Shelfie Picks: Strand Book Store’s New Contemporary Classics

Sure, there’s plenty of light summer reading. We went to McLean and Eakin for wonderful summer lovin’ picks, turned to Skylight Books for summer adventures with coming-of-age twists, and even chatted with Elin Hilderbrand, the “Queen of the Summer Novel.”

But just occasionally, those lazy summer days inspire deeper thought and encourage us to delve into untested waters. We want to turn the pages of a book that, while still accessible and enjoyable, makes us think and question. That’s what inspiring literary works do, right? A few excellent literary fiction novels have arrived this summer and to help us select three that go above and beyond, we headed to Strand Book Store, “New York City’s legendary home of 18 miles of books.” The main location holds two and a half million books, all told the store employs 240 people and there’s even one whole floor dedicated to rare books. It’s the mecca for book lovers, clearly.

And now, here are this week’s Shelfie Picks, selected by Strand Book Store Marketing Director Whitney Hu.

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes (Riverhead Books, August 4, 2015)

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This collection of “fresh, honest and darkly funny” stories comes from newcomer Lauren Holmes and she deftly tackles a variety of challenging topics ranging from sex to intimacy to personal growth. For example, in the title story, “Barbara the Slut, we explore the life of a young woman with an autistic brother, an acceptance letter to Princeton, and a love of sex.

Wu had this to say about this already well-received work:

“Lauren Holmes has a refreshing authenticity — I love that she writes with a light touch yet tackles heavy elements from slut-shaming to frustrations with an estranged mother. For a debut novel, Holmes focused on slightly out-of-the-ordinary narratives that feel almost like character studies. Not all the stories within the collection are created equally, but they’re all carefully written stories and worth your time.”

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau (July 14, 2015)

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Toni Morrison calls this #1 New York Times bestseller “required reading,” as this deep, profound book from “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” will open your eyes. Tackling the biggest questions concerning American history and ideals, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a poignant understanding of our country’s current crisis. It may soon be a book that lands in every school library around the US.

Wu added:

“[This is] literally the #1 best seller at the Strand Book Store. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a brilliant thinker, mature writer and completely in his element in this passionate, moving mediation on what it means to be black in America. Especially with the state of affairs across the country…I think Slate put it best, Between the World and Me is a “love letter written in a moral emergency.”

A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball (Pantheon, July 21, 2015)

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Jesse Ball, the author of Silence Once Begun, offers an intriguing new novel about a man who must start over and the strange woman who becomes a critical part of his life. A man and woman move into a small house in a small village and the woman is the “examiner,” while the man is her “claimant.” One must teach the other the simplest of things, from recognizing a chair to how to meet people. She keeps a journal about his progress and then, her “claimant” meets a charismatic but volatile woman…

It’s definitely a fresh read, as Wu says:

“I’m always a fan when an author pushes the boundaries — and Jesse Ball is certainly a literary experimentalist. Don’t expect Silence Once Begun — instead be prepared for jarring shifts in tone, a spice of science fiction and a strange read. If you need strong character backgrounds and story, this won’t be the right pick for you — but if you love the idea of contemplating subjects like identity, memory, and isolation? Then I highly recommend picking up A Cure for Suicide.”

Many thanks to Strand Book Store and Whitney Hu for participating in this week’s Shelfie Picks and remember, if you’re an avid reader and you’re in the NYC area, Strand is a must. Just block off a whole day so you can relax and peruse.

 

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figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of “War and Peace” and thought it could’ve been longer, and he will finish Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up…and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.