Good Enough to Read: 5 Can’t-Miss Book Events


‘Dragons in Space Redux’
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m., free
And here we are, rounding off Housing Works’ Geek Week, or as any respectable frat guy might know it–every other week of the year. At tonight’s panel discussion, science fiction and fantasy–sorry, we mean SF/F–writers Peter Brett (The Daylight War, Ace), Myke Cole (Fortress Frontier, Del Rey), and Ellen Kushner (The Privilege of the Sword, Spectra) discuss all the ins, outs, and space-time continuum rifts of the genre with Cici James, a vintage sci-fi archivist at Singularity & Co. Now, we may seem like a bunch of cool cats over here at the Voice, but we’re no stranger to the culture. We conducted our share of wistful price comparisons on New Zealand flights when we found out that Hobbiton was a thing, and once at a party uttered the horrendously misbegotten pick-up line “You look like a young Qui-Gon Jinn.” This should be proof enough to double our powers of authenticity. But hold that 12-sided die, because the genre is mutating. Panelists explore new sci-fi frontiers like magic in the military and a great many things that swashbuckle. Afterward they’ll sign books and take audience questions. Did we mention the free drinks?

Jim Gavin
Book Court
Saturday, March 9, 7 p.m., free
It only takes is one jerk, a microphone, and an awards show to get the media all abuzz about feminism again–an issue largely forgotten during the interim by everyone except, oh yeah, the majority (50.9 percent, bitches!) of our population that gets paid 40 percent less, on average. Along with comes the whole companion issue of New Masculinity, a monumental shitshow in itself, all things considered. Jim Gavin’s debut collection of stories, Middle Men (Simon & Schuster), concerns the latter. His protagonists–each at different stages in their lives, each rigidly middle-class–confront what it means to be male in America today, now that the shotgun-toting John Wayne prototype is generally less common. A contributor to The New Yorker and The Paris Review, he writes characters that are uniquely common. They do things like watch Law & Order reruns and go to IHOP. Ultimately the stories amount to a portrait that’s occasionally funny, sad in a quiet way, but mostly just utterly familiar. Gavin will read, sign, and answer questions tonight.

Jessica Francis Kane and Alex Shephard
Greenlight Bookstore
Monday, March 11, 7:30 p.m., free
This Close, the title of Jessica Francis Kane’s new collection of stories (Graywolf Press), reads like the striving, tooth-gritted answer to the book’s central query: how close can we ever come to success or love or happiness or any other grade-A sentiment, really? On the whole that might sound defeatist, and it is–on the whole. But Kane does the great writerly service of revealing/creating a sense of triumph in the mundane. A thematic departure from the grand-scale event of her first novel, The Report (Graywolf Press, 2010), about the Bethnel Green disaster during WWII, her focus is now hyper-adjusted to small interactions. She evokes minuscule circumstances–a college student who befriends his dry cleaner, an old woman who bonds with an immigrant over a mutual scorn for yuppies–without compromising any of the gravity. Kane speaks with Alex Shephard, editor-in-chief of Full Stop, as part of the Blogger/Author Pairings series.

Rob Bell

Powerhouse Arena
Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m., $30
Martin Bashir, in a 2011 interview that was just way more aggressive than it ever needed to be, accused Pastor Rob Bell of “amending the gospel so that it’s palatable to contemporary people.” We’re not sure why this is so scandalous, considering it’s what every surviving religion has done, over and over for centuries, in order to keep the wafers transubstantiatin’, so to speak. But the controversial founder of the Mars Hill Bible Church–a non-denominational Christian megachurch with an estimated 50,000 followers–seems adept at pissing off atheists and hardcore believers alike. Maybe it’s his sex-positive manifesto Sex God (Zondervan Publishing, 2007), or gay-okay disposition. Maybe it’s his hip thick-rimmed glasses, who knows. Whatever the case, something got this guy named one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World (2011). In his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God (HarperCollins), Bell tackles the prospect of redefining a religious god-type-thing that’s not at odds with science and modernity. And while our policy when it comes to evangelism and free Kool-Aid is invariably one of extreme caution, we’re curious about a pastor who once delivered a sermon in Johnny Depp’s Viper Room. Hear exactly what we talk about when we talk about the G-man at this live broadcast book launch. Bell signs and take questions.

Mary Robinson
The Cooper Union
Tuesday, March 12, 6:30 p.m., free
When she was 17 years old, Mary Robinson thought seriously about becoming a nun, the sisterhood being one of the only alternative career paths to housewifery in Ireland circa 1960. Instead she became a lawyer, a human rights activist, a senator, and the country’s first ever female president. So yeah, she did okay for herself. Robinson’s new memoir, Everybody Matters (Walker & Company), is rife with the kind of “you too can change the world” encouragements that might sound facetious coming from anyone less insanely accomplished. But watch Robinson’s easy confidence as she rallies eloquent answers off the cuff in any given interview, or the emphatic way she speaks about climate change, gently but firmly explaining how fucked we are with a conviction that you just know Al Gore must covet like mad. This woman was U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has won of every philanthropical prize imaginable, and is good buds with Nelson Mandela. Case in point: If we’re going to believe anyone’s inspirational hype, it’s going to be hers. Robinson reads and speaks at this special author event.