Books: Rumaan Alam’s and motherhood, Michael Ondaatje’s latest, Samantha Irby’s revealing essays and more in books

Books Editor

Welcome to the books newsletter! I’m the L.A. Times books editor, Carolyn Kellogg, and this is what’s going on in books this week.


I can’t think of a better person to write about Rumaan Alam’s new novel, “That Kind of Mother,” than critic at large Rebecca Carroll. Alam, who is Bangladeshi American, is raising two black sons with his white husband; interracial adoption partially inspired his novel. Carroll, herself an adoptee, incisively looks at the many dimensions of the characters —particularly the mother’s blindness to privilege — that Alam sets up to tell this multifacted story.

Author Rumaan Alam of ‘That Kind of Mother,’ Photo Credit: David A. Land
Rumaan Alam’s new novel is “That Kind of Mother.”
(David A. Land )


Best known for his novel “The English Patient,” set in the waning days of World War II, Michael Ondaatje has returned to that conflict and its effect on one family in his new novel, “Warlight.” Two teens are left behind in England when their parents depart for Sinagpore, and years later the son tries to piece it all together. “Each layer of this unusual family’s history arrives via flickers of memory,” writes Bethanne Patrick in our review.

Portraits At 2013 Incontri di Civilta’
Michael Ondaatje’s new novel is “Warlight.”
(Barbara Zanon / Getty Images )



The No. 1 fiction book on our bestseller list this week is “Circe” by Madeline Miller, now in its second week on the list. The novel retells the story of the goddess from the Odyssey with a new, feminist slant. “What would this epic story look like if it were based upon a woman’s life?” Miller asked when she talked to The Times last month.

Holding steady at No. 1 on our nonfiction bestseller list is “A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey for the second week. Comey’s tale of his years at the FBI, which ended when he was dismissed by President Trump in May 2017, have been flying off shelves, selling more than 600,000 copies nationwide in its first week.

You can find all the books on our bestseller lists here.

The Telegraph Hay Festival 2012
Madeline Miller’s novel “Circe” is the No. 1 LA Times fiction bestseller this week.
(David Levenson / Getty Images )


The Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded this year, the Swedish Academy announced Friday, due to a sexual harassment scandal that has thrown its committee into chaos.

And acclaimed writer Junot Díaz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and was one of the most popular authors at the Festival of Books in April, has been accused of sexual misconduct by Zinzi Clemmons, a novelist whom The Times wrote about in 2017. Clemmons wrote on Twitter, “I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.” In response, in a statement issued by his agent, Diaz said, “I take responsibility for my past.”

The Locus Awards finalists were announced; they include N.K. Jemisin, George Saunders and Times critic at large John Scalzi — for not one but two prizes.


Samantha Irby is frank and funny, and she sat down in real life to talk about “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” and “Meaty,” her two essay collections, with The Times’ Jessica Roy.

An author photo of Samantha Irby for her book “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” Credit: Eva Blue
Samantha Irby’s essay collections are “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” and “Meaty.”
(Eva Blue )

Thanks for reading!


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