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Book Reviews

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Stellar nonfiction chosen by the National Book Critics Circle

Next month, the National Book Critics Circle will present its 2016 book prizes in six categories; these are the five finalists in nonfiction. Each book deserves to be read for years to come, but every one of them seems to speak urgently about this particular moment — a time of economic inequality...

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  • Neil Gaiman wields Thor's hammer in 'Norse Mythology'

    Neil Gaiman wields Thor's hammer in 'Norse Mythology'

    No contemporary fiction writer gets more of his power from the mythological tradition than Neil Gaiman. Almost all of his work, from the “Sandman” comics he wrote in the '80s and '90s to prose novels such as “American Gods” and children's books such as “Coraline,” ingeniously fragments and integrates...

  • Rescued from history: The baseball teams of East Los Angeles

    Rescued from history: The baseball teams of East Los Angeles

    If you spend enough time getting to know a city, you’ll notice official and unofficial monuments of its history. On rare occasions, you might catch sight of grown men in crisp white and sky-blue uniforms kicking up clouds of dust at the diamond on 4th Street and Evergreen Avenue. This is part of...

  • In the 1950s, Patricia Bosworth acted with the best, married the worst, and lost those she loved

    In the 1950s, Patricia Bosworth acted with the best, married the worst, and lost those she loved

    Although Patricia Bosworth’s new memoir is set in the 1950s, it is urgent and essential reading, especially for young women. Parts of it are also terrifying. Bosworth, best known for biographies of Diane Arbus, Montgomery Clift, and Jane Fonda, intended her book to entertain, which it does, thanks...

  • Emily Fridlund's debut novel 'History of Wolves' is chilling, in a good way

    Emily Fridlund's debut novel 'History of Wolves' is chilling, in a good way

    Madeline Furston, first-person narrator of Emily Fridlund’s debut novel, “History of Wolves,” is hard to know. She’s called Linda at her middle school, but also Commie or Freak. She’s an only child, wears hand-me-downs from neighbors and lives in a cabin whose electricity comes from a generator,...

  • Argentian star Samanta Schweblin's destabilizing English debut, 'Fever Dream'

    Argentian star Samanta Schweblin's destabilizing English debut, 'Fever Dream'

    Over the last two decades, Argentina’s rural communities have reported skyrocketing rates of birth abnormalities, miscarriages and cancer. In the same period, genetically modified soy has blanketed the region, helped along by copious pesticides. GM soy arrived in Argentina in 1996 and accounted...

  • Xu Hongci - Mao's victim, freedom's hero - tells his story in 'No Wall Too High'

    Xu Hongci - Mao's victim, freedom's hero - tells his story in 'No Wall Too High'

    Xu Hongci is a legend in a certain Chinese subculture: The estimated 550,000 people who were accused of being “rightists” in Mao Zedong’s purge of the late 1950s and spent 20 years or more as inmates of China’s gulag archipelago. In that large crowd of unjustly, illegally imprisoned people, Xu...

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