Community Bookstore’s pick: “American Lucifers,” by Jeremy Zallen
Subtitled “The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750–1865,” this book goes from the tallow candles that lit the colonies, to the whale oil lamps, and then coal-powered electricity that allowed for the around-the-clock labor (particularly by children and the enslaved) through which a new nation grew. Jeremy Zallen’s history of artificial light in America threads histories of labor, ecology and technology into an incisive narrative spanning two centuries of war, industry, and radical cultural change.
— Samuel Partal, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.communitybookstore.net].
Word’s picks: “You’re Not Listening,” by Kate Murphy
It feels like we live in a disconnected time. Debates quickly turn contentious, friends have become “followers,” and hot takes are dished out at the expense of genuine conversation. In her new book “You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters,” journalist Kate Murphy argues that not listening is at the root of a lot of our problems. She interviews a wide array of people to get to the bottom of what makes a good listener, and gives advice on how to become one (because odds are, you aren’t!). Equally informative, helpful, and entertaining.
— Lorenzo Gerena, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbookstores.com].
Greenlight Bookstore’s pick: “Weather,” by Jenny Offill
In her second novel, Jenny Offill uses pithy prose that recalls the epigrammatic style of post-modern masters of the last century, like David Markson and Donald Barthelme, to create a catalog of fragments that feels especially suited to depicting our contemporary psyche. It has been five years since her debut, “Dept. of Speculation,” and “Weather” is more explicitly political, perhaps necessarily so. More importantly, Offill is still a very funny and charming writer; she has one of the best senses of timing and rhythm in the game.
— Matt Stowe, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenlightbookstore.com].