RaveBoston GlobeOne of those hybrid history/memoirs that illuminates an important subject through personal experience. Fisher digs deep into the history of addiction ... Doggedly researched, layered with empathy, The Urge pulls back multiple curtains at once in examining an ailment that will likely never go away ... Fisher devotes several pages to the subject of recovery (his own included). His treatment of Alcoholics Anonymous is concise, evenhanded, and even novel in whom it brings into the picture ... The Urge contains a wealth of such research and insight, rendered with a gimlet eye and a physician’s care. Addicts who make it to the other side often feel they have survived to fulfill a higher purpose. The Urge qualifies as just such an accomplishment, an inspired dive into a condition that, in one way or another, touches us all.
RaveUSA TodayThe whole story, the glory and the mayhem, the train wreck and the true bliss ... [A] sprawling account ... The good, the bad and the ugly coexist in the Led Zeppelin story, and Spitz knows well enough to report and tell it all ... Spitz...gives nobody a pass. Hovering above all the parties and all the jams and the richly detailed accounts of creating each album is an abundance of abominable behavior that only grew worse as Zeppelin’s fame exploded ... This is one group portrait that doesn’t flatter.
RaveUSA TodayThe book reads like a memory album, of enduring images of Chow\'s mother and of family treks and private jokes ... Seeing Ghosts is no tearjerker. The book’s emotions are restrained, dry, even (an inheritance from Chow’s father?). It doesn’t manipulate, nor does it seek to recreate an idyllic past ... As Chow grows older in these pages, she also grows more open and willing, enough so that she was able to write this fine book. We all have our ghosts that need witnessing, for their sake and for ours. In baring her memories and her soul, Chow reminds us why this task is so important, and how it lets us heal.
RaveThe Boston Globe... bracing ... It’s both inspiring—Sherrell is an immensely talented young writer who cares deeply about his subject—and dispiriting: Sherrell knows this stuff backward and forward, and he isn’t hopeful ... In tone and structure, Warmth resembles James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, or Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, ... These are brave books built on an understanding that some battles are worth fighting, some boulders are worth pushing up the hill no matter how many times they come crashing down. Some of the images in Warmth resonate like post-apocalyptic fiction ... Warmth should be required reading for anyone who questions the depth, tenacity, and critical thinking skills of millennials ... an existential yawp, freighted with the ballast of knowledge and intent.
Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
RaveThe Star Tribune... one of those books that delights in detours, shining its spotlight on one protagonist for hundreds of pages, introducing another character in the margins, then foregrounding that character throughout the next section. But they all live along the same continuum, with the themes of autonomy, caste, color and education carrying over from section to section ... race is never a simple matter in Love Songs, not even among those who want it to be. Jeffers has a lot to say here, and at 816 pages she gives herself ample space to say it. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is an investment, but a worthy one. It\'s the kind of epic that deserves its own place in the sun.
RaveLos Angeles TimesThe book is very much based on the love affair and mutual muse-hood of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, leading lights of the folk-rock world and onetime residents of L.A.’s Edenic Laurel Canyon. But from the very start, it stretches out and becomes its own thing. Brodie works with big themes — individuation, mental illness, legacy, self-destruction and redemption — but her touch is lighter than an onshore breeze ... Brodie, formerly an editor at Little, Brown, has a wicked knack for locating the tone of various music types: journalists, producers, A&R scouts and, of course, prodigiously talented singer-songwriters ... You can tell when a novelist truly loves her heroes and despises her villains ... But Ursa Major is plotted so tightly, its characters so vividly rendered, that you barely notice the author’s thumb on the scale ... Songs in Ursa Major also weaves in a deep understanding of the connection between creativity and madness ... There’s something about Ursa Major that suggests a mythology, a hero’s journey in which the hero is a woman with immense musical gifts and the music business is a beast to overcome and master.
RaveUSA TodaySmith’s purpose is never to put anyone on the spot. This isn’t Borat. What he does, quite successfully, is show that we whitewash our history at our own risk. That history is literally still here, taking up acres of space, memorializing the past, and teaching us how we got to be where we are, and the way we are. Bury it now and it will only come calling later.
RaveThe Star TribuneMost grief tales turn inward. The author feels compelled to figure out why he or she has joined the worst club in the world, why death has come knocking and how to survive the insanity that follows. These books are written out of emotional and existential need. Surely some purpose will grow from this tragedy. Surely it\'s not all for naught. Carol Smith\'s \"Crossing the River\" checks all of those boxes. It\'s a shattering account of the brief life and sudden death of Smith\'s 7-year-old son, Christopher. Smith gleaned wisdom from her excruciating pain, and she\'s generous enough to share it with the reader. But that\'s just the jumping-off point ... The book\'s structure leaves room for Smith\'s story, which she weaves in and out of her subjects\' tales. There\'s a lot of pain here, and a lot of guilt, which is rarely far behind grief. But there\'s also, to borrow the title of a Tracy Kidder book, strength in what remains. And hope, without which the rest would be academic.
RaveUSA Today... a masterfully structured study bursting with detail and context ... revealing details permeate Frankel’s book, touching on the making of the movie (you’ll likely never think about casting in the same way), the individuals involved, and the social history of the time and place. Frankel puts it all together with narrative verve, telling a propulsive tale about creativity, commerce and loss.
RaveThe Star Tribune... [a] haunting dynamo novel ... Laura’s mind overflows with the language of her creator, Emma Glass, which means she floats along on a sea of high-wire alliteration, jazzy rhythms and tactile description. Laura may be inundated by gloom, but her gloom really zings ... expertly mixes long, loping sentences with short declarations and fragments ... [Laura] has vivid dreams of drowning that make the pages feel waterlogged. She observes everything in the minutest detail, especially as it concerns her body. Laura sweats and you feel you’re doing the same, becoming acutely aware of every drop. Her skin itches and you start scratching ... a pungent piece of writing, tactile and sensory to the extreme ... This is a feverish read, short and immersive, rich with dense imagery and symbolism ... What it doesn’t really have is a narrative, at least not one that you can latch onto with any assurance that it will take you somewhere. You can still get lost in these pages, but it’s Laura’s interior life, not her story, that pulls you in.
PositiveThe Star TribuneIn 2013, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam made headlines when he came out as gay. Sam’s teammates were reportedly supportive, and he even ended up being selected in the NFL draft. But for a player to come out amid the macho trappings of big-time football was a big deal, even if other gay players had certainly taken the field without making their sexuality public.The Redshirt, Corey Sobel’s deceptively breezy debut novel about life at an elite, bucolic Southern college, tells the story of one of those other players, the ones who deem it safest to stay in the closet ... Like other great football novels — North Dallas Forty comes to mind — The Redshirt doesn’t flinch from the double-edged sword dangling over the sport’s culture ... I wish there were a little more of The Redshirt, which ends too soon for my taste. The characters and their conflicts are rich enough to warrant further exploration. But this is still a very strong debut novel that draws jagged, vivid links between sport and society.
Brittany K. Barnett
RaveThe Houston Chronicle... isn’t your ordinary memoir. It carries the force of urgent action, and it calls attention to sentencing laws that must be read to be believed ... Most important, it bears the toil and triumph of freedom hard won. That’s a quality that readers will have a hard time taking for granted after reading these pages.
PositiveHouston Chronicle\"If Abdurraquib stopped there, with his thoughts and feelings about Tribe, Go Ahead in the Rain would be a fine book. But he doesn’t. He goes deep into ’90s hip-hop, perhaps the genre’s most fertile era ... Go Ahead in the Rain packs a lot into its 206 pages.\
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsNovember Road...tells a propulsive, romantic and danger-laden story centered on two people taking to the open road, running from past mistakes ... a crime novel with a rare combination of emotional weight and gunshot speed ... Berney gets inside his characters so gradually and gracefully that November Road easily transcends genre conventions. All that, and he keep things moving at a lively clip ... November Road is indeed something different. There\'s no shortage of JFK fiction, but this one belongs up there with the best.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News\"The Library Book is also a love letter of sorts to libraries and reading ... Orlean makes such delights palpable and sensory, much as she captures the tragedy of a building full of books going up in flames. She provides a brief history of organized book burnings, going back to 213 B.C., when the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to burn any history book that contradicted his version of the past ... If you pick up The Library Book, whether you buy it or check it out at your local branch, chances are you\'re deeply invested in the subject, and that you\'ll tell a like-minded friend or two. But this isn\'t just a testament to the world of books. The Library Book is a great read in and of itself.\
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsAusterlitz...recounts the rushed, slapdash planning for the show, which didn\'t even have a venue until a couple days before curtain. He dissects the disastrous plan to have the Hells Angels police the 300,000 people at the free concert, and to pay them in beer.
He dives into the brutal, virulently racist culture of the Angels and their uneasy alliance with the counterculture. He marvels that the Grateful Dead, the band largely responsible for hiring the Angels in the first place, managed to erase their role in whole debacle, starting with their decision to scamper away and refuse to play their set ... But the book\'s beating heart lies with Hunter and his family. Austerlitz spent time with Hunter\'s sister, Dixie Ward, and her daughter, Taammi
Parker, who had been taught to never discuss Hunter and his tragic end. Hunter\'s mother, Altha, suffered from schizophrenia, and the disease ravaged other members of the family as well. So did the permanent absence of a beloved family member.\
RaveThe Dallas Morning News\"With poetic and nimble language that brings to mind another student of literary violence, Cormac McCarthy, Powers, 37, creates a drama with deep roots in America\'s struggles with race, sex and commerce. Robiou, the plantation owner Powers grew up hearing about, is now Antony Levallois, a quietly tyrannical man with the foresight to see potential riches in the upcoming railroad age. A small-time slave owner named Bob Reid stands in his way, but Reid is soon getting his body and spirit blown apart in the war as his teen daughter, Emily, waits behind. Amid this psychodrama, two slaves, Rawls and Nurse, fall in love and plot a future that might just be impossible to attain in the Old South.\
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News...a lively study of a book and movie that helped define the image of Texas in the last century. Graham looks at both the Edna Ferber novel (which Texas hated) and the George Stevens movie (which Texas loved). The difference between the two? The novel, as Wright explains, \'popularized the image of Texas millionaires as greedy but colorful provincials, whose fortunes were built largely on luck rather than hard work.\' The movie softened those edges and yielded something in which the state could take pride ... Graham’s book is more specific in its focus, with many of the pages devoted to the interactions between the movie’s stars — James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor — and their determined director, George Stevens. Within this framework, however, lurks the question of Texan identity, and the state’s aversion to being messed with ... Giant isn’t a paean to the state, but it doesn’t eliminate Ferber’s more acidic touches, especially where racism against Mexicans is involved.
RaveThe Dallas Morning News\"God Save Texas, as the title suggests, is the work of a man who loves Texas’ uniqueness but finds himself increasingly dismayed by its politics and social policies ... The push-pull between homegrown admiration and deep disappointment fuels God Save Texas with literary tension ... God Save Texas was hatched when Wright’s editor at The New Yorker, David Remnick, asked Wright to explain his home state. But the book succeeds by proving this task impossible ... Wright’s words could speak for both Texas and America. American exceptionalism is a sturdy component of our national mythology, a reminder that we consider ourselves different from other nations. You can call it a reactionary myth, as many have, but you can’t deny its hold on the imagination.\
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsThis is a lyrical howl of a book that knows exactly when to go quiet and when to make its cries almost unbearable. It's a story of unfinished business, for both a country still struggling to live up to its ideals and for the ghosts that walk through these pages ... The past is its own character in Sing, Unburied, Sing, ready to burst in without a moment's notice and remind everyone it never really went away. If William Faulkner mined the South for gothic, stream-of-consciousness tragedy, and Toni Morrison conjured magical realism from the corroding power of the region's race hatred, then Ward is a worthy heir to both. This is not praise to be taken lightly. Ward has the command of language and the sense of place, the empathy and the imagination, to carve out her own place among the literary giants.
RaveThe Dallas Morning News...a lively study stationed at the intersection of the musical and the erotic … The real treasures here are the ones you probably don't know about. There's a real sense of scholarly discovery in Good Booty, a willingness to go beyond the obvious and mess with conventional wisdom, especially in the book's revelatory first half … The book, which takes its title from original lyrics in Little Richard's ‘Tutti Frutti,’ touches on matters of race, technology, gender, cultural mores, and, of course, sex. To Powers, a longtime music critic who now works for NPR, the subject of sensuality runs deep.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News\"The blacklist has provided grist for many books, including Victor Navasky\'s seminal study Naming Names. But Frankel\'s book feels fresh nonetheless. Using newly discovered records, he tells the story through the prism of a beloved Hollywood movie. He spotlights the major players — Foreman, producer Stanley Kramer, star Gary Cooper and director Fred Zinnemann — and deftly loops them all into the bigger picture.\
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsFuller's book finds its climactic peaks in such moments, as towering intellects grapple with the implications of big ideas ... My favorite parts of The Book That Changed America are its digressions, the character sketches and tributaries that flow through the bigger picture ... Fuller connects these characters and episodes to Darwin with varying levels of success; at 250 pages The Book That Changed America feels a bit too short, and you're left wondering if it could use just a little more thematic glue. But that barely detracts from its larger pleasures, or the validity of its premise.
Brian Jay Jones
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsJones' book reminds us that Lucas saw the promise of digital filmmaking before just about anyone, and consistently put his own riches on the line to make that promise a reality ... You're also reminded why it became so easy for true Star Wars believers to dislike him ... he left a Chewbacca-size footprint on the culture. Jones overstates this case a bit.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News...[an] evenhanded, exhaustively reported and frighteningly intimate snapshot of a dark, bloody corner of the drug trade ... Slater isn't interested in making excuses for Cardona. He knows his subject is a murderer. He also knows, as a writer, that Cardona is a rich character, a popular, handsome kid who decided killing people would be a good way to make some money and live a life of plenty. And he knew an anti-drug lecture would make for a pretty boring read.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsMacy is a digger and a listener, as all great reporters are. That means combing archives for research and old newspaper stories. It means taking the time to foster trust ... Truevine isn't just an obscured chapter of American history; it's also a peek inside a dogged reporter's process.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsThe Austin writer is equally adept at home and abroad, quizzing American officials and international players. And even when he zooms in on policy, as he frequently does, the human side of this ongoing and lethal drama always takes precedence. Wright may be an expert, but he doesn't expect you to be. A dash of empathy and an inquisitive mind will do just fine.
RaveThe Dallas Morning News\"Sun makes for an emotionally devastating read, but Dennis-Benn nurtures her rocky terrain with generous amounts of love and compassion ... Delores takes her place among the most craven maternal models in all of literature...She\'s a fully developed, loathsome and irresistible villain ... Reading Here Comes the Sun is like listening to a bravura musical composition of varying themes and time signatures ... a novel that conjures something transcendent from the darker corners of human nature.\
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsIt’s as hard as ever to pick nits in Morrison’s writing. Every page contains at least one passage of breathtaking prose, a lyrical flow accentuated by stark imagery and laden with poetic contrasts ... My only complaint with God Help the Child? I wish there were more of it. Like her previous novel, Home in 2013, God Help the Child checks in under 200 pages. If it were anyone else we’d just call it a novella, but the word seems to belittle Morrison’s stature and gift. The writing is crisp, the narrative economical, and a new Morrison book is always cause for celebration. But some of the late-breaking plot developments feel orphaned by the novel’s brevity and eagerness to bring Bride’s denouement.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsDeLillo is near the top of his game in Zero K, which comes about as close to science fiction as he gets. His primary obsessions are well represented, including the machinery of death, our efforts to forestall inevitable mortality and the fickle relationship between language and meaning. At times Zero K reads like literary theory in the form of fiction, with one major caveat: DeLillo substitutes the obtuse jargon of theory with bracingly crisp prose that leaps off the page...That exquisite command of language is what we’ve come to expect over DeLillo’s 45 years of writing novels.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsA Doubter’s Almanac flags a little down the stretch, as so many novels of this length do. Milo’s swirl to the bottom of the drain is a long way down. But Canin never loses sight of redemption’s possibility, and the fact that it lies within reach of everyone. It’s this idea that keeps you turning pages, and that helps push A Doubter’s Almanac far beyond the realm of formula.