December 31, 2013 Olivia Laing illuminates the complex relationships between writers and alcohol in The Trip to Echo Spring — Echo Spring being, of course, the euphemism Tennessee Williams used for the liquor cabinet in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Reviewer Jane Ciabattari says the book is "beautifully written, haunting, tragic and instructive in the best sense."
December 29, 2013 Poet Federico Garcia Lorca's life was cut short during the Spanish Civil War, but he left behind a rich legacy of poetry and drama. Reviewer Juan Vidal says the best poetry in translation to come out this year is a new collection of Lorca's verse, translated by writers who were deeply influenced by him.
December 28, 2013 When author Chris Abani was a boy, he was miserable at Catholic seminary and he felt like an outsider in his own family. One summer break, at home in Afikpo, he discovered James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. The tragic, taboo love story made young Abani feel that at last he'd found someone who understood how out of place he felt in his own life.
December 27, 2013 This week's Must Read, our topical book recommendation series, usually focuses on events in the news. But today, with an eye on the dropping thermometer, book critic Parul Sehgal suggests a seasonal text. Kenneth Grahame's classic children's novel offers a cozy, eccentric depiction of winter — perfect for curling up with as the snow comes down.
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December 27, 2013 In 1979, Gary Shteyngart's family moved from Leningrad to Queens. Three decades later, he wrote a memoir about growing up in a Russian immigrant family in New York. Reviewer Meg Wolitzer says the book is full of rich, gratifying writing as well as pride, exuberance and sophisticated humor.
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December 27, 2013 NPR's go-to librarian returns to some old favorites from her personal shelves. "All the books on my bookshelves are books that I loved," she says. "Those are the only books I keep." Her picks include a trilogy of novellas filled with British humor and an Irish mystery.
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December 25, 2013 An amazing book has surfaced from behind the Soviet-era Iron Curtain says our reviewer, Alan Cheuse. The book is Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.
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December 24, 2013 Alan Cheuse reviews Gene Wolfe's The Land Across.
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December 22, 2013 Juan Vidal recommends three Latin American masterpieces that were translated this year: a boundary-pushing novella, a noir tale of an assassination plot and a complex exploration of identity and history. There are no noble heroes in these pages — instead, they feature hapless, struggling souls in search of meaning.
December 22, 2013 Two strangers tell their stories to a wandering narrator in Bruce Wagner's new The Empty Chair. It's a pair of novellas meditating on grief, love, spirituality and the nature of storytelling. Reviewer Colin Dwyer says Wagner manages to both tease out the threads that bind the stories, and relish the spaces between.
December 20, 2013 The presidential panel on NSA has brought renewed attention to the practice of spying this week. Phone tapping, searching records and general intrigue — these have been popular topics in literature and film for well nigh a century. But espionage is not often a glamorous task, as author Julia Keller reminds us.
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Let's talk about sex, baby.
December 14, 2013 We've gotten some of the metrics back on NPR's Book Concierge and the results are a little surprising: the most popular combination of tags people searched for was Let's Talk About Sex plus Really Great Writing.
December 13, 2013 Do you have a favorite science-themed book from this past year? We're making our list, and checking it twice, when Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Deborah Blum and Brainpickings.org editor Maria Popova join Ira Flatow to share their top science, technology, and environmental books of 2013.
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December 12, 2013 Alan Cheuse reviews a short story collection by Russell Banks called A Permanent Member of the Family. The stories feature ordinary Americans caught in one dilemma or another.
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Illustration of woman and books.
December 11, 2013 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.
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