Here are some great books that should be on our reading lists for this month!
Cherry, by Nico Walker
Writing from prison, where the former Iraq War medic was sent for a robbery he committed to feed his heroin habit, Walker connects the dots of Macy’s social disasters through fiction, complementing the work of reporters with a ground-level sense of how life can seem to fall apart by accident. One of the story’s many heartbreaks is the sense that the narrator, like Walker, was a man of great potential whose weaknesses overwhelmed him in a country where institutions — the armed forces, the VA, the education system — enabled or even accelerated his downfall.
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, by David Quammen
The most powerful scientific theories have a way fossilizing in the public imagination — like those scaly dinosaurs in the Jurassic franchise, unaware that we’ve learned they had feathers. Or Darwin’s idea of evolution as a neatly branching tree, which Quammen debunks in a detailed but never-boring genetic tour, uncovering something more like a knotty web. In patient storytelling peppered with vivid profiles, he explains how genes can cross between unrelated organisms that barely interact, much less mate. It turns out we have more parents than mom and dad.
Severance, by Ling Ma
It’s a zombie novel with a message, guys!
The dilemma of a corporate drone dreaming of a better life is familiar raw material for fiction. Throw in a plague that turns residents of Manhattan into a new kind of zombie — drones forever repeating a rote task from their previous lives — and things get interesting. Candace Chen, an aspiring photographer who works for a Bible-packaging publisher, hits the road with some still-human but troublesome survivors, in a suspenseful adventure that doubles as a sly critique of late capitalism.
Before She Sleeps, by Bina Shah
In the future, Earth has been devastated by nuclear war and epidemics that have left the human population at low levels. Women have become a commodity to help repopulate society, forced to take multiple husbands and have as many children as possible. In Green City, the capital of the Sub-West Asia Region (formerly Pakistan and Iran), a group of women form their own rebelling collective — the Panah — where they avoid sex and offer up something different: comfort and intimacy to the high-ranking men of society. But when one of the rebels winds up in a hospital, both the Panah and the elites of Green City will find themselves in peril.
My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent