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November 19, 2008

Book Smart: Carmichael’s Top 5 Staffpicks

1. Salmonella Men on Planet Porno by Yasutaka Tsutsui (fiction) — From a tree that inspires erotic dreams to an office worker who is suddenly thrust into the media spotlight, Tsutsui’s stories are a wonderfully wry, fantastical look at modern life. —Kate Hanratty

2. How Fiction Works by James Wood (essay collection) — Healthy, literate criticism from one who is, above all, a professional reader and lover of books. Truly. A judicious piece that says much for “the benefit of the doubt” owed a writer. The folks at The New York Times Book Review would do well to read this. Several times. —Jason Brown

3. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley (personal narrative essays) — Well written and uproarious set pieces. Prepare to be on the floor laughing. Perfect for a Gen-X or Gen-Y-er. I am convinced Sloane Crosley is my soulmate. She’s that kind of writer. —Miranda Boggs

4. Nation by Terry Pratchett (novel) — Technically a young adult title, “Nation” has enough story for readers of any age: pirates, sharks, astronomy, beer, how we make meaning from tragedy, the ways we communicate, and even the mistaken priorities of colonialism — I told you he packs a lot in. It’s funny, heartbreaking, adventuresome and contemplative — classic Pratchett, even if it’s not “Discworld.” A good introduction to a wonderful writer. —Emma Aprile

5. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (nonfiction) — If Sarah Vowell had written my high school history textbooks, I’d have remembered what I learned about the pilgrims. Read this in honor of our upcoming holiday, and you’ll learn more, you’ll remember more and perhaps you, too, will fall under Vowell’s spell, discovering how puzzling, ennobling, embarrassing, frustrating and even sympathetic our wordy forefathers were, thereby discovering a crucial, complicated spirit of our country, too. —E.A.