Books To Look Forward To In 2018
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
There are times when the book pile on your nightstand can feel like homework. And as 2017 comes to a close, maybe you just want to knock it all over and start afresh. Barrie Hardymon has some new assignments for us. She's been reading a couple of books coming in 2018. Barrie is the books editor here at WEEKEND EDITION and is often responsible for guiding willing and unwilling souls toward fiction. Hi, Barrie.
BARRIE HARDYMON, BYLINE: Hi, Linda. I think I've guided your unwilling soul from time to time.
HARDYMON: You've been both.
WERTHEIMER: No kidding.
WERTHEIMER: With the understanding that your taste is your own...
WERTHEIMER: ...As I know very well, what have you brought to talk about today?
HARDYMON: Well, so I found 2017 a heavy year. And the books that I wanted to read - I really wanted to sort of get out of the world and into a new world. So when I dug into my pile of books from 2018, I gravitated toward books that were sort of science fiction-related. One was about Greek myth. And they were all books by women, and they were all sort of about women's experience.
WERTHEIMER: OK. So what's first?
HARDYMON: So the first book I picked up was a book called "Circe" by Madeleine Miller. And you may remember she wrote the much-loved book "Song Of Achilles" a couple years ago. It was a retelling of the "Iliad." This new book is about Cerci, who you may remember from the "Odyssey" as one of the witches that Odysseus meets on his travels home. And Cerci - I had imagined her to be this witch with great powers. And, you know, she's turning the men into pigs.
The Cerci of this book doesn't really have power. She's just a witch. She can do spells, which I think is kind of one of the things that I really loved about the way she approached this character because, you know, we think of witches and gods as not having very many gradations because, you know, if you've got magic, you're different than me. But in this way, you really understood what Cerci's particular experience of her powers were. There's this amazing passage where she goes through this very difficult newborn period.
You don't really think of - you know, of the witches and goddesses of Greek myth as being mothers and, you know, having to get up and do nighttime feedings. This Cerci does. And it's so wonderful. And I will say that in the last page of this book - this doesn't happen very often to me - I was really weeping. And this is a book of Greek mythology.
HARDYMON: So, you know, ostensibly I knew what happened. It's in the last pages of the "Odyssey." So, anyway, this one I really can't recommend highly enough. It arrives in April.
WERTHEIMER: So from myth, let's travel to science fiction. I've never really been into science fiction (laughter).
HARDYMON: Well, sometimes, I put you there, but yes, that may be true.
HARDYMON: So there's one called "Red Clocks," which is coming up in January by Leni Zumas. And it imagines a world in which abortion has become completely outlawed. And more than that, actually, a personhood amendment has granted rights to embryos. So you can also not have in-vitro fertilization. They call the border between the U.S. and Canada the pink wall, where women are trying to go to either have IVF or to have abortions. It has this beautiful sort of literary top over this, like, highly relevant science-fiction setting.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I understand that next week, there's a book coming out that you admire but you're sort of concerned about recommending?
HARDYMON: Yes. So I think this might be one of the most important books of the year. You can't unread it. It is a book called "The Perfect Nanny." And it came out in France last year. It's written by a woman called Leila Slimani. She based it on a couple of murders that happened in New York. You might remember there was a nanny that murdered two of her young charges back in - I think in 2012. And she imagined this.
So I will just go ahead and tell you that this novel begins with the words, the baby is dead. So at that point, I'd already started it (laughter). And I thought, I'll just keep going. And I was - it was a - absolutely murdered to me, this book. It says so much about what it is to - I think not just to be a mother but also to be a child - the relationship between, you know, the mom and the person who takes care of your kids. If you've ever taken care of a kid, even if, just on a bus, someone has handled you a child for five seconds as they rummage through their purse, this will do something to you.
She writes so beautifully about these sort of intersections of race and class, which are so prevalent whenever we talk about, you know, babysitting and nannyhood and all of that world. And I - at the end of reading this book, I was so devastated, but I really felt like I was looking at the world through new eyes. Tough stuff.
WERTHEIMER: Thank you. That's Barrie Hardymon. She is the books editor here at WEEKEND EDITION.
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