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The Recommend: September 2016

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of authors Caroline Adderson (Ellen in Pieces), Kate Taylor (Serial Monogamy), Edeet Ravel (The Saver), Anna Leventhal (Sweet Affliction), and Shari Lapeña (The Couple Next Door).

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Caroline Adderson recommends Kerry Lee Powell’s Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush

Set in grody strip clubs and greasy spoons, peopled with “tramps and lunatics,” “an assortment of creeps and lowlifes with bad breath,” battered girlfriends, and Soviet-scarred chamber maids, this energetic collection presents a “raw humanity defiantly festive in the face of poverty and despair.” Powell, also a poet, is a painterly prose writer, not just in her many references to visual art, but her gorgeous images. One character lives alone in a sagging house “surrounded by the upturned scarabs of old snowmobiles.” A husband lurking in a dark corner is “filleted by shadows from the Venetian blinds.” But what makes this book so striking i …

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Quick Hits: Timeless Books With Amazing Raves

In Quick Hits, a new 49th Shelf series, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

19 Knives, by Mark Jarman

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

Quill & Quire described it like this—"Jarman’s work is .... fade-resistant. Each of 19 Knives’ 14 stories (all first-person narratives) integrates sparkling linguistic kinetics and honey-like narrative stickiness. Rejecting postmodern cynicism, Jarman celebrates life’s ecstatic mysteries. Religious in their own way – finding meaning in music and everyday life, not empty theology – these stories shake like Muddy Waters riding a riff into the dark recesses of the night."

What People Say

"It is very irritating to discover a wonderful book published too long ago to be an official 'book of the year.' Jarman's collection is ... brilliant. The writing is extraordinary, the stories are gripping, it is something new." —A.S. Byatt

"The best of many highlights in Jarman's new collection, 19 Knives, is 'Burn Man on a Texas Porch.' I …

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In Conversation With: Shari Lapena on her love of wilderness adventure tales

One of the perks of this gig is that I get to invite myself into the homes of authors who offer me coffee, tea, maybe a little snack, and a good look at their bookshelves. There's always a nice chat, maybe another snack, and upon leaving I usually have an idea of how our follow up interview will unfold. In the case of Shari Lapena, I knew immediately that I'd want to know more about her love of adventure wilderness tales, which sits in opposition to her own writing style. Beyond a guilty pleasure, the impulse to return to one kind of tale, or one particular author, is a creature comfort, something that doesn't just bring us satisfaction, it roots us in a place where we feel at home in ourselves. Enjoy the chat, and Shari's short reading from her novel Things Go Flying.

Julie Wilson: Shari, thank you for having me in your home to record you reading from your 2008 novel Things Go Flying. You have a new novel out, Happiness Economics, launching September 27, at the Dora Keogh, 7 p.m. Toronto people, come on out! (Both novels are published by Brindle & Glass Publishing.)

One of the things I like about recording authors in person is the chance it offers to catch a glimpse at their bookshelves. You mentioned your "creature comforts," the non-fiction, adventure wilderness tales you're taken in by. I'm intrigued by the kind of books we tend to return to because we know they won't disappoint, be it a style of writing, topic matter or the unabashed fandom we have for one author over anot …

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