Send 2020 off with a bang, a boom, a bludgeon, and a stake through the heart - by considering this exquisite selection of books for December's Book of the Month and then filling out the survey at the bottom. Survey is anonymous; so no voting twice or colluding with foreign entities.
All links now go to bookshop.org to support local bookstores. Suck it Bozos! (hat tip: Lizzy)
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
(Evan: A classic I haven't read. I was inspired to read it by the Quilette article about what George Orwell thought about Henry Miller's writing, which can be found in the embedded link.)
Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller’s famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s. Tropic of Cancer is now considered, as Norman Mailer said, “one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century.”
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
(Evan: This should have been my pick for the now non-non-fiction November. I read this in 2014 but have wanted to read it again ever since. Although it is based on psychology studies and relates to economics, it isn't nearly as dry as that would suggest. This is a book about how are brains work and it is relayed in all kinds of examples that any body can relate to, such as experiencing physical pain or driving a car in tight traffic with someone in the passenger seat talking to you. It will blow your mind while actually teaching you how to not be a dum-dum.)
In his mega bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, world-famous psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives―and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Topping bestseller lists for almost ten years, Thinking, Fast and Slow is a contemporary classic, an essential book that has changed the lives of millions of readers.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(Evan: I know many of us are reading it or have read it. So choosing it as the book of the month would give us some ‘proper’ time to discuss it. Or we could read The Angel’s Game.)
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(Evan: While this is the second book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Book series, I’ve read that chronologically it becomes before The Shadow of Wind. So, I don’t think whether you have read or are reading the latter or not would affect your experience of reading the former. My main comment on Shadow is that I love every sentence that Zafón writes. I don’t think we can go wrong here.)
From the author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes a riveting masterpiece about love, literature, and betrayal.
In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. Thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy
Broken Stars translated by Ken Liu
In Hugo award-winner Liu Cixin's ‘Moonlight,’ a man is contacted by three future versions of himself, each trying to save their world from destruction. Hao Jingfang’s ‘The New Year Train’ sees 1,500 passengers go missing on a train that vanishes into space. In the title story by Tang Fei, a young girl is shown how the stars can reveal the future.
In addition, three essays explore the history and rise of Chinese science fiction publishing, contemporary Chinese fandom, and how the growing interest in Chinese SF has impacted writers who had long laboured in obscurity
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. This new edition is based upon the work of an international team of experts who have restored the text, the sequence of chapters, and their division to create a version that is as close as possible to the way the author left it.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution--a #1 international bestseller--that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be "human."
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one--homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem