January 29, 2014 Quindlen's novel Still Life with Bread Crumbs is predictably comforting and readable, even as it details the challenges of a modern middle-aged woman: the fallout of divorce, a career on the wane, and the endless financial and emotional support demanded by her family.
January 22, 2014 Richard Powers' new novel follows an avant-garde composer who has sacrificed everything in his pursuit of transcendent music — and who gets into trouble when he attempts to combine his twin obsessions of music and chemistry. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says Powers hits a high note with Orfeo.
January 17, 2014 E.L. Doctorow's new novel Andrew's Brain takes the reader deep into the mind of a cognitive scientist who's struggling with both scientific questions and personal tragedy. Critic Heller McAlpin says the book, which takes the form of Andrew's monologue to a doctor, is "a real head-scratcher."
November 5, 2013 Loosely structured as a stroll through New York City, Roger Rosenblatt's memoir includes playful, endearing anecdotes from his childhood in Gramercy Park. But critic Heller McAlpin notes that his rambling riffs and excruciatingly slow pace make it a difficult read.
October 23, 2013 Claudia Roth Pierpont's new Roth Unbound looks at themes in the work of Philip Roth (no relation). All the themes, in every book by the famously prolific writer. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says it's "a dazzling if sometimes exhausting journey" that dutifully addresses Roth's foibles as well as his talent.
October 3, 2013 Former IT consultant Graeme Simsion's debut novel, The Rosie Project, is a scientific romp about a probably-Asperger's-affected genetics professor who falls in love with a free-spirited woman during a search for her biological father. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says it's an "utterly winning screwball comedy."
September 26, 2013 In his new memoir, Julian Barnes contemplates 19th century photography, the metaphorical exhilaration of ballooning and the sudden death of his beloved wife. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says the book is beautifully written, if a little disjointed.
September 17, 2013 Nicholson Baker's latest novel, Traveling Sprinkler, revolves around Paul Chowder, a lonely poet who's fascinated by drone warfare and Debussy. Chowder was the star of Baker's 2009 novel The Anthologist, and reviewer Heller McAlpin welcomes his reappearance — though not his political rants.
September 11, 2013 Tom Perrotta has been called "the Steinbeck of suburbia" for his depictions of self-sabotaging adolescents and foolish middle-class adults. His new book — his first short-story collection in 19 years — is full of strong but repetitive stories, sad tales of failures earnestly yearning to do better.
David Rakoff was a radio essayist for public radio's This American Life.
July 16, 2013 While Dr. Seuss, David Rakoff was not, the author, it's clear, cared a whole awful lot. This book — his last — is a rhymed, pensive story: A triumph, says Heller McAlpin, in all its sly glory.
Apartment building in Greenwich Village
July 4, 2013 Cathleen Schine's new novel follows a young boy and his older half-sister, making a life for themselves in Greenwich Village. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says Fin & Lady is entertaining and moving.
June 19, 2013 Maggie O'Farrell's new novel, Instructions for a Heatwave, follows a troubled Irish Catholic family in London over the course of four scorching July days in 1976. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says Heatwave is a beautiful book about "the importance of forgiving those you love."
June 4, 2013 Lionel Shriver has never shied away from contentious topics. Her latest novel, Big Brother, tackles the hot-button issue of obesity as doll-maker Pandora deals with her brother — washed-up jazz pianist Edison — and his massive weight gain.
Cover of Class A
May 9, 2013 Lucas Mann's Class A combines baseball and sociology in this chronicle of a farm team from a fading Iowa factory town. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says Mann "uses the full tool kit of literary nonfiction" in a book that "encompasses nostalgia, hope and failure."
Edna O'Brien is pictured here with her husband, the writer Ernest Gebler, in London in 1959. O'Brien's first novel, The Country Girls, was published a year later.
Edna O'Brien/Little, Brown and Co.
May 1, 2013 Irish novelist Edna O'Brien looks back on eight tumultuous decades in a new memoir, Country Girl. Reviewer Heller McAlpin says the book is "a generous gift to readers" but too circumspect about O'Brien's personal life — which included encounters with Samuel Beckett, Richard Burton and Paul McCartney.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/179317147/180055914" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
NPR thanks our sponsors
Become an NPR sponsor