A nuclear specialist is mysteriously transferred from a Siberian labor camp to an unnamed Soviet city. His assignment exposes him to an irradiated environment that resident scientists and the KGB deny. So begins a complex drama in Natasha Pulley’s newest fiction set in 1963. Here's a review.
2022 Dublin Literary Award winner and finalists
Last month, Ireland's Dublin City Council announced the winner of its annual literary award. Nominations for this award come from public libraries around the world, which means the longlist of contenders offers readers an exciting wealth of books to browse in search of next reads. Here's what I chose for myself, and why so few. Plus, the winner, which I loved.
Controlled perception: a 20th century tycoon’s life
Hernan Diaz's new novel "Trust" is getting a lot of attention, and it's not surprising. The book creatively embraces the distortions power and wealth enable, bending reality. It's a story that leaves its mark, long remembered after the last page. Here's a review.
Lost man at sea, lost novel recovered
"Gentleman Overboard" by Herbert Clyde Lewis published in 1937 slipped into forgotten books land as so many good books do (and shouldn't) until it was rescued. It's the story of Henry Preston Standish, who finds himself floating in the Pacific Ocean, sure the ship he fell off of will turn around and pick him up. It's ingenious tragicomedy with an objective. You've got to read it.
New discoveries for spring reading
I was pretty excited to discover Audrey Schulman published a new novel. I loved her last book, “Theory of Bastards,” which gets a praiseworthy blurb on the new book’s cover. You’ll find more about both in this new blog post. Also, a novel about a wealthy couple in 1920’s New York City whose phenomenal fortunes create a mystery. And then an Appalachian novel about ecoterrorism.
The story of a boy who studied with Bach
Author James Runcie is best known for his Sidney Chambers Mysteries, which have been turned into the popular PBS Grantchester series (one of my favorites) on MASTERPIECE. He’s written a new book called "The Great Passion" that’s not a mystery but historical fiction. It answers a question about the famous Baroque composer J.S. Bach. Here's what it’s all about.
These good books: from gripping to inspiring
Here you'll find stories to savor and characters you'll love so much you'll have to put the book down and walk away, to get ready, when things get tense. Also, a memoir about growing up on the largest block of unfenced wilderness in the lower 48 states, and a new novel I'm thinking may just be a spring break beach read.
Paris’s 19th century institutionalized female hysterics
The Salpêtrière hospital in Paris functioned as a city within a city, an enclosed asylum for women whose nerves were shot. That's my modern speak for what then neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot termed hysteria. In "City of Incurable Women," author Maud Casey lets their stories be known. Read more about her new book here.
Now reading: poetry, nature, true crime, and J.S. Bach
For too long, Ilya Kaminsky’s “Deaf Republic” sat on my reading table, a story told in poems that’s not only profound but now so very timely. Also in this blog post you’ll find a compelling mix of fiction and nonfiction, with authors writing about love for the natural world, truth in a murder investigation, and the St. Matthew Passion.
A psychological page-turner brilliantly crafted
A chance encounter at an airport and a delayed flight together offer the perfect opportunity for a man to tell the story of how he rescued a drowning swimmer and what came after, a story he’s never shared with anyone. Prepare to stay up all night (or to drop everything) to read “Mouth to Mouth,” Antoine Wilson’s newest novel, a story within a story that explores themes of deception and manipulation. Read the review here.
Nonfiction coming to my reading table
Three books, three intriguing topics: stolen art, a musician’s performance anxiety, and a deep look into the interviewing process. Here’s why I’ve chosen to read them.
What I’m reading, plus promising new books
I’m deep into the fictional lives of Guy and Harriet Pringle in Olivia Manning’s classic trilogy, but I'm also looking forward to some interesting new books out this month and next. They include a novel narrated by a book (the narrator being Joseph Roth’s “Rebellion”), a small gem exploring 19th century women hysterics, a psychological thriller, a reissued story collection from the 1970s, and more. Read about the books here.
Mahmood Mattan’s tragic story
"The Fortune Men" is a fictionalized account of a gross miscarriage of justice that sent a Somali sailor to the gallows in 1952 Cardiff, Wales. Shortlisted for Britain’s 2021 Booker and Costa literary awards, it’s received much attention and praise. Here’s a review.
My 10 favorite books of 2021
A surprising mix of novels became my year-end favorites for their morally conflicted and inspiring characters: from scientists to petty thieves, French Algerians to Chilean dictators, an Indiana farm woman to a Black female executive. And then one book, simply put, I didn't want to end.
A man walks into a tacky hotel
"Winter in Sokcho" by Elisa Shua Dusapin tells the story of a stranger arriving in an isolated South Korean fishing village. He’s a graphic novelist looking for peace and quiet to complete his final book in a series. The unnamed narrator, who works at the guesthouse where he takes a room, becomes his tour guide, and also his unexpected emotional life reckoning. Her voice is enticing. Read more here about this award-winning novel.