Ok...trust me...don't even wait for the reviews which will be lavish and praising (including my own when it comes). Go out now and buy this book, or order this book, or get that someone who owes you something to give you this book in exchange for the debt. I have been waiting for over a year ever since I read the short story version in The New Yorker, for Téa Obreht's novel The Tiger's Wife to be published. At a mere 25 years old, Obreht's writing has the hallmarks of a mature, poised author -- one who can deftly handle plotting, evocative characters, a deep appreciation of myth, and gorgeous writing. Really...take my word for it. I'll post my own review of the novel shortly -- for now, still drinking it all in. But you can see the first of many to come at the Wall Street Journal (which is free if you get a chance to look at it today.)
And here's here's a second fast review/recommendation: Shopping in the Renaissance by Evelyn Welch. Not a new book -- but a terrific social history of marketing in Renaissance Italy 1400-1600. Welch writes with a light, accessible style -- but make no mistake, there's a lot of information here, delivered in thoughtful analysis of Italy's markets, the social relations of buyers and sellers, the myth, metaphor, and cultural attitudes to the markets -- and the astonishing abundance of the markets themselves. Even a small town like Poppi in Northern Italy, with a population of less than 1,500 had "five grocery stores, two bakeries, two butchers, three drugstores, a mercer's shop, a barber a tailor and a shoemaker, along with workshops for wool, leather, and iron as well as kilns producing ceramic wares." Original source materials (particularly fun shopping lists and letters describing among other things battling women shoppers in the market) depict a lively market scene, perfect for fleshing out the kind of scenes I am writing at the moment. Always wonderful when art really does reflect life....even in a magic realist novel.