Megan Barnard, Assistant to Director Tom Staley, and Jackie Carroll, a librarian and book cataloger at the Ransom Center, collaborate to identify up-and-coming talents for the Ransom Center's contemporary authors book-collecting program. The Center collects first editions of writers identified for this program, hoping to build its holdings in the works of writers whose reputations will grow with the years. Here are their recommendations for summer reading.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book is a clever puzzle of sorts, with Mitchell weaving six stories and points in time into a single frame. The writing is lush, contemplative, and witty, with plots that keep the pages turning. It's an enthralling and impressive work.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
(Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
The second novel of this talented writer follows nine-year-old Oskar Schell on his mission to find the lock that fits a key belonging to his father, who was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Foer finds some of the most devastatingly beautiful ways to express grief and how people come to terms with it.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Spanning approximately 30 years and culminating around 9/11, this novel looks at the life of a young Bengali woman in an arranged marriage, living in the East London neighborhood of Brick Lane. It deals with the larger contemporary issues of immigration and acceptance while focusing on the emotional and physical maturity of a young woman.
A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
It's no surprise to learn, after reading this lyrical novel, that Barry is also a talented poet. He tells a moving story about the almost-forgotten Irish soldiers of World War I who fought in the British Army while their homeland erupted into a struggle for independence. He writes with compassion about the fear, confusion, and mixed loyalties of these young Irishmen. Barry's archive is housed at the Ransom Center.
Also of note are the new books of two Texas writers, Stephen Harrigan's Challenger Park (Knopf, 2006) and Elizabeth Crook's The Night Journal (Viking, 2006).