Posts Tagged Harvard Book Store

book review: Exit West


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead Books| March 7, 2017| 231 pages | $26.00| ISBN: 978-0-7352-1217-6

RATING: 4.5/5*

After finishing college, Nadia questions her faith and decides, to her family’s dismay and disdain, to move out on her own– “She secured a room of her own atop the house of a widow, a record player and small collection of vinyl, a circle of acquaintances among the city’s free spirits, and a connection to a discreet and nonjudgmental female gynecologist.” Nadia enjoys her independence as much as possible: she works at an insurance company; smokes pot and does shrooms and maintains connections through social media. She soon meets Saeed and they clandestinely date and slowly fall in love as the country and everything they know crumbles around them. They both work their different jobs during the day and meet at night at cafes and then at Nadia’s apartment. She throws down a black robe for him to put on and enter the apartment without raising suspicions or backlash about a single woman entertaining a male visitor. Slowly the country becomes less safe. Nadia and Saeed lose their jobs. Then it becomes impossible to communicate.  Author Mohsin Hamid  writes: “But one day the signal to every mobile phone in the city simply vanished, turned off as if by flipping a switch. An announcement of the government’s decision was made over television and radio, a temporary antiterrorism measure, it was said, but with no end date given. Internet connectivity was suspended as well.” Nadia and Saeed decide to escape the country as refugees.

First they land at a refugee camp in Mykonos —“It was said in those days that the passage was both like dying and like being born, and indeed Nadia experienced a kind of extinguishing as she entered the blackness and a gasping struggle as she fought to exit it, and she felt cold and bruised and damp as she lay on the floor of the room at the other side, trembling and too spent at first to stand, and she thought, while she strained to fill her lungs, that this dampness must be her own sweat.” They then move on to London –“It was here that Saeed and Nadia found themselves in those warmer months, in one of the worker camps, laboring away. In exchange for their labor in clearing terrain and building infrastructure and assembling dwellings from prefabricated blocks, migrants were promised forty meters and a pipe: a home on forty square meters of land and a connection to all the utilities of modernity.”  They finally end up in Marin, California– “Saeed made it a point to smile with Nadia, at least sometimes, and he hoped she would feel something warm and caring when he smiled, but what she felt was sorrow and the sense that they were better than this, and that together they had to find a way out.”

The couple drifts apart despite their best attempts to stay together. It’s an attempt to keep something familiar nearby, to keep their country in their hearts. They adapted to their new country and living situations in varied ways—Nadia relishes the personal freedom while Saeed becomes focused on religion– which makes their relationship untenable and unsustainable. A beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent novel about refugees that couldn’t be timelier. Using mystical realism, Hamid tells a potent and poetic story of love and freedom in this short novel. Lovely reflections on connectivity and choice and circumstances. Hamid beautifully contemplates very human desires to achieve, to thrive, and to share oneself in order to make sense of an often nonsensical, violent and cruel world. It’s absolutely essential reading.

–review by Amy Steele

Mohsin Hamid will be reading at Harvard Book Store on Wednesday, March 8 at 7pm.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin Random House.

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book review: Future Sex


Future Sex by Emily Witt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux| October 2016| 210 pages | $25.00| 9780865478794

RATING: *****/5*

“I had not chosen to be single but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Without love I saw no reason to form a permanent attachment to any particular place. Love determined how humans arrayed themselves in space.”

Technology changes everything. It changes how we meet people and it changes how we interact with others. There’s more sexual fluidity and experimental sex than in the past because of both changing ideologies as well as the ability to remain anonymous online if one chooses to indulge in one’s fantasies. Whatever you fancy you’re likely to find it. However, society still expects people to couple up to have families. Author Emily Witt writes: “If every expression of free sexuality by a woman would be second-guessed, it left men as the sole rational agents of sexual narrative. The woman was rarely granted the heroic role of seducer. If a woman pursued a strictly sexual experience, she was seen as succumbing to the wishes of the sovereign subject.” We live in a rampant rape culture. Women also get slut-shamed for wanting and pursuing sex. Can someone subsist outside of a monogamous relationship? Does everyone need to be part of a couple? This book strongly suggests that it’s not essential although how far outside the cultural norms must one go to be happy? Witt explains: “I supposed that since then I had been nonmonogamous in the sense of sometimes having sex with several different people within a specific period of time. As I said this both the idea of counting people and the idea of grouping them within a time frame seemed arbitrary. This was just my life: I lived it and sometimes had sex with people. Sometimes I wanted to commit to people, or they to me, but in the past two years no such interests had fallen into alignment.” Future Sex reads as a fascinating sociological study on sexuality that delves into orgasmic mediation, internet porn, webcams, Burning Man and polyamory. Witt combines personal experience with research and reporting in a darkly amusing, honest and real manner.  Witt investigates sites I’d barely heard of: Chaturbate; Porn Hub;; Fetlife. She attends an orgasmic mediation workshop [looked up on YouTube and there are tutorials] and travels to Burning Man. She interviews tons of people such as polyamorous Google employees, the founder of OKCupid, a 19-year-old webcammer as well as a woman who creates female-centered porn. Witt doesn’t make a spectacle of what may be absurd. Instead she writes analytically, astutely with brevity and a sharp edge.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Emily Witt will be at Harvard Book Store on Monday, October 17, 2016

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Summer Book Readings in the Boston-area


Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Sarong Party Girls

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, July 27 at 7pm


Peter Kramer, Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, July 26 at 7pm


Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, July 28 at 7pm

Crossing Swords full cover

Cindy Peyser Safronoff, Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claffin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, August 2 at 7pm

llucy pear

Anna Solomon, Leaving Lucy Pear

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, August 3 at 7pm

nordic theory

Anu Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, August 4 at 7pm


Annie DeWitt, White Nights in Split Town City: a novel

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, August 9 at 7pm


Jennifer Haigh, HEAT & LIGHT

Newtonville Books

Tuesday, August 16, 7PM


Amy Gottlieb, The Beautiful Possible

Newtonville Books

Wednesday, August 17 at 7PM


Meg Little Reilly, We are Unprepared

Porter Square Books

Tuesday, August 30 at 7pm



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MARCH Boston-area Book Readings of Note


Dawn Tripp
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’ Keefe
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm


A. Igoni Barrett
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm

couple mechanics

Nelly Alard
Couple Mechanics
Porter Square Books
Wednesday, March 2 at 7pm

glad about you

Theresa Rebeck
I’m Glad About You
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 3 at 7pm

lay down your weary tune

W.B. Belcher
Lay Down Your Weary Tune
Porter Square Books
Tuesday, March 8 at 7pm


Helen Oyeyemi
What is Not Yours is Not Ours
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 9 at 7pm

highest glass ceiling

Ellen Fitzpatrick
The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
Newtonville Books
Thursday, March 10 at 7pm

civil wars of julia ward

Elaine Showalter
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography
Harvard Book Store
Monday, March 14 at 7pm

don't let my baby do rodeo

Boris Fishman
Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, March 16 at 7pm

edge of the orchard

Tracy Chevalier
At the Edge of the Orchard
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm


Kaitlyn Greenidge
We Love You, Charlie Freeman
Porter Square Books
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm

the lonely city

Olivia Laing
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
Brookline Booksmith
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

giril through glass

Sari Wilson
Girl Through Glass
Harvard Book Store
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

the nest

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Nest
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 23 at 7pm

dark sparkler

Amber Tamblyn
Dark Sparkler
Cambridge Public Library
Tuesday, March 29 at 7pm

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January/February Boston-area Book Readings of Note



Amy Cuddy–Presence

Porter Square Books

Monday, January 18 at 7pm

the guest room

Chris Bohjalian–The Guest Room

Wellesley Books

Tuesday, January 19 at 7pm

your heart

Sunil Yapa–Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, January 19 at 7pm

poor your soul

Mira Ptacin–Poor Your Soul

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, January 20 at 7pm

the past

Tessa Hadley–The Past

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, January 27 at 7pm

dogs of littlefield

Suzanne Berne–The Dogs of Littlefield

Brookline Booksmith

Thursday, January 28 at 7pm

Concord Bookshop

Sunday, January 31 at 3pm



Sayed Kashua–Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, February 18 at 7pm

ethan canin

Ethan Canin–A Doubter’s Almanac

Harvard Book Store

Friday, February 19 at 7pm

highest glass ceiling

Ellen Fitzpatrick–The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, February 11 at 7pm


Hannah Tennant-Moore–Wreck and Order

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, February 24 at 7pm

on my own

Diane Rehm–On My Own

Harvard Book Store

Monday, February 29 at 7pm

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September Boston-area Book Readings of Note


Christopher Moore
Secondhand Souls
Brookline Booksmith
At Coolidge Corner Theatre
Wednesday, September 2 at 6pm

read my interview with Christopher Moore


Jill Bialosky
The Prize
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, September 10 at 7pm

girl waits with gun

Amy Stewart
Girl Waits with Gun
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 11 at 7pm

art of memoir

Mary Karr
The Art of Memoir
Monday, September 14 at 6pm
Harvard Book Store at Brattle Theatre


Ann Beattie
The State We’re In: Maine Stories
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, September 15 at 7pm

marriage of opposites

Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites
Newtonville Books
Thursday, September 17 at 7pm


Salman Rushdie
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Harvard Book Store at First Parish Church
Monday, September 21 at 7pm

last september

Nina de Gramont
The Last September
Porter Square Books
Monday, September 21 at 7pm

fates and furies

Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, September 22 at 7pm


J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
Regulating Desire
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 25 at 3pm


Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 25 at 7pm


Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett
F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Manageing All Life’s Impossible Challenges
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, September 29 at 7pm


Jojo Moyes
After You
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, September 30 at 7pm

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Summer Boston-area Book Readings of Note



Mia Alvar
In the Country: stories
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, July 22 at 7pm


Elizabeth Little
Dear Daughter
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, July 28 at 7pm

art of the con

Anthony Amore
The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, July 30 at 7pm

ambassadors wife

Jennifer Steil
The Ambassador’s Wife
Porter Square Books
Thursday, July 30 at 7pm


regulating desire

J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
Regulating Desire
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, August 4 at 7pm

marriage of opposites

Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, August 5 at 7pm

never weird on internet

Felicia Day
You’re Never Weird on the Internet [almost]
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, August 12 at 6pm


Alex Dolan
The Euthanist
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, August 13 at 7pm

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