June 4, 2015
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6 BOOKS We Loved  

June 2015

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (Knopf) Nick Harkaway’s novels are always strange and wonderful; Tigerman is no exception. Set on the tiny island of Mancreu, formerly a British colony, the story centers on an aging British Army sergeant awaiting retirement and his unlikely friendship with a young boy from the island. As the two are caught up in a political plot that seems far too large for the small island on which they live, Tigerman reveals itself to be a tale of wit and wonder, full of sly humor and important lessons on life, friendship, and fighting for a cause you believe in.—Kerry McHugh

I’m Special, and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves by Ryan O’Connell (Simon & Schuster) A lot has been said about Millennials—spoiled, entitled, coddled, the worst generation ever. So, who better to refute (or corroborate) those claims than an actual millennial? O’Connell’s debut I’m Special is part memoir and part Millennial self-help book. Detailing his trials and tribulations, including having Cystic Fibrosis, “helicopter parents,” a drug problem, and trying to maintain his sanity while breaking into the literary world, O’Connell’s sense of humor and wise beyond his years insight provide for a fun, lighthearted, and moving read.—Adam Pribila

Day Four by Sarah Lotz (Little, Brown) Lotz returns with a strong sophomore entry in Day Four. As in her freshman novel, the remarkable The Three, Lotz writes about the subject of a transportation catastrophe that is tinged with the possibility of supernatural influence, this time a cruise ship which is stranded and in the grips of a nasty virus. Lotz is superb at ratcheting up drama and suspense in order to keep her readers completely hooked. Although Day Four is told in a more conventional manner than The Three, it is still intensely engaging.—Jen Karsbaek 

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (Crown) The Mapmaker’s Children is composed of the parallel stories of Sarah (daughter of the infamous John Brown) and her work on the Underground Railroad and modern-day Eden who is struggling with infertility. This is a beautifully written book that explores the power of family and relationships, through the stories of these two complex women.—Beth Nolan Conners


Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola (Grand Central) Blackout is a brutally honest look at life under the influence of alcohol. From her first sip of beer at the age of seven through most of the following 30 years, Hepola's world revolved around drinking. She wasn't a homeless, deadbeat drunk; instead she had a respectable job, meeting her writing and editing deadlines with the help of a bottle or two. In the after work hours, however, she often drank herself into blackouts, waking up in a stranger's bed or with no recollection of how she got home. In her frank, straightforward memoir, Hepola writes of her love of drink, her deepest insecurities, and her fear of becoming sober. This can't-stop-reading memoir gives alcoholism a context within Gen X sociocultural pressures and post-feminism expectations.—Candace Levy

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (Harper) In the opening years of the 20th century, a human being was displayed in the Monkey House of the New York Zoological Gardens. Ota Benga was a pygmy from the Congo who was first brought to the United States in 1904 to be exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair before being displayed in New York. Spectacle is a fascinating but painful look at racism and colonialism, as well as the evolution of science.—Jen Karsbaek


At Readerly, we absolutely adore audiobooks. If for audiobook month, we could make any new audiobook converts, we would be absolutely thrilled. Many readers have problems making the switch initially and quickly decide that they are not wired correctly for audiobooks and that they just can’t listen to them.

Not so! Reading a book with your ears is actually a type of literacy that is related to, but ultimately different from, the literacy of reading a book with your eyes. Listening to a story is a unique skill that must be learned and practiced just like the skills you learned to make you a good reader way back in elementary school.

So how can you practice this skill of audio literacy? Not to worry, we have a few tips to get you started:
  • Use audio time for re-reads. A lot of people have trouble concentrating throughout the entire book when they first start listening, especially in the first half hour. If you listen to something you’ve already read and loved it won’t matter so much if you zone out a few times, because you won’t be missing any integral parts of the plot.
  • Listen to audiobooks with less complex storylines. Books with a lot of stuff going on and where the point of view bounces back and forth can make for great audiobooks, but you really have to pay attention to figure out what is going on, so these aren’t a great choice if you’re just starting out.
  • Listen to fast-paced, highly-engaging stories. Mysteries, thrillers, and romance all make for good audiobooks for beginners, because they tend to be quickly paced and catch your attention quickly. We love literary fiction, but if you’re just starting in audiobooks we don’t recommend you listen to them just yet.
  • Listen to the best of the best narrators. Ask your listening friends for their favorite narrators, but if you see something by one of these guys or gals you’re probably in good shape: Khristine Hvam, Cassandra Campbell, Bahni Turpin, Simon Vance, Rosalyn Landor, Dan Savage, Scott Brick, Katherine Kellgren, and Wil Wheaton.
There you go! Make a point this June to try listening to something and let us know about your experiences at Facebook.com/ReaderlyMag or @readerly_mag on Twitter. 
Local-newsOnanWorst Nightmares:
The Disappeared

As a fan of domestic fiction, I read a lot of what I call “parent’s worst nightmare” books. (Why I am drawn to these books is a another story for another issue…) A large subset of parent’s worst nightmare books are about disappearing kids. I think there are a few reasons why authors are driven to write so frequently about that topic. First, until the mystery of the disappearance is solved, there is a lot of suspense and tension to propel the action forward. Also, the disappearance of a child understandably puts a big strain on a family, so there are plenty of relationship dynamics to explore. Third, the author has a great deal of freedom to explore different possible explanations -  a child running away, an abduction, an accident - which makes the story unpredictable. And finally, let’s face it, a disappearing child is such a painful scenario that it’s likely to get a reader emotionally involved, quickly.

Looking back on the books I’ve read on this topic, here are a few that stand out:

The Local News by Miriam Gershow (Spiegel & Grau) The Local News is about a 16-year old high school student whose older brother disappeared at the start of his senior year. While her parents sleepwalk through their grief, their daughter tries to come to terms with the disappearance of a brother about whom she was deeply ambivalent. There’s a lot going on – the mystery of what happened to the brother, the effect of his disappearance on his family, the narrator’s search for identity in a household in which she is practically invisible, and the question of whether one is obligated to love their family members. Gershow’s explorations of the ways in which public and private grief intersect – who is truly allowed to mourn the loss of this boy? who really knew him? – and her meticulous analyses of the politics of high schools and small communities are very compelling.

The Year of Fog by Michelle Redmond (Bantam Discovery) The Year of Fog focuses on the painful days and months following the disappearance of a photographer’s fiance’s daughter. It is very readable, and the suspense of the mystery propels the reader along. In addition to simply telling an engrossing tale, Richmond explores the nature of memory and photography, and how they can each trick people in believing different things and shaping their perspectives on life.

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan (Viking)This isn’t a mystery novel, but is instead a painstaking depiction of the days, months and years that follow the disappearance of a beloved child. O’Nan is extremely gifted at achieving realism – in all of its mundane and plodding glory – by recreating a scene or exploring a character’s inner thoughts with precision and understatement. Songs for the Missing is unflinchingly honest about the swings between hope and despair that the missing daughter’s parents experience in the tortuously slow days and months after she disappears. O’Nan shifts perspective throughout the book, which further highlights the impact that each member of the family has on the others’ grieving process.

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin) In Is This Tomorrow, set in the 1950s, the disappearance of a neighborhood boy deeply affects his sister, best friend, and the best friend's mother—a single woman who has been shunned by the Boston suburb where she lives. Ultimately this book is about disconnection and isolation, and how secrets held for years can have terrible implications for those kept in the dark. The simplicity of Leavitt's writing, the way that five characters' lives are so seamless integrated throuhout the book, and the fact that the reader has no idea how the book is going to end, all making this a very good read.—GAYLE WEISWASSER

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

by Jon Ronson

Whether you’re interested in psychopaths, extremists, or military psychic spies, Jon Ronson is one of the most fascinating poppsychology-based nonfiction authors out there. For his most recent work, Ronson examines to the tendency towards public shaming that the internet has returned to our society.

Ronson’s deep dive into internet shaming begins with a bot created by a group of academics which tweets as
@jon_ronson (Ronson’s real account is @jonronson). Ronson tapes his meeting with said producers and when it is ultimately unproductive he uploads the video to YouTube out of frustration. Almost immediately, Ronson receives vitriolic comments which support his position. Ronson quickly learns to leverage social media to help him right the perceived wrong and the experience leaves him exultant.

At first, Ronson sees this trend of public shaming as a way for the little guy to effect change. Individuals on the internet can shame companies for abject stupidity or offensive, hurtful marketing. Something starts to go sour, though, when it comes to the shaming of Justine Sacco on December 20, 2013. Sacco’s tweet about AIDS in South Africa (which is admittedly not in the best taste), is sent out to her small group of followers but ends up forwarded to Gawker’s Sam Biddle who shares it far and wide. Before Sacco’s international flight lands, the internet is effectively dropped on her head. Twitter is just waiting for her to land and see all of the derisive comments that have been left for her, and there are even people waiting to confront her at the airport. She is soon out of a job and very much rudderless.

After the Sacco debacle, Jon begins to wonder just what has been wrought by returning public shaming to our lives 200 years after it was mostly abolished in the United States. As he researches, he finds scores more people whose lives are seemingly ruined over a stupid comment, or a picture taken out of the context in which they originally shared it. Like Sacco, most of them shared or said something that was off-color or even somewhat offensive, but in general none of these mistakes are things that they really deserve to have follow them around for the rest of their lives, ruining relationships and careers.

In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson offers a very good look at the recent history and historical precedence for public shaming, as well as some theories on how to keep attempted shamings from sticking. He keeps the action moving by telling just enough of each story to make it seem well-served and not so much that the overarching narrative is bogged down.

Ronson narrates the audio edition of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed himself. His performance is certainly not that of a professional narrator, but he is experienced enough as a presenter – and put enough of himself into his nonfiction – that his delivery really works in this case. Particularly affecting are the sections in which he expresses his ambivalence and eventually concern about the tendency towards internet shaming.
All in all, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a fascinating and thoughtful book that we can recommend in either print or audio.-

LINKS We Loved 

We’ve shared a lot of great books with you today, but besides reading them, what are you going to do over the next few days while you wait for our next edition? Don’t worry! We’ve got some great links to keep you busy.


Looking for something to write about? Try these serial killer families (io9)

One of our former picks will soon be a movie (Orbit Books)

Toni Morrison, illustrated (Flavorwire)
“I have told the stories I need to tell” (The Guardian)
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WEB EDITOR: Gayle Weiswasser


Adam Pribila
Kerry McHugh
Beth Nolan Connors
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