NPR stories about Books We Like
April 24, 2012 Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov writes short, surrealistic stories full of dark comedic surprises. His latest is The Case of the General's Thumb, but critic John Powers suggests starting with his 1996 novel, Death and the Penguin. It's a fast-paced, witty read and what Powers calls "an almost perfect novel."
November 29, 2011 Mystery writer P.D. James, now 91, has written a suspenseful sequel to Jane Austen's classic. Death Comes to Pemberley picks up six years after Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have wed. Maureen Corrigan says the story is "a glorious plum pudding of a whodunit."
November 17, 2011 Not long after Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano died in 2003, his heirs found an unpublished manuscript written more than 20 years ago. The Third Reich chronicles a month in the life of Udo Berger, a young German war game prodigy — and explores the origins of the brutality that lurks within us all.
November 16, 2011 The year is 1622, and a tormented English Puritan strikes out for the Plymouth Plantation in Hugh Nissenson's moody, intelligent novel. Critic Maureen Corrigan says The Pilgrim is a work of straightforward historical fiction — of the sort that you don't see so much anymore.
November 16, 2011 When Crichton died of cancer in 2008, he left behind an unfinished techno-thriller. Superb science-writer Richard Preston has completed Micro, the story of young scientists who get shrunk to a size smaller than ants when a nanotech invention is used for evil.
November 15, 2011 For the first time, Witold Gombrowicz's 1967 Polish novel Cosmos has been translated directly into English. Wordplay and aphorisms don't get lost in the translation of this feathery existential crisis — in which two men obsessively hunt down the person responsible for the death of a sparrow.
November 10, 2011 With siblings like William and Henry James, it's easy to be forgotten. But Alice James, the sickly younger sister of two famously brilliant minds, has proved herself unforgettable. In Jean Strouse's biography Alice James, the author revisits a woman who had a salty wit, but a chronic cold.
November 9, 2011 Author Caroline Preston's visual tour de force The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt uses a kaleidoscopic collage of historical clippings, trinkets and baubles to tell the story of a young girl aspiring to be a writer in the Roaring '20s.
November 3, 2011 American film critic Pauline Kael was a brash, exuberant female writer at a time when most of her colleagues were buttoned up — and male. The Age of Movies, a new collection of selected essays and movie reviews from Kael, showcases the gutsy and passionate style that made her a household name.
November 2, 2011 Czech-born artist Peter Sis makes a case for the printed page with a gorgeously illustrated retelling of a 12th century Sufi poem. In The Conference of the Birds, Sis crafts a richly inked parable of a flight of birds that speaks to the painful but beautiful human journey toward understanding.
October 29, 2011 Joan Didion pays bitter, aching homage to her daughter, Quintana Roo, who died after a long illness at the age of 39. Blue Nights is an emotionally devastating tribute and a desperate attempt to understand aging, mortality and loss.
October 27, 2011 There's a hardiness to Daniel Woodrell's backwoods community of murderers, veterans, addicts and youth. He revisits Missouri's Ozarks region in his newly released collection of short stories, The Outlaw Album.
October 25, 2011 Haruki Murakami's story will carry you away to a new world and keep you there for a long time. Three volumes have been masterfully translated and bound together into a 900-page epic of murder, fanaticism, music, sex and intrigue.
October 20, 2011 Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk does his best twisted Judy Blume impression in Damned, a Breakfast Club for the condemned. As a young adult novel, Damned is surprisingly sweet, hopeful and empowering; as a satire, it's funny, irreverent and hugely entertaining.
October 15, 2011 Existential loneliness lies at the heart of Colson Whitehead's apocalyptic tragicomedy about post-zombie Manhattan. The smart, strange, engrossing novel lampoons contemporary society and its excesses — and has haunting echoes of post-Sept. 11 New York.