A typical twentieth-century complaint: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we do X?” If we can put boots on a heavenly body, why can’t the first few squares of toilet paper rip clean? Why can’t we stop M. Night Shyamalan from making movies?
Plenty of musicians write memoirs. A few publish poetry collections. But not many write novels aside from Rita Indiana, lead singer of the Dominican Republic’s Rita Indiana y Los Misterios. Fusing traditional merengue music with alternative rock, Indiana’s band is as fresh and original as her newly translated novel, Papi. Originally published in Spanish in 2005, the University of Chicago Press’s English release was translated by Achy Objeas, who also translated Junot Díaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with science fiction as a teenager, thanks to the groundbreaking Mars trilogy about mankind’s centuries-long colonization of the red planet. His most recent novel, Aurora, about a generation ship tasked with investigating and colonizing the first exoplanet, made my year-end list of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2015.
More than 55 million Eastern Europeans migrated to America between 1846 and 1940, forever changing the landscapes of both continents. Tara Zahra, a history professor at the University of Chicago, unearths some fascinating revelations about this mass exodus in her new book, The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World, including the fact that 30-40% of the immigrants eventually returned to Europe.
Robert Morgan—the North Carolina poet and author of Gap Creek—adds “slave narrative” to his sub-genre toolkit with Chasing the North Star, his new historical novel from Algonquin Books. While his depiction of slavery isn’t grounded in the same realism as, say, 12 Years a Slave, and he too-often commits the narrative sin of convenience, it’s still a gorgeous book full of lush prose, compelling characters, and an epic journey across America ten years before the Civil War.
If you’d told me back on New Year’s Day that my favorite book of 2016 (in April, at least) would be a love story between an organ tuner and a mathematician, I would’ve balked. I hate math, for starters, and have never been able to appreciate Bach the way most people do.