A smart-but-funny reading list from Brock Clarke, a Bowdoin College creative writing professor and author of The Happiest People in the World.
What We’re Reading: Winter 2015
Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene
This novel begins at the funeral of Henry Pulling’s mother, where his estranged, eccentric aunt reveals to Pulling that his mother is, in fact, not his mother. Pulling then tags along with his aunt as she travels through foreign countries, where he falls into a life of crime and adventure that takes unanticipated turns. “The book is about how family can surprise you if you allow them to,” says Clarke.
W.W. Norton and Company The Bodley Head
1969 | $16
The Thin Line by Kathryn Davis
Set in a Northeast community, this book describes the strange consequences of a growing “permeability between our world and the supernatural world”—including a young girl who can resurrect the dead. Characters within the story grapple with a growing detachment from the natural world, and Clarke praises the book for us- ing the supernatural to tell the story of the effects of global warming without seeming preachy or polemical.
Back Bay Books
February 2007 | $14
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
In this epistolary novel, professor Jason Fitger is “sometimes sincere and other times entirely mocking” when he writes let- ters of recommendation for his job-seeking university students and colleagues. “It is incredibly smart and funny and moving,” says Clarke. The book runs through a year’s worth of recommendations, telling the story of a professor and his students and will especially strike a chord with fellow teachers.
August 2014 | $23
De Potter's Grand Tour by Joanna Scott
“Joanna Scott is one of the country’s best novelists,” says Clarke, “but she doesn’t get the attention she deserves.” In her latest book, Armand de Potter is a travel guide and a passionate collector of antiques. The novel is loosely based on letters, photographs, and books that once belonged to Scott’s great-grandfather (also named Armand de Potter). In the book, de Potter disappears and his wife searches for him, uncovering the story of a husband she did not know.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2014 | $26