Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
VERDICT: Borrow if you’re not generally into zombie fare, buy if you are.
Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
VERDICT: Buy, you fools!
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne
A Jane Austen biography told through small items she would have encountered in her personal life- a method that brings the reader a more intimate look at Austen. It’s two parts narrative about the author’s life and one part about how her life influenced her work (for the literary critic among us). An example: Austen discussed Indian shawls in her letters, which Byrne uses to discuss how internationally traveled Austen’s family was, and uses that to defend Austen against accusations of being myopically regional. The book walks a fine line between being academic and being slow, so if you’re not a dedicated Austenophile, it’s probably not for you (but then, any Austen bio probably isn’t).
VERDICT: Buy if you love Austen with all the loves, bypass if not
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
A novel-in-letters inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell- but you don’t need to be familiar with them to love this book. The two characters (she a hard and no-nonsense Catholic novelist and he a man-about-town poet) meet at a writer’s workshop and begin exchanging letters, developing an unlikely but natural friendship. It’s the wittiest, most heart-breaking book I’ve read in recent memory. It has several of my literary hot-buttons: dry humor, discourse on faith or the lack thereof, romance, New York, mockery of writers colonies, feminist considerations about sacrificing your own art for those you love (or not), smart literary allusions a-plenty. The characters’ voices are clear, the writing is heart-stopping-good. I haven’t heard much buzz about this book, but it deserves All The Buzz. ALL OF IT.
Verict: Buy It. Buy All The Copies You Can Find, and Use the Extras To Decorate Your Town With Amazing Prose.