Toby Barlow

Toby Barlow’s Babayaga paints 1950s Paris as a place where carefree expat writers and French detectives mingle on city streets with CIA spies and immortal witches. A stockpile of buried rifles and weaponized LSD only serve to enhance the fast-paced oddities that fuel the novel’s joyful, lively pace. In keeping with the controlled frenzy of Barlow’s hilarious, whirlwind approach, he writes of this week’s recommended reading, “There is nothing binding this list together other than the fact that these are the books I won’t shut up about.”

Bats out of Hell
By Barry Hannah

“To me, he was the most wonderful storyteller of our time, a boisterous and amazing verbal acrobat without peer. Graceful, daring, and mean, Hannah was everything you want your daredevils to be. If there were more like him American literature would be far better for it, though you’d hate to think of too many of his kind out driving on our nation’s roads. Hannah was both too much and not enough, which I suppose makes him just right. These stories are dark, twisted, funny, and achingly moving; every single page of this collection fills my marrow with joy. Southern to the core, he’s Flannery O’Connor’s and Faulkner’s goofy love child, all grown up and heading for trouble.”

The Keep
By Jennifer Egan

“I don’t know how to talk about why this book is so good. I honestly don’t. I never have. I usually simply shove it into people’s hands and say, ‘Read this.’ She won her Pulitzer for the next one, but I think she deserved it far more for this. Or maybe she deserved two Pulitzers, I don’t know. This one is at the very top of the list of books I wish I could read again for the first time. If they hadn’t invented the term ‘magic realism’ they would have invented it for this book, though then it would have meant something far different, so I probably shouldn’t tack the phrase anywhere near it. See how bad I am at this? I know I’m not telling you much, other than that it’s good. But what more do you need to know?”

The Sisters Brothers
By Patrick DeWitt

“Like you, I’m still pissed off that they cancelled Deadwood. (Remember TV? It was good at times. Too bad it’s dead.) But this tale of two murderous brothers journeying into the gold country scratched my Deadwood itch pretty good. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but don’t let that intimidate you. There’s fine humor in here, there’s thoughtful and poetic reflection, oh, and there’s guns and violence too.”

Home Land
By Sam Lipsyte

“Hilariously good. Lipsyte is one of the best we have, and Home Land nicely captures the feeling of comic failure that has so thoroughly permeated and cursed my generation. I must say, we’ve borne up quite well under pressure, thanks in no small part to excellent books like this one. (Question: Are the so-called millennials haunted by the same aura of disappointment that looms over my generation? And, if so, why aren’t they better at expressing it?) Fair warning, this is the sort of book that makes you laugh so loudly on the subway that everyone looks at you like you’re crazy.”

The Daughter of Time
By Josephine Tey

“My eye caught a passing mention of this novel last fall in the always plus cool Paris Review Daily. Then, when I hunted the book down, it turned out to be a fine little jewel. A mid-twentieth-century British detective novel in which the clever inspector, laid up in a hospital bed, decides to tackle the mystery of the villainous Richard III and the murdered nephews in the tower. It’s a classic old-fashioned whodunit that manages to be incredibly fun while also providing a glimpse into the twisted mechanics of history.”