Nine books Mosaic enjoyed over Winter Session


Managing Mosaic Editor

Below is a carefully curated list of books that kept Mosaic inspired and afloat during a dreary Winter Session struck by cold-to-the-bone weather.

“‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng is a slow-paced, intensely complex, multi-layered and intricately plotted work of contemporary realistic fiction that requires its reader’s investment. Set in 1990s Shaker Heights, Ohio, a town that thrives off careful planning and structure, and whose inhabitants operate in much the same way, ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ is a profoundly complex and jarring read about entitlement, motherhood and the concept of family.” —Olivia Mann

“Despite writing from multiple points of view, Rebecca Makkai juggles vastly different personalities, motivations and eras — and somehow uses them to tell a coherent, cohesive and compelling story that chronicles the HIV/AIDS epidemic from its initial outbreak to the present in ‘The Great Believers.’ Although I was quick to critique Makkai for equating a mother’s search for her vanished daughter to the death of 35 million people worldwide and historicizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, ‘The Great Believers’ does a good job of reminding us that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has far-reaching consequences.” —Olivia Mann

“Even though he is a highly influential singer-songwriter, producer and musician, little was known about Jeff Tweedy and his personal life before he published his autobiography ‘Let’s Go (See We Can Get Back Again)’ in late 2018. Chronicling his life from childhood to the founding of the groundbreaking alt-country band Uncle Tupelo to his career as the frontman of Wilco, the book is a hilarious, insightful and an oftentimes moving read. Battling with addiction, depression and severe anxiety throughout his career, Tweedy offers a lot of insight into the price of constant touring and success, but even in the bleakest moments he stays lighthearted and upbeat without being preachy.” —Edward Benner

“Traveling to art galleries and looking at works of modern art can sometimes be an exhausting experience if a disconnect exists between the viewer and the artist’s intention. It’s easy to forget that the canvases on the wall were created by real people with complicated lives, experiences and true feelings at a period in history different from today. Sue Roe succeeds in humanizing the early figures in Modernist Art in France at the turn of the 20th century in ‘In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art.’ Writing in such a descriptive and vibrant way that the yarns and facts read like fiction, Roe treats Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Stein like characters in a stimulating and endlessly creative landscape. Reading this brilliant book gives readers a sense of the era, the excitement of the avant-garde and the complexity of these pioneers in the art world.” —Edward Benner

“Perhaps the most beloved American author, Kurt Vonnegut has a unique voice that blends comedy, biting satire and haunting descriptions in a genius fashion. His collection of short stories titled ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ is a zany, unpredictable and hilarious ride. Vonnegut’s fear of AI and warning of the influence of technology in particular feel urgent and startlingly relevant.” —Edward Benner

“Serious attention is rarely paid to the political philosophy of anarchy outside of its connection to early punk music, and it is typically written off as unnecessarily militant, unobtainable and plain absurd. ‘Living My Life’ is the autobiography of Emma Goldman, a Russian immigrant, active anarchist and feminist who was based in New York from the late 19th through the mid 20th century. As an advocate for birth control, labor rights and free love, in addition to her anarchist agenda, Goldman was not exactly well-loved by the American press or population. This autobiography, however, details her motivations, thought processes and struggles in a fascinating manner. Unwavering in her devotion to the cause, Goldman’s desire for radical change to benefit the common man was admirable. One interesting point in the autobiography was her struggle with the media falsifying information and misconstruing facts to rouse opposition. This was off-putting to read about occurring that long ago with it still being a struggle today.” —Edward Benner

“Existential philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre was not only a novelist but a playwright. The collection, ‘No Exit and Three Other Plays’ is almost like a ‘greatest hits’ of his work and is a profoundly challenging read. Containing the plays ‘No Exit,’ ‘The Flies,’ ‘Dirty Hands’ and ‘The Respectful Prostitute,’ Sartre tackles the topics of the meaning of existence, theory versus action and the absurdity of institutionalized racism.” —Edward Benner

“Young adult author Patrick Ness asks a difficult task of the reader by forcing his main character into an arduous journey that doesn’t warrant sympathy, but still asking the reader for understanding. ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ follows a boy, Todd, in his journey to becoming a man in an otherworldly society that defines adulthood by its heightened ideals of stereotypical toxic masculinity. Ness toys with this idea of what it means to be a man and continues this journey with Todd through two other novels that raise relevant and controversial questions, such as, ‘What is the difference between a revolutionary and a terrorist?’” —Jennifer West

Barbara Kingsolver chronicles the mission of the fictional Price family in their trip to the Belgian Congo in the 1950s. Set upon a backdrop of civil unrest, continued colonization and rampant sexism, the Price family serves as a microcosm of the greater postcolonial era attitudes. ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ seamlessly translates the complexities of the political and social turmoil of the mid-20th century into a simple family dynamic as the Prices struggle to cling to their faith in a society that forces them to question their own worldview.” —Jennifer West

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