Book Reviews

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'Rise of the Robots' and the threat of a jobless future

The prospect of machines stealing our jobs has perturbed and enraged humans for at least 200 years. The Luddites hit the alarm bell, and not without reason: The automation of weaving and spinning technology displaced an entire class of skilled artisans. But ever since, economists and historians...

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  • Diana Wagman loosely bases 'Life #6' on her own near-death encounter

    Diana Wagman loosely bases 'Life #6' on her own near-death encounter

    "We carry our accumulated guilt like rocks in our pocket," Diana Wagman says, sitting in the dining room of her airy Echo Park home. "Guilt motivates people and usually not in a good way. In fiction it's always interesting."

  • Sally Mann's memoir 'Hold Still' as lyrical as her photos

    Sally Mann's memoir 'Hold Still' as lyrical as her photos

    Photographer Sally Mann has built her career capturing the intimate details of the bodies, landscapes and objects that surround her. Her subjects have included her young children depicted as wild things ("Immediate Family"), landscapes of her beloved Virginia ("Deep South") and vivid, raw images...

  • Ghosts emerge in Vivian Gornick's memoir 'The Odd Woman and the City'

    Ghosts emerge in Vivian Gornick's memoir 'The Odd Woman and the City'

    Vivian Gornick's "The Odd Woman and the City" is a book of ghosts. Ghosts of the past; ghosts of New York, which is for her both home and character; ghosts of a lifetime of reading, intentional and covert. These ghosts emerge when Gornick least expects it or are invoked directly in the text.

  • Christopher Bollen's 'Orient' a literary thriller with wit and style

    Christopher Bollen's 'Orient' a literary thriller with wit and style

    Christopher Bollen's "Orient" might well be this summer's most ambitious thriller or this summer's most thrilling work of literary fiction. An editor at large for Interview with style and wit to spare, Bollen sets his juicy mystery at the tip of Long Island at summer's end, when the season's fleeting...

  • Eric Bogosian's 'Operation Nemesis' chases Turkish perpetrators

    Eric Bogosian's 'Operation Nemesis' chases Turkish perpetrators

    What if Hitler and the other architects of the Holocaust had escaped Germany after WWII, never to be punished for their crimes?

  • 'LAtitudes' navigates the histories and cultures of L.A.

    'LAtitudes' navigates the histories and cultures of L.A.

    To drive in the Los Angeles of the 1980s invariably meant relying on a Thomas Guide map-book at some point. Whether tucked neatly into a glove compartment or, more likely, tossed atop snack crumbs and loose change on the floor, the spiral-bound Thomas Guides fractured the city into hundreds of...

  • Mark Z. Danielewski's 'Familiar' a monument to semantic encryption

    Mark Z. Danielewski's 'Familiar' a monument to semantic encryption

    Mark Z. Danielewski's newest novel, reportedly the first volume of many, is an 880-page tome that, through some curious printer's alchemy, feels even heavier than even this surfeit of pages would seem to warrant — as though a leaden object had been secreted craftily within its spine. And that wouldn't...

  • Beware the infectious beasts of 'The Blondes'

    Beware the infectious beasts of 'The Blondes'

    In the 1970s and '80s, genre books and literary fiction were sharply divided, kept in separate sections of bookstores and libraries. Those divisions have faded into the past, however, thanks to readers who enjoy both and authors who write right through them.

  • 'Pedro' goes inside corners of pitcher Martinez's life

    'Pedro' goes inside corners of pitcher Martinez's life

    When you get right down to it, baseball is the best blue-collar job you could ever have. Primarily physical, it demands more blisters and brawn than mental gymnastics. That it is now played by millionaires with mega-houses can't mask that baseball is brutal, often-dangerous work. Sublime? Sure....

  • David K. Shipler's 'Freedom of Speech' reflects our fractured times

    David K. Shipler's 'Freedom of Speech' reflects our fractured times

    David K. Shipler calls himself a free-speech absolutist in his seventh book, "Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword."

  • Michaelangelo Matos discusses how electronic dance music got its wattage

    Michaelangelo Matos discusses how electronic dance music got its wattage

    From its humble American beginnings as house music in Chicago, techno in Detroit and rave music in England, the genre now known as electronic dance music has become a billion-dollar business. Superstar DJs earn tens of millions of dollars annually; corporations such as Live Nation have EDM departments...

  • Kate Atkinson moves backwards through a life in 'A God in Ruins'

    Kate Atkinson moves backwards through a life in 'A God in Ruins'

    About 50 pages into "A God in Ruins," I got confused. As the book picked up momentum, it was throwing Teddy Todd, a World War II pilot, 40 years ahead to a full life of parenthood and grandparenthood. But hadn't Teddy died during the war in Kate Atkinson's last novel, "Life After Life"?

  • John Lydon recalls life as a punk (and beyond) in 'Anger Is an Energy'

    John Lydon recalls life as a punk (and beyond) in 'Anger Is an Energy'

    Most lives do not have second acts, as F. Scott Fitzgerald incessantly reminds us from beyond the grave. John Lydon is lucky enough to have enjoyed two distinct and significant acts. The trouble is they fell just a couple of years apart.

  • An intimate look at a fluid family in Maggie Nelson's 'The Argonauts'

    An intimate look at a fluid family in Maggie Nelson's 'The Argonauts'

    The unchecked reign of three ideas — children as the future, families as the building block of society, and parenthood as the ultimate vocation — is breeding broad discontent. This spring, browsing the new-book table, we can see these topics discussed in Kate Bolick's "Spinster" and Meghan Daum's...

  • Oliver Sacks' 'On the Move' a memoir of an extraordinary life

    Oliver Sacks' 'On the Move' a memoir of an extraordinary life

    Neurologist Oliver Sacks has engaged, amazed and enlightened readers with his case studies of neurological aberrations, which include "Awakenings," "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and "Musicophilia." His 13th book, "On the Move," picks up where "Uncle Tungsten," his 2001 memoir of his...

  • 'Children of the Stone' a moving look at music's power in Palestine

    'Children of the Stone' a moving look at music's power in Palestine

    A shipping container bound for Palestine holds cargo worth half a million dollars — not military hardware or food aid but musical instruments. This is the gripping material of Sandy Tolan's moving and diligently told new book, "Children of the Stone." Whereas his 2006 book, "The Lemon Tree," told...

  • Swept away by 'What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford'

    Swept away by 'What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford'

    Poet Frank Stanford didn't live long. He shot himself three times in the heart with a pistol at age 29. But you come through a Frank Stanford poem, you know you've lived. Rabbit blood under your nails. The snake handler showing you the fang marks. The white backs of strange women.

  • The magic is missing in Toni Morrison's 'God Help the Child'

    The magic is missing in Toni Morrison's 'God Help the Child'

    Deep in the center of Toni Morrison's 11th novel, "God Help the Child," there's a section that resonates with the power of the author's finest work. Morrison is telling the story of Booker, a young man shattered by the abduction and murder of his brother, Adam, years before.

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