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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

by Danielle Evans |


People PICK


“Appreciate the liars,” a caddish musician tells his still-smitten ex-girlfriend. “When people don’t hide things, it means they don’t care [about] losing you.” Indeed, many of these eight wonderfully melancholy stories mostly set along the East Coast deal with loss-of family, of love, of innocence-and all explore the chasm between what others see and who we really are. In “Snakes” a preteen endures a summer with her distant grandmother. “Virgins” follows two clueless teen girls navigating the suddenly adult world of male attention, while the indelible “Jellyfish” dissects a strained relationship between a lonely father and his equally adrift adult daughter. Most of Evans’ characters are African American, but she doesn’t dwell on race, focusing instead on the transitory awkwardness inherent in young adulthood. Readers will understand her characters’ mistakes long before they’ve been made-and recognize that when we have to choose, it is rarely our better selves who win.

Stories about the trade-offs of early adulthood from a new writer with a fresh, appealing voice

Earth (The Book)

by Jon Stewart and writers of The Daily Show |



Stewart skewers the news nightly on his Daily Show. Now he’s doing it to Earth in this handy guide for the aliens who will one day inhabit our globe-after we finish making it uninhabitable for ourselves. Those intergalactic tourists will be scratching their heads (if they have any) over Stewart and Co.’s factoids: Vodka is “the Swiss Army knife of human courtship”; the Grand Canyon “the biggest rift in Arizona not involving Mexicans.” Too bad we won’t be around to hear what alien chortles sound like, but if we have to leave, it’s nice to leave ’em laughing.

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

by Yiyun Li |



“Why don’t we move back to China?” an immigrant woman asks. In America she has lost her only child in an accident, and her husband, once a doctor, can’t master English. “It’s like a game of chess,” he says. “You can’t undo a move.” Many of the characters in these affecting stories accept their fate with similar quiet resolve, hiding a sea of pain. In understated prose Li (The Vagrants) vividly illuminates the struggles of the modern Chinese: good people trying to maintain honor and obedience in a world defined by the Internet and Western-style media. Despite cultural differences, they share much with us all.