NPR stories about Book Reviews
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.
November 7, 2013 Before World War II, numerous Jewish emigrants left Lithuania for South Africa. In his debut novel, Kenneth Bonert tells the story of a family among their number. As reviewer Ellah Allfrey writes, despite a few rookie mistakes, that story is told with great inventiveness and care.
November 7, 2013 A new biography from Sam Wasson examines the life and legacy of the Broadway, TV and film director Bob Fosse, who is known for such game-changing entertainments as Cabaret, Liza With A Z and Chicago. NPR's Bob Mondello says the book has both substantial research and vivid descriptions.
November 7, 2013 In the many decades since the publication of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie's self-help classic has been both celebrated and mocked, but it's still selling plenty of copies. Steven Watts' new biography of the man may feel overstuffed, but, as Maureen Corrigan notes, Carnegie's relentless positivity always shines through.
November 6, 2013 For one year, on her daily walks, poet Harryette Mullen observed the collision of the natural world with the man-made environs of Los Angeles. She translated her impressions into a series of tankas, 31-syllable poems in the Japanese tradition. The resulting collection is called Urban Tumbleweed: Notes From a Tanka Diary.
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.
November 4, 2013 Alan Cheuse reviews Dublin journalist Paul Lynch's first novel, Red Sky in Morning, which is set in 19th century Ireland. The book tells the story and aftermath of a murder committed by a rage-filled farmer against the landlord who evicts him. Cheuse says Lynch's forceful language makes the story's violence palpable.
November 4, 2013 Bound by the confines of gender and finances, two young women take divergent paths in Elena Ferrante's The Story of a New Name, the second book in her "Neapolitan Novels" trilogy. Critic John Powers believes the bold, expansive series to be semi-autobiographical, a revelation from a secretive author who won't reveal her true name.