Literature: August Lit Picks

by Editorial

It’s August and summer is sadly winding down in the District but the book is not closed on D.C.’s literary scene. Here’s the August reading round up.
By Shannon O’Reilly

Politics and Prose is one of the bookstores in the District featuring literary readings for the month of August.

The district is a hot spot for authors to come and showcase their newest work. Meet an author and get a book signed at one of these literary readings happening throughout the month of August. Learn about the life of a mysterious French poet, hear a first hand account of Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, or get spooked with a literary thriller. There is something for everyone this month and the best part about it…most of them are free!

Disaster Was My God: A Novel of the Outlaw Life of Arthur Rimbaud
By Bruce Duffy

When: Tuesday, August 9th, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Politics and Prose

What: Bruce Duffy tells the story of Arthur Rimbaud, a french poet who was a 14-year-old prodigy. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, Duffy attempts to answer the question many literary historians ask. Why did Rimbaud write his entire life’s work in 5 years and then turn his back to creative writing forever?

Why: People are talking about Duffy’s newest novel. hails Disaster was My God as “an audaciously constructed, powerfully composed work that manages to create for the reader not simply the facts of Rimbaud’s life, but rather, the driving, almost insensate force that made those fact so alarming, so alluring.” Random House Inc. credits Duffy for the way he “brilliantly reimagines the scandalous life of the pioneering, proto-punk poet Arthur Rimbaud.”

Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling The Capital City of the Future
By Tom Scocca

When: Wednesday, August 10th, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Politics and Prose

What: Tom Scocca, a journalist and Slate magazine blogger, reports in his new novel on the modernization of Beijing. He interviews architects, artists, and athletes in regards to the 2008 Olympics and the way the city was transformed. Scocca looks at Beijing as the capital of the future.

Why: There has been some serious talk about Scocca’s new book. looks at the authors approach, concluding, “Scocca isn’t interested in generalizations, and, in fact, takes great pleasure dismantling them…while his personal experiences give a human touch to his often unflattering sociological analyses.” Washington Post critic, Jonathan Yardley, gives his approval for Scocca’s journalistic approach: “He writes in a lively, mildly sassy style and has a keen eye for the oddities with which Beijing is abundantly endowed.”

God, No!
By Penn Jillette

When: Tuesday, August 16th, 7 p.m.

Where: George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium

What: Pen Jillette, the first half of the world-famous magic duo Penn & Teller gives a hilarious and outrageous reinterpretation of the Ten Commandments from an Atheist’s perspective. Coined the “Penn Commandment,” Jillete reveals the doubt and skepticism of religion through stories of his life on the Vegas Strip and embarkment into fatherhood.

Why: Clearly a rebellious novel, criticism is unavoidable. Luckily for Jillette, most of it is praise for his unconventional novel from some pretty big names. Glenn Beck praises Jillette, writing, “There are few people in the country who question more boldly, brashly, and bravely than my friend Penn Jillette. This book is funny, provocative, and profane. But is it right? God, no!” Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park and the Broadway musical Book of Mormon, give their thumbs up to Jillette as well, “People who say that libertarians have no heart or atheists have no soul need to read this book. Because Penn Jillette has a lot of both.”

How: Buy Tickets Here

Darkness, My Old Friend
By Lisa Unger

When: Tuesday, August 16th, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble, Alexandria

What: The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies and Fragile, Lisa Unger returns to “The Hollows,” the famous setting of her first novel. In Darkness, My Old Friend, Unger creates a thriller about faith, memory, and sacrifice. It tells the stories of three very different people, whose lives are on a devastating track toward disaster.

Why: Many are hailing Unger’s newest thriller the best one yet, making it worth a peek. Publishers Weekly calls Darkness, An Old Friend, “Unger’s gripping psychological thriller.” Karin SlaughterNew York Times Bestselling author of Fallen said, “Lisa Unger is one of my favorite authors.  She gets better and better with each book.”

The African American Odyssey of John Kizell: A South Carolina Slave Returns to Fight the Slave Trade in His African Homeland
By Kevin Lowther

When: Wednesday, August 17th

Where: Busboys & Poets, 14th and V

What: Lowther writes a captivating biography about a South Carolina salve named John Kizell, who returns to fight the slave trade in his African Homeland. The African American Odyssey of John Kizell explores the link between South Carolina and West Africa in regard to the Atlantic slave trade. John Kizell is one of the most prominent Africans in the antislavery movement of his time.

Why: The University of South Carolina Press calls Lowther’s biography a “remarkable story” that “provides insight to the cultural and spiritual milieu from which West Africans were wrenched before being forced into slavery.” The Post and Courier said thanks to Lowther’s book,  “in learning about the life of Kizell, readers will find their understanding of the past broadened, deepened and challenged.”

Troublemaker: Let’s Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again
By Christine O’Donnell

When: Thursday, August 18th, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble, Downtown

What: This book comes directly from tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, who talks about her life growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs and the 2010 election that made quite a lot of headlines, when she filled the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden. Troublemaker: Let’s Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again is mainly a discussion about America’s move toward freedom and opportunity through personal responsibility and how it is continually blocked.

Why: Christine O’Donnell and her new book is controversial and will be stirring up quite a discussion at the B&N reading. So far, Fox News reviewed O’Donnell’s book saying that “it will give voice to the quiet anger in America today: where it comes from, what its asking for, and where its going from here.” Vanity Fair remains skeptical, referring to O’Donnell’s tweet that said the book would be an opportunity to “set the record straight” in regards to the 2010 election. Vanity Fair responded with, “It will be interesting to see how doing so turns out to be what it takes to make America great again.”

The Good and The Ghastly
By James Boice

When: Tuesday, August 30, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Politics and Prose

What: The Good and The Ghastly, Boice’s third novel, rings of classic noir. The setting is the 34th century, after a nuclear apocalypse that has forced civilization to rebuild itself. Society has been turned upside down, especially when it comes to the idea of right and wrong. The novel centers around two protagonists connected by a string of violence.

Why: It seems by the description alone, Boice’s novel will be both riveting and disturbing all at once. Simon and Schuster credit the novel as “a wild satire of our own society, The Good and the Ghastly is a visceral novel informed by Boice’s unnerving sense of reality and pathology. It is also an honest, old-fashioned good-versus-evil story—with a twist of modern-day madness.” Darin Bradley, author of Noise, praises the work, calling it a “hallucinogenic fever dream of contemporary satire. Alternately brutal and lyrical, it field-dresses everyday being with poetic violence. A decidedly necessary addition to post-millennial literature.”

Related Articles