What We’re Reading: December 4

What We’re Reading: December 4

Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations; have you read any of them? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be reading this weekend! If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Fall Previews.

The Golden Notebook

I started this book a few days ago, and am really enjoying it so far. At various points in my life, I have been an avid journal keeper, and it is fascinating to watch Anna try to bring her different journals together into a single volume. This is the first book I’ve read by Doris Lessing, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. —Elizabeth



This graphic novel was everything I hoped for and more. There were sharks, dragons, destruction, mayhem, and a love story between two rival knights. Noelle Stevenson shrewdly subverted every expectation I had, and I never knew where the characters and story were taking me next. This book is smart, wickedly funny, and one of my favorites of the year. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel because I need more of Nimona and Ballister Blackheart in my life. —Kelly

Year of the Goose

As a former history major, I’ve always had an interest in the economy of the world and particularly that of China. So I’m excited to read this debut novel published by The Unnamed Press. It’s already generating attention from booksellers. —Bob


“So many Jonathans. A plague of literary Jonathans. If you read only the New York Times Book Review, you’d think it was the most common male name in America. Synonymous with talent, greatness.” —Purity, Jonathan Franzen

There’s a hullabaloo over any new Franzen book, with myriad stories about the evil of Twitter, white-maleness in American fiction, and whatever-Franzen-got-horribly-wrong-this-time. So, when it’s finally time to begin, the critiques disrupt every page. Along with Franzen’s penchant for dislikable characters, it’s rough going at the beginning. But once you manage to get into the story, Purity is fundamentally an entertaining novel. This is what the think-pieces lose sight of: In the end, Franzen builds characters that stick with you, and a story that keeps you turning pages (hell, there’s a twist in this one!). If he didn’t, he’d just be another bore with a weird haircut. —Luke

Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi

I didn’t think it was possible to find another 2015 nonfiction book that I’d like as much as Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk, but I have. Hayden Herrera’s biography of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi is fantastic. What a life! Son of a Japanese poet and an Irish-American mother who met in New York City in 1901 (the poet needed someone to help him with his English), Noguchi was born in NYC, spent his first years living in a tent in downtown Los Angeles with his brave, self-reliant single mom (the poet turned out to be a neglectful cad), and spent most of his boyhood in small Japanese towns. His mother nurtured Noguchi’s artistic side, and raised him well despite getting zero help from the father of her child. As a teen, Noguchi attended an experimental school in rural Indiana, of all places, aided by a scholarship from a wealthy benefactor who recognized Noguchi’s genius. Now I’m in the part where he’s rising fast in the New York art world while still only in his mid-twenties, having already taken Paris by storm. He’s hanging out with a young Martha Graham and Buckminster Fuller. This book rocks! —Phil

Wide Sargasso Sea

I finally read Jane Eyre, beloved novel of every woman I know, and was floored by it: The writing is simply beautiful, pristine and clear and rarely dated, and Charlotte Bronte’s insight into men and women, money and class, worldly power and inner strength, is exceptional. It surpassed every hope I had for it. And so I was eager to re-read Wide Sargasso Sea, which like many a dutiful English major I had read in college. While I fell under its spell a few decades ago and recognized then how marvelous it was, I think it’s safe to say I understood less than half of what was actually going on. I’m excited to dive in again with fresh (or perhaps jaundiced) eyes. —Joe

Six-Gun Snow White

There are fascinating ideas at work in this slim novella. On the surface, this is a retelling of Snow White set in the Old West. In reality, it’s an exploration of race, love, and the challenges of breaking free from your past. Catherynne M. Valente’s language is lovely and absorbing, making this a single-sitting read. If you enjoy westerns and fairy tales, this is the perfect book for you. —Kelly

Splinter the Silence

Val McDermid is one of the most widely read crime writers in the world. It’s definitely time for me to discover what the hype is all about. —Bob


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