In Praise of NYRB Classics

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You’d think working in a library for most of my adult life, I’d never be at a loss for what to read next. However, perhaps just by the daunting scale of material available to me, I’m often overwhelmed by what should be next – is the book I want to read of significance? Is my life destined to be filled with great literature?

That’s where the NYRB Classics come into play. I know, based on their hard work, that a book will challenge and satisfy me, even if I will challenge their liberal use of the word “classic”.

From the mission statement of NYRB Classics:
“Taken as a whole, NYRB Classics may be considered a series of books of unrivaled variety and quality for discerning and adventurous readers…dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of.”

In the past month, as I haven’t had the time to work my brain as to what I should be reading next, I’ve simply picked up a few of these titles and enjoyed each immensely, and for their own unique reasons:

Zama

Describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown who has been posted to Asunción, the capital of remote Paraguay.

Speedboat

The voice of Jen Fain, a journalist, negotiates the fraught landscape of contemporary urban America. Party guests, taxi drivers, brownstone dwellers, professors, journalists, presidents, and debutantes fill these dispatches from the world as Jen finds it.

The Dud Avocado

Follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s.

Act of Passion

A quiet doctor in a small town experiences his passions awakened when he meets a young woman named Martine.

In Love

The story of a casual love affair that becomes serious as soon it starts to fall apart.

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