Written by on May 20, 2008

Just out of the Box

24889478.JPG Stefan Merrill Block: The Story of Forgetting
Three intertwined narratives: a mother with early onset Alzheimer’s, her science nerd teenage son, and an elderly hunchback alone on a farm at the edge of Dallas. This is the 24-year-old author’s first novel, and early reviews are glowing. Janet Maslin of the NY Times writes:

Nothing about Mr. Block’s narrative is predictable or even suitably bleak, given the nature of the illness he addresses. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, made grimmer by the new scientific certitude of genetic testing, is at the heart of this emotional roller coaster of a novel…The Story of Forgetting is a fresh, beguiling novel in what is sure to be the rapidly expanding genre of Alzheimer’s literature.

21389621.JPGChris Bohjalian: Skeletons at the Feast
This novel follows three characters fleeing across Nazi Germany ahead of the advancing Russian army: the 18-year-old daughter of Prussian aristocrats, her lover, a 20-year-old Scottish prisoner of war, and a 26-year-old Wehrmacht corporal — who is really a German Jew who escaped from a train bound for Auschwitz. Bohjalian got his inspiration from the diary of a friend’s grandmother.

25770556.JPGLouise Erdrich: Plague of Doves
Set in South Dakota, the story centers on the unresolved murder of a farm family near an Ojibwe reservation, and its effects on the intertwined lives of both whites and Indians in the area. Ron Charles of the Washington Post writes:

What marks these stories—some of which appeared in the New Yorker and the Atlantic—is what has always set Erdrich apart and made her work seem miraculous: the jostling of pathos and comedy, tragedy and slapstick in a peculiar dance. As horrific as the crimes at the heart of this novel are, other sections remind us that Erdrich is a great comic writer. When Mooshum isn’t leading Eve through the history of her family, he’s daring the local Catholic priest to save him or pursuing alcohol and romance with dogged, hilarious determination. Some of the funniest moments take place during a funeral, and even the murders and lynchings that bleed so much heartache are heightened by incongruous notes of humor.

24669499.JPGKeith Gessen: All the Sad Young Literary Men
Barnes and Noble calls this first novel a “charming yet scathing portrait of young adulthood at the opening of the twenty-first century.” From the B&N synposis:

Heartbroken in his university town, Mark tries to focus his attention on his graduate work on the Russian Revolution, only to be lured again and again to the free pornography on the library computers. Sam binds himself to the task of crafting “the first great Zionist epic” even though he speaks no Hebrew, has never visited Israel, and is not a practicing Jew. Keith, more earnest and easily upset than the other two, is haunted by catastrophes both public and private—and his inability to tell the difference.

190991351.JPGSamantha Hunt: The Invention of Everything Else
A novel based on an imagined friendship between scientist Nikola Tesla and a chambermaid in his hotel. Set in 1943 New York, Library Journal calls it “a breathtaking novel that is both difficult to classify and impossible to ignore.”

20120840.JPGChuck Liddell: Iceman: My Fighting Life
A memoir from Liddell, the former light heavyweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Liddell was an Accounting major at Cal Poly. This should lay the mild-mannered CPA stereotype to rest once and for all.

27473253.JPGNic Sheff: Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines
His father, David Sheff, has also published a memoir on Nic’s addiction, titled Beautiful Boy. Publishers Weekly calls it graphic and self-indulgent. Click here for an interview with both father and son on Barnes and Noble Studio.

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