Bedtime Stories: May 2017

  • May 24, 2017

What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here’s what she said.

Bedtime Stories: May 2017

Brenda Copeland:

My nightstand holds three old books propping up a small lamp, so I’ll extend the metaphor to my whole apartment, where books are waiting for me on chairs, tables, and sometimes even under cats.

The book I’m obsessed with right now is Marlena by Julie Buntin. It’s so well written, so deeply imagined and exquisitely realized, it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. Buntin explores the agonizing and sublime bond of an all-consuming teenage friendship, and the scars that such a friendship can leave. There are few universals in this world, but the agony of teenage longing and boredom is one of them. Buntin relays that adolescent distress with such grace and intelligence, such empathy, that the reader aches for the characters — and for herself. An exquisite novel by a rare talent.

I have an entire shelf in my bookcase devoted to Alice Munro, and the books are stacked two-deep. I recently read Friend of My Youth, which I seem to revisit every year. All Alice Munro stories unlash the sticky knot of female relationships, and in Friend of My Youth, those bonds concern a mother and daughter, two sisters, and, of course, friends. (There’s a theme emerging here…) The characters in this story are gorgeously messy and imperfect. And because Munro implicates everyone and judges no one, you can’t read it the same way twice.

Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace. I feel like I’m cheating, as this is a book that I acquired and edited while I was at St. Martin’s Press, but it’s much on my mind and I like to talk about it every chance I get. This novel tells the story of the world’s most ordinary man and his search for love, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Edsel Bronfman, the protagonist, is a sad sack if ever there was one. In a world where everything is rated and reviewed and commented on, where everything needs to be “the best,” this bruised little man is my hero. He lives that life of quiet desperation we’re all warned about, and he’s gracious and damaged, as in fact we all are. The book for everyone who believes in second chances, Extraordinary Adventures will break your heart…and then put it back together again.

Brenda Copeland is a transplanted Canadian who has lived in New York City for over 20 years. A book editor and teacher — she teaches editing at NYU — Brenda lives in Washington Heights and is never without cheese. Follow her on Twitter at @BrendaCopeland.

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