Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides is a proven force in novels, but his latest project is a short fiction collection. The characters in “Fresh Complaint” are in the midst of familiar personal and national crises, and the stories bear witness to adolescence, self-discovery, family dynamics, and much more. The tales are simultaneously urgent and graceful, intelligent and curious, and both nostalgic and very much of the moment. The writing spans decades, but the narratives are timeless. Happy reading.
Community Bookstore’s pick: “Salammbo” by Gustave Flaubert
In this strange and engrossing work of historical fiction, set during the Roman Punic Wars and originally published in 1862, Flaubert turns his keen eye for institutional satire on the warring city-states of ancient North Africa. Endlessly digressive, the book includes extended depictions of religious rituals, accounts of botany and geography, and critiques of French colonialism, with the Roman army as a stand-in for Napoleon — all swimming in a broth of Orientalism so thick it is hard to know where the satire begins. It was a blueprint for many works of 20th century historical-epic-as-farce, and remains an enchanting book.
— Samuel Partal, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun
Kawakami’s latest novel, set in a Japanese thrift shop, has a cozy vibe and offbeat humor. The story follows Hitomi, who has fallen for her coworker Takeo, who always keeps himself distant. She seeks advice from the shop owner’s sister, Masayo, who acts as a mentor. But the best parts of this book involve the shop owner himself, Mr. Nakano, who’s off-center ways add life and color to the character’s mundane reality.
— Chazz Jogie, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbo