WPPB

Gabino Iglesias

The story of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, which would eventually be known as the Greely Expedition, is important in terms of the areas it helped map, the wealth of scientific observations made, and the fact that the group reached the Farthest North — a record that had belonged to the British for three centuries.

The first thing I learned about shopping after moving to Texas from the Caribbean was this: Go to Goodwill.

Andre Perry's Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now is a raw chunk of life sliced into essays packed with truths, devastating realizations, music, failed coping mechanisms, a constant search for the self, and a lot of booze.

The book is divided into three distinct sections, but they merge into a unified chronicle that follows a young black man standing at the intersection of race, art, masculinity, education, and the desire for growth and new experiences.

Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House is the most innovative memoir I've ever read.

On the surface, Sam Roberts' A History of New York in 27 Buildings: The 400-Year Untold Story of an American Metropolis is a book about the architectural history of New York City.

As How We Fight for Our Lives is Saeed Jones' biography, it is a unique narrative of the events that shaped him.

Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan is one of many writers thrown in prison by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's oppressive regime.

Patti Smith's Year of the Monkey is a beautiful, elegant, and poetic memoir that takes a single year in the artist's life, 2016, and delves deep into the events that shaped it — and the feelings and memories they produced.

Paul Kingsnorth's Savage Gods is a series of questions in the shape of a book.

On the surface, the writing deals with the author trying to make sense of his need to belong to something meaningful, his desire to connect with an older reality tied to the earth. Right underneath that, however, are a series of other questions that wriggle around like termites inside the wood of Kingsnorth's heart: What does it mean to belong? Can we connect to culture in a world where there is none? Can words truly communicate life?

I love books that make me feel uncomfortable. I love books that crawl into an invisible space under my ribs and stay there like a twitching parasite. Rachel Eve Moulton's Tinfoil Butterfly did both. I don't know what her writing process was like, but if it resembled the way I read it, I can picture her bent over a desk in a dimly-lit room, typing away furiously while breathing the short, violent breaths of a scared animal.

Rob Hart's The Warehouse is an entertaining read as a slightly dystopian cyberthriller. But start looking at how plausible it is, notice all the ways in which the things Hart describes — awful healthcare, limited employment opportunities, and global monopolies — are already here, and it becomes a horrific cautionary tale that makes you wonder if we're already too far into a disastrous future, or if there's still some hope for humanity.

Jill Heinerth's Into the Planet starts with the world-renowned cave diver almost dying while being one of the first humans to search for caves inside the B-15 iceberg, the largest moving object on earth.

Investigative reporter Ian Urbina realizes that, for many people, the sea is "simply a place we fly over." That's why in The Outlaw Ocean he works so hard at sharing some of the wildest, darkest dramas taking place in seas and oceans across the world.

Timothy C. Winegard's The Mosquito is as wildly entertaining as any epic narrative out there. It's also all true.

J. Michael Straczynski's Becoming Superman is much more than a rag-to-riches story — and not only because he goes from rags to riches about half a dozen times.

There has to be an equivalent of Americana in each country; art that digs deep into the culture and history of a place in a way that allows those who consume it to get a sense of what that country's shifting zeitgeist is like.

With that in mind, Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk is a perfect slice of Koreana; a touching, somewhat depressive narrative full of nostalgia that shows the underbelly of a nation through the life of characters inhabiting society's bottom rung.

Pablo Medina's The Cuban Comedy walks a fine line between poetry and political satire. The story is deeply immersed in post-revolution Cuba, in the crumbling country and unmet needs of its people, but poets and poetry are at its core. The blend makes for tragicomedy with a touch of Spanish; it reads like a combination of legendary Cuban comedian Guillermo Álvarez Guedes' irreverent, foul-mouthed humor and the beautiful strangeness of Alejandro Jodorowsky's prose.

Political upheaval tends to push writers to create narratives that enter into conversation with the most salient themes of the time, and Chuck Wendig's Wanderers is one of those. A dystopian, apocalyptic novel that comfortably occupies a space between horror and science fiction, Wanderers is full of social commentary that digs into everything from global warming to racial tension, while never preaching or bogging down the action-packed story.

Mark Haddon's latest novel, The Porpoise, inhabits a strange interstitial space between myth, fantasy, tragedy, and adventure. Among other things, it's a reimagining of the ancient legend of Antiochus, a king who develops an incestuous relationship with his daughter following the death of his wife and is ultimately exposed by Apollonius of Tyre, an adventurer dealing with his own set of troubles.

One of the best ways to get know a country is by talking to its people.

NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt, who has covered China and other countries over a span of nearly two decades, proves this in latest book, The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China. The book is a master class on how to chronicle a changing country through the personal narratives of its citizens.

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