Out of sync with the world’s ambitions

Mention the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s and those of that generation will instantly remember their peace signs, tie-dyed clothing, LSD trips and anti-government protests. Reading "Arcadia," a novel set in a hippie commune in upstate New York, those memories came back, only I experienced what felt like a more intimate view of this countercultural group. A moving fictional story written by the talented Lauren Groff.

The nature of extremity

In Jennifer Miller's debut novel, a biology teacher instructs his students how to think for themselves, using information about extreme-loving microbes called extremophiles. These microorganisms become a sort of metaphor for what happens in this literary mystery that takes place in a fictional preparatory school in NW Massachusetts. "The Year of the Gadfly" keeps you wondering and page-turning to the very end.

The Devil made them do it

Three years ago, Ohio author Donald Ray Pollock received widespread acclaim for his fictional debut, "Knockemstiff," a collection of short stories some likened to a modern-day Winesburg, Ohio, or what the New York Times quaintly referred to as "Winosburg, Ohio". His new novel is out this month, and it's another fine walk on the dark side of Ohio.