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While this coming-out story, which dominates the middle section of the book, is a tale of a desired kind of obliteration, the final section addresses a more total annihilation The title says it: Gorgeous. Heidi Julavits. Positive The Los Angeles Times Casey Cep. Anna Quindlen. Ali Smith. This Scottish writer gravitates naturally to outsiders and really understands loss and grief.

She takes a genuine interest in old people and what we can learn from them, but also sees hope for the future in smart young people. Spring uncoils strikingly, like a vernal fern. Postcards crop up in this book like signposts, no mere ephemera. The initially puzzling inclusion of off-putting anti-immigrant rants will become clear with time. Helen Ellis. Self-satire is key to her humor In both genres, she is better at stringing together choker-length one-liners than going long and deep with full strands Ellis occasionally ventures into more weighty territory Southern Lady Code may not be weighty, but Ellis is fun — like the Nutter Butter snowmen she serves at her retro holiday parties.

Ian McEwan.

By Jeff Johnson

Mary Norris. An unrepentant alphabetophile, she extols the life-changing magic of letters, which she finds far superior to hieroglyphs and emoji in their incomparable ability to communicate in writing But what resonates in both books is the way ardent interests can enrich a life.

Norris is an uncommonly engaging, witty enthusiast with a nose for delicious details and funny asides that makes you willing to follow her anywhere. Rajeev Balasubramanyam. Balasubramanyam plays all this with a combination of gentle satire and sincerity that sometimes dips more than just a toe into schmaltz What makes this mostly okay — even for the spiritually-averse — is the meatiness of the arguments Chandra gets into with his children, his brother, and some of his fellow workshop participants Balasubramanyam knows how to flex irony as if it were another bendable body part Professor Chandra is a wonderful character — stodgy, flawed, contentious, contemptuous — yet vulnerable, insecure, lonely, repentent, and ridiculous enough to win our sympathy Susan Choi.

Choi is an extraordinarily patient writer, slowly building her novel sentence by careful sentence, as if layering coats of paint until she achieves the desired intensity of hue. And that would be a pity Trust Exercise is fiction that contains multiple truths and lies. Working with such common material, Choi has produced something uncommonly thought-provoking. Trust me. Nell Freudenberger. Freudenberger takes another impressive plunge into a different sort of foreign culture: theoretical physics Yes, Freudenberger throws a lot of esoteric, sometimes numbing jargon at us. But rest assured that much of it gets translated into more comprehensible terms — and bears more than just metaphoric relevance to her story Impressively, Freudenberger avoids a heavy hand in drawing analogies between emotional states and abstruse scientific concepts, taking care to deploy physics as a catalyst for new perspectives on time and our trajectories through it rather than just metaphorical ballast.

Enriched by intelligent, multi-level discussions about the spacetime continuum, determinism, whether Einstein believed in God, and cosmic concepts such as entanglements, collisions, interference patterns, uncertainty, and gravity — including, most notably, the force we exert on each other — Lost and Wanted is an undoubtedly brainy book. Max Porter. The result is a puckish celebration of imagination and free spirits rising above the buzz of societal scolds and the anxieties of parental love. Andrew Ridker. The Altruists boasts numerous charms, ranging from worthy ethical issues treated with an effective wryness to its rare, fond celebration of steamy St.

Its ending is well-earned, and so are its life lessons, adding up to an unusually promising debut. But more often, Jamison stitches together the intellectual and the emotional with the finesse of a crackerjack surgeon Toni Morrison.


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Rave NPR Home is gorgeous and intense, brutal yet heartwarming—and could only have been written by the author of Beloved and Sula. Deceptively slight, it is like a slingshot that wields the impact of a missile Home is as accessible, tightly composed and visceral as anything Morrison has written.


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  7. The lush, biblical cadences for which she is known have partially given way to shorter, more direct sentences—which still have the capacity to leave a reader awestruck I felt I needed an inhaler or defibrillator or something to catch my breath while reading this devastating, deeply humane—and ever-relevant—book. Katharine Smyth. Valeria Luiselli. Remarkably, these materials add edifying heft without weighing down the novel Lost Children Archive is more sobering than playful, but what Luiselli has pulled off here is a twist on the great American road trip novel, a book about alienation as well as aliens that chronicles fractures, divides, and estrangement — of both a family and a country.

    Tiffany Watt Smith. Its triggers are broken down, categorized and analyzed according to type. Dani Shapiro.

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    Shapiro is skilled at spinning her personal explorations into narrative gold She is not afraid to show herself in an unflattering light, which helps secure our trust She tenaciously pursues her quest to determine what each of her parents knew about her provenance These broader investigations save Inheritance from too much self-absorbed navel-gazing. Still, her chest-beating about who she is and how she could have missed the signs occasionally seems overwrought and melodramatic.

    Elizabeth McCracken. Even amidst much woe Bowlaway , too, gives you something to think about besides your regrets. Sally Rooney. Although hailed as a voice of millennials, Rooney offers plenty to appeal to readers across genders and generations It cuts to the heart. She seems remarkably comfortable writing about sex — even uncomfortable sex — and she seamlessly integrates well-crafted texts, emails, and Facebook posts into her narratives like the digital native she is. Yet while Rooney may write about apparent aimlessness and all the distractions of our age, her novels are laser-focused and word-perfect.

    They build power by a steady accretion of often simple declarative sentences that track minuscule shifts in feelings Claire Harman. The book is an exemplar of how to write taut, issue-driven historical nonfiction. Like the murderer, Harman goes for the jugular in her account of the investigation, trial and aftermath. Unfortunately — and somewhat frustratingly — she is unable to stanch the flow of unsolved mysteries surrounding the case As riveting as this true-crime story is, what elevates Murder by the Book above sensationalism is its focus on how this case heightened concern over the malevolent influence of violent entertainment.

    Heather Rose. Rose clearly believes in the redemptive, transformative power of art for artist and audience, writer and reader. Tessa Hadley. Hadley brings her increasingly fine-tuned emotional acuity to Late in the Day The relationship between the surviving trio devolves at times into soapy melodrama, but Hadley is after some weightier issues Susan Gubar. Camille Laurens. She digs deeper, searching online records to try to find out what became of Marie after her dismissal from the ballet — without much luck Idra Novey. Marina Benjamin. Awash in the comfort of a kindred soul, I relaxed enough to be lulled into sleep Kathryn Harrison.

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    Rave The Washington Post Harrison has written about her unusual family and Los Angeles childhood before, but never in such specific — and fascinating — detail Harrison paints a vivid picture of an anachronistic childhood in which The Brady Bunch , Barbies, peanut butter and sliced bread were out, while curtsies, cod liver oil, Marmite and liverwurst on little rounds of baguettes were in What emerges is a poignant portrait of a smart, anxious young girl Impressively, On Sunset — richly illustrated with photographs and personal documents — adds up to more than just sepia-tinged nostalgia for a world on which the sun set long ago.

    Nora Krug. Belonging is both emotionally and graphically complex. It is richly illustrated with cartoons, family photographs and letters, handwritten text, and archival German documents annotated in English by Krug. John Kaag. Kaag extracts plenty of relevant ideas from Nietzsche and his followers in this stimulating book about combating despair and complacency with searching reflection.

    Edward Carey. The novel proceeds from oddity to oddity, continually scaling new ramparts of strangeness. Sometimes Carey goes too far — the book could have done with less about a haunted former monkey house. With Little , Carey has created a fantastic world in which wax models do indeed bridge the gap between life and death,the present and the past. Susan Orlean. Like the best research collections, The Library Book is stuffed with amazing facts Her description of the fire Sometimes, Orlean takes her research to ridiculous lengths, like forcing herself to burn a book on her hilltop Los Angeles property Orlean obviously had some fun with this total immersion project, and curious readers who love following writers down unexpected byways in search of out of the way information will too.

    Bill Cunningham. The voice is the same — effervescently enthusiastic Deborah Eisenberg.

    Most branch off in surprising directions, sprouting sub-plots, flashbacks and fast-forwards, spreading out with the fecundity of wild berry bushes. Claire Tomalin. The result is an elegant profile in courage and fortitude. Kate Walbert. Walbert, known for sophisticated, multiply-stranded narratives that span generations, has pared her new novel into a sharp blade With Jo Hadley, Walbert has created a consummately credible character, convincing as both a bright, vulnerable, traumatized yet un-self-pitying teenager and a sympathetic, clear-eyed but bruised adult Walbert heightens the suspense by cutting back and forth in time, as Jo puts off the most difficult parts of her story Jo is a savvy raconteur who recognizes that there are many ways to frame a story, from different perspectives His Favorites is heartbreaking and galvanizing.

    Patrick DeWitt.

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    Comments & Reviews

    DeWitt ultimately works his spirited narrative around to some sober points about the lasting effects of insufficient love. It works better on the comic level than the tragic. Sarah Weinman. Weinman is a thorough reporter who is most compelling when she tells it straight In fact, Nabokov comes across in her book as an insufferable—if brilliantly inventive—snob, aesthete and egotist The Real Lolita stands out for its captivating mix of tenacious investigative reporting, well-chosen photographs, astute literary analysis and passionate posthumous recognition of a defenseless child who — until now—never received the literary acknowledgment she deserved.

    Anne Youngson.