that led to so much loss.