Greetings from Three Lives & Company!
This is the time of year when, per tradition, we marvel at the richness of the fall publication list (and encourage you to get those holiday orders in early!). Who are we to mess with custom? We went over some of the particulars in the last newsletter, so suffice it here to say that this yearÕs recitation of favorite-authors-with-new-books would be long indeed. Rather than repeat ourselves, weÕd rather you drop into the shop to find out whatÕs new – but if you need inspiration now, there are plenty of up-to-the-minute recommendations in our write-ups below!
We happen to have a fairly extensive collection of signed editions at the moment – see the full list following our Staff Favorites Now in Paperback section – and weÕre about to add another big one. An author with a long association with Three Lives, Michael Cunningham, is publishing his latest novel, Day, in mid-November, and weÕre celebrating with a morning signing (and scones and coffee!). Come by on Wednesday, November 15 between 10 and 11 a.m. to meet Michael and pick up an inscribed copy of Day. (This will not be a reading, so there is no need to be at the shop precisely at 10 a.m. – any time within our window will do!) If youÕre not in New York City, weÕre happy to ship you a signed copy. Just get in touch before the 15th and weÕll work out the details.
We are also in the swing of awards season, and many of our favorite books of the year are performing quite well – Paul MurrayÕs Bee Sting and Sarah BernsteinÕs A Study for Obedience are both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Nana Kwame Adjei-BrenyahÕs Chain-Gang All-Stars is a finalist for the National Book Award, and Paul HardingÕs This Other Eden is in the running for both. (Those awards will be announced later in November.) Our most recent Nobel laureate, the Norwegian Jon Fosse, is also a shop darling, as is former winner Louise Glck, whose recent passing has caused a surge of interest in her work. Our resident poetry reader, Sarah, recommends GlckÕs final collection, Winter Recipes from the Collective, as a good place to start. For Fosse selections, see LucasÕs piece below.
~ Recent Staff Favorites ~
Christine CoulsonÕs One Woman Show (Avid Reader) brought to mind books like NW by Zadie Smith, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and I Remember by Joe Brainard – all books that use an unusual conceit and structure to tell their story. Coulson was a writer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for twenty-five years, and her final job was to write wall labels for the museumÕs new British Galleries. Coulson uses the wall label form to tell the story of Kitty Whitaker, a woman presented in the text as a porcelain figurine in a museum exhibit. Very quickly the language of art seduces – you canÕt stop turning the pages, and suddenly youÕre in: KittyÕs life takes shape. ItÕs brilliant, heartbreaking, with a highbrow wit. ItÕs a book to read in a single sitting.
Coulson recently wrote an inspired essay for the Telegraph, now available online at Lit Hub, on the joy of beholding something and setting the looker free. ŅMuseums are for looking, and your individual response to a work of art holds all the magic,Ó she writes. ŅI often tell people to go to The Met and just wander around until something stops you – it doesnÕt matter what it is. Then spend fifteen minutes looking at itÉ Look. And keep looking. And look some more. Look until you find a novel all your own... Let your point of view be your guide rather than someone elseÕs.Ó
In DecemberÕs newsletter, IÕll be writing my usual Cookbook Corner, but in the meantime, I have a plea to make: Please consider the pie. ItÕs an oft-forgotten dessert, but its most popular season is right now. ItÕs a dessert for sharing; itÕs a conversational dessert; it makes for a perfect breakfast; it brings comfort; and thereÕs a pie for everyone. My go-to guides are Pie School by Kate Lebo (Sasquatch), Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski (Lorena Jones), and The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen (Grand Central) – and I would listen to anything Ina Garten has to say about pie and follow it to a T! – Troy
Well, my god, I really donÕt know where to begin with this one, but I had such a good time reading The Feast by Margaret Kennedy, recently reissued by McNally Editions! ItÕs pretty much all about sin (as in the seven deadly), and it is tart and dead funny, and the characters are all mental, even the kids! Their stories come together in a tumbledown family-run hotel along the postwar Cornwall coast, and there is tragedy looming! IÕm not sure how to tag this one – gothic thriller, morality play, tragicomedy, romance, village saga – still scratching my head. The goings-on of this motley crew are completely absorbing – itÕs a bit like eavesdropping on the publicly awful yet privately fragile lives of others. And with an unforgettable ending! There is something here that hits a nerve, reminiscent of J.G. Farrell. – Joyce
Nuclear physics is all the rage this year, and IÕm not talking about Oppenheimer. Benjamn LabatutÕs novel – or is it nonfiction? – The MANIAC (Penguin Press) charts the life of John von Neumann, the Hungarian-American polymath who worked on the Manhattan Project, thought up game theory and planted the seeds for the artificial intelligence that ChatGPT and GoogleÕs Bard now use to write our term papers and performance reviews. The storytelling is brisk and conversational, presented as an oral history by associates of von Neumann, with a slight tang of apocalypse as it teases civilizationÕs AI future. (For what itÕs worth, I asked Bard what else I should read if I loved LabatutÕs MANIAC. Its response: ŅI do not have enough information about that person to help with your request.Ó)
Shifting backwards two millennia, Mary BeardÕs new history Emperor of Rome (Liveright) gets into the dining halls, bedrooms and back offices of some of the ancient worldÕs most powerful men. Beard makes a terrific companion for serious history – sheÕs erudite but sly, skewering longstanding myths about the emperorsÕ peccadilloes (like that story about CaligulaÕs horse or NeroÕs anachronistic fiddle). But the book is about the job more than any individual who held it. Beard asks: what was the actual work of the emperors, and where did they do it? Who helped them? What were their meals like, and their vacations? Did they care about the chariot races beyond their pacifying value – JuvenalÕs Ņbread and circusesÓ? Read this after, before, or alongside BeardÕs other great Roman history, SPQR. – Ryan
It had been a while since IÕd taken up a book of stories when recently, after the mood struck for the short form, I found an excellent debut collection by a Canadian writer, Lisa Alward. Her stories in Cocktail (Biblioasis) remind me of one of my favorite writers, Joan Silber, with their poignant, beautifully observed mini-character studies: folks negotiating the stepping-stones in life, the odd moments that reverberate across the years, the singular event that charts a new course. This is a winner, and I look forward to more from Alward. – Toby
Being Here Is Everything by Marie Darrieussecq (semiotext(e), translated by Penny Hueston) is an unusual biography. Its subject, the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, was never famous during her short life. She painted brilliantly, forging an astonishing style, but she did it mostly in private. Modersohn-Becker was a painter and a mother – in a world with few choices for women, she forced open a space for her art. Then at thirty-one she died. DarrieussecqÕs biography is sly as well as somber, a ghostly evocation of this singular artist.
Carel Fabritius – another enigmatic painter struck dead in the prime of his life – haunts the pages of Thunderclap (Scribner), Laura CummingÕs elegant meditation on the art of the Dutch Golden Age. Weaving her own familyÕs story into the tint and texture of FabritiusÕs exquisite paintings, Cumming shows how art ennobles life, even in the face of disaster and despair. ItÕs a wonderful book for the novice and the expert alike.
Moving on to fiction: IÕm very glad that the Swedish Academy has finally conferred its authority on my recommendation of Jon Fosse. His most recent novella, A Shining (Transit, translated by Damion Searls), is a good place to start with his work (though it should be said that The Other Name, the first volume of his vaunted Septology, is basically a perfect novel). A Shining really is Fosse pared down to his essentials – the movement of a soul through darkness, toward light.
Finally, I can hardly imagine a book more beautiful than Timothy OÕGrady and Steve PykeÕs I Could Read the Sky (Unbound). As our narrator looks back on his childhood in Ireland and his life spent laboring in exile in England, OÕGradyÕs fleshy prose and PykeÕs stark photographs illuminate an entire world of these reluctant migrs. Their novel is musical and mournful, elegiac and wise: fans of Irish literature, this one is surely for you. – Lucas
I recently loved How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti (Picador), a fascinating and contemplative narrative of a woman who tries desperately to find answers to the big questions of how to be a friend, to be an individual, to find love, to create meaningful art. The prose doesnÕt conform to one structure or style, and itÕs endlessly surprising, hilarious, and relatable.
Another recent favorite: My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson (Flatiron), about a young gay Black man who moves to New York City in the 1980s and becomes increasingly involved in activism and helping to care for men suffering from AIDS. He interacts with a variety of historically-accurate leaders, events, and organizations (extra information is included in footnotes). ItÕs written like a memoir and balances fast-paced plot with deeply moving moments of discovery and reflection. – Elaine
A Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (Knopf Canada) wonÕt let me go. ItÕs crawled under my skin and stayed there. And if this seems like a disquieting, grotesque image, then itÕs perfectly in line with this haunting novel. An unnamed woman moves to an unnamed town to look after her brother and his house. And then misfortune befalls the local animals and the townspeople are seized by terror and superstition. WhatÕs happening? WhoÕs to blame? Never straying from the perspective of the highly unreliable central character, this tale raises thorny questions of inherited trauma (familial and historical), antisemitism, societyÕs treatment of outsiders, shifting power dynamics between the oppressed and oppressors. Read it with a friend, as I did, because there is a great deal to unpack and discuss (or just come talk to me when you finish it!).
A communityÕs response to the arrival of an outsider is also a significant thread in John BowenÕs 1986 novel The Girls (McNally Editions), but the tone could not be more different. Jan and Sue are partners in love and in business (they run a shop selling local crafts and foods in the Cotswolds), and when Sue departs on a solo trip, Jan happens to fall into bed with a man she meets at a craft fair. Pregnancy – and a fair bit of mayhem – ensues, and IÕll leave it there so as not to ruin the many delights and surprises this zany book contains. The perfect follow-up to A Study for Obedience – lighter, funnier but holds its own in the quality of the prose and the emotional heft underlying its more jovial demeanor.
IÕve chosen to focus my write-up on writers previously unknown to me, but two of my longtime favorites also have new novels out this fall: Paul Auster with Baumgartner (Atlantic Monthly) and Alice McDermott with Absolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). I heartily recommend both. – Miriam
~ Staff Favorites Now in Paperback ~
Natural History by Andrea Barrett (W.W. Norton)
Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth (Verso, translated by Charlotte Barslund)
TheyÕre Going to Love You by Meg Howry (Anchor)
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (Picador)
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage)
Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage)
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton)
On Java Road by Lawrence Osborne (Hogarth)
Plague by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, translated
by Robert Finn)
Ghost Music by An Yu (Grove)
Stay True by Hua Hsu (Anchor)
~ Signed Editions ~
Baumgartner by Paul Auster (Grove)
One Woman Show by Christine Coulson (Avid Reader)
Trust by Hernan Diaz (Penguin)
The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions, translated by Susan Bernofsky)
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions, translated by Susan Bernofsky)
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions, translated by Michael Hofmann)
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions, translated by Susan Bernofsky)
Wellness by Nathan Hill (Knopf)
Normal Women by Ainslie Hogarth (Vintage)
Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central)
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central)
Brooklyn Crime Novel by Jonathan Lethem (Ecco)
Innards by Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (W.W. Norton)
The North Woods by Daniel Mason (Random House)
That Time of Year by Marie NDaiye (Two Lines, translated by Jordan Stump)
Vengeance Is Mine by Marie NDaiye (Knopf, translated by Jordan Stump)
America Fantastica by Tim OÕBrien (Mariner)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Harper)
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper)
Mrs. S by K Patrick (Europa)
The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab (Tor)
Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Penguin)
NW by Zadie Smith (Penguin)
Blackouts by Justin Torres (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Penguin)
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Penguin)
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Penguin)
Family Meal by Bryan Washington (Riverhead)
The Hive and the Honey by Paul Yoon (Marysue Rucci)
Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster)
None of the Above by Travis Alabanza (Feminist Press)
Eve by Cat Bohannon (Knopf)
Leading Lady by Charles Busch (Smart Pop)
Everything/Nothing/Someone by Alice Carrire (Spiegel & Grau)
I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
Start Here by Sohla El-Waylly (Knopf)
The Upstairs Delicatessen by Dwight Garner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Opinions by Roxane Gay (Harper)
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Harper)
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (Harper)
The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl (Spiegel and Grau)
Sweet Enough by Alison Roman (Clarkson Potter)
Intimations by Zadie Smith (Penguin)
Texture Over Taste by Joshua Weissman (DK)
Via Carota by Jody Williams, Rita Sodi and Anna Kovel (Knopf)
~ The Three Lives & Company Bestseller List ~
1. One Woman Show by Christine Coulson (Avid Reader)
2. Going Infinite by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton)
3. Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Harper, translated by Eric Ozawa)
4. An Almanac of New York City for the Year 2024 edited by Susan Gail Johnson (Abbeville)
5. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Vintage)
6. Blackouts by Justin Torres (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
7. Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)
8. Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (Picador)
9. The MANIAC by Benjamn Labatut (Penguin Press)
10. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper)
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A reminder that we specialize in special orders. In our small shop itÕs always a challenge to find room for all the new, notable, and exciting books; if youÕd like a book that we donÕt have on hand, we are always happy to order it for you. We place orders almost daily and the usual turnaround time for a special order is two business days. For some books it may take longer, but weÕll be sure to discuss the particulars with you before we place an order. Additionally, we can ship books to you anywhere within the United States. Give us a call, send us an email, or stop in any time.
We are happy to take preorders for forthcoming titles, and we will let you know as soon as the book arrives. We are all too familiar with the fervid desire to possess a new book at the first possible moment, and we will do everything in our power to make sure the book lands in your hands hot off the presses.
We offer gift certificates, which you may purchase in any amount.
Three Lives & Company, Booksellers
154 W. 10th St.
New York NY 10014