RaveThe Star Tribune... captivating ... The book is its own strange contraption, all of it similarly shot through with electric current. The book’s deadpan title perhaps undercuts its depth and complexity. Yes, this is a book about eels, those uncanny creatures, but in Svensson’s capable hands it is also a book about obsession and mystery, about faith and science, and about the limits of knowledge ... Like Annie Dillard and Rachel Carson, Svensson knows the best nature writing is done with emotion and drive. The Book of Eels is not objective in the way one might expect a work of nonfiction about the natural world to be. Svensson writes with imaginative verve and point of view. He is opinionated, funny, curious and open to disagreement ... But what sets The Book of Eels apart is its dual nature: Each eel chapter is followed by a brief self-contained chapter of memoir ... These gorgeous vignettes—which detail golden days and bracing swims through unfathomable currents—have something of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book to them. They are elusive and mythic in what they teach about our closest relationships, how our families shape and guide us while remaining somehow unknowable. Svensson is confident and controlled as he toggles between science and memoir, fact and memory ... Svensson, however, does make a big deal of the eel’s existence, and we are grateful for it.
A. Kendra Greene
RaveThe Star TribuneGreene’s book contains all the markers of exploration ... All of this evokes the pleasant hum of wonder that accompanies immersion in a foreign land. Yet if this is a travel book, it’s an unorthodox one, in that it is not immediately interested in orienting the reader in country. In fact, The Museum of Whales You Will Never See is dreamy and disorienting in the best way, since Greene is after more elusive prey than capital cities and sightseeing. She’s after the character of a country and has chosen a fascinating means of pursuing it ... Greene’s book operates as a sly people’s history, the ground-level chronicle of a nation ... Greene is a deft and skillful writer. She can be funny when the subject calls for it (say, visiting a penis museum) or slip into elegy, as when she explores the tragic circumstances surrounding a lakeside museum of taxidermied birds. She can wax lyrically, then pivot in an instant to bluntness ... With her attention to language and her insight into human behavior, Greene makes for a charming guide, a literary traveler in the spirit of Bruce Chatwin.
RaveThe Star Tribune... [a] powerful new work of nonfiction ... a collection of empathetic portraits of those enigmatic figures who haunt the edges of our vision ... The book’s loyalties are with the disenfranchised—the rural poor, the runaways, those living with mental illness, and people who survive by doing sex work. Sharlet is a reporter at heart. He presents his subjects’ stories in punchy and direct prose, then leaves it to us whether to raise eyebrows or take people at their word. He is never interested in passing judgment or offering a moral ... This Brilliant Darkness most frequently reminded me of the short fiction of Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson, writing that insists the lives of blue-collar laborers and heroin-addicted misfits are worthy of representation.