Fresh Air's book critic says it's just a fluke that 9 of the 11 titles she picked this year were written by female authors. Her favorites include a jumbo-sized Dickensian novel, a biography of Ben Franklin's sister, a comedy of manners, a stunning Scandinavian mystery and more.
In Death of a Nightingale, a Red Cross nurse named Nina Borg just can't stop rescuing people.
NPR staff and critics have selected more than 200 standout titles released in 2013.
Isabel Greenberg's new graphic novel weaves a human love story into a quasi-Biblical creation tale.
December 2, 2013 The acrtess' new memoir might not be the kind of thing you'd expect from a longtime A-list actress and daughter of film royalty. Forget the glamour and debauchery of the familiar Hollywood tell-all. As reviewer Meg Wolitzer explains, Huston's story begins before Los Angeles, a story at once relatable and unique.
November 30, 2013 A new collection of Dickinson's poems — written on envelopes and found after her death — opens a rare porthole into the enigmatic writer's life and art. Literally and figuratively shaped by their unusual medium, the poems in The Gorgeous Nothings invite endless interpretations.
November 27, 2013 A determined travel writer sets out to produce the first guide to a mysterious middle-European country in Gene Wolfe's new The Land Across. Reviewer Alan Cheuse says Wolfe mixes Kafka-esque mystery and paranoia with dark supernatural influences for "supposedly realistic novel that gives off the feel of a closely viewed dream."
November 26, 2013 For critic Maureen Corrigan, this year's hybrid family holiday may be best celebrated by escaping into a book. Her recommendations include a kids' book about Russian Jews who identify with the Pilgrims, and a novel that contemplates class divides during wartime through the lens of a football game.
November 24, 2013 Boredom in the immobility of a quadriplegic. Ennui in a Manhattan high-rise cubicle. Monotony in the slow-moving life of a writer. Said Sayrafiezadeh takes a look at everyday drudgery, highlighting three great memoirs that found inspiration in dullness. Life can be boring, he says, but books offer a way out — whether we're reading or writing them.
November 23, 2013 Writer Nicholas Dawidoff spent a year living with the New York Jets and came away with a respect for players and coaches that not all fans will like. NPR's Mike Pesca says Dawidoff's new book, Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, demystifies the game as it entrances.
November 22, 2013 With the invocation of the so-called "nuclear option," Senate Democrats moved to limit the power of the filibuster and dramatically change the nature of the institution. Many — on both sides — point to the maneuver as a sign of the system's failure. Writers Drew Toal and Kate Tuttle suggest books that might offer hope for us yet.
November 22, 2013 Dana Goodyear's new Anything That Moves is an eyes-(and-mouth)-wide-open trip through America's foodie subcultures, from raw food enthusiasts to underground supper clubs. Reviewer Jason Sheehan says Goodyear is a "fair guide to the underbelly," but doesn't exercise enough critical judgment when it comes to the crazier dishes.
November 17, 2013 Each of the young women in Laura van den Berg's The Isle of Youth is searching for significance in her life, troubled by the choices she's made. Their tales make up a collection of short stories written with cool aloofness. Critic Rosecrans Baldwin says that this book won't be for everyone — but for fans of detached prose, it's spectacular.
November 16, 2013 Novelist Robert Stone may not have the name recognition of some of his buzzed-about contemporaries, but his works have won top honors in the writing world. Critic Rosecrans Baldwin thinks Stone's latest, Death of the Black-Haired Girl — full of characters whose evil-doings are "a pleasure to watch" — might give him a shot at mainstream acclaim.
November 15, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines late last week, leaving behind devastation and plenty of questions yet to be answered. Authors Kevin Roose and Allan Gurganus suggest books that might provide readers with a glimpse past the week's ubiquitous headlines, to the human cost often left hidden.
November 14, 2013 Nicola Griffith's immersive tale of a seventh-century seer is a rare gift in a genre that often lacks women in leading roles. Critic Amal El-Mohtar has fallen in love with the titular character, praising Griffith's "startlingly beautiful" prose and her thoughtful, meticulously-detailed approach to the world of the Middle Ages.
November 13, 2013 Essay collections are underrated and often ignored in favor of short stories or novels. But in the hands of a writer as practiced as Ann Patchett, critic Maureen Corrigan says the essay becomes an expansive storytelling vessel. Patchett's new book is This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage.
November 10, 2013 There are plenty of memoirs of China's Cultural Revolution written from the perspective of elite intellectuals. But Hong Ying's story is different; in her youth, the writer was the sixth child in a crushingly poor family. Novelist Karen Ma says Hong Ying's memoir, Daughter of the River is unflinching, unapologetic and incredibly powerful.
November 9, 2013 Amy Tan's fans will find familiar themes in her new novel, The Valley of Amazement: mothers and daughters, multi-generational secrets, Chinese-American identity. But Jane Ciabattari says the new work, which centers on an American madam in Shanghai and her courtesan daughter, is more sophisticated than Tan's previous novels.