Neal Stephenson : Seveneves

Screen shot 2015-05-20 at 12.10.58 PMA catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.  Only a handful of survivors remain . . .Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . .to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth. Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy,  psychology, & literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary & eerily recognizable.

Viet Thanh Nguyen : The Sympathizer

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 10.53.18 AMIt is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Sarah Manguso : Ongoingness

Screen shot 2015-04-01 at 5.49.10 PM In Ongoingness, Sarah Manguso confronts a meticulous diary that she has kept for 25 years. “I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened,” she explains. But this simple statement belies a terror that she might miss something important. Then Manguso became pregnant & had a child, & these Copernican events generated an amnesia that put her into a different relationship with the need to document herself amid ongoing time. Ongoingness is a spare, meditative work that stands in stark contrast to the volubility of the diary–a haunting account of mortality & impermanence, of how we struggle to find clarity in the chaos of time that rushes around & over & through us.

Kelly Link : Get in Trouble

Screen shot 2015-03-04 at 6.21.58 AMKelly Link has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today.

Sarah Gerard : Binary Star

Screen shot 2015-02-25 at 1.18.34 PMThe language of stars is the language of the body. Like a star, the anorexic burns fuel that isn’t replenished; she is held together by her own gravity.  With luminous, lyrical prose, Binary Star is an account of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. On a road trip circumnavigating the U.S., they stumble into a book on veganarchism, and believe they’ve found a direction. Binary Star is a fast-moving saga of two young lovers and the culture that keeps them sick (or at least inundated with quick-fix solutions).

Miranda July : The First Bad Man

Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 11.38.51 AMHere is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.  When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Leslie Jamison : The Empathy Exams

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 4.55.24 PMBeginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.