Joe College


Tom Perrotta - 2000
    For Danny, a Yale junior, it means two weeks behind the wheel of the "Roach Coach," his father's lunch truck, which plies the parking lots of office parks in central New Jersey.But Danny can use the time behind the coffee urn to try to make sense of a love life that's gotten a little complicated. There's loyal and patient hometown honey Cindy and her recently dropped bombshell to contend with, and there's also lissome Polly back in New Haven--with her shifting moods, perfect thrift store dresses, and inconvenient liaison with a dashing professor. If girl problems aren't enough, there's the constant menace of the Lunch Monsters, a group of thugs who think Danny has planted the Roach Coach in their territory.Joe College is Tom Perrotta's warmest and funniest fiction yet, a comic journey into the dark side of love, higher education, and food service.

Dear Committee Members


Julie Schumacher - 2014
    His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.

No Way to Treat a First Lady


Christopher Buckley - 2002
    In Thank You for Smoking it was big tobacco and earnest reformers; in God Is My Broker it was business and religion; and in No Way to Treat a First Lady, it's the entire legal profession, not to mention the Washington establishment. The novel opens with the President of the United States returning to the conjugal bed after an illicit Lincoln Bedroom romp with the Streisandesque Babette Van Anka. His wife, the long-suffering Beth McMann, promptly clocks him with a Paul Revere spittoon. Several hours later he dies. "Lady Bethmac," as the First Lady is immediately dubbed by the media, is put on trial, and the resulting media circus gives Buckley lots of opportunity for nicely observed skewerings of legal culture. "Judge Dutch creaked forward in his chair. This is the source of the aura of judges: they have bigger chairs than anyone else. That and the fact that they can sentence people to sit in electrified ones. It's all about chairs." He gets in some neat neologisms--a lawyer performs a "credibilobotomy" on a witness--and sends up the pretensions of law TV: at a roundtable discussion, the guest from Harvard Law is invited "to provide gravitas and to shift uneasily in his seat when the other guests said something provocative." Buckley's Trial of the Millennium is so far-fetched that it seems entirely possible. --Claire Dederer

Private Citizens


Tony Tulathimutte - 2016
    With the social acuity of Adelle Waldman and the murderous wit of Martin Amis, Tony Tulathimutte’s Private Citizens is a brainy, irreverent debut—This Side of Paradise for a new era.Capturing the anxious, self-aware mood of young college grads in the aughts, Private Citizens embraces the contradictions of our new century: call it a loving satire. A gleefully rude comedy of manners. Middlemarch for Millennials. The novel's four whip-smart narrators—idealistic Cory, Internet-lurking Will, awkward Henrik, and vicious Linda—are torn between fixing the world and cannibalizing it. In boisterous prose that ricochets between humor and pain, the four estranged friends stagger through the Bay Area’s maze of tech startups, protestors, gentrifiers, karaoke bars, house parties, and cultish self-help seminars, washing up in each other’s lives once again. A wise and searching depiction of a generation grappling with privilege and finding grace in failure, Private Citizens is as expansively intelligent as it is full of heart.

My Ex-Life


Stephen McCauley - 2018
    A delicious novel for fans of Tom Perrotta, Maria Semple, and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney about how sometimes the only way to move forward is to go back.David Hedges’s life is coming apart at the seams. His job helping San Francisco rich kids get into the colleges of their (parents’) choice is exasperating; his younger boyfriend has left him; and the beloved carriage house he rents is being sold. His solace is a Thai takeout joint that delivers 24/7.The last person he expects to hear from is Julie Fiske. It’s been decades since they’ve spoken, and he’s relieved to hear she’s recovered from her brief, misguided first marriage. To him.Julie definitely doesn’t have a problem with marijuana (she’s given it up completely, so it doesn’t matter if she gets stoned almost daily) and the Airbnb she’s running out of her seaside house north of Boston is neither shabby nor illegal. And she has two whole months to come up with the money to buy said house from her second husband before their divorce is finalized. She’d just like David’s help organizing college plans for her 17-year-old daughter.That would be Mandy. To quote Barry Manilow, Oh Mandy. While she knows she’s smarter than most of the kids in her school, she can’t figure out why she’s making so many incredibly dumb and increasingly dangerous choices.When David flies east, they find themselves living under the same roof (one David needs to repair). David and Julie pick up exactly where they left off thirty years ago―they’re still best friends who can finish each other’s sentences. But there’s one broken bit between them that no amount of home renovations will fix.In prose filled with hilarious and heartbreakingly accurate one-liners, Stephen McCauley has written a novel that examines how we define home, family, and love. Be prepared to laugh, shed a few tears, and have thoughts of your own ex-life triggered. (Throw pillows optional.)

Treasure Island!!!


Sara Levine - 2011
    When had she ever dreamed a scheme? When had she ever done a foolish, overbold act? When had she ever, like Jim Hawkins, broke from her friends, raced for the beach, stolen a boat, killed a man, and eliminated an obstacle that stood in the way of her getting a hunk of gold? Convinced that Stevenson's book is cosmically intended for her, she redesigns her life according to its Core Values: boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing. Accompanied by her mother, her sister, and a hostile Amazon parrot that refuses to follow the script, our heroine embarks on a domestic adventure more frightening than anything she'd originally planned. Treasure Island!!! is the story of a ferocious obsession, told by an original voice-intelligent, perverse, relentlessly self- extricating, and funny.

The Flowers


Dagoberto Gilb - 2008
    Award-winning author Gilb takes on the voice of a Chicano teenager looking at manhood, in his latest novel about hate, pain, anger, and a love that transcends age and time.

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift


Elinor Lipman - 2003
    Imagine, if you can, a cross between Philip Roth and Melissa Bank. 'Poor Alice Thrift: book-smart but people-hopeless. Alice graduated second in her class at medical school, but hospital life is proving quite a challenge. Evaluations describe her performance as 'workmanlike' and her people skills as 'hypothermic'. Luckily, Alice's roommate Leo, the most popular nurse at the hospital, and her feisty neighbour Sylvie, take on the task of guiding Alice through the narrow straits of her own no-rapport zone. When Ray Russo, a social-climbing fudge salesman, dedicates himself to a romantic pursuit, Leo and Sylvie harbour serious doubts. Yet as the chase intensifies, Alice's bedside manner begins to thaw. Can this dubious character be the one to lift Alice out of the depths of her social ineptitude? Written with bite, pace and effortless wit, this seriously funny novel puts romance under the microscope with hilarious consequences.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods


Gavin Extence - 2013
    The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood.But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.

Flavor of the Month


Olivia Goldsmith - 1993
    Actress Mary Jane Moran - never a beauty - has just lost not only the off-Broadway role she created but also the only man she ever loved. Hollywood has stolen both, and rejected her as too fat, too plain, and at thirty-four, too old for the movie version. She has no power as an actress or a woman. After the despair and rage pass Mary Jane comes to a decision. She is determined to buy the one thing that might really change her life: beauty. Two years, forty pounds, sixty-seven thousand dollars, and an excruciating series of surgeries later, Mary Jane emerges as Jahne Moore - thin, gorgeous, and ready for the big time. In L.A. at last, she lands a part in TV's hottest new series, Three for the Road. Starring with Jahne are two other beauties with pasts of their own to overcome: Sharleen Smith, raised in a trailer in dirt-poor Texas, ignorant and eager to please, an easy mark for a rogue's gallery of Hollywood hustlers; and Lila Kyle, child of Hollywood, whose driving ambition - to surpass her famous mother in everything - will goad her to risk all in her obsessive desire to be the only star of Three for the Road. As these three "virgins" rocket into the celebrity stratosphere, their pasts resurface in disturbing, outrageous, and scandalous ways. All of them are desired - the fantasy of every man, the envy of every woman. The man who broke Mary Jane's heart, now a successful director, pursues Jahne both to star in his new film and to become his lover. Jahne, in longing and fear, awaits his recognitionof her. Meanwhile Sharleen's childhood traumas scream from every tabloid. Lila Kyle loses her virginity in a career move and gains the leverage to discredit the other two women. But her plan backfires, resulting in the biggest Hollywood scandal of all time, one that threatens to t

Every Crooked Pot


Renee Rosen - 2007
    But as a teenager growing up in Akron, Ohio – with her larger-than-life father Artie, a colorblind carpet salesman and frustrated musician – the only thing Nina wishes for is…to be beautiful. Or at least normal. As if having such an eccentric dad wasn't enough, Nina has another issue to face: the mirror. Born with a strawberry birthmark over her eye, Nina spends countless hours applying makeup and trying out ridiculous hairstyles designed to hide her eye. Convinced that her birthmark is the only reason she's not popular and can't find a boyfriend, Nina must find other ways to survive high school. With a string of crazy exploits that have her riding in dryers and appearing on TV, Nina proves she'll do just about anything to fit in, and even more in the hope of finding love.

After the Workshop


John McNally - 2010
    You stay in town and work on your novel. And work on your novel. Until, finally, twelve years have passed and you are working as a media escort for author tours and your unfinished novel sits in a box under your bed. Your girlfriend has left you. Your car is missing a muffler. Your neighbor is walking around naked because his hands are bandaged and he can’t unzip his pants. You are at the whims of a slew of increasingly crazy writers, and when one of them disappears, an insane New York publicist begins stalking you. This is the life of Jack Hercules Sheahan, a character well understood by author John McNally. He is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as well as a former media escort, and these misadventures are brought to life by his very own. Recalling the ease and humor of novels by Nick Hornby and Michael Chabon, After the Workshop tells the satirical story of a writer who confronts the demons from his past while escorting those of his present.

Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time


Dominic Utton - 2014
    But he's moved out of town in order to start a family and had to start commuting into the city every day, leaving his young wife Beth and newborn daughter at home. After 14 months of the trains either making him late for work or late getting home, he's had enough. Tracking down the email address of the train company’s director, he starts to write him letters. Emails that take as long to write as the delay to his journey has been. If his time's been wasted, why shouldn't he waste the director's? And so begins a hilarious and extraordinary correspondence. When the director begins to write back, Dan finds himself with a dysfunctional father/confessor to talk to — one who he never imagined would care. In truth, he probably doesn't. But Dan finds solace in opening up to a stranger about the dramas of his day job at a scandal-hit newspaper, the challenges of his night job as the father of a baby who isn't sleeping, and about life as it is played out in the confines of Coach C, while world events pass by its odd mix of inhabitants.

The Tattooed Soldier


Héctor Tobar - 1998
    Antonio Bernal is a Guatemalan refugee haunted by memories of his wife and child murdered at the hands of a man marked with a yellow tattoo. Not far from Antonio's apartment, Guillermo Longoria extends his arm and reveals a tattoo--yellow pelt, black spots, red mouth. It is the mark of the death squad, the Jaguar Battalion of the Guatemalan army. A chance encounter ignites a psychological showdown between these two men who discover that the war in Central America has followed them to the quemazones, the "great burning" of the Los Angeles riots.

Lay It on My Heart


Angela Pneuman - 2014
    Charmaine and her mother get along better with a room between them, but they've been forced by circumstances to relocate to a tiny trailer by the river. The last of a line of local holy men, Charmaine's father has turned from prophet to patient, his revelation lost in the clarifying haze of medication. Her sure-minded grandmother has suffered a stroke. At church, where she has always felt most certain, Charmaine is tested when she finds out that her archrival, a sanctimonious missionary kid, carries a dark, confusing secret. Suddenly her life can be sorted into what she wishes she knew and what she wishes she didn't.A moving, hilarious portrait of mothers and daughters, Lay It on My Heart brings us into the center of a family weathering the toughest patch of their lives. But most of all, it marks out the seemingly unbearable realities of growing up, the strength that comes from finding real friendship, and the power of discovering—and accepting—who you are.