What We're Reading

Curious about what the staff at The Austin Review is currently reading? Here is our first list, and we hope you pressure us to keep this up . . . 

Michael Barrett, Editor
I'm reading Madame Bovary. I planned to re-read this classic in preparation for a recent interview with Jill Alexander Essbaum, and I've only heard wonderful things about the new translation by Lydia Davis (for more insight about her translation see here). The timing didn't work out for interview prep, but this time around at least there won't be pop quizzes.


Vincent Scarpa, Managing Editor
I’m always reading fifteen things at once—books for class, books for research, galleys of books I plan to review or interview the writer for—so my list is a bit of a mess. That being said, I’ve recently enjoyed: A Body Undone by Christina Crosby, a memoir about a harrowing accident that left Crosby disabled and which examines things like caregiving and dependency; the terribly moving debut novel from Max Porter, Grief is the Thing With Feathers; My Father, The Pornographer by Chris Offutt; Innoncents and Others by Dana Spiotta, which is out in March and which is stunning; Emma Cline’s terrific debut The Girls, which I suspect will be a smash hit with critics and readers when it comes out this summer; and I’m in the middle of a few novels from the New York Review of Books: The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyn, Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick, and The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford. I also recently returned to two of my favorite novels for the umpteenth time: Pitch Dark by Renata Adler and State of Grace by Joy Williams.


Peter McCrady, Assistant Editor
I just finished reading Hotels of North America by Rick Moody. It was a fun novel told through hotel reviews by the main character. It ends up feeling like a very modern piece where the reader gets to build that character in fragments, piecing together a life through the lens of online reviews. I just started reading Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami. I always enjoy Murakami on some level, and these two novels are no different for me.


Darri Farr, Reader
What I'm reading: Troublemaker by Leah Remini. I know you saw this book at Barnes & Noble and rolled your eyes, but don't judge! Leah Remini's memoir about growing up in the Church of Scientology is whip-smart, charming, and self-aware. What Remini's book manages to do that more studied texts on Scientology do not is to show its practical appeal to vulnerable people—such as a young, working-class woman searching for stability, respect, and upward mobility. "I was [at the Sea Org] to do important work and be sent on vital missions. And more important, to wear heels, stockings, and a uniform with a cap, Navy style," she writes from her teenage perspective. I totally get it, Leah! If you just read A Little Life and feel pummeled by 700 pages of unrelenting pain, the spunk and sense of humor of Troublemaker could be curative.


AJ Olsen, Reader
I'm reading Nic Pizzolatto's debut neo-noir novel, Galveston (Scribner, 2010). Roy Cady evades an attempt on his life by his New Orleans mob boss and flees with Rocky, a rookie prostitute escaping an equally dismal fate, to their native East Texas where Roy confronts his pragmatic morals and a fatal illness with equal measure. Readers might recognize Pizzolatto as writer and creator of HBO's True Detective. Like his screenwriting, Pizzolatto's prose is pruned to the essentials while rendering Louisiana and East Texas into a lucid background for this suspenseful narrative.


Jourden Sanders, Reader
As 2015 had neared a close, I manically delighted in the lit world's collection of "best of 2015" lists, so when the new year began I started working through books on these lists. I've begun to read more nonfiction as of late, so I recently finished a "best of" for nonfiction: Jon Krakauer's Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, which details the lives of several Missoula women and their struggles in finding justice against their attackers. After that harrowing read, I picked up Alexandra Kleeman's debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, a very strange novel about a woman only known as "A" who eats orange peels, enjoys commercials, dates a man known as "B" and lives with a woman known as "C." And now I've just started reading another nonfiction book, Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, which, so far, is as lovely and poignant and informative as I'd been told. Possible candidates for my next read include Lincoln Michel's Upright Beasts, Samantha Hunt's Mr. Splitfoot, and Sally Mann's Hold Still.