LeGuin’s classic science-fiction novel takes place on the planet Winter, where there is no gender. The people who live there can become male or female in the course of a mating cycle, a fact that humans find baffling. So they send an envoy, Genly Ai, to study the inhabitants of the frozen planet, which leads to a journey across a vast and freezing tundra, and something like falling in love. Le Guin says, “the future, in fiction, is a metaphor. A metaphor for what? If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel.” Originally published in 1969, this book still has something to teach us in 2017.
Community Bookstore’s pick: “The Stammering Century” by Gilbert Seldes
This look at the 19th century, first published in 1928, is a history of lost causes: communes and cults, fad diets and pseudo-scientists, these, Seldes argues, are the most American of innovations. The text is as strange and charming as the characters he profiles, as Seldes says himself, “This book is not a record of the major events in American history during the 19th century. It is concerned with minor movements, with the cults and manias of that period. Its personages are fanatics, and radicals, and mountebanks.”
— Samuel Partal, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun
What happens when young women across the globe suddenly possess the ability to wield electricity? In the best tradition of H.G. Wells and Margaret Atwood, Alderman answers this question with a fine-tuned journalistic style, taking the premise in many thrilling directions. A dour, cynical tone permeates the book, which only serves to make the story more realistic, and therefore all the more terrifying. It is a pulsating, dynamic novel that keeps you reading into the night and thinking about the story long after its final pages.
— Seth Cockfield, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbo