PositiveBooklistDybek has created a carefully constructed, deeply inquisitive, and broodingly romantic tale of mourning resonant with judicious echoes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and spiked with piquant insights into the loss, longing, and delusion rampant in the haunting aftermath of war.
RaveBooklist\"While others have established a historical context for today’s political polarization, none has so meticulously excavated the conceptual strata ... Kakutani has issued an elegantly well-argued and profoundly illuminating call to protest.\
RaveBooklist...an especially lithe and enlivening tale ... Tyler’s bedazzling yet fathoms-deep feel-good novel is wrought with nimble humor, intricate understanding of emotions and family, place and community—and bounteous pleasure in quirkiness, discovery, and renewal.
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Trans. by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson
RaveBooklistA brilliant and imaginative satirist and a contemporary of Chekhov and Maupassant, he is unknown to most American readers. That will change with the release of this monumental volume. A towering achievement in translation, it presents all of Machado de Assis’ stories in English for the first time, and it is a treasury of wily, captivating, ironic, revealing, and exuberant tales of Brazilian life and human folly. These stories are vital; their social particulars striking, even shocking... Machado de Assis’ stories belong in every world-fiction collection.
William T. Vollmann
RaveBooklistVigilant in his precision, open-mindedness, and candor, Vollmann takes on global warming, elucidating the science used to measure the impact of carbon-based fuels and nuclear energy on the atmosphere and Earth, and analyzing the \'ideologies,\' or assertions, that keep the energy industries churning, no matter the consequences. Vollmann provides an extensive, richly sourced \'primer\' of mind-seizing quantifications about greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture, transportation, power plants, and manufacturing, vividly conveyed information matched by arresting enumerations of negligence and malfeasance ... His poignant conversations with nuclear refugees, unnerving visits to contaminated towns, telling photographs, and stubborn attempts to measure radiation all attest to the terror, sorrow, and eerie normalization of this ongoing disaster. Vollmann’s careful descriptions, touching humility, molten irony, and rueful wit, combined with his addressing readers in \'the hot dark future,\' make this compendium of statistics, oral history, and reportage elucidating, compelling, and profoundly disquieting.
RaveBooklist...a book of adeptly interlocked tales ... As Millet makes exceptionally potent use of the linked-stories form, her writing is razor-edged, her comedy at once caustic and compassionate, and her insights agile.
David Lynch and Kristine McKenna
PositiveBooklist…a personification of unconventionality, multimedia visionary David Lynch has combined memoir with biography to forge a strikingly multidimensional portrait of the artist. Coauthor McKenna, a journalist who has known Lynch for decades, presents the facts along with forthright recollections gleaned from extensive interviews with Lynch’s family, ex-wives, friends, and colleagues … incandescently detailed and complexly enlightening chronicle of a fervent, uncompromising life devoted to \'pure creativity\'
RaveBooklistShe visits \'painted\' gardens by Monet, Bonnard, and Van Gogh, as well as diverse fictional gardens, including those conjured by Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and Edith Wharton. Lively also looks to gardens as indicators of social standing, tracks garden fashions, confesses her addiction to fuchsias, and zestfully critiques the writings of influential English garden designers, including Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. Erudite, witty, and irreverent, Lively darts ebulliently from topic to topic like a bee among blossoms.
Fatima Farheen Mirza
RaveBooklistMirza’s debut novel, extraordinary in its depth and diligence ... adeptly revisits painful dilemmas from each narrator’s perspective, revealing jolting secrets. Each complex, surprising character struggles with faith, responsibility, racism, fear, longing, and jealousy, while Mirza conveys with graceful specificity the rhythms of Muslim life, from prayer to wearing hijab, gender etiquette, food, holidays, and values, all of which illuminate universal quandaries about family, self, culture, beliefs, and generational change.
RaveBooklistPhillips’ hypnotic interpretation of the first half of Gwen’s life is riddled with strategic lacunae, so that the sudden mention of her writing cracks the bitter gloom like a lightning bolt. Phillips’ bravura, empathic, and unnerving performance makes the real-world achievement of his muse all the more surprising and significant.
RaveBooklistIn this free-roaming history of libraries, Kells, well read, well traveled, ebullient, and erudite, relishes tales of innovation, obsession, and criminality ... scintillating, often irreverant ... Kells’ revelatory romp through the centuries cues us to the fact that, as has so often been the case, libraries need our passionate attention and support, our advocacy, gratitude, and (given Kells’ tales of book-kissing, including Coleridge pressing his lips to his copy of Spinoza) love.
Julia Van Haaften
RaveBooklistVan Haaften...chronicles Abbott’s demanding life and extraordinary accomplishments with scrupulous detail ... Van Haaften’s expert foundational biography brings Abbott into sharp focus as a photographer able to \'express deep feeling through technical mastery.\'
RaveBooklistWith convincing intensity and a charming mix of wit, gruesomeness, magic, and romance in the spellbinding mode of Alice Hoffman, Fine offers a provocative fairy tale about womanhood under siege and one young woman’s fierce resistance.
RaveBooklistPollan’s complexly elucidating and enthralling inquiry combines fascinating and significant history with daring and resonant reportage and memoir, and looks forward to a new open-mindedness toward psychedelics and the benefits of diverse forms of consciousness.
RaveBooklistBy investigating the ways presidents have faced crises, Meacham, whose shining, cogent prose carries in its swift current mind-opening quotes from myriad sources, freshly defines the \'soul of America\' ... This engrossing, edifying, many-voiced chronicle, subtly propelled by concern over the troubled Trump administration, calls on readers to defend democracy, decency, and the common good.
RaveBooklist\"Ondaatje’s gorgeous, spellbinding prose is precise and lustrous, witty, and tender. As the painful truth of this fractured family emerges and Rose’s riveting story takes center stage, Ondaatje balances major and minor chords, sun and shadow, with masterful grace beautifully concentrated in \'warlight,\' his term for the sparest possible illumination during the city’s defensive blackouts ... Ondaatje’s drolly charming, stealthily sorrowful tale casts subtle light on secret skirmishes and wounds sustained as war is slowly forged into peace.\
RaveBooklist\"McLain has perfected her dramatic and lyrical approach to biographical fiction, lacing Marty’s ardent inner life into electrifying descriptions of place and action ... McLain brings forth the deepest, most ringing elements of both \'love and ruin,\' the two poles of Marty and Ernest’s tempestuous relationship, a ferocious contest between two brilliant, willful, and intrepid writers. McLain’s fast-moving, richly insightful, heart-wrenching, and sumptuously written tale pays exhilarating homage to its truly exceptional and significant inspiration.\
RaveBooklist\"For all the vital, sensuous, enrapturing descriptions that engender a powerful sense of presence, this is also a contemplation of absence and solitude as Hampl tenderly contends with the sudden death of her husband. An exquisite anatomy of mind and an incandescent reflection on nature, being, and rapture.\
PositiveBooklistWith both resonant detail and purposeful distillation, Barnet tells their dramatic stories within the context of the counterculture of 50 years ago, charts the ongoing vitality and influence of their compassionate visions, and asks if we will yet accomplish what these four 'accidental revolutionaries' call on us to do to preserve the web of life.
RaveBooklistThrillingly quick-footed, Young’s poems are also formally intricate and fully loaded with history, protest, and emotion as he writes of racial injustice.
RaveBooklist\"Romy, Kushner has created a seductive narrator of tigerish intensity whose only vulnerability is her young son ... Rooted in deeply inquisitive thinking and executed with artistry and edgy wit, Kushner’s dramatic and disquieting novel investigates with verve and compassion societal strictures and how very difficult it is to understand each other and to be truly free.\
Tracy K Smith
RaveBooklist\"Poetry requires acts of exquisite selection and distillation that Smith, poet laureate of the United States, performs with virtuosity and passion throughout her profoundly affecting fourth collection ... The sacred and the malevolent are astutely juxtaposed in this beautifully formed, deeply delving, and caring volume.\
PositiveBooklistHalpern (A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, 2013), a master of precise, warmhearted creative nonfiction and a discerning and sensitive novelist, infuses this tale of derailments and second chances with free-ranging empathy, lithe humor, and penetrating insights into the human psyche ... The adversity-defined perspectives and piquant senses of humor possessed by Halpern’s irresistible characters shape this inclusively appealing novel’s searingly candid yet ultimately benevolent worldview. Finely choreographed and lucidly told, Halpern’s uplifting tale peers into suffering both random and inflicted with malice, then works its way with wisdom and charm to an unfazed celebration of supportive communities—epicenters of kindness and teasing, skepticism and respect, nosiness and generosity, backed by a low-key affirmation of just how essential public libraries—oases, bedrocks, incubators, launching pads—are to our lives, our democracy, and our future.
RaveBooklist\"With the word ferocity appearing with satisfying frequency, Dean presents shrewd, discerning, fresh, and crisply composed interpretations of the temperaments, experiences, and sophisticated trailblazing works of these gutsy and transformative thinkers.\
RaveBooklistBraverman daringly, ravishingly, and resoundingly dramatizes the profound consequences of delusions, lies, ignorance, anger, cruelty, poverty, disappointment, conformity, inebriation, and violence with high imagination, sensual precision, cutting humor, and bracing insight.
PositiveBooklistDespite some forced notes, Lombardo has created an exuberantly cartoonish, incisive, and suspenseful tale of an erupting city and an earnest 'street scholar' intent on making us 'see the writing on the walls.'
RaveBooklistA virtuoso at parallel narratives, concurrent micro and macro perspectives, and the meshing of feelings, facts, and ideas, Powers draws on his signature fascination with the consequences, intended and otherwise, of science and technology as he considers the paradox of our ongoing assaults against nature in spite of all the evidence indicating impending disasters ... Powers’ sylvan tour de force is alive with gorgeous descriptions; continually surprising, often heartbreaking characters; complex suspense; unflinching scrutiny of pain; celebration of creativity and connection; and informed and expressive awe over the planet’s life force and its countless and miraculous manifestations. Powers elevates ecofiction ... The Overstory and its brethren seed awareness and hope.
Tatyana Tolstaya, Trans. by Anya Migdal
RaveBooklistPraised by Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940–96) as \'the most original, tactile, luminous voice in Russian prose,\' Tolstaya, two decades on, is all that and more in this edgy, brash, slyly surreal, and mordantly funny short story collection, which begins with the sudden awakening of a woman’s literary imagination, an inherited gift ... Tolstaya’s daring, masterful stories, crisply translated, glint and whirl with extraordinary dimension and force.
RaveBooklist\"Incantatory, maddening, brilliant, zestful, compassionate, and timely, Tillman’s portrait of a floundering academic trying to make sense of a digitized world of churning, contradictory messages reveals the perpetual interplay between past and present, the personal and the cultural, image and life.\
RaveBooklist\"Within this relentless work of self-scrutiny, Jamison also conducts a meticulously researched, richly nuanced, and sensitive inquiry into the lives of now-legendary alcoholic writers ... Jamison’s questing immersion in intoxication and sobriety is exceptional in its vivid, courageous, hypnotic telling; brilliant in its subtlety of perception, interpretation, and compassion; and capacious in its scholarship, scale, concern, and mission.\
David Cay Johnston
RaveBooklistJohnston’s well-sourced and knowledgeable account chronicles exactly how cabinet secretaries and their staffs are dismantling protection of everything from worker safety to fair banking policies, veteran’s benefits, and affordable education, while purging diplomats and scientists, especially those studying climate change ... This precise and fiery indictment of an unstable, unethical president concludes with a call for us to defend our democracy, a system of 'compromise, cooperation, and caring.'
RaveBooklistHis latest mysterious, mesmerizing, and insightful fairy tale is an imaginative and tender tribute to his late brother, who had Down syndrome ... Each strange, touch-and-go encounter on their poignant and demanding journey reveals the contrariness of human nature, especially as people respond to the unusual boy. Ball’s mind-bending, gorgeously well told, and profoundly moving fable celebrates a father’s love for his son, whose quintessence is to inspire people to be their better selves.
RaveBooklistMatthews spins a mighty operational web replete with exacting tradecraft and horrific violence. His descriptive precision is breathtaking; the sparring between his vividly realized characters is devilishly clever. With nail-biting suspense, scorching eroticism, dark wit, lashing contempt for politicians dismissive of intelligence work, and fury over Russia’s disinformation campaigns, this is a riveting and knowing dramatization of today’s clandestine geopolitical conflicts.
RaveBooklist\"Via Hick’s crisp delivery and fluency in telling detail, Bloom uncloaks the insidious treacheries girls and women face, poor and privileged alike ... novel of extraordinary magnetism and insight; this keen celebration of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.\
RaveBooklistRage and hilarity form a dynamic symbiosis in Aliu’s debut novel ... Aliu is spectacularly funny and deeply insightful. With all-the-way-live characters, vigorous observations, combative dialogue, bravado metaphors, and ninja parsing of social class, immigrant struggles, bad behavior, and stubborn hope, Aliu has created a boldly witty and astute inquiry into the nature-versus-nurture debate, the inheritance of pain, and the dream of transcendence.
PositiveBooklistGoldberg follows his delirious Stalin-era satire, The Yid (2016), with an qually caustic send-up of today's brand of authoritarianism ...With allusions to Gogol...impishly comedic Goldberg?peer to Tom Wolfe, Leslie Epstein, and Stanley Elkin?cannily burlesques the toxicity of human folly uynder Trump and Putin.
RaveBooklistO’Farrell’s intrepidness and determination are awe-inspiring, her experiences overwhelming, and her writing impeccable. This is a memoiristic tour de force.
RaveBooklistReaders will never take coffee for granted or overlook the struggles of Yemen after ingesting Egger’s phenomenally well-written, juggernaut of a tale of an intrepid and irresistible entrepreneur on a complex and meaningful mission. This highly caffeinated adventure story is ready-made for the big screen.
RaveBooklistA stunning first novel about faith and yearning in the crucible of a strained marriage and a brief affair ...The lyric cadence of Quatro’s writing gets into one’s veins as she stealthily transforms the most common of plotlines into a scorching analysis of the ‘agony of temptation,’ prayer, the relationship between Eros and the divine, and a ‘renewed sense of holiness.’ Maggie longs for a ‘return to a viable literature of faith.’ Quatro infuses that tradition with fresh, molten energy.”
RaveBooklist...[a] bewitching and provocative novel ... Aligned in her artistic command, imagination, and deep curiosity about the human condition with Nicole Krauss, Dara Horn, and Stacey D’Erasmo, Benjamin asks what we want out of life. Duration? Success? Meaning? Who do we live for? Do our genes determine our path? How does trauma alter us? Benjamin has created mesmerizing characters and richly suspenseful predicaments in this profound and glimmering novel of death’s ever-shocking inevitability and life’s wondrously persistent whirl of chance and destiny.
RaveBooklistA master of emotional precision and breakneck plots, Boyle also has a gift for light-touch speculative fiction, conjuring an eerie, genetically modified suburb in the hilariously caustic 'Are We Not Men?' In the title story, a divorced father fails his teenage daughter by becoming addicted to a device that turns obsessing over one’s past into a diabolical malady ... all are portrayed with empathic imagination, acid social critique, and commanding artistry. Boyle’s substantial collection is funny, disarming, and crushing, haunting and beautiful.
RaveBooklistA meshing of memoir and invention, it snares with virtuoso precision both nature’s constant vibrancy and the stop-action of illness. Told in short takes pulsing with life and rueful wit ... Gradually the spy and the man on the porch merge, and the resilient yet reconciled narrator celebrates family love beneath a full moon in the farewell beauty of twilight. A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s innovative and soulful body of work.
RaveBookPage...[a] gripping and unnerving book ... Entwining affecting personal revelations with jolting governmental disclosures, declaring that Stanley Kubrick’s infamous nuclear-weapons satire, Dr. Strangelove (1964), 'was, essentially, a documentary,' and citing our tense standoff with North Korea, Ellsberg concludes his dramatic elucidation of how the nuclear arsenal endangers all of life on Earth with steps for dismantling this Doomsday Machine. A must-read of the highest order, Ellsberg’s profoundly awakening chronicle is essential to our future.
RaveBooklistIn classic rom-com style, Pearl’s titular protagonists collide at an Ann Arbor, Michigan, bowling alley, where stoned and brokenhearted college student Lizzie manages to irredeemably sabotage dental-school freshman George’s dream date and near-perfect game. The novel spins back to reveal this fated couple’s diametrically different childhoods … Through knotty predicaments both sorrowful and hilarious, Pearl dramatizes a complicated and deeply illuminating union of opposites and conducts profound inquiries into the self, family, empathy, and love. The result is a charming, edgy, and many-faceted novel of penetrating humor and resonant insight.
RaveBooklistIn this feverish cautionary tale, Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Emily Schultz’s The Blondes (2015), Edan Lepucki’s California (2014), Laura van den Berg’s Find Me (2015), and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold, Fame, Citrus (2015), infusing her masterful, full-tilt dystopian novel with stinging insights into the endless repercussions of the Native American genocide, hijacked spirituality, and the ongoing war against women’s rights. A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence.
RaveBooklistIn this crisp, scintillating, amusing, and affecting memoir, Anne incisively and lovingly portrays her brilliantand vital father and brings into fresh focus the dynamic world of twentieth-century books and America’s discovery of wine.
RaveBooklistAllende, as effervescent in her compassion, social concerns, and profound joy in storytelling as ever, brings both humor and intensity to this madcap, soulful, and transporting tale of three survivors who share their traumatic pasts while embarking on a lunatic mission of mercy ... Allende has a rare and precious gift for simultaneously challenging and entrancing readers by dramatizing with startling intimacy such dire situations as the desperation behind illegal immigration and domestic violence, then reveling, a page later, in spiritual visions or mischievous sexiness or heroic levity.
RaveBooklistThe first in a foundational two-book inquiry into the unusually sunny life and exuberantly radical work of sculptor Alexander Calder … Graced with 400 photographs, Perl’s dynamic and illuminating biography, as buoyant and evocative as Calder’s sculptures, concludes with the ebullient and cosmic artist poised for ever more creative adventures and renown.
RaveBooklist...[an] assiduously researched and riveting biography ... Bannos tacks between fully chronicling Maier’s fiercely independent and creatively intrepid life and thoroughly investigating the sale of her photographs and the questions raised about who has the right to profit from them ... aking measure of the barriers women face, Bannos portrays Maier as nothing less than a consummate, prolific, world-traveling, uncompromising, and fearless artist.
RaveBooklistTogether their tales form a jarring and haunting choral work of remembrance and pragmatism, pride and regret ... Garcia, a transcendentally imaginative, piquantly satiric, and profoundly compassionate novelist, dramatizes the helter-skelter of lives ruptured by tyranny, war, and political upheavals with sharp awareness of unlikely multicultural alliances ... With echoes of W. G. Sebald and Günter Grass, Garcia has created an intricate, sensitive, and provocative montage revolving around the question: 'Do people remember only what they can endure, or distort memories until they can endure them?'
Cristina De Stefano, Trans. by Marina Harss
RaveBooklistIn this meticulous, perceptive, and dramatic portrait, De Stefano reveals the full intensity and sensitivity of a trailblazing warrior writer.
RaveBooklistIn her ambushing and revealing memoir, beloved novelist Tan chronicles with striking candor, sharp wit, and storytelling magic stranger-than-fiction traumas ... In this year of intense literary memoirs, including Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and Richard Ford’s Between Them, Tan’s is electric with her forensic curiosity and extraordinary ability to extract from suffering startling insights into the mind-body connection, inheritance, memory, and creativity. A profound work of endless fascination, discovery, and compassion.
RaveBooklistAtlas relays all with wry hilarity, bighearted candor, and effervescent passion for the art of literary biography, from the toils and thrills of research to the lonely struggles of distillation, interpretation, and composition ... Atlas’ expert, provocative, and enlightening 'biographer’s tale' is a work of both depth and radiance.
PositiveBooklistSmith, a contemplative writer of gratitude and reverence who names her muses in poems, memoirs, and songs, deepens her inquiry into the nature of inspiration in this slender, trenchant volume ... Gracefully improvisational, as always, Smith offers an unusually poetic, mystical, and transfixing perspective on the mystery of literary creation.
RaveBooklistLike Dennis Lehane, Egan has combined insightful historical fiction with emotionally rich crime fiction to create a riveting and provocative investigation into the human condition. For all her keen attunement to social metamorphosis, what is most engrossing is Egan’s charting of the psychological eddies and storms that shape her irresistibly stubborn, risk-seeking characters ... Ultimately, Egan’s propulsive, surprising, ravishing, and revelatory saga, a covertly profound page-turner that will transport and transform every reader, casts us all as divers in the deep, searching for answers, hope, and ascension.
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
RaveBooklistWith the combined impact of robustly detailed writing and more than 500 staggering photographs, Ward and Burns thoroughly chronicle horrific combat and relentless bombing missions, the mass deployment of napalm and Agent Orange, the suffering and death of civilians, the resiliency of North Vietnamese forces, and the powerful antiwar movement. The eye-opening stories of key public figures, from Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, are matched by those of 'ordinary' people, including American and South and North Vietnamese soldiers and their families; an American doctor POW; a woman field nurse; a young, long-separated North Vietnamese couple; antiwar activists, including war veterans; and Vietnamese refugees. With reflections by prominent journalists and writers, including Philip Caputo and Viet Thanh Nguyen, this is a vivid, affecting, definitive, and essential illustrated history.
RaveBooklistIn this enveloping, emotionally intricate, suspenseful drama, McDermott lures readers into her latest meticulously rendered Irish American enclave, returning to early twentieth-century Brooklyn ... Like Alice Munro, McDermott is profoundly observant and mischievously witty, a sensitive and consummate illuminator of the realization of the self, the ravages of illness and loss, and the radiance of generosity. As she considers the struggles of women, faith and inheritance, sacrifice and passion, she pays vivid tribute to the skilled and sustaining sisters, a fading social force. McDermott’s extraordinary precision, compassion, and artistry are entrancing and sublime.
RaveBooklist...what begins as a clever and larky tale, all shimmers and sparks, then evolves into a suspenseful drama of profound dimensions. MacArthur Fellow Scott, a novelist of wit and daring, creates fresh and compelling characters and nimbly spans decades as she delves into the struggles of women in a blatantly sexist world ... Scott’s dynamic and provocative novel offers arresting insights into moral dilemmas at the intersection of the personal and the societal.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesCool-headed, with nerves of steel, Jan undertakes missions as suspenseful as the plot of any top-notch thriller. Antonina, exhibiting equal grace under pressure, and even more vulnerable after the birth of their daughter, survives more than her share of terrifying encounters with Nazis … It is no stretch to say that this is the book Ackerman was meant to write...Every rapturous hour she has spent communing with plants and animals, every insight gleaned into human nature, every moment under the spell of language is a steppingstone that led her to Poland, the home of her maternal grandparents, and to the incomparable heroes Jan and Antonina Zabinski. The result of her tenacious research, keen interpretation and her own ‘transmigration of sensibility’ is a shining book beyond category.
RaveBooklistEight crisply instructive and drolly self-deprecating essays [are] gathered here in this exceptionally entertaining and illuminating book . . . [Draft No. 4] is expert, charming, and invigorating.
PositiveBooklistAs both seekers end up alone in the desert, Epstein in ecstasy, Nicole in wonder-struck peril, Krauss reflects with singing emotion and sagacity on Jewish history; war; the ancient, plundered forests of the Middle East; and the paradoxes of being. A resounding look at the enigmas of the self and the persistence of the past.
RaveBooklistBy virtue of his exceptional observational and analytical powers, acute emotional and moral exactitude, and charmingly rueful sense of humor, he turns in a riveting and incandescent chronicle of personal evolution vividly set within the ever-morphing, cocaine-stoked crucible of ferocious ambition that was 1980s Manhattan. He tells tales of the forging of a marriage; of nightmarish apartment battles with verminous hordes; of fortuitous jobs at museums, men’s fashion magazines, and a book publisher; and of bonds developed with critic Robert Hughes, artist Jeff Koons, and, most profoundly, photographer Richard Avedon. Arabesque, captivating, self-deprecating, and affecting, Gopnik’s cultural and intimate reflections, in league with those of Alfred Kazin and Joan Didion, are rich in surprising moments and delving perceptions into chance, creativity, character, style, conviction, hard work, and love.
Donna M. Lucey
RaveBooklist...Lucey vividly reveals the hidden truths of their tumultuous lives, while also succinctly telling the artist’s own intriguing story ... Lucey’s portrait of 'mercurial' and 'brazen' Isabella Stewart Gardner, the best known of the quartet, is as fresh and revelatory as Sargent’s scandalous painting as she recounts Gardner’s zeal for art collecting and her unique home museum. Lucey’s superlative group portrait, rendered in crystal-clear prose, is spring-fed by her immersion in vast archives of letters and diaries, her pilgrimages to the extraordinary places that shaped her subjects’ lives, and her keen insights into what drove these women to break out of their gilded cages.
RaveBooklistRushdie’s galvanizing epic of the fall of civilizations attacked from within is spiked with references to ancient Greece and Rome, the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and a litany of recent American mass and police shootings and other horrific crimes. It is also electric with literary echoes from Homer, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Fitzgerald, and vivid with cinematic tributes to Buñuel, Bergman, and Hitchcock. This contextual amplitude is matched by narrative complexity as René experiments with different approaches to a story that is forever intensifying ... There is a scorching immediacy and provocation to Rushdie’s commanding tragedy of the self-destruction of a family of ill-gotten wealth and sinister power, of ambition and revenge, and the rise of a mad, vulgar, avaricious demigod hawking 'radical untruth' and seeding chaos. The Golden House is a headlines-stoked novel-on-fire sure to incite discussion. But it is also a ravishingly well-told, deeply knowledgeable, magnificently insightful, and righteously outraged epic that poses timeless questions about the human condition. Can a person be both good and evil? Is family destiny? Does the past always catch up to us? In a time of polarizing extremes, can we find common ground? Will despots and their supporters be forever with us? Will humankind ever learn? Can story and art enlighten us? As Rushdie’s blazing tale surges toward its crescendo, life, as it always has, rises stubbornly from the ashes, as does love.
RaveBooklistAfter the fierce complexity of The Woman Upstairs, Messud presents a more concentrated, no less emotionally intense novel about an adhesively close friendship ... Messud’s entrancing, gorgeously incisive coming-of-age drama astutely tracks the sharpening perceptions of an exceptionally eloquent young woman navigating heartbreak and regret and realizing that one can never fathom 'the wild, unknowable interior lives' of others, not even someone you love ... [her] exquisitely realized young characters and their tough initiations into adolescence are captivating and profound.
RaveBooklist...six crisply written, ardently researched, and entertainingly revelatory portraits of very different women with complicated relationships with eating and cooking ... A bounteous and elegant feast for hungry minds.
RaveBooklist...[a] staggering debut collection ... Each tale of incarceration expands this theater of grim comedy, repercussive tragedy, and warped adaptation ... In stories that range from high-definition realism to wistful surrealism, Dawkins illuminates the nuances of prison life from the fragility of inmate friendships to the constant assault of memories and regrets, sensual deprivation, the intricate web of lies and power plays, and the many shades of stoicism. Sorrowful, hard-hitting, and compassionate, these finely formed, quietly devastating stories are told with unusual and magnetizing authority.
RaveBooklistThese gorgeously complicated, psychologically astute tales are catalyzed by holiday gatherings, weddings, birthday celebrations, and reunions, joyous occasions wildly derailed by divorce, sibling rivalry, generational clashes, financial disasters, violence, and medical emergencies. The directions in which these encounters veer are beyond unexpected, thanks to Beattie’s puckish imagination ... Beattie’s profoundly intriguing and unsettling stories abound in delectably witty and furious inner monologues, barbed dialogue, ludicrous predicaments, many-faceted heartaches, and abrupt upwellings of affection, even love.
RaveBooklistInfusing literary fiction with criminality and terror in a mode similar to that of Ann Patchett and Hannah Tinti, Meloy compounds the suspense in this gripping and incisive tale by orchestrating a profoundly wrenching shift in perspective, and morality, as well-meaning tourists face the dark realities of a complex place they viewed merely as a playground. Meloy’s commanding, heart-revving, and thought-provoking novel has enormous power and appeal.
RaveBooklist...a profoundly candid union of prose and poetry catalyzed by the recent death of his Spokane Indian mother, Lillian, one of the last to speak their tribal language, a legendary quilter, and a fighter to the end. Alexie’s deeply delving remembrance expresses a snarl of conflicting emotions, ranging from anger to awe, and reveals many tragic dangers and traumas of reservation life, from the uranium dust generated by nearby mines, which caused Lillian’s lung cancer, to the malignant legacy of genocide: identity crises, poverty, alcoholism, and violence, especially rape, in which the 'epically wounded . . . turned their rage' on each other. Alexie chronicles his own suffering as a boy born hydrocephalic and an adult diagnosed as bipolar, and tracks his flight from the rez and his life as a writer, pouring himself into every molten word. Courageous, anguished, grateful, and hilarious, this is an enlightening and resounding eulogy and self-portrait.
RaveBooklist...a work of zealous social critique laced with sexy romantic comedy and a just-in-the-nick-of-time family reconciliation ... With a weirdly nurturing driverless car, a family emergency, a sexy art director, and wrenching and hilarious confrontations and meltdowns, Maum’s incisive, charming, and funny novel ebulliently champions the healing powers of touch, the living world, and love in all its crazy risks, surprises, and sustaining radiance.
RaveBooklistWith intriguingly eccentric supporting characters and a dramatic setting, Godwin’s riveting and wise story of the slow coalescence of trust and love between a stoic artist and a grieving boy, and of nature’s glory and indifference, subtly and insightfully explores different forms of haunting and vulnerability, strength and survival ... [a] tender and spellbinding supernatural novel.
Ed. by Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon
RaveBooklistTheir dramatic testimonies are radiant with telling details, vital portraits, and explosive facts. Geraldine Brooks tells the crushing story of two young Palestinian cousins. Dave Eggers meets courageous artists in Gaza, a dehumanizing 'open-air prison.' Assaf Gavron tells harrowing tales of Palestinian soccer players; Porochista Khakpour meets rappers. The soul-crushing bureaucracy of the occupation is exposed in Raja Shehadeh’s narrative about a Palestinian taxi driver and in Chabon’s tale of a businessman. This sensitive, galvanizing, and landmark gathering brings the occupation into sharp focus as a tragedy of fear and tyranny, a monumental failure of compassion and justice, a horrific obstacle to world peace.
RaveBooklist...a mesmerizing volume of deftly edited passages ... Sedaris is caustically witty about his bad habits and artistic floundering. Even when he cleans up his act, falls in love, and achieves raving success, Sedaris remains self-deprecating and focused on the bizarre and the disquieting. A candid, socially incisive, and sharply amusing chronicle of the evolution of an arresting comedic artist.
RaveBooklistHistorical novels about artists abound, but few attain the psychological intricacy, fluency of imagination, lacerating wit, or intoxicating beauty of Gray’s tale of Isadora Duncan ... As Isadora plunges into near madness, then slowly reclaims her artistic powers, Gray, performing her own extraordinary artistic leap, explores the nexus between body and mind, loss and creativity, love and ambition, and birth and death. The spellbinding result is a mythic, fiercely insightful, mordantly funny, and profoundly revelatory portrait of an intrepid and indelible artist.
RaveBooklist...an exquisitely sensitive double portrait of his parents ... Illustrated with family photographs, Ford’s remembrance of his parents is a masterful distillation of sensuous description, psychological intricacy, social insights, and a keen sense of place. Ford’s reflections are bright with wit, edgy with candor, and lustrous with extraordinary poignancy and love.
RaveBooklistIn these clarifying and uplifting presentations, rich in historical anecdotes and portraits, he speaks of freedom and responsibility and 'courage and patience.' At an Independence Day naturalization ceremony at Monticello, he told 'new Americans' that 'the nation is richer for you.' McCullough reminds us, 'If we are beset by problems, we have always been beset by problems.' And we have always drawn on our American spirit and convictions to find our way forward.
RaveBooklistNorman puts a sweetly comic spin on his signature themes to create a delectably clever tribute to cozy crime fiction ... With a masterfully constructed plot, brilliantly realized characters, and deliciously witty repartee, Norman offers a soulful variation on Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, while also addressing the tragic legacies of war, paying homage to books and libraries, and celebrating love. An emotionally vibrant, keenly funny, genuinely suspenseful, and altogether spellbinding novel that will thrill Norman’s fans and readers who relish creative improvisations on the grand noir tradition.
Lesley Nneka Arimah
RaveBooklist...a slender yet mighty short story collection that delivers one head-snapping smack after another ... Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she writes with subtlety and poignancy about the struggles of love and hope between daughters and mothers and fathers, including relationships complicated by the legacy of the Biafran War, class divides, and transatlantic separations ... Arimah’s stories of loss, grief, shame, fury, and love are stingingly fresh and complexly affecting.
RaveBooklistAs Charyn, deeply versed in Kosinski’s worlds, reaches back to young Jerzy’s mastering of the art of lying to survive the war, he ultimately portrays a traumatized, desperately masquerading artist 'caught between languages,' identities, and cultures, and between renown and scandal. Daringly imaginative and profoundly insightful.
Omar El Akkad
RaveBooklist...[a] vigorously well-informed, daringly provocative speculative first novel ... El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.
RaveBooklistWith life-or-death struggles in dramatic settings, including a calving glacier, and starring a fiercely loving, reluctant criminal and a girl of grit and wonder, Tinti has forged a breathtaking novel of violence and tenderness.