Lit: A Column About Good Books (May)

America Pacifica by Anna North

The survivors of a second ice age have huddled on the island of America Pacifica, one of the planet’s last habitable places. 18-year-old Darcy’s winding search for her missing mother unravels long-buried secrets about the island, which has evolved into a claustrophobic reflection of social stratification. To describe America Pacifica, I’ve often used the comparison of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games meets Waterworld, and I mean that in a nice way. Though the book isn’t being marketed as young adult fiction, I think it fits the bill, and again, I mean that as a compliment. I’m not a YA expert, but the more I read in the genre the more I realize that the “young adult” label is really just a less pretentious way of saying bildungsroman. With a richly told narrative and a brave but relatable heroine, America Pacifica is among a handful of titles that make a strong case that YA should be taken seriously as a genre.

Though the dystopia of author Anna North’s imagination is fully realized on the page, America Pacifica reads like a debut. (It seems worth noting that North is also a contributor writer at Jezebel, for those who visit Gawker sites). One can hardly fault North for borrowing heavily from her influences, but sometimes those influences are just too bland — namely the Big Brother-like dictatorship that acts as the central antagonist of the book, which at best solicits a menacing yawn from the reader. But this is a story that’s character driven. The journey Darcy takes, battling equal parts self-doubt and authoritarian government, is nearly as satisfying as anything Suzanne Collins or Markus Zusak has to offer.

Read If You Like: To read casting news about The Hunger Games movie.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

There’s a chapter in Bossypants when Tina Fey recalls balancing her Saturday Night Live appearances as Sarah Palin, attempting to accommodate Oprah’s schedule, and planning her daughter’s Peter Pan-themed birthday party, which sums up the entire experience of reading Bossypants: it’s chaotic, unfocused, and extremely funny. I laughed more in that section than I have in the last two seasons of 30 Rock combined.

The beginning of the book is a little slow, but you can skip around in Bossypants. It’s divided up into short, digestible chapters with very little overriding structure (it’s like Fey knows you’re going to read it in the bathroom). Those expecting a tell-all with horror stories about terrible SNL hosts will be disappointed. But that’s never been Fey’s M.O. — she is funny without being snarky, self-deprecating but never bitter.

And I can’t say it enough times: this book is very, very funny.

Read If You Like: Things written by Woody Allen. TC mark

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  • Grace Jung

    hahaha this is great!

  • Anna

    Thanks! Looking forward to hearing from you each month.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    THANK YOU SO MUCH.

  • jJ

    Kevin this is awesome, thanks so much for sharing.

  • soulunsold

    THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. Looking forward to future columns!

  • soulunsold

    Also, “I believe the best literature is being written right now. There’s just an overwhelming number of books out there, and hopefully, this column will help identify the ones worth reading.”

    This is so true.

  • anonymous

    i love the idea of this series, but you give too much away in your reviews! if the idea is that we will then read the books ourselves, you should leave some of it to be discovered.

  • ZaneEatsWorld

    This is good. Yes. Yay.

  • LitNit

    My friend's book made the list and it seems like a pretty fair review of it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/isabelle.a.ferreira Isabelle Ferreira

    thanks for just making my summer reading list. looking forward to it.

  • Kuboaa

    I’ll get around to these–someday. As it is, I’m about halfway through Donald Barthelme’s suggested reading list: http://www.ilxor.com/ILX/Threa

  • Hotmail

    Where the nonfiction at

    • knguyen

      I'll admit that I don't have as good of a grip on new nonfiction, but here are a few newish titles that I'd recommend:

      “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” by Gabrielle Hamilton (wonderful memoir about becoming a chef)

      “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer (fun but deeply considered story about training for the US Memory Championship)

      “Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II” by Mitchell Zuckoff (an unbelievable adventure through and through (with cannibals!), much like “Unbroken” by Lauren Hillenbrand)

  • mack

    this is wonderful!

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