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Every season when I pick the novels we’ll read in my Hot Off the Press class, I wade through a big pile of books. It’s usually challenging to narrow down the choices for the class, and I often wish we could discuss more than one book a month.

This time, for our first read, I chose a debut novel called Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, a beautifully-written story about something that goes horribly wrong within a family and an exploration of love, loss, and memory.

I loved Idaho and I highly recommend it, but this week the book I didn’t pick is getting a lot of media attention, and I wanted to call it out. It’s called Exit Westby Moshin Hamid. I would describe it as a mix of literary and science fiction. It features refugees in an unnamed war-torn city.  The twist is that they are able to escape through a portal that instantly transports them elsewhere. One of the reasons the book is getting a lot of attention now is because the plight of refugees is very much on people’s minds. (Listen to an interview with the author on “Radio Times” HERE.)  This book is an example of how fiction helps us understand the world we live in.

Another literary news item has to do with an author I’ve long admired, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I first encountered her when I read a quirky book calledEncyclopedia of an Ordinary LIfe, a memoir in encyclopedic format. Cute, clever, and fun to read. These days, we stock many of her children’s picture books at Open Book Bookstore, and they are charming and wonderfully self-affirming. Two of my favorites are Exclamation Point!  and Spoon, both of which are about feeling good about who you are. And since I am the author of Elements of the Table, how could I not love a book that tells such a charming story using silverware?

A few days ago I came across a new piece by Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times. It’s called “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” The provocative title drew me right in, but the subject matter smacked me in the gut. The piece is a love letter to her husband of 26 years written as she is dying from ovarian cancer. She is celebrating their marriage and mourning the next 26 years that she now knows she isn’t going to have. I send my best wishes out to her through the airwaves and encourage you to read this heartbreakingly beautiful column.

I encourage you to read these books!

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