Shelf Life: Jennifer Egan

Welcome to Shelf Life,’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

The Sweet Home

Sweet Home


Greater than a decade since Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize- and Nationwide Ebook Critics Circle Award-winning A Go to From the Goon Squad comes sibling novel The Candy House (Scribner), out April 5. Characters from the previous populate the latter, together with Bix Bouton, now a tech entrepreneur with a revolutionary but controversial concept on downloading and sharing human reminiscences.

It’s the sixth novel for the Chicago-born, San Francisco-raised, Brooklyn-based Egan, together with Manhattan Seashore (winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction) and Invisible Circus (which was made right into a film starring Cameron Diaz); she has additionally written a narrative assortment.

The Virgo writer, a former PEN America president, discovered to read at three; writes novels in longhand on authorized pads earlier than typing into a pc; is a cat rescuer/fosterer and gardener/composter; is the fourth Shelf Lifer who was a Jeopardy! clue; was artist-in-residence at her alma mater College of Pennsylvania, the place she typically planned lectures whereas on the elliptical machine (her grasp’s diploma in literature is from the College of Cambridge); as soon as needed to be an archaeologist, physician, or cop (her paternal grandfather, a Chicago police officer, was private safety for President Harry Truman when he was on the town); has had jobs as a catalog mannequin, legislation agency typist, personal secretary to the Countess of Romanones; used to take beta blockers to beat a fear of public talking; and has thoughts about salad dressing.

Likes: Kitsch and collecting baseballs, sculptor Sarah Sze and vacuuming, subcultures, birding, Nineteenth-century fiction, cop reveals.

The e book that…

…made me miss a prepare cease/saved me up approach too late:

Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White did each. It’s top-of-the-line thrillers I’ve ever learn; a Gothic novel that can be a whodunnit, revealed in 1859 and that includes one of many nice literary villains—a captivating, menacing fowl lover.

…made me weep uncontrollably:

Robot Dreams by Sarah Varon. A graphic novel about love between a canine and a robotic that’s thwarted by unhealthy luck. I needed to cease studying this with my younger son as a result of I couldn’t repress my grief, and thereafter have solely checked out it by myself. I’m devastated each time, and I don’t even absolutely know why.

…I like to recommend time and again:

This 12 months, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke—the audio version specifically, learn spectacularly by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

…formed my worldview:

Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. I learn this novel as a younger teen, and it made me perceive with brutal readability that my world was a chimera. The e book has its issues (as I found lately after assigning it to undergrads with out rereading), nevertheless it altered my perspective.

…I swear I am going to end at some point:

The Demons by Heimito von Doderer: Printed in 1956, it’s a protracted, fascinating examination of Viennese elites between the 2 world wars, wherein the reader can really feel the regular rise of Naziism like an underground present progressively gaining power. The e book’s tempo is glacial, however I’ve each intention of ending it!

…I learn in a single sitting, it was that good:

Country of Origin by Don Lee. An un-put-downable thriller (and first novel!) involving a younger American girl’s disappearance into the felony night-world of Tokyo. Lee’s fiction has been exploring the complexities of race and ethnicity for many years, and he will get higher with each e book.

…made me chuckle out loud:

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. Comprises flat-out hilarious descriptions of life in upper-class England within the Thirties.

…I’d like changed into a Netflix present:

One (or each!) of Anthony Trollope’s nice sequence: the Palliser sequence, set in London, or the Barchester sequence, set in rural England. Trollope’s fiction is filled with all of the narrative goodies we are likely to search for in TV these days: a rolling forged of characters; an enormous story arc; modulation between humor and gravitas; and a broad sweep of time and alter. It’s sensible and scrumptious.

…I first purchased:

The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Hen. I used to be 10 and obsessive about houseplants; I had greater than 100 in my bed room. I nonetheless bear in mind studying from that e book {that a} plant can inform in case you are enthusiastic about harming it! Unsure if that’s true, nevertheless it has stayed with me.

…I final purchased:

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow, as a result of I’m at all times on the lookout for a paradigm shift.

…has the perfect title:

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. Genius title; I’m jealous of it! Can’t wait to learn the e book.

…has the perfect opening line:

“It began with a summons, a brunette, and a Turk. The summons was in my pocket, the brunette was in bother, and the Turk was lifeless.” You Can’t Live Forever by Harold Q. Masur, 1951.

…has a intercourse scene that may make you blush:

Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follett. A male buddy advisable this to me once I was making an attempt to jot down my first intercourse scene in The Invisible Circus. I bear in mind pondering it was nice, partly as a result of Follett manages to increase the scene over a number of pages! However I learn it in 1993, so no guarantees!

…must be on each school syllabus:

Cambridge by Caryl Phillips, a brief, riveting novel set within the early Nineteenth century and informed from the views of an enslaved man on a West Indian plantation and the sheltered, delicate Englishwoman whose father owns the plantation. A vivid reminder that our fictional imaginations can, and will, rove anyplace they need.

…I’ve re-read essentially the most:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. It’s miraculous on each degree: the sentence, the paragraph, the cultural, the mental. It’s humorous, sharp, and deeply tragic. I make new discoveries each time I learn it.

…I contemplate literary consolation meals:

Homicide mysteries, though typically they really feel like empty energy after I end. An exception: Presumed Innocent by Scott Turrow. One of many actually nice literary whodunnits. And the movie was lengthy sufficient in the past for a brand new era of readers to find the e book with out foreknowledge.

…I’d need signed by the writer:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. A buddy gave it to me for my birthday final September. As a longtime fan of Nella Larsen’s Passing, I discovered Bennet’s novel a superb entry right into a dialog I can’t get sufficient of—about identification, disguise, doppelgangers, and self-creation in American life.

…that holds the recipe to a favourite dish:

The Macaroni and Cheese recipe in The Little Big Book for Dads. I juice it up with ham, truffle oil, and cayenne pepper.

…taught me this Jeopardy!-worthy little bit of trivia:

From Susan Brind Morrow’s beautiful memoir/meditation, The Names of Things: a Greek phrase, “phrix,” which suggests “the stiffening of water within the wind, or the pores and skin in worry.”

Bonus query: If I may dwell in any library or bookstore on this planet, it could be:

The library of Alexandria—partly as an excuse to go to the Historical World!

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