How to Set a Fire and Why (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews


Despite what some critics may, say the protagonist of this novel is not merely a modern Holden Caulfield in female form. She is an impoverished, fiercely intelligent arsonist advocating for class warfare as only an adolescent can. This book will light your soul on fire. Fair warning.

— Lane

I haven't read a story that has left me speechless like this did in a long time. You begin to fall in love with the book's main character, Lucia, even though she most likely wouldn't like you. It leaves you feeling like someone shoved a screwdriver in your gut and then forgot about it. A must read for those that are intrigued by anarchist ideology, are aggressively self-aware, and like fire. 

— Rivka

July 2016 Indie Next List


“On page one of Ball's new novel, 16-year-old Lucia Stanton gets kicked out of school for stabbing the star basketball player in the neck with a pencil. Lucia is a delinquent, a philosopher, a shard of glass. She's also an aspiring arsonist and an iconoclast, who is vibrant, alive, and charming in a misanthropic way. Ball's prose is precise and deceptively spare, his message dynamic in what he doesn't write. Enlightenment thinkers used the symbol of the flame to represent the power and transmission of knowledge. It's in this tradition that How to Set a Fire and Why becomes Ball's pyrotechnic masterpiece.”
— Matt Nixon (M), The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN

About the Author


JESSE BALL (1978- ). Born in New York. The author of fourteen books, most recently the novel How to Set a Fire and Why. His works have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. He is on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, won the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and has been a fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and the Guggenheim Foundation.


Product Details
ISBN: 9781925355475
ISBN-10: 1925355470
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publication Date: February 24th, 2016
Pages: 294
Language: English