Our September Monthly Feature from McLelland & Stewart – $21.00 less 20%
From award-winning memoirist and critic, and bestselling author of The Lost, comes a deeply moving tale of a father and son’s transformative journey in reading — and reliving — Homer’s epic masterpiece.
When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a
retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician’s unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his “one last chance” to learn the great literature he’d neglected in his youth — and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer’s great work together — first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s
interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’s famous voyages — it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to deeply echo The Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel, and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar’s most triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.
Harper Collins – $33.99
A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international bestseller Half-Blood Blues
Longlisted for the 2018 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black – an eleven year-old field slave – is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde – naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist – whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning – and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.
But when a man is killed one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington’s life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington’s head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: to a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; to a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; to a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad. This is a novel of fraught bonds and betrayal. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.
From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy plains of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness of life. This inventive, electrifying novel asks, What is Freedom? And can a life salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?
Harper Collins – $29.99
What is an ordinary life worth?
A seasoned writer stumbles across an obituary and imagination is sparked. The brief words of memoriam describe a woman who was both extraordinary—eccentric, revered in her field, a renowned expert—but also utterly ordinary. How does a writer, intrigued by all that isn’t said, create a story? Capture an unknowable woman and all the secret passions, choices and compromises that make up a life?
In Machine Without Horses, Helen Humphreys explores the real life and the imagined internal life of the famous and famously private salmon-fly dresser, Megan Boyd, a craftswoman who worked for sixty years out of a bare-bones cottage in a small village in the north of Scotland. Humphreys, both present in the story and its architect, reveals with her inimitable style the complicated emotional landscape that can exist under even the most constant surface.
Melville House – $33.99
Hilarious, wry, and charming tales of bookselling in remotest Scotland
“Among the most irascible and amusing bookseller memoirs I’ve read.” –Dwight Garner, New York Times
The funny and fascinating memoir of Bythell’s experiences at the helm of The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookstore–and the delightfully unusual staff members, eccentric customers, odd townsfolk and surreal buying trips that make up his life there.
Hamish Hamilton – $22.00
From the twice-Booker-shortlisted author comes a witty and audacious examination of writing and womanhood
“Life falls apart. We try to get a grip. We try to hold it together. And then we realize that we don’t want to hold it together.”
Crystalline, witty and audacious, The Cost of Living addresses itself to the dual experiences of writing and of womanhood, examining what is essential in each. Following the acclaimed Things I Don’t Want to Know, which reflected deeply on the nature of gender politics and a life in letters, The Cost of Living returns to the same subject and to the same life, to find a writer in radical flux. If a woman dismantles her life, expands it and puts it back together in a new shape, how might she describe this new composition? “Words have to open the mind. When words close the mind you can be sure that someone has been reduced to nothingness.”
In this elegiac second instalment of her “living autobiography”, Deborah Levy considers what it means to live with value and meaning and pleasure. The Cost of Living is a vital and astonishing testimony, as distinctive, wide-ranging and original as Levy’s acclaimed novels.
Simon & Schuster – $39.99
Nonpareil science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life’s history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature.
In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level—is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection—a type of HGT.
In The Tangled Tree David Quammen, “one of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling” (Nature), chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them—such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about “mosaic” creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.
“Quammen is no ordinary writer. He is simply astonishing, one of that rare class of writer gifted with verve, ingenuity, humor, guts, and great heart” (Elle). Now, in The Tangled Tree, he explains how molecular studies of evolution have brought startling recognitions about the tangled tree of life—including where we humans fit upon it. Thanks to new technologies such as CRISPR, we now have the ability to alter even our genetic composition—through sideways insertions, as nature has long been doing. The Tangled Tree is a brilliant guide to our transformed understanding of evolution, of life’s history, and of our own human nature.