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  • 'The Folded Clock' an engaging portrait of a woman's sense of identity
    'The Folded Clock' an engaging portrait of a woman's sense of identity

    In "A Book of One's Own," his 1984 study of diaries, Thomas Mallon made the debatable assertion that "no one ever kept a diary just for himself." This is clearly true of Heidi Julavits' "The Folded Clock," which is billed as a diary but is actually a collection of meditations written very much...

  • In her new memoir, Elizabeth Alexander deals with loss of a spouse
    In her new memoir, Elizabeth Alexander deals with loss of a spouse

    To characterize Elizabeth Alexander's raw, elegantly drawn memoir "The Light of the World" as an elegy would be far too narrow a classification — not just of its breadth but its intentions.

  • 'The Brothers' looks at Boston Marathon bombers' motivations
    'The Brothers' looks at Boston Marathon bombers' motivations

    Masha Gessen does something unexpected with "The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy." In a book about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, she barely describes the crime. Here it is, her account, which comes almost exactly at the halfway point:...

  • Rafael Yglesias' 'Wisdom of Perversity' works its way under the skin
    Rafael Yglesias' 'Wisdom of Perversity' works its way under the skin

    Partway through Rafael Yglesias' 10th novel, "The Wisdom of Perversity," a screenwriter named Brian Moran chides himself, "Don't be a hack writer. … Not everyone is a fragile flower like you." The occasion is his first meeting after many years with Julie Mark, who, like Brian, was molested as a...

  • 'Water to the Angels' dives into L.A.'s water history
    'Water to the Angels' dives into L.A.'s water history

    "Cattle were starving on the ranches in Antelope Valley. Lake Elizabeth had dried into a mudflat, and by July the city was consuming more water than was flowing into the storage reservoirs," writes Les Standiford in "Water to the Angels." This was 1904, several years into a severe drought, when...

  • 'Improbable Libraries' a fascinating trek among the stacks
    'Improbable Libraries' a fascinating trek among the stacks

    In our technology-obsessed world, libraries provide tranquil sanctuaries for zoning out with physical books.

  • Books take two views on shame and its place in the modern age
    Books take two views on shame and its place in the modern age

    Every week there seems to be a news story circulating featuring people who have brought humiliation on themselves. While the disgraced individuals are occasionally hapless and sympathetic, quite often — like the Oklahoma frat boys and their elderly "frat mom" who recently exposed themselves as...

  • T.C. Boyle roams the American psyche in 'The Harder They Come'
    T.C. Boyle roams the American psyche in 'The Harder They Come'

    How many times since T.C. Boyle began publishing in 1979 has traditional fiction been declared dead, moribund, irrelevant?

  • Hard-won wisdom in Abigail Thomas' 'What Comes Next and How to Like It'
    Hard-won wisdom in Abigail Thomas' 'What Comes Next and How to Like It'

    There's a sneaky sharpness to Abigail Thomas' "What Comes Next and How to Like It" that makes itself apparent only deep into the book. Framed as a follow-up to her 2006 memoir, "A Three Dog Life," it is more a series of short reflections — some as brief as a single sentence — on aging and mortality,...

  • Olen Steinhauer's new novel reunites spies with a shared history
    Olen Steinhauer's new novel reunites spies with a shared history

    Olen Steinhauer openly acknowledges Christopher Reid's poem "The Song of Lunch" — or rather the PBS Masterpiece dramatization of it — as inspiration for his latest spy puzzler. The TV version centers on two former lovers, played by Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, having a boozy lunch 15 years after...

  • Two children's books about middle schoolers between cultures
    Two children's books about middle schoolers between cultures

    A recent report from the University of Wisconsin's Cooperative Children's Book Center reveals the persistence of a diversity gap in literature for children and adolescents. In 2014, only 112 books for young people featured Asian/Pacific and Asian/Pacific American characters — an improvement from...

  • 'A Little Life' a darkly beautiful tale of love and friendship
    'A Little Life' a darkly beautiful tale of love and friendship

    I've read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but "A Little Life," Hanya Yanagihara's follow-up to 2013's brilliant, harrowing "The People in the Trees," is the only one I've read as an adult that's left me sobbing. I became so invested in the characters and their lives that I almost...

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