For this week’s installment of Friday Reads (#FridayReads, for those in the know), we turned to our bloggers and were met with a dynamic, diverse list of suggestions. There’s everything from dystopian YA to classic American lit to 16th century Chinese lit. If you can’t find a book on this list, then we have to ask: Just what is your taste?
I'm currently reading Karen Sandler's Rebellion, the final book in her Tankborn trilogy. Kayla, the protagonist, always believed she was a Genetically Engineered Non-human (GEN), little more than a slave in the planet's strict hierarchy. As part of the Kinship, an underground resistance movement, teenage Kayla fights for GEN freedom and equality. After a devastating bomb blast rips her away from the Kinship, Kayla struggles to escape the clutches of the bomb planters — and her biological mother.
I’m reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Philip Marlowe is one of the most easy-to-conjure characters I've ever come across. The private dick is the lead in Chandler's crime masterpiece, and he's one of the most essential figures in American literature. Charlie LeDuff, in the preface to US Guys, said the American man is a fundamental impossibility, that a combination poet, pauper, parent and prizefighter has never existed "and probably never will." LeDuff was wrong: You can find that man in Marlowe's office, feet up on the desk and a cancer stick burning away quickly in his paw.
This week, I'm finishing The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. I've been reading the last 100 pages for like three weeks because I'm not ready for it to be over. It's honestly one of the most perfect novels I've ever read: a unique structure that doesn't distract from the story, well developed characters and a sublime balance of the personal and the political.
I’m reading A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The other morning, around 5:30 A.M., I sat at a diner counter in Rhode Island, reading this book and downing stale coffee. When my waiter first came around and saw what I held in my hands, he refilled my mug and said, "Ugh, it's too early for Ignatius Reilly," before walking away. I didn't necessarily agree, but could see where he's coming from: Ignatius J. Reilly is an absolutely repugnant, frustrating protagonist with very little self-awareness. He is selfish and cocksure and makes terrible decisions. Yet, his beating human heart is visible, especially in some of the novel's darker moments when it's clear just how vulnerable and fragile he is. Plus, almost every page provides big laughs, which I will always welcome, even at dawn.
I'm currently reading Mavis Gallant's Paris Stories. I just started it last night, so there's not much to tell. So far, I enjoy it, and I selected it simply because the stories are set in some of the most fantastic places in Europe. One tidbit that struck me from Gallant’s first story, "The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street" is:
The Burleighs had two guest lists. The first was composed of stuffy people they felt obliged to entertain, while the second was made up of their real friends, the friends they wanted. The real friends strove hard to become stuffy and dull and thus achieve the first guest list, but few succeeded.
I'm reading the second volume of Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West. Arthur Wraley's heavily abridged version of the tale — published as Monkey — is one of my favorite reads, and I thought I should see the extent version. As a Chinese 16th century tale of magical battles, pilgrimage and enlightenment, it's about as nuts as you'd expect, but it's also surprisingly comical, and Monkey's personal journey as a rebel forced against his will to become a Buddhist disciple is a great depiction of thwarted genius.
Happy Friday Reads! Be sure to let us know via Twitter or the comments section below what you’re reading this weekend and what you think of our suggestions.
Black Balloon Publishing is an independent press headquartered in New York, NY, with both print and digital distribution channels. We've published literary fiction, nonfiction and memoir, and we're willing to grow our reach in any direction that suits. Our books evolve, rotate, get mapped onto cities and light up your screen. We champion the weird, the unwieldy and the unclassifiable. The Airship is our blog and chief propaganda vehicle.
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