Fall Booknotes from our Staff – Fiction

Zone One
by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Many readers’ eyes glaze over at the mention of zombies. Our sensationally conditioned minds conjure outlandishly campy struggles to the death with a brain-craving horde. With Zone One, Whitehead has thrown down the literary gauntlet, delivering a more reasoned take on how society would fare should the undead rise. Rather than focusing on gruesome slaughter, this adventure conjures some humorous, yet perhaps depressingly prescient outcomes of societal collapse. If heady satire isn’t your bag, don’t worry, there is still a healthy dose of good old-fashioned undead mayhem within these pages. Satisfy that literary craving, and sink your teeth into this cerebral tale. –Jamil

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive
by Christopher Boucher (Melville House)

So, the narrator’s son is a Volkswagen Beetle, his father’s heart attack came from a tree, and that really nice woman with the black hair is just so—”window.” Any questions? Such is the world Boucher has created, and it has to be experienced to be believed. Objects and relationships don’t act like they’re supposed to, but that doesn’t stop them from offering up a poignant meditation on life, love, and death. This is an astonishing exploration of what a book is capable of, and it is also the very best kind of sensitive and courageous nonsense—the kind that rings true. –Casey O.

The Barbarian Nurseries
by Héctor Tobar (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

Whether Los Angeles is beginning to resemble the rest of the United States, or the US is beginning to resemble Los Angeles, these days there is less of a sense of LA exceptionalism. Hard times bring empathy. Award-winning journalist Héctor Tobar ‘s remarkable debut novel is resolutely set in LA, but its narrative undertow carries shimmers of nation-wide resonance; financial distress is causing the loss of jobs (particularly domestic immigrant labor), to say nothing of other forms of wreckage. One abandoned woman’s story of desperate searching serves to tell the tale of many, giving readers a bracing portrait of a city and its time. –Rick

Lightning Rods
by Helen DeWitt (New Directions)

Joe is an unsuccessful salesman—returning to his trailer at the end of the day not with sales, but with pies. Pies and lots of time on his hands to concoct ever more elaborate fantasies about women. Until one fantasy in particular promises to increase office productivity, curtail sexual harassment, and make Joe lots of money. Ten years after her sublime, incomparable debut, The Last Samurai, we have, at last, a new book from Helen DeWitt—an absurdist tale of the corporate world and sex in modern America, where the satire of Nathanael West meets the provocation of Nicholson Baker. –Molly


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.