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Book Reviews

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'Close Your Eyes' looks at normal moments amid nuclear horrors

Chris Bohjalian is a master of depicting the small moments — the inevitable routines — that follow in the wake of a trauma. In "The Light in the Ruins," an 18-year-old girl crafts clothes for two dolls as she watches Axis warplanes fly over Tuscany. In "The Double Bind," after a young woman...

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  • In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East
    In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East

    It's winter 2011, and I am living in Istanbul. I wander old streets in Turkey's cultural capital, past thousand-year-old mosques that were once churches, trying to understand the place that has become my home. Streets day and night are thronged by young Turks, flush from a thriving...

  • 'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy
    'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy

    Diana Bishop, a witch and Yale historian, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and Oxford biochemist, have been searching for Ashmole 782 (a.k.a. the Book of Life) through the first two books of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy. Harkness has immersed and spellbound readers with her...

  • Ghosts soar in William Vollmann's hefty 'Last Stories'
    Ghosts soar in William Vollmann's hefty 'Last Stories'

    It has been a season of giants in the arts. In New York, Jeff Koons' "Split-Rocker," a 37-foot-tall foliage sculpture of a rocking horse made up of 50,000 flowering plants, has given Kara Walker's sphinx, a 35-foot-tall sculpture made of an estimated 40 tons of sugar, a real...

  • Two dog memoirs shed light on human nature
    Two dog memoirs shed light on human nature

    Dog memoirs are a tricky literary tradition. Writers are naturally solitary people, so it's no surprise they often form close bonds with such loyal, social animals and that, in turn, their pooches begin to inspire (or some might say dictate) their written work.

  • In 'White Beech,' Germaine Greer finds a forest with a view
    In 'White Beech,' Germaine Greer finds a forest with a view

    Like the rain forest it describes, Germaine Greer's 'White Beech' can be dense, less a memoir than a piece of natural and cultural history, but that sense of engagement is also one of its charms.

  • Edouard Levé's 'Works' is charged with wit and wonder
    Edouard Levé's 'Works' is charged with wit and wonder

    Edouard Levé's 'Works' is a slim volume of big ideas for artwork across a wide range of media. It's the least autobiographical of the prankster's books; nevertheless, a portrait of the artist emerges.

  • Francisco Goldman maps 'The Interior Circuit'
    Francisco Goldman maps 'The Interior Circuit'

    The personal tragedy haunting a Mexico City-based writer commingles with the city's horror at a mass kidnapping. The writing — part memoir, part reportage — becomes its own form.

  • 'Do Not Sell at Any Price's' hunters stalk rare 78 rpm records
    'Do Not Sell at Any Price's' hunters stalk rare 78 rpm records

    In 'Do Not Sell at Any Price,' Amanda Petrusich takes a thoughtful, entertaining spin through the world of obsessed collectors hunting rare records. She knows the topic well — she's one of them.

  • Emily Gould's 'Friendship' details lifestyles of the lost and spoiled
    Emily Gould's 'Friendship' details lifestyles of the lost and spoiled

    In spite of its deceptive title, Emily Gould's new novel, "Friendship," offers a vivid exploration of the missed connections and overwhelming isolation of modern urban life. From the first few pages to the last, Gould's central characters, Bev and Amy, struggle to find...

  • 'Nature's God' explores 'heretical origins' of religion in U.S.
    'Nature's God' explores 'heretical origins' of religion in U.S.

    Matthew Stewart wants to make one thing perfectly clear: The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The principles that inspired the American Revolution, he argues in "Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic," belong to an intellectual tradition...

  • Alex Tizon sizes up his masculinity in memoir 'Big Little Man'
    Alex Tizon sizes up his masculinity in memoir 'Big Little Man'

    You have to wait until the eighth chapter of Alex Tizon's remarkable memoir, "Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self," for confirmation that his title is the reference you've been hoping it isn't and fearing it is. All of the book has been leading up to this big...

  • 'West of the Revolution' charts the 1776 American frontier
    'West of the Revolution' charts the 1776 American frontier

    As America's founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, two Franciscans named Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Francisco Silvestre Velez de Escalante began a journey west from Santa Fe, N.M., hoping to find a way to the Pacific Coast. Negotiating with Native Americans and faltering over...

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