Our May Book Club picks are all about questioning what you know. Every book on this list, including Manuel Gonzalez’s incendiary, action-packed thriller, Nancy Isenberg’s examination of class in America, and Chuck Klosterman’s book-length essay urging us to quite literally question our commonly-held ideas, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (the television adaptation of which premiered on Hulu just last month), all invite us to re-think our realities.
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzalez, 416 pages, Fiction
In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack. Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, 368 pages, Fiction
Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.
White Trash, the 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg, 480 pages, Nonfiction
But What if We’re Wrong by Chuck Klosterman, 288 pages, Nonfiction
But What If We’re Wrong? is a book of original, reported, interconnected pieces, which speculate on the likelihood that many universally accepted, deeply ingrained cultural and scientific beliefs will someday seem absurd. Covering a spectrum of objective and subjective topics, the book attempts to visualize present-day society the way it will be viewed in a distant future. Klosterman cites original interviews with a wide variety of thinkers and experts — including George Saunders, David Byrne, Jonathan Lethem, Alex Ross, Kathryn Schulz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Junot Díaz, Amanda Petrusich, Ryan Adams, Dan Carlin, Nick Bostrom, and Richard Linklater.
Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore, 256 pages, Nonfiction
From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the missing longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.” Joe Gould’s Teeth is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling and ferocious
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 311 pages, Fiction
In this seminal work of speculative fiction, the Booker Prize-winning author asks: In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…. Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and literary tour de force.
What are you reading this month? Share your May reads with us on Twitter @texasbookfest !