Teju Cole’s writes about literature, photography, politics, race, history, and travel in ways that make it seem trivial to confine ideas in such categories. These are essays in the classic sense — the tracks of a brilliant mind following its own paths, big enough to expand your neural synapses but short enough that you can look up in between mind-blowing journeys. Cole’s experience as a Nigerian-American artist in Brooklyn, Brazil, and Europe is an open window on the interconnected contemporary world, and his seemingly infinite artistic and cultural interests will illuminate past experience and spark new curiosity. I spent a seven-hour layover blissfully absorbed in this book — the perfect companion for any summer travel.
— Jessica Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenl
Word’s pick: “The Glorious Heresies” by Lisa McInerney
An accidental murder has far-reaching consequences for five characters in Lisa McInerney’s debut, prize-winning novel. With a touch of dark humor and a brutal look at the effects of poverty, crime, and religion on family, this novel will leave you wondering if redemption is possible for anyone.
— Alison Gore, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 novel is one of the great works of Argentine literature, and, after six decades, has finally made its way into English. Set in an 18th-century Spanish empire backwater, the novel follows the decadent, lonely life of a bureaucrat as he wastes his days away between lust and boredom. Benedetto’s flat, dreamlike prose renders his protagonist’s slide into perdition all the more nightmarish, captured pitch-perfectly in Esther Allen’s beautiful translation. Authors Borges, Cortazar, and Bolaño all revered Zama, and with a little time, we will too.
— Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun