Loot of the Week 21 June 2017

Summer is the season for books, and I'm fortunate to receive, on the longest day of 2017, these great buys that represent some of the contemporary and historical bests, plus a bit of comic relief.

At the background are some of the notable, maybe best, literary work published thus far in 2017. They are also signed first editions. We have, from the left, Omar El Akkad's fabulous debut novel, "American War", that, as one reviewer suggested, evokes classic works of Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth. El Akkad is likely ineligible for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award because he is not an American citizen, but I imagine "American War" will be shortlisted for the Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, and should be serious contender for both.

Then there is Joshua Ferris' short story collection, "The Dinner Party". Ferris' last book, "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour", was a hilarious revelation of a dentist's existential crisis, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, losing to the winner, Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North". Next up is Hannah Tinti's second novel, "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley", a work on family and parenting that, seems to me, falls in the middle of the negative-presence themed continuum with Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping" and Cormac McCarthy's "Outer Dark" defining both ends.

Rachel Cusk's formidable "Transit" is the second book of a supposed trilogy that starts with "Outlook", and this middle game has a New York Times reviewer eagerly anticipating the finale. I expect "Transit" to give "American War" a good fight at the Booker, and it'll be surprising if this book doesn't make it to the Booker shortlist. The book to the extreme right is Colm Toibin's "House of Names". Toibin is a three-time Booker shortlist, and you have to wonder if this will be his year, finally? Alas, the competition, the competition! Cramped between Toibin and Cusk are two Indiespensables, Jeff Vandemeer's "Borne" and Gabe Habash's "Stephen Florida", and a special signed limited edition of Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize speech.

The elephant in the roomy foreground is Scott Adams' The Dilbert Principle, which states that the modern firm promotes the least smart workers to minimize the damage of their incompetence by removing them from material and meaningful work stream. Published in 1996, the principle continues to ring true today. There's also Mohsin Hamid's "Exit West" that should likely feature strongly in this year's Booker as well. His earlier book, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", was a 2007 Booker shortlist. The Prize went to Anne Enright's "The Gathering". With such a topical new book, Hamid will likely feature at the Booker again this year.

Finally there are the four Pulitzer winners. We have John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces", the 1981 posthumous winner that beat out Frederick Buechner's "Godric" and William Maxwell's "So Long, See You Tomorrow". This book is really purchased for its dust jacket, which still retains the blue on the title when most are generally in some state of sunned fadedness. There is also Wallace Stegner's "Angle of Repose" that won the 1972 Pulitzer as the unanimous jury recommendation. Interestingly, this book continues to command a premium in the market due to its rarity as a good number of listed first editions are actually book club edition.

On poetry, we have Stephen Benet's 1929 Pulitzer winner, "John Brown's Body". This is the first traded edition that follows a 201-copy deluxe edition. Finally, we also have George Dillon's "The Flowering Stone", the 1932 winner.


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