Excerpts Catapult Staff Reads
What we’re reading and loving.
I’m reading Writings from Ancient Egypt , translated by Toby Wilkinson. It’s an overview of Ancient Egyptian writing and literature that spans more than two millennia. There’s some comfort in discovering that ancient scribes shared some of our modern problems—uncertainty in the face of political unrest, the complicated negotiation between living a good life and the inevitability of death. This got dark! But it’s fascinating stuff. Stories endure.
—Casey Gonzalez, Creative Project Manager; Associate Editor, Black Balloon
A searing new essay by Jared Yates Sexton, the journalist who first reported from inside a Trump campaign rally. Sexton is critical of the left and the right’s totemic use of the book Hillbilly Elegy: “Traditionally this would’ve been a Fox News kind of book— the network featured an excerpt on their site that focused on Vance’s introduction to “elite culture” during his time at Yale—but Vance’s glorified self-help tome was also forwarded by networks and pundits desperate to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, and the author was essentially transformed into Privileged America’s Sherpa into the ravages of Post-Recession U.S.A.”
— Jennifer Abel Kovitz, Associate Publisher
I’m reading The Irresponsible Magician by Rebekah Rutkoff. With magic, you’re never told what’s real and what isn’t. The same can be said for Rutkoff’s collection in which reality continuously bumps up against fiction. If you like your art criticism in the form of made-up interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Carolee Schneemann, then this book is for you.
—Allie Wuest, Social Media Editor; Editorial Assistant, Web
I read this story, “ Best Practices for Time Travel” by Doretta Lau on the Vancouver-based feminist Room magazine, and loved it. A funny, weird story about four friends discussing time travel—but really discussing racism, sexism, porn, what to do with the matter of feeling (too little or too much) and how they got “canceraids” from reading the comments.
—Megha Majumdar, Assistant Editor
I thought I’d join the rest of the city in reading Adichie’s Americanah for One Book, One New York. So far I have not seen anybody carrying it around. I am listening to the audiobook, so when I see people wearing headphones I like to assume they’re listening too . . . but so far my knowing nods at strangers on the subway have only been met with confusion.
—Olenka Burgess, Publishing Intern
I just finished Weike Wang’s debut novel Chemistry on the train this morning. It’s a hilarious and heartbreaking novel about a young woman trying to figure out what she wants after her relationship falls apart and she decides to quit grad school. I never thought I’d enjoy a book named after a branch of science so much, but it tackles so much more than that wonderfully.
And I got a book called The Complete Pug Handbook in the mail yesterday and it’s sitting on my desk, with two adorable fawn and black pugs staring up at me. It’s almost 300 pages and has lots of photos. I’m excited to read that one this weekend.
—Colin Drohan, Writing Programs Coordinator
I am reading How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz.
—Morgan Jerkins, Contributing Editor, Web
The best thing I’ve read this week is old—it’s a short story by Steven Millhauser called “Phantoms.” It was originally published in 2013 on McSweeney’s , but has since been included in a lot of anthologies.
This story is about a town that shares its land with generally docile, withdrawn “phantoms” the way that another town might have a local population of wolves or deer. It’s told in the collective we, with a pared-down, case-file-like structure, with a critical, questioning tone that both normalizes the phantoms and paints them as starkly other. It’s haunting and lovely in that particular Millhauser way, and perfect for a long subway ride.
— Kelli Trapnell, Production Associate
The last book I read and loved was Kayla Rae Whitaker’s brilliant, page-turning, incredibly smart and wise debut The Animators , which is just perfection.
—Julie Buntin, Director of Writing Programs; Associate Editor, Books
On Friday The Morning News published my Tournament of Books judgment (Nathan Hill’s debut, The Nix , v. Francine Proses’s Mister Monkey ), and I share it with you now not just because it was a fun if rather harrowing experience and I crave your validation (though it was, and I do), but because the Tournament of Books has been dominating my non-work reading lately. Apart from novels for ToB, I’ve mostly been reading rage-inducing news stories, and you all don’t need my help to find those.
—Nicole Chung, Managing Editor, Web & Community
I just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which comes out in September from Penguin Press, and I can’t stop telling people about it. It’s an addictive story of two very different families whose lives become intertwined in the seemingly idyllic town of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
—Erin Kottke, Director of Publicity
I am reading Here Is Where We Meet. I thought I’d read the whole thing before, but in fact no. So I’m starting from the beginning again, and as usual with John Berger it is a new experience this time around too.
—Wah-Ming Chang, Managing Editor