November 23, 2010 Some books aren't just great reads — they're great discussions, too. Critic Heller McAlpin picks the best literary conversation starters of 2010 — guaranteed to give you something to talk about.
Nora Ephron is the celebrated screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless In Seattle, You've Got Mail and other films. She is a triple nominee for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).
November 11, 2010 She may not have reached what she calls "the nadir of old age, the Land of Anecdote," but the Oscar-nominated screenwriter still knows how to tell a story. Sassy and wise, her memoir I Remember Nothing takes a self-deprecating look at aging in the modern world.
November 2, 2010 Whimsical and richly illustrated, Maira Kalman's graphic diary is an optimistic yearlong exploration of American history and government. And the Pursuit of Happiness is an unorthodox tribute to the United States — from musings on the Department of Homeland Security to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Ben Franklin.
October 16, 2010 In Nicole Krauss' Great House, the war-torn narratives of a historian, a poet and two novelists revolve around the writing desk they share. The result is an elegant study of memory, loss and the importance of literature.
October 4, 2010 Two-dimensional characters and corny dialogue plague Roth's new novel about a 1944 polio epidemic in Newark, N.J. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author pulls off a gorgeous finale, but his latest work doesn't meet the high bar he set with American Pastoral.
September 27, 2010 As gleefully inappropriate as it is wise, David Sedaris' collection of animal fables uses naughty wildlife and explicit illustrations to take on selfishness, bigotry and other human foibles.
September 15, 2010 The damned wear Yale varsity sweaters in Seymour Chwast's graphic novel adaptation of Dante's masterpiece. Chwast's diabolically witty cartoon drawings mix Hell's medieval monsters with the tropes of film noir and the zaniness of indie comics.
September 14, 2010 When Alan Bennett checks his mother into a hospital for depression, he uncovers more than a few skeletons in the family closet. The British playwright's memoir dismantles the myth of the normal family in a resentful but tender tale of hardship and enduring love.
Jonathan Franzen is also the author of The Corrections: A Novel, and The Discomfort Zone, a memoir.
August 24, 2010 There's been plenty of buzz about Jonathan Franzen's much-anticipated fourth novel ever since President Obama accepted an advance readers copy for his vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Critic Heller McAlpin says inflated expectations aside, she found Freedom to be a surprisingly moving and hopeful epic.
August 3, 2010 Norwegian writer Per Petterson hits the mark with his latest novel, which follows a man reflecting on his life — especially the events of 1989, a year when he lost his wife, his mother, and his faith in Communism.
July 29, 2010 Lifelong angler Paul Greenberg fuses investigative journalism, travelogue and personal memoir into one grand meditation on humankind's relationship with the ocean. Four Fish asks readers "to reevaluate whether fish are at their root expendable seafood or wildlife desperately in need of our compassion."
July 21, 2010 Read these books at the beach, and people two towels over will wonder why you're chortling. There are plenty of books that will make you laugh, but critic Heller McAlpin separates the mere giggles from the all-out gut-busters.
July 15, 2010 Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, carries on the grand old tradition of serialized novels in Corduroy Mansions. There's plenty of quirk and charm in this high-spirited, rambling tale about the inhabitants of a genteel, comfortably worn apartment block in London.
June 30, 2010 Sloane Crosley follows I Was Told There'd Be Cake with a new collection of sparkling personal essays. She serves up humorous observations and mordant opinions in carefully calibrated cocktails of self-absorption and self-deprecation.
June 16, 2010 Ever since his 1987 debut, The Object of My Affection, Stephen McCauley has helped revive and update the modern comedy of manners. His new novel, Insignificant Others, takes a gently satiric look at what it means to be in a serious relationship — but also see someone else on the side.
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