Book Casing

Great books recommended by great people.

Wells Tower's Bookcase

Wells Tower (born April 14, 1973) is an American writer of short stories and non-fiction. In 2009 he published his first short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) to much critical acclaim. His short fiction has also been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Vice, Harper's Magazine, A Public Space, Fence and other periodicals.

Recommends

The literary event of 2001 is now the paperback event of 2002: The Collected Stories of Richard Yates gathers the late author's powerful and peerless short fiction in one comprehensive volume. Praised by such authors as Michael Chabon, Stewart O'Nan, Robert Stone, and Richard Russo, and universally acclaimed in reviews across the country, The Collected Stories is the crowning jewel in what has been the rediscovery of one of our greatest American writers.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

With wit and an unerring eye for detail, acclaimed author Ian Frazier takes readers on a journey through his family's story, his nation's history, and himself

Using letters and other family documents, Frazier reconstructs two hundred years of middle-class life, visiting small towns his ancestors lived in, reading books they read, and discovering the larger forces of history that affected them. He observes some of them during the British raid on Danbury, Connecticut, in the Revolutionary War; he follows others west as they pioneer in the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana; he visits the battlefields where they fought the Civil War. Frazier interviews old-timers, uncles, aunts, cousins, maids, and a beer-store owner who knew his dad. He pursues the family saga in aspect from trivial to grand, hoping for "a meaning that would defeat death."

Family is a poetic epic of facts, a chronicle of Protestant culture's rise and fall, a memorial, and a revised view of American history as romantic as it is cold-eyed.

“Mr. Frazier, in this remarkable history of an unremarkable family, plays both roles, the gossip and the pedant, balances skillfully, then adds his own insights as a loyal family member.” ―David Willis McCullough, The New York Times Book Review

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

:

In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950

Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays. Here, in four fat volumes, is the best selection of his non-fiction available, a trove of letters, essays, reviews, and journalism that is breathtaking in its scope and eclectic passions. Orwell had something to say about just about everyone and everything. His letters to such luminaries as Julian Symons, Anthony Powell, Arthur Koestler, and Cyril Connolly are poignant and personal. His essays, covering everything from "English Cooking" to "Literature and Totalitarianism," are memorable, and his books reviews (Hitler's Mein Kampf, Mumford's Herman Melville, Miller's Black Spring, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield to name just a few) are among the most lucid and intelligent ever written. From 1943 to l945, he wrote a regular column for the Tribune, a left wing weekly, entitled "As I Please." His observations about life in Britain during the war embraced everything from anti-American sentiment to the history of domestic appliances.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Geronimo Rex, Barry Hannah's brilliant first novel, which was nominated for the National Book Award, is full of the rare verve and flawless turns of phrase that have defined his status as an American master. Roiling with love and torment, lunacy and desire, hilarity and tenderness, Geronimo Rex is the bildungsroman of an unlikely hero. Reared in gloomy Dream of Pines, Louisiana, whose pines have long since yielded to paper mills, Harry Monroe is ready to take on the world. Inspired by the great Geronimo's heroic rampage through the Old West, Harry puts on knee boots and a scarf and voyages out into the swamp of adolescence in the South of the 1950s and '60s. Along the way he is attacked by an unruly peacock; discovers women, rock 'n' roll, and jazz; and stalks a pervert white supremacist who fancies himself the next Henry Miller.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Winner of the National Book Award

The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O'Connor put together in her short lifetime--Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

O'Connor published her first story, "The Geranium," in 1946, while she was working on her master's degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, "Judgement Day"--sent to her publisher shortly before her death―is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of "The Geranium." Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O'Connor's longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Following the enormous success of the reissues of Charles Portis’s first three novels―The Dog of the South, Norwood, and Masters of Atlantis―comes the reissue of a fourth truly brilliant, wonderfully bizarre novel by one of our great American novelists.

Jimmy Burns is an expatriate American living in Mexico who has an uncommonly astute eye for the absurd little details that comprise your average American. For a time, Jimmy spent his days unearthing pre-Colombian artifacts. Now he makes a living doing small trucking jobs and helping out with the occasional missing person situation―whatever it takes to remain “the very picture of an American idler in Mexico, right down to the grass-green golfing trousers.” But when Jimmy’s laid-back lifestyle is seriously imposed upon by a ninety-pound stalker called Louise, a sudden wave of “hippies” (led by a murderous ex-con guru) in search of psychic happenings, and a group of archaeologists who are unearthing (illegally) Mayan tombs, his simple South-of-the-Border existence faces a clear and present danger.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

This magnificent novel—which secured for its author the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature—is at least available to contemporary American readers. Although it is set in the early twentieth century, it recalls both Iceland's medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter. And if Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book's protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.

Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur's spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

:

An Age Like This, 1920-1940

Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays. Here, in four fat volumes, is the best selection of his non-fiction available, a trove of letters, essays, reviews, and journalism that is breathtaking in its scope and eclectic passions. Orwell had something to say about just about everyone and everything. His letters to such luminaries as Julian Symons, Anthony Powell, Arthur Koestler, and Cyril Connolly are poignant and personal. His essays, covering everything from "English Cooking" to "Literature and Totalitarianism," are memorable, and his books reviews (Hitler's Mein Kampf, Mumford's Herman Melville, Miller's Black Spring, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield to name just a few) are among the most lucid and intelligent ever written. From 1943 to l945, he wrote a regular column for the Tribune, a left wing weekly, entitled "As I Please." His observations about life in Britain during the war embraced everything from anti-American sentiment to the history of domestic appliances.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, the novelist Yasunari Kawabata felt the essence of his art was to be found not in his longer works but in a series of short stories―which he called "Palm-of-the-Hand Stories"―written over the span of his career. In them we find loneliness, love, and the passage of time, demonstrating the range and complexity of a true master of short fiction.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

In Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, a consummate storyteller, artfully crafts a portrait using the finest of details in everyday events and confrontations. With a surgeon’s skill, Connell cuts away the middle-class security blanket of uniformity to expose the arrested development underneath—the entropy of time and relationships lead Mrs. Bridge's three children and husband to recede into a remote silence, and she herself drifts further into doubt and confusion. The raised evening newspaper becomes almost a fire screen to deflect any possible spark of conversation. The novel is comprised of vignettes, images, fragments of conversations, events—all building powerfully toward the completed group portrait of a family, closely knit on the surface but deeply divided by loneliness, boredom, misunderstandings, isolation, sexual longing, and terminal isolation. In this special fiftieth anniversary edition, we are reminded once again why Mrs. Bridge has been hailed by readers and critics alike as one of the greatest novels in American literature.

Also recommended by

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Ebenezer Le Page, cantankerous, opinionated, and charming, is one of the most compelling literary creations of the late twentieth century. Eighty years old, Ebenezer has lived his whole life on the Channel Island of Guernsey, a stony speck of a place caught between the coasts of England and France yet a world apart from either. Ebenezer himself is fiercely independent, but as he reaches the end of his life he is determined to tell his own story and the stories of those he has known. He writes of family secrets and feuds, unforgettable friendships and friendships betrayed, love glimpsed and lost. The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a beautifully detailed chronicle of a life, but it is equally an oblique reckoning with the traumas of the twentieth century, as Ebenezer recalls both the men lost to the Great War and the German Occupation of Guernsey during World War II, and looks with despair at the encroachments of commerce and tourism on his beloved island.

G. B. Edwards labored in obscurity all his life and completed The Book of Ebenezer Le Page shortly before his death. Published posthumously, the book is a triumph of the storyteller’s art that conjures up the extraordinary voice of a living man.

"Imagine a weekend spent in deep conversation with a superb old man, a crusty, intelligent, passionate and individualistic character at the peak of his powers as a raconteur, and you will have a very good ideas of the impact of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page...It amuses, it entertains, it moves us...” –The Washington Post

"A true epic, as sexy as it is hilarious, it seems drenched with the harsh tidal beauties of its setting...For every person nearing retirement, every latent writer who hopes to leave his island and find the literary mainland, its author–quiet, self-sufficient, tidy Homeric–remains a patron saint." –Allan Gurganus, O Magazine

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

:

My Country Right or Left, 1940-1943

Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays. Here, in four fat volumes, is the best selection of his non-fiction available, a trove of letters, essays, reviews, and journalism that is breathtaking in its scope and eclectic passions. Orwell had something to say about just about everyone and everything. His letters to such luminaries as Julian Symons, Anthony Powell, Arthur Koestler, and Cyril Connolly are poignant and personal. His essays, covering everything from "English Cooking" to "Literature and Totalitarianism," are memorable, and his books reviews (Hitler's Mein Kampf, Mumford's Herman Melville, Miller's Black Spring, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield to name just a few) are among the most lucid and intelligent ever written. From 1943 to l945, he wrote a regular column for the Tribune, a left wing weekly, entitled "As I Please." His observations about life in Britain during the war embraced everything from anti-American sentiment to the history of domestic appliances.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda. She was warm in every wind and weather, but he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile, and almost as cold as his heart. He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales.

So begins James Thurber’s sublimely revamped fairy tale, The 13 Clocks, in which a wicked Duke who imagines he has killed time, and the Duke’s beautiful niece, for whom time seems to have run out, both meet their match, courtesy of an enterprising and very handsome prince in disguise. Readers young and old will take pleasure in this tale of love forestalled but ultimately fulfilled, admiring its upstanding hero (”He yearned to find in a far land the princess of his dreams, singing as he went, and possibly slaying a dragon here and there”) and unapologetic villain (”We all have flaws,” the Duke said. “Mine is being wicked”), while wondering at the enigmatic Golux, the mysterious stranger whose unpredictable interventions speed the story to its necessarily happy end.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

The last major verse written by Nobel laureate T. S. Eliot, considered by Eliot himself to be his finest work

 

Four Quartets is a rich composition that expands the spiritual vision introduced in “The Waste Land.” Here, in four linked poems (“Burnt Norton,” “East Coker,” “The Dry Salvages,” and “Little Gidding”), spiritual, philosophical, and personal themes emerge through symbolic allusions and literary and religious references from both Eastern and Western thought. It is the culminating achievement by a man considered the greatest poet of the twentieth century and one of the seminal figures in the evolution of modernism.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Winner of the 1961 National Book Award

The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.

The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the "treasurable moments" absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans' French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Authored

:

Stories

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE

Viking marauders descend on a much-plundered island, hoping some mayhem will shake off the winter blahs. A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the print of a bare foot on the inside of his car's windshield doesn't match her own. Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods. A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl. Wells Tower's version of America is touched with the seamy splendor of the dropout, the misfit: failed inventors, boozy dreamers, hapless fathers, wayward sons. With electric prose and savage wit, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a profound new collection of stories.

Also recommended by

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

You might also enjoy books from