January 31, 2014 Patty Chang Anker recommends a cookbook that eases the anxieties of anyone trying to cook Chinese-American meals, and Lev Grossman reminds us that there is a Seussian storm comparable to the one that shut down Atlanta this week.
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January 31, 2014 Diane Johnson often writes about American heroines living in France, but when she began her memoir, she found herself drawn back to her native ground in America's heartland. Critic Maureen Corrigan says Flyover Lives "lets scenes and conversations speak for themselves, accruing power as they lodge in readers' minds."
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January 30, 2014 Robert Harris' new An Officer and a Spy is a fictionalized account of the Dreyfus Affair — which, as critic Alan Cheuse notes, is tailor made for Harris' talents: there's an innocent victim at the center, a melodramatic villain, buffoonish military brass, crusading newspaper editors and a star turn from the novelist Emile Zola.
January 29, 2014 Isabel Allende dips a toe in the waters of genre fiction with her new novel Ripper — about a girl who puts her online gaming group to work tracking down a serial killer who's targeted her mother. Reviewer Amal El-Mohtar says the book would function just as well as a character study, without the crime plot.
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 28, 2014 On a distant, watery moon, three civilizations clash in James Cambias' debut novel A Darkling Sea: human explorers, native scientists, and a self-styled intergalactic police force determined to make the humans go home. Reviewer Annalee Newitz says while flawed, Sea has "the gee-whiz wonder of a classic space opera."
January 27, 2014 Alan Cheuse reviews Roddy Doyle's latest novel, The Guts. The book revisits some of the characters from Doyle's debut hit, The Commitments.
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English novelist George Eliot (1819 - 1880), pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, poses for a photograph.
Hulton Archive /Getty Images
January 27, 2014 Rebecca Mead was 17 the first time she read Eliot's Middlemarch, and the book has remained a favorite ever since. But critic Meg Wolitzer says you don't have to read (or re-read) Middlemarch to love Mead's new book, My Life in Middlemarch, which is a mash-up of literary criticism, memoir and biography of Eliot.
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Detail from the cover of The Empire of Necessity.
Courtesy of Metropolitan Books
January 27, 2014 In The Empire of Necessity, historian Greg Grandin tells the story of a slave revolt at sea. The 1805 event inspired Herman Melville's Benito Cereno, and Grandin's account of the human horror is a work of power and precision.
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January 26, 2014 Roddy Doyle's new The Guts revisits the Commitments three decades later, grown up and dealing with life's blows. Mastermind Jimmy Rabbitte is out of the hospital after cancer surgery, and he's living life one day at a time. Critic Alan Cheuse says the dialogue-heavy novel is both foulmouthed and bursting with joie de vivre.
January 26, 2014 Novelists are famously prone to self-imposed exile and introspection; sometimes, they invent characters who are similarly solitary. Author Rachel Louise Snyder recommends three compelling books starring such loners. She says their isolation isn't what's compelling, but it's riveting to watch these recluses step back into the world of others.
January 24, 2014 Welcome to awards season. Between the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, and the upcoming Oscars, it's enough to make anyone question America's fixation on movies. But author Kevin Roose says that Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, a novel with a funny take on the movie industry, shows that there's something important going on behind the glitz.
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January 24, 2014 The Poetry Of Derek Walcott: 1948 - 2013 pulls from the Nobel laureate's large body of work. Fans might remember that the St. Lucian poet — who just turned 84 — published a Selected Works a few years ago. But the new book is more expansive and more enlightening, showing how Walcott's work has no parallel.
January 23, 2014 Jenny Offill's sparse and experimental novel Dept. of Speculation is a reminder that bigger isn't always better. Through short vignettes, Offill builds a narrative about an unnamed husband and wife. It's a sly, profound glimpse into a fragile domestic sphere — and, while the form may be unusual, the book is highly readable.
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January 23, 2014 Joyce Carol Oates' new Carthage explores the familiar but important territory of family anguish. Oates has written more than 40 novels — critic Alan Cheuse praises her prodigious imagination, and says her latest effort is a "roller coaster, demon-twister" of a ride.
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