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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks

BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks

Joined September 2016

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Devil House | JOHN. DARNIELLE
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Truth in True Crime is impossible, unless you can learn the entire complicated life of each assailant, accomplice, and victim. The author Darnielle gets us to feel for all three. Devil House says the ethical way to tell the true story of a tragic murder is to put yourself in the place of every single person involved — to understand them, bring them to life to a loving audience, like the best fiction writers giving us the best fictional characters.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
No One Is Talking about This | Patricia Lockwood
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In Lockwood‘s book, going on the Internet is called “opening the portal.” The narrator seems to have a built a professional life there as a humor writer, until a new arrival calls her back through the door. A baby born with Proteus Syndrome, too rare for both the physical and digital world, transcends both places like the cover‘s circular rainbow, calling everyone nearby to attention and appearing as a kind of short-lived miracle.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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The parents have ruined the AirBNB, and the younger generation is ashamed of the irresponsible partiers who refuse to address the mess. The outside world crumbles too. Our best chance to repair a broken place: the arrival of new life. As we grow, we bear responsibility for our home. We are more likely to put out fires when we see the innocent who truly had nothing to do with them. We are moved to act because their presence feels like a miracle.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Promise | Damon Galgut
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Amor has only felt the full love of her family when she was struck by lightning — her father held her in his arms, her mother, brother, and sister ran to her aid. Since that childhood moment, Amor has been left aside, called only for funerals. And the youngest sibling always dutifully returns. Because if you don‘t have family, what do you have? As Amor sits on the roof of an old home, watching from a distance, you can guess her answer: Freedom.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The New York Trilogy | Paul Auster
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In The New York Trilogy, three private investigations fail, or succeed in upending the lives of the investigators. In fact, the studied are frequently in control of the studier, much like an author guides a reader. Watching a mysterious character only leads to self-destruction—a strange feeling for someone who didn‘t quite love a book but didn‘t quit, and knew the only way out was to reach the final page.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Lost Children Archive | Valeria Luiselli
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In “Archive,” remembering those lost to history (the Apaches) or the present (refugees) is a noble effort. When you dedicate your life to archiving, however, you inevitably leave others behind and unrecorded. Two documentarians tear up their old lives and bring their kids (and us) on a long, pretty dull car ride, made worse when you see the selfishness of the effort, and how commemoration of some makes others disappear.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
City of Thieves: A Novel | David Benioff
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Kolya can talk his way out of anything: a jail cell, the den of a cannibal killer, a prison camp — not because he‘s a con artist but because he tells a good story and knows how to connect with people. He‘s a writer. Our best authors, like Kolya, like Lev the poet, like Benioff, weave a tale that — no matter how farfetched — brings light and hope to our darkest, most brutal times, where there‘s no food, no peace, and no happy ending in sight.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
An Orchestra of Minorities | Chigozie Obioma
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“Nonso, you have destroyed yourself because of me,” Ndali says to her lover just before he sells his chicken farm and faces a new life in Cyprus — one filled with unexpected suffering, dealt cruelly by others. When Chinonso returns to Nigeria, there‘s nothing left of him. While one can understand Nonso for fighting fire with fire, Orchestra suggests grace is found in those who quietly accept their fate, who find others in need, and wail with them.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Real Life: A Novel | Brandon Taylor
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Panpan

Wallace, a biochem student from Alabama, hates it at his midwest university, and who can blame him? He‘s in a story where nothing happens and every conversation — between co-workers, lovers, or “friends” — is an over-sensitive fight about feeling ignored. There‘s no drama here — nobody wants anything interesting — unless you count constant arguing. Wallace takes 300 pages deciding if he wants to leave. For me, the decision is way too easy.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Hamnet | Maggie O'Farrell
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Like her hawk, Agnes sets her husband free to fly away, to go to London to stage the great plays in his mind. In life, we leave the ones we love — sometimes to chase a vision, other times to accept the cruel fate of death. The joy in life is found in the return — when we reach our hand out in faith and our loved ones land home. If a call goes unanswered, use every kind of possible art to go out and find them.

SamAnne Great statement on the book. 13mo
BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks Thanks, SamAnne! 13mo
16 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Mehso-so

In debate, Adam must always prep for the “spread,” a confusing barrage of so much information that defense against each point is impossible. “Topeka”‘s slow set of character reflections finds narrative-changing power in repurposing language, in how debate becomes rap-battle with just a few tweaks. But there‘s peace when words and their meanings dissolve, no wires are crossed, and everyone shouts the same simple thing into the unintelligible noise.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Shuggie Bain | Douglas Stuart
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In Shuggie Bain, alcoholism flips the parent/child relationship. Young Shuggie takes care of his mother Agnes, and Agnes is the one who cries and lashes out — poisoned by the pull of booze and the men who take advantage of women with such addictions. The novel is heartbreaking because a smart boy with a rescuer‘s heart is left to find his own way in an unwelcome world. You can‘t save everyone, he learns, or you‘ll never live your own life.

CarolynM Great review 1y
16 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Exhalation: Stories | Ted Chiang
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While the complexity of Chiang‘s stories often left me feeling far behind, the best science fiction should do just that. I don‘t need to understand sci-fi as much as be there to explore its big questions. Questions like: In a fixed future, do our choices matter? Yes, says Exhalation. A mind, to reach its potential, needs cultivation by other minds. The choices we make for each other matter most. We must love, teach, and, of course, make Art.

Smrloomis Great review! 1y
13 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Hunger Games: Volume 1 | Suzanne Collins
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There‘s an unexpected layer to this Battle Royale — a sad marriage on the battlefield. Katniss dresses Peeta‘s wounds, does all the hunting, feigns love, and waits around for an end to her misery. The Hunger Games audience surprisingly responds not to kills but to demonstrations of love, even when they‘re performed. When the world is hard enough as it is, our real hope is not to survive, but to find a perfect partner to run through the fire with.

Reggie Awww that was a nice observation. 1y
11 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Nobody is perfect in Deacon King Kong — not Hot Sausage drinking on the job, or Tommy Elefante moving booze from the docks, or Sister Gee hiding the truth now and then, and certainly not Sportcoat, who begins the novel firing his gun. Officer Potts, another imperfect soul, says: “A lot of saints don‘t start out well, but they end that way.” The good people “clean the dirt,” — around them, and in themselves, and trust when their work is done.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Quichotte | Salman Rushdie
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Quichotte is a blur, in the most exciting way. A spy author‘s new story about a dreamer named Quichotte, who‘s on a quest for the heart of a popular TV star, begins to feel like his own life. Our world is a blur: A game-show host is President; our biggest phonies appear on “reality” TV. Such an indecipherable mess can be depressing or it can be hopeful — our wildest, most impossible ideas have the chance to be brought to life and considered Real.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
1776 | David McCullough
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Events looked so grim for Washington‘s troops in the fall of 1776, I found myself thinking, “How do we end up winning this thing?” McCullough‘s book explores a great victory made possible by a series of small miracles. While there‘s luck involved in weather and timing, however, we see there is a super-strength earned and achieved when you have good leaders that lead by example and keep you walking one step at a time, in the dark, across the ice.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Chances Are . . . | Richard Russo
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Can Mickey, a rock-and-roll dreamer, change, or is his identity as fixed as his unlucky draft number? For a book about a disappearance, “Chances Are” has a lot of slow drives, bike rides, and recliner naps. For a reunion between supposed besties, the three former college bros rarely spend a moment all together. My issue with the book is the point Russo makes: The men who‘ve been friends for 45 years don‘t seem to know each other at all.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Overstory: A Novel | Richard Powers
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When removed from their kind, humans can change in the most remarkable ways, says The Overstory. At first glance, seven characters experience a range of misfortunes, from paralysis to prison time. Life‘s lightning strikes take them out of their usual world. The limitations, however, bring stillness, and stillness is a seed that grows. Life‘s pain is temporary—a pore on a leaf, on a branch, high in the crown of too many trees to count.

ImperfectCJ I really like this review. 2y
SamAnne Loved,loved loved. 2y
15 likes3 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Pachinko | Min Jin Lee
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New York feels like home to me. I moved here 10 years ago, however, and I‘m sure someone born in Brooklyn might scoff at the idea that I consider myself a “New Yorker.” Lee brings us through generations to show us that home is not a place; it‘s people — the ones that love us most.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Sometimes where we feel safest is where we least belong. We move to big cities, join protests, and find new friends in the strangest of places. While Tequila Leila‘s crew seemed too unlikely to me, I appreciate the book‘s ideas about life‘s turmoil and death‘s peace. The joys here on Earth are found in the rumbling present. Crying out, after all, is the best way to let everyone know you‘re alive.

CaroPi Try to watch the video of the author in YouTube about the book. It give a nice perspective 2y
BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks Will do. Thanks! 2y
Kempii I loved this book and its quirky characters. I need to check out the video you mentioned, @CaroPi 2y
15 likes3 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Everything Under | Daisy Johnson
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In Everything Under, words have the power to isolate. When you share a language that outsiders could never understand, you are kept close. Words, however, also have a way of setting an idea into being. When Sarah calls something a "Bonak,” she is, in fact, calling something — a fear, a monster, death. Throughout the novel — slow, winding, like a river — the characters learn how impossible it is to catch anything once it‘s in motion.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Every year, 22 men meet at a hotel to re-enact a 1985 career-ending injury of Joe Theismann. The weekend is full of possibility and inevitability. By Saturday, a chosen “Theismann” will be cut down. The 22 try to find the exact moment between thriving and dying, but the weekend is about celebration—cramming into Room 432, understanding that our roads have fateful tragic ends and life‘s exciting unpredictability lies in how we connect with others.

Reggie I really liked this book and how neurotic some of the men were. 3y
BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks Yeah. Agreed, Reggie. One of my favorite books I‘ve read recently 3y
8 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
East of Eden | John Steinbeck
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“A great and lasting story is about everyone,” says Sam Hamilton, my favorite character in East of Eden. In Steinbeck‘s novel, we watch how guilt burdens three generations of characters. Guilt, however, is part of everyone‘s story—the story of Cain is a story of today. Although “Eden” is about us all, Steinbeck reminds us that we have the power as individuals to make our own path, and to build good or bad lives with the land we are given.

BookwormM One of my favourite books ever 3y
19 likes1 comment
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
4321 | Paul Auster
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What a comforting idea when life isn‘t going as planned: You have lived a different life, and you‘ll live another one too. Even more comforting: No matter what happens in this life or the next, in version 4.1 where you‘re rich or 26.1 where you‘re poor, there is always a part of us, our most special aspect, our soul, that finds a way to shine in every iteration. No matter the circumstances, writers find a way to write.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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In The Long Take, U.S. cities have no past. Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco are constantly tearing down their histories. The root of a city‘s evolution here is destruction—whether by bulldozer, by law, by violence, by poverty, or by earthquake. Our lives, too, can age like the faded signs of a storefront. Our redemption lies in destroying our foundations and rebuilding again.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Asymmetry | Lisa Halliday
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We seek order in life's pandemonium. Governments make laws, partners declare love, and artists write stories, imposing form on life‘s most amorphous parts. Asymmetry‘s chapters are, well, asymmetric, as if from separate novels. And that‘s the point: Characters coexist, but who says their paths must cross? Life, after all, cannot be neatly taken down on a page. But life, truly portrayed, also has a formlessness that‘s not the most exciting read.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
There There: A novel | Tommy Orange
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In There There, nobody likes mirrors. Tony hates what fetal alcohol syndrome has done to his face. Orvil sees himself in a headdress and feels inauthentic. Searching for identity, to find some There There, 12 characters go to the Great Oakland Powwow. Despite individual burdens, characters feel an urge to live, to tell their story. What results is an interconnected mosaic of experiences — a more honest reflection of what it means to be Indian.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Sing, Unburied, Sing | Jesmyn Ward
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In Sing, Unburied, Sing, each character seeks a return home. Home, however, is not so much a place as it is a kind of peace, a song combining generations old and new. We can only go home when we have our biggest questions answered—answers that allow us to forgive. And if we cannot forgive, we remain as ghosts, crying out to the living who know pain well enough to recognize and respond to its call.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Caregiving has a hidden, destructive power. The best mothers and nannies surrender themselves entirely, taking the biggest hits -- to their lives and dreams -- to protect their young. Louise has spent her years slowly offering pieces of herself. When the nanny is finally reduced to nothing, she unleashes her buried fury to do the unthinkable. At the book's conclusion, though, I was left asking the same question I had at the beginning: Why?

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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There is a way that the world works, where the owners get to make the rules and those below must follow. To escape society‘s ideas of ownership—of land, of your own body—you can live in the woods like John, Cathy, and Danny. You can even fight back with great strength. But you‘ll inevitably be found, outnumbered, and subjected to the demands of the powerful. To be truly free, the book suggests, you have to burn it all down.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Great Believers | Rebecca Makkai
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One of the surprisingly haunting scenes of “Believers” is when Yale emerges from a party to find that all of his friends have disappeared. In the novel, AIDS is a kind of war—killing loved ones, brothers, in an instant. The book does its best to reassure us that death is not the end, that we all live life together, again and again. And just in case that‘s not true, there‘s always art — the next best way to exist beyond this one life.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Washington Black | Esi Edugyan
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Life takes Washington Black from the heights of hot air balloons to the depths of the ocean, from Barbados to the Antarctic. There is a type of freedom in roaming the world, just as there is freedom in painting a blank canvas or choosing to explore the stars. We can try to escape in life, to arrive to new places, but we are bound to Earth and its realities. The ultimate freedom for the novel‘s characters lies in the departure, the return home.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Milkman | Anna Burns
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In Milkman, the sky is blue and there‘s no sense in seeing the many colors of a sunset. To survive, you hide your finer details.

In a world of black and white, the only color we get is from our main character, who reveals to us and rarely to others. The scattered, name-free stream of consciousness is often exhausting, but we at least have her thoughts. When you don‘t show who you are, people are left to guess — and they frequently guess wrong.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Mars Room: A Novel | Rachel Kushner
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The moment we‘re born, anything is possible. Then, the rules begin. Our lives are restricted by the parents we‘re given, the city we live in, the school we go to, the person we partner with, the job we have. In “Mars Room,” the dream is freedom. If you break away and do make it to the woods, you could end up anywhere between Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski. The joy of life is being given the chance to carve your own path.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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What is it about Friends exactly? Is it even that funny? Isn‘t it dated? Don‘t we quote Seinfeld way more? Miller emphasizes that the secret to the series‘ success, decades after its 1994 debut, relies less on memorable jokes and more on undeniable chemistry—the kind between the cast members that feels familiar and mirrors our own best memories, of when we were young and unsure, but laughing with our best friends, together in one room.

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War and Turpentine: A novel | Stefan Hertmans
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In “Turpentine,” Hertsman brings together a family‘s generations through his own union of fiction, non-fiction, photos, and paintings. When we want to learn about our heroes, we often turn to idealized, grand representations—perhaps in art or writing. Hertmans reminds us that we can discover things far more revealing and true in the tiniest of objects: A watch, a bullet, a stroke of paint, even the individual words in a beautifully written book.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Exit West: A Novel | Mohsin Hamid
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We never know where Saeed and Nadia are “from”; the novel‘s setting—and the idea of home—is the world itself. Every character, major or minor, is migrating—through time, through relationships, through new communities. As hope is lost and civil war rages, Saeed and Nadia go through magic doors, leaving behind a past world and entering an exciting, unknown new one. Such a leap of faith binds us all—a heartening idea when we are at our most divided.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
History of Wolves | Emily Fridlund
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Sometimes you don‘t need words to understand what someone is trying to tell you. Love and fear are emotions easily sensed. In “Wolves,” however, final verdicts depend on action, and most characters — knowing they‘re prey — play dead to survive.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders
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Historians observe from the outside, and can barely even agree on those details; we only truly know people if we get inside their heads. Bardo‘s ghosts do just that—and they find we all, from powerful Presidents to innocent children, carry heartbreak. In this life or the next, we must make our most important decisions by walking in each other‘s shoes and feeling each other‘s pain — as much as our nature will allow.

5 likes1 stack add
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
The Girl on the Train | The Girl on the Train
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From the train, Rachel makes up stories for the people she passes by, filling in the blankness with fantasies. When Rachel meets them, however, they still feel empty. Most are hiding, giving up, or figuring out who they are. So Tom feels like Scott, Rachel feels like Anna, and everybody blurs together. Even the characters who tell us the most had me acting like Rachel as she unravels the mystery—confused but mainly asking, “Do I know you?”

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Between the World and Me | Ta-Nehisi Coates
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As Stephon Clark offers another example of injustice, this book urges us to take a closer look at America‘s foundation — a story of plunder more than progress, says Coates. Despite the serious message, I—perhaps foolishly—expected hope. After all, I felt happy as the author described the joy of life‘s unexpected paradises in Howard, NYC, and Paris. But as he concludes his loving letter to his son, I felt a warning: Beware the emptiness of dreams.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Priestdaddy: A Memoir | Patricia Lockwood
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In "Priestdaddy," there is a higher power, but it belongs to words. Although Patricia's sex jokes and twisted humor often make her the family "blasphemer," I felt more faith from her than her Catholic-priest Dad, frequently aloof, in his underwear, or upstairs haplessly shredding on the guitar. Yet both are using the gifts they've been given -- poetic unpredictability and a passion for the next note -- to find life's greater light.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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In "Fortune," the past is a place -- one that characters feels homesick for, leading an engineer to bring a dead president back to digital life; a warden to revisit his treatment of former prisoners; and a defector to turn two helium tanks and a chair into a rooftop flight to the only home he knows: North Korea. The journey to the past feels impossible, yet inevitable, and the book argues that there is an honor in taking off and making the trip.

2 likes1 stack add
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
All That Man Is | David Szalay
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You only get glimpses of the 9 unconnected characters—all experiencing a crisis while traveling in Europe. Szalay moves on just before each man's fate is determined, making every chapter just “a moment‘s immersion in the texture of existence." Each story blends into one common experience: of being disoriented, unfulfilled, cast away. What is "all that man is" exactly? Perhaps alone — that is, until all of the stories of the lost come together.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
Universal Harvester | John Darnielle
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In "Harvester," a video-store clerk finds disturbing, hard-to-decipher home-video footage spliced into the films--even She's All That (the nerve!). The book demonstrates the drawing power of darkness and mystery. Although the creator never truly articulates the motives behind the VHS hacks, we are left with more sympathetic guesses. Art--from great films to viral videos--is perhaps a call to the viewer: Don't abandon me. Or more simply: Find me.

4 likes1 stack add
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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Conventionality is a form of security -- going along to get along. Once Yeong-hye decides to be a vegetarian, we see a variety of aggressive behavior, often in an attempt to return her to a more socially acceptable way of life; force-feeding is only the beginning. Yeong-hye rejects her human-ness and wants to become a tree. The book concludes with a striking idea: how impossible it is to live in society and truly waste away to nothing.

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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
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"It's chilling how their minds change," someone says about young Johanna, captured by Indians, with the glare to prove it. As newsman Capt. Kidd takes the girl to relatives, we see how our own minds are formed by the tales of others -- fact and fiction that determines drapes are ridiculous, a roaming chicken is free dinner, and saving a captive is "right." Our life's mission: to deliver the stories that fill the "great holes" in our understanding.

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A bomb explodes in Delhi, killing two boys instantly and taking its time -- decades -- impacting the survivors. Mahajan explores the common question after such senseless attacks: What makes someone do such a thing? In the book's most unsettling scene, a formerly peaceful activist believes he has a bomb implanted in his chest. What a scary idea: that we are all ticking, waiting to explode, either in joy and awakening or violence and madness.

riversong153 This book was awesome, but really sad! No one wins here! Question, I don‘t know if this went over my head or not. Do you think Ayud (idk if I‘m spelling correctly, I did audio) really had a bomb put in his chest or was he just delirious because he was hungry and dehydrated? 5y
BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks Fair point. It was unclear to me at first if he was hallucinating or if he was truly being operated on. (I wondered if it was reality because he did manage to leave his locked room somehow and end up on the beach.) And if it was real, perhaps they just told him as a form of psychological torture. Given his state, however, my guess was that he basically dreamed one of the main themes of the book, that there's something explosive inside all of us. 5y
3 likes2 comments
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BaBaBaBillyAndTheBooks
TransAtlantic: A Novel | Colum McCann
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We all have the urge to jump off ledges, to sail into the great unknown, and to only "develop our flight patterns on the way down." Although the pace of TransAtlantic, at times, felt like a long trip in the air, McCann's book shows us that Taking the Leap is a timeless act. Our boldest decisions are sustained and spurred on by the echoes of past risk-takers, their dreams tied to our own, propelling us over life's thrilling, unpredictable waters.