July 2013 In Books: What Bustle Staffers Are Reading This Month

"I’ve been captured by Ben Stroud’s extraordinary story collection Byzantium. It is, at times, mind-numbing what Stroud can do with the form: the power he can extract from it, the way he can transport with it, and how he can establish worlds both near and far, in both place and time, with fortitude that rivals any novel. That the book is a debut is almost laughable; I stop and wonder how it’s possible to evoke on such a spectrum without having lived about eight prior lives." — Meredith Turits

'Byzantium' by Ben Stroud

"I’ve been captured by Ben Stroud’s extraordinary story collection Byzantium. It is, at times, mind-numbing what Stroud can do with the form: the power he can extract from it, the way he can transport with it, and how he can establish worlds both near and far, in both place and time, with fortitude that rivals any novel. That the book is a debut is almost laughable; I stop and wonder how it’s possible to evoke on such a spectrum without having lived about eight prior lives." — Meredith Turits

'Mr. Fox' by Helen Oyeyemi

"As soon as I read the last sentence I almost flipped back to the beginning to start again. I'm still considering it. Oyeyemi mixes fantasy with more realistic stories; her own fictional narrative with the narrative of her author main character and his muse, the made-up character and figment of his imagination. But none of it is nearly as simple as that." — Alyssa Shapiro

'The Joke' by Milan Kundera

"Apart from having a totally gripping plot about a heartthrob Communist defector, it's full of great lines about love, betrayal, revenge- all the big things. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being (also by Kundera) a few months ago and I definitely preferred The Joke." — Alice Robb

'Her' by Christa Parravani

"Her is beautifully written, yes, but its real strength comes from its honesty. Parravani's thoughts on and words towards her sister are brutally revealing, and demonstrate the unusual intimacy of their relationship." — Rachel Simon

'What The Nanny Saw' by Fiona Neill

"Neill's novel follows Ali, an English girl who takes a job as nanny for wealthy financiers' four children to pay for her university tuition. It's grippingly, melodically written: a nostalgic snapshot of the family's life together as Ali takes care of everything from the shadows. Even though technically it's a thriller, because you know that any second the pre-lapsarian moment will end and the family will be plunged into financial and relationship ruin, it's written slowly and with incredibly rounded, endearing, three-dimensional characters. I missed them when it finished." — Jenny Hollander

'What Maisie Knew' by Henry James

"I just finished reading Henry James's What Maisie Knew, which no one ever mentioned during my English major days, but directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel seemed to think was worth making into a movie. I found it in a book closet of a magazine, picked it up on a whim, and, hey, thanks publicity department, because I loved it. People didn't really see the movie, but I highly recommend the book. It's the story of a little girl who has to suffer the consequences of her horrible parents' vicious divorce. No one can match Henry James for sex euphemisms. No one." — Ariana Tobin

'The Spectacular Now' by Tim Tharp

"I picked this up after hearing such positive reviews of the film version. I expected a light-hearted romance story (which is something I usually pass on) but found that the book was much more of an introspective look and coming-of-age story rather than a love story. It surprised me that I could feel so strongly for such a flawed protagonist." — Kaitlin Reilly

'Freedom' by Jonathan Franzen

"I'm reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, and he just compared earbuds to larvae — lots of little writerly treats in this one. When I read The Corrections, I underwent a vicious cycle of hating the characters, relating to them and thereby loving them, then hating them and myself. I'm expecting some similar roller coasters of self-disdain with this one already." — Claire Luchette

'Consider the Lobster and Other Essays' by David Foster Wallace

"So far, each essay in this collection has made me laugh out loud and think about something new... usually on every page. I'm sold. The (not-so-hidden) grammar snob in me is rejoicing over the latest essay I read, 'Authority and American Usage'. As always, DFW is charming, articulate, and intelligent, and I highly recommend giving his creative nonfiction a chance." — Kelsey Thomas

'Flight Behavior' by Barbara Kingsolver

"I've loved everything I've ever read by Barbara Kingsolver. She has a knack for telling a story with both insight and compassion, something I'm always looking for in authors. Her latest book, Flight Behavior, is set in Kingsolver's native Appalachian Mountains and deals with the implications of climate change for one rural community. I'm really excited to see how she handles it, since climate change is a subject that hasn't been taken up much by novelists... yet." — Emma Cueto

'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley

"Dystopias are all the rage nowadays, so I decided to hearken back to one of the first and (arguably) greatest of them all. I was immediately horrified — and utterly captivated. Huxley's novel is stunning both thematically and literarily, and definitely worth a read (or a re-read!)." — Allyson Gronowitz

'What It Is' by Lynda Barry

"This is a book that defies genre categorization. Each page is a beautiful full-color collage complete with both hand-drawn pictures as well as hand-written text. There is no single narrative, but rather a series of snapshot memories illustrated in comic book form, followed by often philosophical questions that get your creative juices flowing, such as 'When do we stop drawing and start writing? And why?' I would recommend it to anyone suffering from writer's block or anyone trying to get back in touch with her inner child. " — Kayla Higgins

'And the Mountains Echoed' by Khaled Hosseini

"Hosseini already wowed me with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. This time, he delivers again. And the Mountains Echoed follows the lives of different people, starting with a family of Afghan villagers. The characters' lives are seamlessly intertwined in complex ways, and you get to know them through different points of view. The writing is beautifully detailed and the story just keeps getting more gripping. A novel to dive into completely." — Nathalie O’Neill