Book Reviews

What to Read

More Reviews

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • '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...

  • 'Terms of Service' a critique of modern life built on social media
    'Terms of Service' a critique of modern life built on social media

    Jacob Silverman, by his own admission, has a "jaundiced eye." His first book, "Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection," proves this self-appraisal all too well. "Terms of Service" is a bleak, unsparing and discomfiting critique of a modern life built around Facebook...

  • Not Just for Kids: Indoor pleasures in 'In,' 'Home' and 'Small Person'
    Not Just for Kids: Indoor pleasures in 'In,' 'Home' and 'Small Person'

    We grown-ups can be a house-proud lot, with our real estate obsessions and home improvement preoccupations — but children, with their treasured possessions, random collections and ability to conjure expansive worlds within the confines of their rooms, may be the most devoted nesters of...

  • Barry Gifford's 'The Up-Down' salutes legacy of Sailor and Lula
    Barry Gifford's 'The Up-Down' salutes legacy of Sailor and Lula

    "You move me, Sailor, you really do. You mark me the deepest." If you were a filmgoer in the '90s, those words, spoken by Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern) to Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) undoubtedly left an impression on you too.

  • Gory 'Razorhurst' by Justine Larbalestier mixes noir and ghosts
    Gory 'Razorhurst' by Justine Larbalestier mixes noir and ghosts

    Set in the gritty underworld of 1932 Sydney, Australia, over the course of 24 hours, "Razorhurst" is a historical fantasy embedded in an era when guns are outlawed and gangsters fight their gruesome battles with straight-edge razors. Blood flows freely in the streets of Surry Hills as the...

  • Mario Vargas Llosa takes on human foibles in 'The Discreet Hero'
    Mario Vargas Llosa takes on human foibles in 'The Discreet Hero'

    The title of Mario Vargas Llosa's new novel, "The Discreet Hero," seems guaranteed to validate the verdict of the Nobel Prize committee, who awarded Vargas Llosa the Nobel Prize in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance,...

  • A new book places Lucy Stone at forefront of women's suffrage
    A new book places Lucy Stone at forefront of women's suffrage

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony are memorialized as leading suffragists in a marble statue in the Rotunda in our nation's Capitol. In this thought-provoking new biography, Sally G. McMillen argues persuasively that one person is missing from that Mt. Rushmore of...

  • How Tom Sleigh, Marilyn Hacker, Deborah Landau, Cecilia Woloch bear witness
    How Tom Sleigh, Marilyn Hacker, Deborah Landau, Cecilia Woloch bear witness

    Poets have expanded the boundaries of what we call the "poetry of witness." We are talking about both the passion that drives "witness" and the re-creation of that passion on the page, of course. But we are also talking about being transparent as well as accurate in description of extremity,...

  • 'Prudence' a heartbreaking tale of love, loss and desire
    'Prudence' a heartbreaking tale of love, loss and desire

    We tend to talk about stories as if they're straight lines, routes from one point to another, with a beginning, middle and end. But fiction is just like life —- we're suspicious of neat plotlines and tidy endings, because nothing in the real world ever works out that way. Every bad...

  • Mark Doten's 'The Infernal' a darkly twisted take on Iraq war
    Mark Doten's 'The Infernal' a darkly twisted take on Iraq war

    We've watched films portraying and critiquing 9/11. We've read sober nonfiction books chronicling it and thoughtful fiction by soldiers — some with MFAs — who are beginning to process what they saw there. But what we haven't read is anything quite like "The Infernal," Mark Doten's...

  • Hanif Kureishi's 'The Last Word' lacks a certain sense of voice
    Hanif Kureishi's 'The Last Word' lacks a certain sense of voice

    Hanif Kureishi's "The Last Word" suffers from the genius problem: To create a believable virtuoso, the character's brilliance must light up the page. Such an issue arises any time an author tries to write about such a figure: J.D. Salinger, whose weakest effort, the novella "Hapworth 16, 1924,"...

  • Trying to make sense of the world of ubiquitous surveillance
    Trying to make sense of the world of ubiquitous surveillance

    Airports are exemplars of our surveillance society. Here a raft of digital surveillance, targeting and sorting systems come together. And they start working well before you arrive for check-in, with the U.S. government comparing your name against watch lists as soon as you buy a ticket.

  • In Ishiguro's 'The Buried Giant,' memory draws a blank
    In Ishiguro's 'The Buried Giant,' memory draws a blank

    Kazuo Ishiguro has made a career of the unexpected. His best-known novel, 1989's Man Booker-winning "The Remains of the Day," is narrated by an English butler looking back on the love he let elude him on a country estate in the years leading to World War II. "When We Were Orphans" (2000)...

  • Quan Barry's 'She Weeps' listens to the stories of Vietnam's dead
    Quan Barry's 'She Weeps' listens to the stories of Vietnam's dead

    Here's a true dumb American confession: I have a hard time with historical novels that take place outside of the U.S. I'm not much of a history buff, and I find it takes a skillful, engaging author to both situate and dazzle me with beauty at the same time. Quan Barry, as it turns out, is...

  • Eleanor Marx led a revolutionary life with a tragic ending
    Eleanor Marx led a revolutionary life with a tragic ending

    The idea of Eleanor Marx is terribly attractive. Here was a young woman born in Victorian England, holding her own while living among some of the great intellectuals of her time — and ours. All those history books that depict the march of ideas and politics as the exclusive interests...

Loading