Friday, November 11th, 2011

A Lady Killer and His Unamused Muse

Reviewed: Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
Fairy tales and reality share a porous border in this inventive novel about a folkloric author who is forced by one of his very creations to examine the violent nature of his work. READ MORE >

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

A City of Contradictions

Reviewed: Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga
In Booker Prize winner Adiga’s new novel, a developer wants to buy out the residents of an apartment building — and many of them are just fine with that. READ MORE >

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The Brief, Lusty Life of a Poet

Reviewed: The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
Hollinghurst’s follow-up to the Booker Prize-winning The Line of Beauty follows a thinly fictionalized World War One poet, his early death, and the generations that survived to try to tell his life’s story. READ MORE >

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Homestead Is Where the Heart Is

Reviewed: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
A journalist and fan tracks the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie in this account, which occasionally captures the magic of “Laura World” but could use a more biting and thorough analysis of this nostalgia industry and its most ardent consumers. READ MORE >

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Boats Against the Current

Discussed: Retromania by Simon Reynolds
An interview with music writer Simon Reynolds, who discusses his latest book and covers a lot of ground about the history and present day of popular music: its current obsession with the past and abandonment of the future, the link between Harry Connick Jr. and Adele, the difference between the Beatles and Burt Bacharach, and much more. READ MORE >

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The Rebirth of the Bogeyman

Discussed: Shock Value by Jason Zinoman
An interview with the author of a new book about horror movies in the 1960 and 1970s — a deeply reported and strongly opinionated look at how a generation of filmmakers introduced a terrifying new brand of neuroses and nihilism to the genre. READ MORE >

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

You With the Stars In Your Eyes

Reviewed: Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe
Roiphe’s memoir evocatively sketches her time in mid-century New York, when she was in thrall to the idea of sacrificing herself for another artist. The book leads one to wonder what myths sustain aspiring women today. READ MORE >

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Near Misses and Disasters

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
In her first novel — more than a dozen years after an acclaimed collection of autobiographical essays — Beard follows two close friends through the roller coaster of adolescence in a small Ohio town. READ MORE >

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Impartial Justice

Reviewed: Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm
In her books set in and around the courtroom, Malcolm has always thrown a clinical, penetrating light over legal proceedings, and been comfortable with the ambiguity she finds. In her latest, a woman in a tight-knit Jewish community in Queens is accused of having her husband murdered. READ MORE >

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Metamorphosis of the Artist as a Young Man

Reviewed: Life on Sandpaper by Yoram Kaniuk
In this autobiographical novel, events occur at a breakneck pace as a young Israeli artist lands in 1950s New York, befriends James Dean and Charlie Parker, among many other bold-faced names, and develops from an energetic young painter into a more jaded novelist. READ MORE >

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Decline and Fall

Reviewed: The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke
Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking has been followed by several other notable memoirs of grief. In the latest, O’Rourke poetically writes about losing the person who loved her most. READ MORE >

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

All Nations Communing

Reviewed: The Information by James Gleick
From African drumming languages to Plato’s defense of oral culture to the 20th-century innovations of Bell Labs and today’s Google-driven world, Gleick’s books covers the enormous history of human communication. READ MORE >

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Too Much Goodness

Reviewed: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
This debut novel by 25-year-old Obreht, set in the Balkans, arrives with big expectations. It clearly displays her talent, but also leans too heavily on the tropes of fairy tales and never becomes a truly irresistible reading experience. READ MORE >

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Aloha, Imperialism

Reviewed: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
In her latest fusion of American history and charmingly nerdy humor, Vowell explores the country’s relationship with Hawaii, seeing past the vision of tropical paradise to the story of its struggle and eventual annexation. READ MORE >

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Big Apple Gone Bad

Reviewed: The Savage City by T. J. English
Opening with a grisly double murder in New York on the day of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, this melodramatic nonfiction account luridly details the city’s descent into a danger zone. READ MORE >

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The Absent Sister

Reviewed: Twin: A Memoir by Allen Shawn
When Shawn was eight, his twin sister, Mary, was sent to live away from home because of what would eventually be diagnosed as autism. In this brief, graceful memoir, he considers his sundered twinship and its possible relation to his own psychological fragility. READ MORE >

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Dancing on Thin Ice

Reviewed: Crime by Ferdinand von Schirach
A German defense lawyer famous for his sometimes infamous clients draws on his experience in this collection of short stories about desperate criminals and their dealings with the justice system. READ MORE >

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Unrestrained Energies

Reviewed: Radioactive by Lauren Redniss
In this startlingly illustrated blend of fact and fantasy, Redniss tells the story of Pierre and Marie Curie, and the impact of their work on everyone from cancer victims to survivors of atomic bombs. READ MORE >

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

La Crème De La Crud

Reviewed: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
The surprise winner of the National Book Award, Jaimy Gordon’s novel about a tough-luck horse track and its residents both charms and grates, capturing a great setting in a style that veers from clear to flaky. READ MORE >

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Into the Wild

Reviewed: Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier
With this look at one of the world’s most forbidding places, mixing travelogue and history, one of our best nonfiction writers cements his position as the bard of flyover territory. READ MORE >

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Temple the Zombie Slayer

Reviewed: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
Bell’s contribution to the thriving zombie-apocalypse market is as literary as the genre is likely to get. His teenage-girl protagonist, Temple, is a laconic Southerner who dispatches her adversaries with something like sympathy. READ MORE >

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Connect Four

Reviewed: Great House by Nicole Krauss
In Krauss’ third novel, the lives of four characters are connected by one everyday object. The connections ultimately feel forced, but Krauss’ prose is the book’s real achievement. READ MORE >

Monday, November 29th, 2010

A Face-Lift for Yuri

Reviewed: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Pasternak’s sprawling novel has long lived in the shadow of David Lean’s epic film adaptation. Its first English translation didn’t help its cause. Now, eminent translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have given the novel another chance. READ MORE >

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Reviewed: The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr
This engrossing true-crime history, set in France at the end of the 19th century, recounts the terrible crimes of a French serial killer named Joseph Vacher and the pioneering criminal science that was transforming law enforcement. READ MORE >

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Status Updates In Paper and Ink

Reviewed: How to Live by Sarah Bakewell
This biography of Montaigne approaches the great essayist in a playful, digressive way that he would have appreciated, and in showcasing his work, shows a new generation of solipsists how it’s done. READ MORE >

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The Wheel of Fortune

Reviewed: The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson
In this novel, rife with ideas about the roots of creativity, an Icelandic poet is thrilled to be invited to represent his country at a literary festival, only to see his luck turn for the worse when he arrives. READ MORE >

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

A Lion’s Letters

Reviewed: Saul Bellow: Letters edited by Benjamin Taylor
The number of letter collections worthy of publication is likely to dwindle in the near future. Saul Bellow’s letters show a literary giant willing to help younger writers, and one involved with many friends, even if he claimed late in life that many of those he loved were “unknown to me.” READ MORE >

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Love and Death at Boarding School

Reviewed: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
In this funny novel set at a venerable boarding school in Dublin, 14-year-old boys deal with the usual conundrums: girls, authority figures, and string theory. READ MORE >

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Devotion and Doubt

Reviewed: Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer
In Spencer’s 10th novel, a propulsive psychological thriller built on profound themes of faith, morality, and conscience, an act of random violence threatens to dissolve a happy family. READ MORE >

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Getting Saved

Reviewed: Exley by Brock Clarke
In Clarke’s novel, a nine-year-old boy from a splintered family believes that his father is in critical condition in a veterans’ hospital, and that only a visit from his favorite author will help him. READ MORE >

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The Code-Breakers

Reviewed: C by Tom McCarthy
In McCarthy’s new novel, humming with ideas, a young man at the turn of the 20th century is raised on a pastoral estate that serves as both a school for deaf children and a lab for wireless technology. READ MORE >

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Haunted House

Reviewed: The Fall of the House of Walworth by Geoffrey O’Brien
The Walworths of Saratoga, New York, had been a notable family, in America and elsewhere, for centuries. Then, in 1873, Frank Walworth shot his father, Mansfield, four times at point-blank range. READ MORE >

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The Science of Storytelling

Reviewed: Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
Meg Carpenter, the star of Thomas’ new novel, lives in a small, damp British town. In a loveless relationship, on the outs with a close friend, and struggling to finish a novel, she comes across a book about the collapse of the universe and eternal life. What follows is a smart investigation of what a narrative (and life) can and can’t be. READ MORE >

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

It’s Okay to Be Scared

Reviewed: Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh
In this engaging memoir, Hersh recounts her time as an 18-year-old, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, pregnant, and achieving fame as part of the band Throwing Muses. READ MORE >

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A Serious Woman

Reviewed: Alice in Jamesland by Susan E. Gunter
The first biography of William James’ wife tells the story of the couple’s abiding affection and occasional frustrations, as well as Alice’s prominent role in the bond between William and his brother Henry. READ MORE >

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Chet, Biff, and Gator

Reviewed: Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker
Wilker writes with melancholic wit about his life, including a childhood dominated by an unconventional family unit, through the prism of his extensive baseball card collection. READ MORE >

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Love in the Time of Dystopia

Reviewed: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
In his third novel, in which two Americans meet and fall in love in Rome, Shteyngart continues to work magic with his formula of bumbling protagonists, dystopian settings, and frequent, sharp jokes. READ MORE >

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Even Better Than the Real Thing

Reviewed: The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
In this spirited satire of the publishing world, a disgruntled writer of modest short stories writes an outlandishly false memoir in an attempt to catch the industry in its own lies — while getting his own piece of the action. READ MORE >

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Hall of Mirrors

Reviewed: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
With the same dizzying scope and emphasis on the wonders of storytelling found in his previous work, Mitchell has written his most fully realized novel, about a Dutch trading outpost near Nagasaki and the worlds that collide there. READ MORE >

Monday, June 21st, 2010

What Happens in Vegas

Reviewed: Lay the Favorite by Beth Raymer
The adventures of a young woman in the world of professional gambling make for a fun read, even if the narrator herself never really wins us over. READ MORE >