Books about the future, antiquity, and video games
Plus more summer reads and a script for contacting your Senators
This last week has been so long and so heavy. I’ve been thinking a lot about Uvalde and the unimaginable heartbreak of the families who lost children. I’ve also been thinking a lot about students and teachers around the country. How can it be that our society has decided it’s okay to send people to learn and work in a state of constant fear? If you haven’t yet (or really even if you have because they count the number of calls, not the number of individuals making the calls), please contact your representatives in the Senate and the House and urge them to address this problem with policy changes. Be polite and specific, and if you can’t get through keep calling. Below is a script shared by The Popcast host, Jamie Golden—you can even read it verbatim. I promise this is easier than it sounds! And after you make your calls, pick up a good book for yourself, because we all need a little escape right now.
“Hello, my name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [state and zip code]. I am concerned about the lack of senate vote on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 8 and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 1446. I strongly encourage Senator [last name] to please support a vote and passage of these two acts. Thank you for your hard work!”
This week in books.
This week I read…
Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It’s always a challenge to review short story collections. There’s not much to say in the way of setup and plot so I struggle to ever succinctly summarize a collection I loved. But I will say that I truly loved this collection. Chiang’s writing is flawless and his use of the sci-fi and fantasy genres to explore our shared humanity is beautiful. Included in this book is a novella length story about two designers who work to create digital pets, and ultimately become so deeply attached to their creations that it alters their entire lives. It’s hard to explain without it sounding strange or creepy—but it’s not. It’s wondrous. And I didn’t expect this to be the story that connected with me so profoundly as a new parent, but it really did. I enjoyed this entire collection and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I’m in agreement with most early readers on this book—I really loved it. This is one of those exceptional stories that manages to touch on common human emotions and yearnings through a story that is incredibly specific and unique. The book follows two friends, Sam and Sadie, from their childhood where they bond over their passion for Mario and Oregon Trail through the loves, betrayals, ambitions, and inspirations of their adult lives as video game makers. You don’t need to know or care much about video games to love this book, but you do need to be ready to fully immerse yourself in that world for 400 pages. Regardless of your familiarity with the subject matter, Gabrielle Zevin is a wonderful guide through this world, exploring its joys and pitfalls, and the universal pleasure of play. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a story about art and friendship, filled with nerdy references and literary Easter eggs. Some readers may find the pace to be a little slow and the characters to be (at times) unlikeable, but I found this to be a beautiful reading experience reminiscent of favorite books like Station Eleven, Kavalier and Clay, and The Interestings. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
The Latinist by Mark Prins. I think I loved this book, but I’m still sitting with it and hoping to have someone to discuss it with soon! It’s a difficult book to describe without creating false expectations. It’s not quite dark academia…though there are elements of that. It’s not a thriller…although there were scenes that made me tense up more than any thriller has lately. It’s not a love story…but it is a tale of seduction. And it’s not exactly a myth retelling…though it’s very clear about the story that inspired it. The book follows Tessa Templeton, a star doctoral candidate in Oxford’s Classics program, who is surprised and devastated not to be receiving any interviews as she applies for teaching jobs. Soon it’s clear why. An anonymous source sends her an email telling her she might not want to trust her advisor, Christopher Eccles, and forwarding a picture of his absolutely brutal recommendation letter. Prins builds the tension expertly from there, but you might need to have some familiarity with academic bureaucracy or the classics to really feel it. Overall, this is one of those books that I really enjoyed, but am not quite sure who I’ll recommend it to. So if you pick it up, let me know! Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
Now I’m reading…
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. I haven’t made much progress in this, but I’m going to pick up the pace and try to finish it this week. So far it’s reminding me a bit of Possession by A.S. Byatt, which is an all-time favorite. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
Links I love.
The best reviewed books of May.
Two new novels about tech dystopias.
Vulture’s 17 books we can’t wait to read this summer.
Prehistoric Planet on Apple TV. This is filling the Jurassic Park shaped hole in my heart until the new movie comes out. Also I cried twice in the first episode 😂
The Pantsuit Politics episode on Uvalde was heartbreaking and validating.
Readers, happy start to the summer reading season! For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing email@example.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!
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