Summer 2020

Greetings from Three Lives & Company!

As we reach the midpoint of a hot, strange summer, your neighborhood bookstore continues its march towards normalcy: we reopened to customers at the end of June, and since then we have expanded our hours to 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 noon – 7 p.m. on Sunday. We have shut down our online ordering system, but we are always happy to receive pickup or shipping orders by email or phone, and we have been gratified to see that many of our long-distance customers during the shutdown have continued to get their books from us. To them, and to everyone local who has ventured out in a still-uncertain time to shop our shelves again, thank you!

Buying local has been a particular challenge for many of us during the shutdown. It has been tempting to order everything one needs online, at the lowest possible price, to avoid leaving the house, riding the subway and encountering crowds while COVID-19 continues to circulate. Making purchases in one's favorite shops and restaurants has become more than a convenience or a treat: it is a message of support and a statement of values. We are grateful to all the New Yorkers who have chosen to shop local and shop small – you are the reason that many of your neighborhood stores are hanging on. As a tribute to the resilience of our city, our Virtual Theme Table for this edition of the newsletter is dedicated to our favorite New York City reads. Please share your own with us!

And the new books keep coming: we have been recently treated to new titles by some of our favorite authors, including Maggie O'Farrell, David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, and Roddy Doyle, all of which you can read about in our reviews below. Other much-anticipated titles, some mentioned in previous newsletters, are also now (or will soon be) on shelves: Catherine Lacey's Pew (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Morgan Jerkins's Wandering in Strange Lands (Harper), Lawrence Osborne's The Glass Kingdom (Hogarth), Barbara Demick's Eat the Buddha (Random House), Helen Macdonald's Vesper Flights (Grove), Elena Ferrante's The Lying Life of Adults (Europa), Judith Schalansky's An Inventory of Losses (New Directions), Peter Cameron's What Happens at Night (Catapult), Isabel Wilkerson's Caste (Random House), and Edmund White's A Saint from Texas (Bloomsbury). Despite everything, it is a rich time for books.


~ Recent Staff Favorites ~

The Shame

Makenna Goodman

Makenna Goodman's debut novel The Shame is a unique and compelling story about ambition and motherhood, set within pastoral Vermont. It follows Alma, a wife and mother, who lives an idyllic life raising chickens and making maple syrup. She spends her days caring for her two children and her nights attending faculty dinners with her professor husband, until she decides to leave it all behind. Goodman explores the pleasures and pitfalls of rural life and the complicated obligations of marriage and motherhood in this impressive and exciting debut. (Milkweed) – Ruby



Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith's book of six essays was written during the early months of lockdown. In the foreword to Intimations, Smith writes, "What I've tried to do is organize some of the feelings and thoughts that events, so far, have provoked in me, in those scraps of time the year itself has allowed. These are above all personal essays: small by definition, short by necessity." I brought my copy home immediately. As I began to read and move from one essay to the next, the words of Gabriela Cámara (author of My Mexico City Kitchen) came to mind: "Once you hold a taco, you must never let go of it until you finish it." That is what I did with Intimations. It is exactly what my mind and soul needed – nourishment – and I will read it again, and pass it on. (Penguin) – Troy



Maggie O'Farrell

According to the historical record, Shakespeare had a son who died around the age of eleven (possibly from the plague). Maggie O'Farrell uses this tragic event as the focal point for her glorious new novel. Barely concerned with Shakespeare himself, Hamnet unspools the rich narrative of his family: his wife Agnes's childhood, courtship, and early marriage as well as his children's inner lives are conjured in vivid detail and with great emotional heft. O'Farrell's memoir I Am, I Am, I Am (which I loved) should have prepared me for the linguistic and storytelling heights that this book reaches, but I still found myself marveling at – and tremendously moved by – the feat she pulls off here. I dare you not to shed a tear as Agnes prepares her son's body for burial. (Knopf) – Miriam


Utopia Avenue

David Mitchell

I will read just about anything that Mitchell writes, and his latest seems custom-crafted for my taste. A rock novel set mostly in London near the end of the '60s, starring a fictional British Invasion band with a lead guitarist named de Zoet, Utopia Avenue is both great fun and a new node in Mitchell's metastasizing ubernovel,� featuring appearances by some familiar faces as well as a brand-new crew of witty, odd and occasionally time-shifting characters. Mitchell's love for the era and its music makes for a transporting summer read. (Random House) – Ryan


Halle Butler
I first fell in love with Halle Butler back in 2019 when I read her razor-sharp novel The New Me. Butler explores the ills of adulthood, ambition, and the desperate search to belong better than most any other writer out there, all the while crafting work that is laugh-out-loud funny and authentic. Jillian, Butler's 2015 novel, has been re-released this summer. The book follows two women who work in a gastroenterologist's office, both with their fair share of existential struggle. I loved this book for its wryness and awkwardness, its tackling of depression and the impossibility of finding our path in an increasingly complicated world, where a dose of easy positivity and the belief that "things will get better" is just not enough. It fell into my hands at just the right time, and I savored every crass, relatable, brave, and poignant word. (Penguin) – Nora


Cool for America

Andrew Martin

In his new short story collection Cool for America, Andrew Martin expands on the world he established in his debut novel Early Work. Early Work was my favorite novel of 2018, and I was eager to return to Martin's bookish characters and sharp prose. Cool for America follows many flailing writers and artists as they try to figure out their lives and find creative fulfillment. They drink a lot, read Tolstoy, and feel sorry for themselves but are somehow still winning. Cool for America is sly and funny. I will read anything Martin writes. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – Ruby



Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle is back with Love, his newest novel, centering on two lifelong friends as they barhop around Dublin over the course of one day. The novel reads as an extended conversation, punctuated by memories as both men look back on their lives and the ways they have changed over the years. Fans of Doyle might be used to his twists, turns, and monumental reckonings in previous works, but Love is straightforward, a simple study in time, memory, friendship, the difficulty of expression and being understood, and how love alters life. A perfect summer read that is sweet, funny, and genuinely touching. (Viking) – Nora


A Burning

Megha Majumdar

The three characters at the center of A Burning begin as rather unremarkable people: a studious young woman from the slums, a middle school physical education teacher, and a hijra who wants to be an actress. But after the young woman is falsely accused of a terrorist attack, their stories build and twist in completely unexpected ways, until each becomes famous in their own right – at a cost that left me shocked. What starts as a slow burn soon becomes a thrilling look at capitalism, politics, and power through the lens of everyday people upended by them. (Knopf) – Emily

Funny Weather

Olivia Laing

The foreword "You Look at the Sun" in Olivia Laing's Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency is reason alone to buy the book, but then you see that it is chock-full of highly interesting essays, all written over the past decade. Laing writes that as the news was making her crazy, what she wanted most was a "different kind of time frame" and so she began writing columns that used art "as a way of making sense of the political situation, of wringing meaning out of what were becoming increasingly troubled times." Sound familiar? Virginia Woolf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wolfgang Tillmans, David Hockney, David Wojnarowicz, David Bowie, Frank O'Hara, Arthur Russell, Henry Green, Georgia O'Keefe, Sarah Schulman, Maggie Nelson, Derek Jarman, Hilary Mantel, and many others are featured in this collection. You see: chock-full! Laing concludes her foreword: "We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don't you want it, to be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are?" Funny Weather is brilliant, timely, and hopeful. (W.W. Norton) – Troy


Philip Hoare
What is this book? On the recommendation of a fellow Rockaway swimmer I ordered a copy (and, yes, apparently the title is one word) and dipped right in. Since the author is a committed daily swimmer, either at his home in Southampton, England, or his adopted home in Provincetown, I thought I was going to get Hoare's beguiling memoir of what the water means to another who cannot stay away. Instead, I read a delightful (and still beguiling) mash-up of memoir, travel writing, nature writing, and mini biographies of writers and historical figures – Virginia Woolf, Wilfred Owens, Melville, Byron – who were enraptured by and driven to the water. It was such a joy to return to Hoare's glorious and gifted storytelling, to simply settle in as a skilled writer traipses and meanders about to explore the sea, the draw of the water, and the expanse of the oceans and our sense of it. (University of Chicago Press) – Toby


The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson

Postcard From Park Slope: You know how you believe you know some things and then feel embarrassed when you realize just how ignorant you really are? Well, The Warmth of Other Suns has left me in this state of mind. I am so very grateful to Isabel Wilkerson for her sweeping narrative history of the decades-long mass migration of African Americans out of the South. I was riveted for all 600 pages! Please read it if you haven't already – you'll never forget it. (Vintage) – Joyce


~ Virtual Theme Table: New York City ~

 Another Country by James Baldwin (Vintage) Nora

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (Vintage) Tatiana

The Power Broker by Robert Caro (Vintage) Ryan

Open City by Teju Cole (Random House) Ryan

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (Vintage) Ruby

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright) Emily

The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Ruby

Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran (Harper) Troy

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (Picador) Miriam

Good Talk by Mira Jacob (One World) Ruby

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (Vintage) Joyce

Faggots by Larry Kramer (Grove) Troy

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner) Ryan

Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate (Anchor) Tatiana

After This by Alice McDermott (Dial) Joyce

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (Vintage) Joyce

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Harper) Nora

The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman (University of California Press) Troy

Lucky Us by Joan Silber (Shannon Ravenel Books) Toby

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Harper) Tatiana

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Scribner) Miriam

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton Nora

Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Anchor) Miriam


~ Staff Favorites Now in Paperback ~



Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry (Vintage)

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Random House)

Leading Men by Christopher Castellani (Penguin)

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (Ecco)

The Body in Question by Jill Ciment (Vintage)

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (Vintage)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Vintage)

Doxology by Nell Zink (Ecco)



Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur (Mariner)

Gods of the Upper Air by Charles King (Anchor)

Our Man by George Packer (Vintage)

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (Random House)


~ The Three Lives & Company Bestseller List ~

1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Riverhead)

2. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (Knopf)

3. Writers and Lovers by Lily King (Grove)

4. Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Anchor)

5. Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Random House)

6. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)

7. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (One World)

8. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Putnam)

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World)

10. A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)