The Books I'm Reading Now
I'm reading Cult Classic, Sloane Crosley's upcoming literary fantasy; Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe's exhaustive and infuriating nonfiction account of the Sackler family and the ongoing, devastating opioid crisis; and Activation Degradation, Marina J. Lostetter's standalone science fiction about AI, a space crew, friendship, and bravery.
What are you reading and enjoying these days, bookworms?
01 Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley
I gave a couple of book talks this spring and highlighted some upcoming titles I was most excited about. Sloane Crosley's Cult Classic (to be published June 7) was one that made the list.
In Cult Classic, a woman leaving a reunion dinner one night in New York City’s Chinatown runs into a former boyfriend. And then another. And another. Nothing is quite what it seems, and the city is awash with ghosts of heartbreaks past.
Cult Classic is a funny, suspenseful story of love, memory, and mind control from the author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake.
I received an electronic prepublication copy of this book courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, MCD and NetGalley.
02 Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
I'm listening to Patrick Radden Keefe's fascinating, exhaustive history of the Sackler family through their modest beginnings, medical degrees, various interpersonal dramas, multiple marriages, handshake deals, amassing of vast wealth, and the ruthless promotion of the family's legacy.
The family distanced themselves publicly from the pharmaceutical giant they ran, Purdue--as well as from the medical advertising firms they created and ran to promote their drugs; their significant, inappropriate influence over figures in the FDA; the threats they made to political influencer; and their knowledge of various facts and indications that the opioids they distributed (to the tune of billions of dollars in profit a year) caused addiction, destruction, and death on an immense scale.
Meticulously researched, interesting, and infuriating, Empire of Pain is essential nonfiction reading.
03 Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter
Activation Degradation, standalone science fiction from Marina L. Lostetter, begins with Unit Four's initial activation. Unit Four has just become sentient, and like its robot sisters, it has been programmed to fight the aliens currently attacking its ship.
But whether it's a glitch or simply instincts that shouldn't be possible but are, Unit Four realizes that the situation as its handler has explained it doesn't quite add up. It begins to question its mission and its purpose.
When Unit Four is taken onto the enemy alien ship as a prisoner and is unable to communicate with its handler any longer, it understands that everything is not black and white, and that it may need to rethink all it has been taught to believe.
With echoes of Martha Wells's Murderbot books centered around a grumpy, skeptical AI, as well as a wonderful ragtag, loyal space crew reminiscent of books like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Lostetter's book started off with a lot of logistics that slowed things for me, but as of page 66 the action and character development and exploration of morality and friendship and life purpose are all clicking along.