July 22, 2018
MAKING BICYCLES: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY OF ROAD CYCLING By Nick Higgins
Laurence King $18
Before Lance Armstrong – who’s included in this book – and all of the doping scandals, professional road cycling was a tour de force. From becoming a replacement to the horse-drawn cart and wooden frames in the 1860s to Lycra skinsuits and tight clothes, road cycling has been a part of the fabric of this planet for the past 250 years.
Nick Higgins, a cycling enthusiast of 35 years, beautifully illustrates like a French Impressionist the evolution of a competitive and dramatic sport from the early days of the Velodome to the treacherous climbs through the Pyrenees. Oh, did we mention the Lycra?
— Jason Stahl
VACATIONLAND: TRUE STORIES FROM PAINFUL BEACHES By John Hodgman
Penguin Books, $25
A book comes along once in a blue moon that’s so enthralling, so seductive, so gripping and riveting (I think that’s enough synonyms) and so humorous (though not quite side-splitting or gut-busting) it makes you laugh aloud and board the wrong train on your commute home.
This minor setback brought me such joy because I was able to continue reading about the tribulations of this “American humorist with a mustache.”
John Hodgman, the former Daily Show with Jon Stewart correspondent and the PC to Justin Long’s Mac, has built a career selling us fake facts. In Vacationland, he tells the painful truth of dealing with middle age: Being a 40-something-year-old man on an endless journey with no rest stops in sight, trying to come to terms with the reality of being a husband and a father and the long-term effects of being an only child — and finding home.
The current 47-year-old poignantly walks us through his life of white privilege growing up in Brookline, MA, vacationing with his parents as a child then with his own family in rural western Massachusetts (where he lets his garbage rot), meandering up to the craggy and harsh beaches of the cold, dark state known as Maine (and dealing with the headaches and hardships of owning two summer homes only to accidentally buy a boat), to affording to live in Brooklyn (once he started making that TV money). You don’t need to have ever visited any of these destinations to travel in Hodgman’s shoes, realizing why he spent all those years avoiding the truth. He makes you wonder about your own wanderings and where you might end up in life. Just make sure you get on the right train.
GIVE ME YOUR HAND By Megan Abbott
Little, Brown and Company
Absolutely no one understands and captures teenage girls and their relationships quite like Megan Abbott. Her newest centers around Kit and Diana, two friends who meet at summer camp and end up in the same high school chemistry class, once Diana transfers to Kit’s school. Both fiercely competitive and reaching for the same college scholarship sponsored by their scientist idol, Diana reveals a huge secret that she’s been hiding and she probably should have kept it to herself. They eventually go their separate ways into adulthood, but ultimately meet again as professionals and we get classic Abbott — cat-and-mouse and destruction. Abbott is a staff writer for HBO’s The Deuce and with several television and film projects currently in production that are based on her previous books, you should jump on her crazy train and hold on tight.
— Emily Gatlin
THE INCENDIARIES By R.O. Kwan
Riverhead (July 31st)
When Will Kendall arrives at Edwards University as a transfer student from a Bible college, he falls in love with Phoebe Lin, a enigmatic but beautiful girl, who has recently lost her mother. She quickly becomes entangled in a cult, founded by a religious extremest with deep roots in North Korea, and Will, who has recently renounced his faith, must reckon with losing his girlfriend after he suspects her of planting a bomb that kills five people.
With so many of us losing our faith in one way or another — in terms of religion and/or humanity — it was refreshing to see Kwan use starkly contrasting points of view, from extremists to lost boys, to give a clearer picture of what we are all having to reckon with inside ourselves. She worked on The Incendiaries for ten years, and it shows. The prose is tight and lyrical, and somehow miraculously condensed into 224 pages. You almost get to the end before realizing you’re there. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but for me, it was one of those intense literary books that was satisfying because it felt rounded. There’s a bit of hope there, and isn’t that what we all need right now?