2. The Miracle of Father
Kapaun by Roy Wenzl & Travis Heying
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Wichita 1930-2000 by Jay Price & Keith Wondra
5. Rake by Scott Phillips
6. The Yard by Alex
7. Help Thanks Wow by
8. Let's Explore Diabetes with
Owls by David Sedaris
9. Life After Life by
10. The Art Forger by
Bruce Jacobs reading archive
The Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake
With a George V. Higgins ear for low-life Spanglish dialogue and a Cormac McCarthy taste for human darkness, Baker continues his saga of the close-knit Wolfe family whose family origins straddle the Mexican-American border...as does their sprawling criminal empire.
The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams
Keye Street is the latest female investigator in crime fiction. Recovering from addiction, booted from the FBI, and back home in the south, Street fights with her own past as well as for one less killer on the streets of Atlanta.
A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
Dee cuts to the heart of the dark, ironic ways we stumble through life.
Breaking Point by C. J. Box
Fortunately there is no end of Federal agencies mucking upBox's pristine Wyoming, so his excellent Joe Pickett game warden noir series has not run out of gas yet.
Carnival by Rawi Hage
A whacked cab driver named Fly narrates his taxi life in a fantasy city (like Hage's home turf of Montreal) picking up the flotsam and jetsam of our world.
Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin
Irwin's debut about a rowing four at a tony Connecticutt boarding school is a little like John Irving's wrestling novels but without the gratuitous and often weird violence.
Graveland by Alan Glynn
A fast-paced, timely thriller about Wall Street killings, investigative journalism, and disconnected students.
The Lower River by Paul Theroux
Theroux is one of the world's treasures, and this new novel of Africa shows why.
Picking Up by Robin Nagle
What Mary Roach has done with the waste from our bodies in her recent Gulp, Nagle does just as entertainingly for the waste that comes out of our homes.
Birds of the Air by David Yezzi
Yezzi is a storyteller, and this collection has some great narrative poems.
Here's one about a couple in an "assisted living" home:
"Her gums stretch from her forehead to her chin,
all molars and gold fillings, and her head
is swaying back and forth in fits, like nodding,
because Edward (you gotta love this guy)
has got his hand way up under her skirt.
And though she only half knows that he's there
she's loving it, just loving it. Old Ethel."
The Lease by Mathew Henderson
Henderson's poems mine the oil fields of Saskatchewan where the leases own the prairie and the roughnecks own only themselves.
Taste this sample:
"And you remember that day, when we were out there
and the oil carried over, shot out the stack
and the whole lease went up? And you and I, we stood
at the tank and we fucking worked, in that, with all that fire
behind us. And yeah, you pissed yourself: so what?
You pissed yourself because you didn't have a choice,
because that's what work is, right?"
Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker
After a brief hiatus from writing, Walker is back with a great novel of crime among the wealthy (deliberaely similar to the Kennedys) on Cape Cod.
Midnight in Mexico by Alfredo Corchado
This memoir by a Mexican born American journalist provides a little history of Mexico's last twenty years of increasing political diversity and economic growth as well as its dark side of crime, corruption and violence. It also confirms that with some 32 million U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, our fate and our future is more closely tied to Mexico's than Canada's.
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
Twenty-three year old Hobbs jumps out of the fiction gate in a dynamite first novel that gives George V. Higgins a run for his money.
The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad
A first novel about a former Indian Army Captain Sikh immigrant entangled in the messy lives of the rich on Martha's Vineyard and his own conflicted family.
Southern League by Larry Colton
A good baseball book by a former player turned writer that not only replays the Birmingham Barons' 1964 season but also puts it in the context of Birmingham's notorious Bull Connor bigotry.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Koch's extraordinary new novel captures our "life and times" in the brief and circumscribed scene of two brothers and their spouses out for dinner. Sam Garrett translates the original Dutch seamlessly into appropriate English slang and colloquialisms. This book is full of surprises and makes "My Dinner with Andre" (with which it is often compared) seem like the coy and light fluff it is.
Blame by Michelle Huneven
A strong novel about a Southern California professor whose life goes off the rails when her alcoholism leads to a car wreck, accidental homicide, prison, and a long path to rehab.
Walking with Jack by Don J. Snyder
Thoughtful lessons from golf for fathers and sons.
Billion-Dollar Fish by Kevin M. Bailey
This is the entertaining story of a little known Bering Sea fish that is at the billion dollar heart of the Fishsticks and Fish McBites market.
The House at Belle Fontaine by Lily Tuck
Lily Tuck's new story collection continues her wise exploration of romantic relationships where the women are usually far stronger than the men.
The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau
The haunting first novel of how a misguided U.S. middle east war has lasting effects on the USA as well as on those destroyed families under attack.
Inside the Whale by Joseph G. Peterson
A novel of dissolution in Chicago...told in rather impressively sustained verse.
The Riptide Ultra-Glide by Tim Dorsey
Take another whacky Dorsey ride through Florida with the indomitable Serge and incorrigible Coleman.
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
A not-bad first novel featuring an octegenarian retired Memphis cop as hero. Too bad the plot is kind of lame and the other characters mostly caricatures.
Adam in Eden by Carlos Fuentes
Fuentes latest (last?) novel is a bit trifling but also carries the wisdom of his experience in complicated Mexico.
An Easy Thing by Paco Ignacio Taibo
An old and worthwhile detective series that takes place in Mexico City in a new paperback.
The Nervous System by Nathan Larson
This second in Larson's dystopic series featuring Dewey Decimal is even better than the first.
70% Acrylic 30% Wool by Viola Di Grado
Creative, experimental writing gets in the way of storytelling in this first novel.
The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero
A fun global mystery based on the imagined (and real) life of Pablo Neruda.
The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
The Google guys convincingly demonstrate how the internet may be one of the most significant building blocks of personal freedom in history. How do you keep them down on the farm after they've discovered the internet?
Midnight, Jesus & Me by J.M. Blaine
The title pretty much says it all about this memoir; but the real pleasure, is in Blaine's self-deprecating humor.
To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal
This is a great novel...easy to read and lasting.
The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig
It's a real pleasure to read Ivan Doig when he's on his game as he is in this new novel.
A Nearly Perfect Copy by Allison Amend
A novel about money, art auctions, and those who tangle in that playground...although, maybe too much about money: how much can we care about those heirs to wealth who live on the Upper East Side and dabble in art?
She Loves Me Not by Ron Hansen
Ron Hansen's new stories are set largely in the Plains and in the past - too much so for me - but the cover photo is striking!
Last Call for the Living by Peter Farris
This debut novel is hillbilly noir at its best - violence, tweekers, sex, 30-packs of Schiltz, and rusty pick-ups.
Color Blind by Tom Dunkel
The story of the 1935 Bismarck Churchills, the first integrated semi-pro baseball team that won it all in the NBC tournament in Wichita. It's also the Satchel Paige story since without him the Churchills might have been on the first train back to Bismarck.
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
An ambitious novel with a terrific protagonist.
Silverchest by Carl Phillips
The newest poetry collection by this much awarded poet.
Praise Nothing by Joshua Robbins
Another first collection of poems...this one runner-up for the Miller Willams Award.
Westerly by Will Schutt
A first collection of poems in the Yale Younger Poet Series.
Outside the Wire edited by Christine Dumaine Leche
Therapeutic writing from American soldiers dealing with their war trauma and troubles re-entering civilian life.
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
Maazel's first novel "Last, Last Chance" was teriffic; this second has more off-putting sci-fi elements and confusing spy-counter-spy stuff...but she is talented.
My New American Life by Francine Prose
I'm finally catching up on this two year old "new" novel by the always perceptive and amusing Francine Prose.
Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz
Schwartz returns to the characters of his earlier novelReservation Road in this story of broken families putting themselves back together...as best as one really can.
Wake Up, We're Here by Dallas Hudgens
Hudgens' two novels are better than his limited recognition in the literary world suggests. This new collection of stories confirms his talent.
The Heroin Chronicles by Jerry Stahl
This is the fourth collection in Akashic Books' "Drug Chronicles" series. Rarely has addiction been given such comprehensive literary attention.
Angles of Ascent, edited by Charles Henry Rowell
Norton's newest anthology of contemporary African American poetry.
The Beautiful Anthology by Elizabeth Collins
A collection of pieces reflecting on beauty...mostly by women, mostly first-person, and mostly about growing up confused about what we are supposed to want to look like.
The Thief of Words by Starling Lawrence
A rich novel of love and Africa by the former long time Editor-in-Chief of publisher W.W. Norton.
This Bright River by Patrick Somerville
In this long but rewarding second novel, Somerville tells a tale of family, love, and mystery set in Wisconsin.
Her I Am by Alan Huffman
The haunting story of the life and tragic death of war photographer Tim Heatherington.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Another strong novel of character and small town Maine by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Strout.
The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar
Tobar's ambitious new novel covers everything Orange County including real estate, Mexican immigrants, monied techies, families, and politicians.
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton
A wonderful book of art and memoir that touches on family, Studebakers, music, art...and, of course, swimming.
The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy
A complex new novel of love and shamanism on a cruise ship told in many voices with wit and skepticism.
Love Bomb by Lisa Zeidner
In her funny, clever new novel, the talented Zeidner throws a terrorist into a wedding and watches the suburban New Jersey guests, hosts, police, and principals scramble.
An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer
Wolitzer's new novel is a poignant look at mid-life romance after a sudden death of a spouse.
Now All Roads Lead to France by Matthew Hollis
A new biography of Edward Thomas whose freindship with Robert Frost, Yeats, Rupert Brooke and others spawned the modern voice of poetry before he was killed in WWI at age 28.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly
In Connelly's twenty-fifth novel, the title's Black reflects on the title of his first Harry Bosch novel, The Black Echo, which started his remarkable career twenty years ago. Bosch is older now, but tenacious and troubled as ever. Connelly is really in the groove on this one.
Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach
Roorbach's latest novel continues the excellent work of his earlier "The Smallest Color."
Detroit by Charlie LeDuff
A hardnosed reporter takes on his native city in this hard to put down look at America through the woes of Detroit.
The Way of the Dog by Sam Savage
A great little first person novel from a writer first published in his 60s.
Nice Weather: Poems by Frederick Seidel
Seidel's poetry just gets better and better...contemporary, clever, and without restraint.
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
It's time for the new Tom Wolfe. No matter how far over the top he goes, it's hard not to enjoy the ride.
Harvest by Jim Crace
Crace's novels win awards all over the place, but they are often a slow/no go for me. This new one about an "idyllic" 19th century English village and its evolution from a tenant farm to corporate sheep business is interesting from the start.
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr.
As much as I liked Currie's first novel, "Everything Matters," I couldn't get this new one to matter at all. Self-conscious and self-indulgent, it's too much "meta-fiction" for me.
A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
Hutchins' excellent first novel is about a young non-techie working for a California tech firm trying to turn his dead father's diaries into artificial intelligence software...but it's about so much more than this.
Telegraph Avenure by Michael Chabon
Chabon's long new novel is a whirlwind of language diving deep into the life of Northern California's music/boho/whatever scene.
Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse
I guess enough time has passed for books about the Vietnam War to shift from those novels and histories of the war's personal existential angst to this journalist's thorough investigation of the cover-ups behind the cover-ups of possible U.S. war crimes.
The Big Truck That Went By by Jonathan M. Katz
Katz was in Port-au-Prince when the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, and he has been chasing all the promised aid money ever since...and not finding much of it at all.
Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt
Schutt's new novel is a short, dark exploration of marriage with all its misdirection and stumbles.
The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris
This is my Brit Lit week it seems and this is a debut novel of London crime and detection, money and power.
Chapman's Odyssey by Paul Bailey
An end-of-life novel that takes place in a hospital in London where meds and a troubled life bring hallucinations of Dickens and Shakespeare.
The Upirght Piano Player by David Abbott
A well done first novel by a British writer who's already completed a 40 year career running an advertising firm.
Whiplash River by Lou Berney
Berney's second Shake Bouchon mystery travels from Belize to Cairo in a nutty caper gone bad scenario.
Or The Bull Kills You by Jason Webster
A dead matador and a renegade cop untangle this debut mystery set in Valencia, Spain.
The Heart Broke In by James Meek
Meek's new novel is fiction at its finest...the man can write!
Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
Best-selling prose stylist Kidder and his long time editor at "The Atlantic" team up to share insight, aphorisms, and illustrative examples about the world of narrative non-fiction.
Long Gone Daddies by David Wesley Williams
A novel of the Memphis Sound in the historical context of the musicians who made their way up the "blues highway" to Son Records.
The Miniature Wife by Manuel Gonzales
This first collection of stories is the rare example of "magical realism" or "metafiction" that really entertains. Gonzales creates a voice the carries the load with ease, humor, and curiosity.
The River Swimmer by Jim Harrison
Harrison's latest novellas are first rate. He's got his mojo back as he explores his usual themes of food, sex, and growing old...all in the context of life in Michigan's woods.
Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton
This is the latest in Hamilton's series of "yooper" noir featuring ex-Detroit cop Alex McKnight, now living mostly alone in small town Paradise just a rifle shot from the Soo.
NW by Zadie Smith
Smith's new novel has received a mixed reaction: critics still love her, but her readers found this one tough sledding She takes some chances here with style, but I'm still a fan
You & Me by Padgett Powell
Nobody in American fiction is pushing the boundaries of literature like Padgett Powell. His new novel bringsWaiting for Godot to some unnamed small southern town.
Dirt by David Vann
This is a grim novel of family madness and money told with a certain amount of lyricism and even humor. However, you have to really like Vann's writing to want to read this one all the way through.
The Good House by Ann Leary
A funny, sensitive novel told by a Boston north shore realtor to the wealthy who cheats on her rehab while managing difficult clients and her needy adult children.
Mayakovsky's Revolver by Matthew Dickman
Dickman's new collection of poems will rock your ears and stop you in your tracks. No wonder he is the new wonderboy poet.
Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman
A crime novel set in a small town on the Minnesoat Prairie in the 1980s.
Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds
A strong new collection of poems that chronicles the end of Olds' thirty year marriage.
Trickster's Point by William Kent Krueger
Krueger's latest Cork O'Connor crime novel continues his well-told stories of small towns, lakes, and Indian Reservations north of Duluth.
ROTC Kills by John Koethe
A new collection of thoughtful poems by a poet who thinks with his mouth open.
Title and Deed by Will Eno
The new one man, monologue play by the prize-winning author of Thom Paine, Based on Nothing. It is just as good.
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Cash's first novel has too much Southern literary kudzu and snake-handling for me.
Capital by John Lanchester
This latest novel doesn't live up to Lanchester's earlier work, although he works hard to create a modern version of the Dickens' world of regular people caught in the economic plight of the 2008 financial collapse.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Everybody's favorite summer read is here just in time for fall...or maybe it will make its own Indian Summer.
Tabloid City by Pete Hamill
I'm finally getting around to Hamill's new novel of New york City and newspapers and crime and all the stuff Bloomberg is trying to get rid of.
City of Rivers by Zubair Ahmed
Ahmed's first collection of poems provides a fresh young voice as at home in his native Dhaka, Bangladesh as in his current role as a mechanical engineering student at Stanford.
All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley
Mosely was wise to set aside his Easy Rawlins series in favor of this new one featuring Leonid McGill. McGill is more interesting than Rawlins...as is contemporary New York City than historical Los Angeles.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Walter's new novel follows several characters who pursue their dreams across continents and time - some achieving them, some not...just like in life.
Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli
Down and mostly written off, Detroit may be on the cusp of showing other urban centers how to build something newer and better out of the ashes. Binelli knows his city and its history, and he tells its story with insight and wit.
The Other Side of the World by Jay Neugeboren
Neugeboren's 18th book may bring him the recognition he deserves. This is a fine novel of a young man's journey of escape from a listless past to a focused future.
The 500 by Matthew Quirk
Quirk's first novel introduces Michael Ford, a former con man and petty B & E guy who reforms his way into Harvard Law and then on to a high-powered D.C Lobbyist firm that uses his former skills to push the buttons of the powerful on behalf of its high-paying clients. Sadly (but entertainingly) Quirk shows us a political world we all hoped wasn't as crooked as it seems to be.
Saul Steinberg by Deidre Bair
Who hasn't been amused and bemused by the drawings of Saul Steinberg...and not just by his ubiquitous "New Yorker" cover that has been hijacked everywhere? Bair's biography is long, but thorough, and in many ways is the story of America in the twentieth century.
A Death in Mexico by Jonathan Woods
Death comes to the wealthy expats living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico's "whitest" colonial city, in this noir thriller.
The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson
A fun and funny noir knock-off about a rogue free-lance detective of sorts living in the New York Public Library after a 2/14/2011 "occurrence" that turns the city into a dystopian shell of its former grandeur.
A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg
Under the dark cloud of the recent misguided Iraq and Afghan wars, Greenberg's excellent study of the politics underlying America's first and only war of conquest and territorial expansion against Mexico suggests that needless military aggression has long played a part in our history. No wonder Mexico has never forgiven us.
We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider
This collection of columnist and cartoonist Kreider's funny pieces is worth a visit even though the one on "peak oil" is a little dated now that gazillions of barrels of available oil reserves have been discovered just about everywhere
No Worse Enemy by Ben Anderson
A depressing boots-on-the-ground BBC jounalist's account of the hopeless task US troops face in the ill-advised Afghan War.
In One Person by John Irving
Uncharacteristically, Irving's latest just plods along; but all the same fixations and slightly off-plumb characters are here.
Bright Lights, No City by Max Alexander
A great title for a funny account of two brothers trying to save Africa and make a buck.
Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield
Vonnegut was a surprisingly prolific correspondent, and Wakefield has assembled these funny and poignant letters in a way that further explains Vonnegut's personal life and public writing world.
Opium Fiend by Steven Martin
It's one thing to toke a doobie now and then, but Martin dove deep into opium...and lived. His story is fascinating.
Star Witness by D.W. Buffa
A Joe Antonelli courtroom thriller by a guy who gives Turow a run for his money...alas, this is not one of his best.
The Balloonist by Macdonald Harris
This classic cult favorite is being re-issued. It takes a special taste...unfortunately, not mine.
Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev
Cezanne was a helluva guy and painter...and everybody thinks so. This new biography proves it.
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hansen
Hansen continues to crank out historical novels, but none has equaled his debut Desperadoes.
Try the Morgue by Eva Maria Staal
Staal is the pseudonym for a former Dutch arms dealer who can also write the hell out of a first novel.
The Skeleton Box by Bryna Gruley
Gruley's Starvation Lake mysteries get better and better
Castro's Curveball by Tim Wendel
A great little historical baseball novel about Cuba in the '50s when Castro abandoned a career in the bigs for one as a dictator - which lasted surprisingly much longer than one in baseball would have.
What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang
A small press gem, Garstang's novel of linked stories about a hodge-podge group of Washington DC's urban pioneers is funny and heartbreaking.
Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins
Topeka born poet Robbins is a hot ticket these days, and this first collection is a real treat.
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Nevermind the ghost in the relationship (all relationships have ghosts), for when Tyler is on (and her novel is short), she is very good.
Burning Midnight by Loren D. Estleman
Estleman's latest Amos Walker Detroit noir story has a Mexican twist (don't all crime novels these days?), and Walker butchers Spanish as badly as he butchers English...but he gets the job done.
The Hot Country by Robert Olen Butler
Pulitzer Prize winner Olen Butler tries his hand at an historical crime novel...and it's not his best hand.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
Renaissance Man Eggers is back on his fiction game with this new novel.
The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye
Geye's second novel, a historical dive into the cold, immigrant world of a late 19th early 20th century town on Lake Superior, is not as good as his excellent first one.
The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
Laukkanen is new to the suspense genre with this first novel, but you wouldn't know it from his fast-paced story of some smart guys who figure out how to be can't-miss kidnappers...until they screw up.
The Billy Bob Tapes by Billy Bob Thornton
Razorback Thornton tells good stories about his life from its roots in Alpine, Arkansas to...well...to whatever he was up to at deadline.
Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney
Berney has a flair for character in this first crime novel featuring "Shake" Bouchon.
Toby's Room by Pat Barker
Forget "Downton Abbey," Barker's new novel digs much deeper into life in England during the Great War.
Big Ray by Michael Kimball
A deceptively simple short novel of a fat and abusive father and his son. It's hard to explain why it is so entrancing.
Canada by Richard Ford
Only the laconic Richard Ford writes like Richard Ford...which is great if you like Ford's work. This new novel is a long, slow struggle for the reader..."laconic" is a euphemism.
Sound by T.M. Wolf
This experimentally packaged experimental first novel looks and handles much like Reif Larsen's first novel "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet." Unfortunately, Wolf's writing and story are not nearly as good as Larsen's.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This year's "must read" summer psycho-mystery is marred by early indications that both key protagonists are totally whacko. Once you get past that, you can't help but keep reading.
Bushville Wins by John Klima
If you love baseball, you'll love Klima's story of the improbable 1957 World Series champ Milwaukee Braves.
Antigonick by Sophocles (trans. Anne Carson)
A beautifully made, beautifully illustrated translation of a classic. Big props to New Directions.
True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies
A snappy first novel of sexual obsession in a young British woman.
Hold It 'Til It Hurts by T. Geronimo Johnson
Johnson's first novel is a complex story of two black Afghan War vets returning to find their adopted white father killed in a car accident and no place to go but in search of their birth parents...which leads them to New Orleans and Katrina. Who says things can't go from bad to worse.
The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken
Hawken's first novel gets a little stuck in the political movement to protect the Mexican female Maquiladora workers, but otherwise evokes nicely the complicated life across the river in Juarez.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
This is Fountain's first novel after his short story collection "Brief Encounters with Che Guevara," and it's a marvel!
Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella
An excellent first novel exploring all the action, illicit drugs, illegal immigration, and cartel mobsters that make working the Border Patrol on the US-Mexico border a nightmare.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Powers' first novel is a "Red Badge of Courage" of the Iraq war. His strong descriptions capture the particular futility and relentless unpredictability of this disastrous war.
Ghost Dances by Josh Garrett-Davis
A memoir of a South Dakota native who goes home to his roots, his punk music youth, and his conflicted opinions of the Great Plains.
Letters to a Friend by Diana Athill
Nonagenarian editor Athill's letters covering thirty years of her life after age 60 are funny, wise, ribald, and full of her lust for all of life at whatever age she finds herself.
More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby
A collection of Hornby's very funny and eclectic reading columns for McSweeney's "Believer" magazine.
A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
Cumming follows his tight spy thriller "Trinity Six" with another tale of Euro-intrigue, bad guys, and the slightly less bad guys who pass for good guys these days. Unfortunately, this one doesn't measure up to "Trinity."
Moth by James Sallis
I'm catching up on some early unread novel's from Sallis's terrific Lew Griffin New Orleans series.
The Appearance of a Hero: The Tom Mahoney Stories by Peter Levine
An excellent debut collection of stories as if Raymond Carver were describing Jay Gatsby.
The Assumption by Bryan D. Dietrich
This is a great collection of poems by a little known poet in our backyard who with any luck won't be little known for long. Dietrich has the chops and this is one of those poetry books to sit down with and just read it through from start to finish...smiling as you go.
One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard
In the late 60s Lynn Sweet, a young English major graduate, moves to a small town Illinois high school to teach English and avoid the draft and the Vietnam War. Beloved by his students for his Bob Dylan lyrics assignments and casual style, he agrees to coach the baseball team when no one else volunteers. Ballard tells Sweet's story as his ragtag team remarkably wins the State tournament.
Birdseye by Mark Kurlansky
Frozen peas are for more than managing bruises...they represent an invention that brought fruits and vegetables to parts of the world where "local" was impractical and expensive. Kurlansky's non-fiction always finds entertainment in the unlikeliest of places.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Heller's first novel is a dystopian tale echoing both Melville and Beckett with the former's grand cosmic view of good and evil and the latter's truncated language of the absurd. This may be the best novel of 2012 - so far.
Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby
This new Stroby novel proves that it is time for him to break out into a broader readership. His crime novels are among the best.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed's story of how she "walked off" her troubles in a thousand mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail is unpretentious and engrossing.
An Economist Gets Lunch by Tyler Cowen
An entertaining survey of how and where to find good food at good prices around the world without going over the top with the various "sustainability" movements.
Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi
America's greatest art forger tells how he pulled it off for thirty years.
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
This "true crime" story of a young expat British woman who was abducted and killed in Tokyo has been compared favorably with Capote's "In Cold Blood."
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
This first novel is an engrossing tale of the 80s in New York City as lived by a drug-happy young man who leaves his hippie upbringing in rural Vermont for a weird straight life in the big city.
Evel Knievel Days by Pauls Toutonghi
Toutonghi's latest novel is a strong and entertaining step up from his earlier "Red Weather."
The Chaperone by Luara Moriarty
Moriarity's newest novel explores the lives of two Wichita women thrown together in the hustle-bustle of New York City in the early twentieth century - one is an orphan out to learn about her past while employed as a chaperone for the other, the precocious fifteen year old beauty Louise Brooks. Without a lot of nuance, Moriarity tells a good story.
Mule by Chris Heifner
This memoir of an MBA student turned drug smuggler has a happy ending (of sorts) unlike so many endings of those on the supply end in Mexico.
Vulture Peak by John Burdett
Burdett's latest Sonchai Jitpleecheep detective novel sends the now-and-then Buddhist cop into the dark heart of Thailand's organ trafficking underworld.
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes
If you thought the music died in the 70s, you need to read Hermes' detailed story of the New York City scene during five years when what is new today was just beginning. This is a great cultural history of our times...complete with a Mark Alan Stamaty cover with caricatures of many of the players.
Driven by James Sallis
Sallis didn't need the movie of his novel "Drive" or its star Ryan Gosling to deserve fame; he has been writing great fiction for decades. But the movie didn't hurt and neither does this tight little sequel to the book.
Force of Nature by C. J. Box
In Box's latest novel, game warden Joe Pickett once again saddles up to police the poachers and weirdos of Wyoming...this time the back story of his aloof and dangerous friend Nate Romanowski drives the story.
Desert Reckoning by Deanne Stillman
As much a history and sociological study of the loners and outlaws living in the Mojave Desert as a news story of a brutal killing and manhunt in 2003, Stillman's book describes a remote part of our country and a remote segment of our people.
The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon
Mary Gordon's new novel is a reflective story of "first lovers" in their teens who have a traumatic breakup but then reunite in Rome almost fifty years later and discover what has changed about them and what has not.
The Next Right Thing by Dan Barden
The second novel by Indiana bookseller and Butler College professor Barden is a funny character-driven mystery.
We the Animals by Justin Torres
A short first novel that punches way above its weight. Torres can really write.
True Believers by Kurt Andersen
Kurt Anderson can tell a story, and his new novel is an entertaining tale of a successful professional woman in her sixties, her granddaughter very much of the moment, and the disruptive history of the baby boom generation.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Groff's almost overly lyrical novel of a "hippie" commune traces the rise and fall of its "family" and philosophy.
Thomas Hart Benton: A Life by Justin Wolff
Wolff's new biography of the great Missouri artist manages to dig behind Benton's belligerence and ego to explore a complex man and serious artist.
Summer of '68 by Time Wendel
Wendel weaves the crushing United States political events of 1968 into an entertaining story of a year of great baseball, and particularly great pitching.
Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser
Lasser's new novel is an homage to his birthplace - a Detroit still falling apart but also maybe finding a way to hold itself together after all.
What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright
A masterful first novel about a boy with a strange "gift" for psychic knowledge, his cousin Lee Ann (L.A.), and a horrible crime.
The Gentlemen's Hour by Don Winslow
Winslow's latest surf noir novel of crime and sloth on the beaches outside San Diego.
Selected Poems of Philip Larkin by Philip Larkin
A great selection of the great Philip Larkin's great poems by Martin Amis.
Eat People by Andrew Kessler
An amusing how-to for would be entrepreneurs in a world where security and risk-averse behavior are the norm.
The Odds by Stewart O'Nan
The new, short, reliably excellent Stewart O'Nan novel.
Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry by Jim Daniels
The latest, but not the best, Daniels collection of colloquial poems about academia, family, baseball, and musicians.
The Lost Bank by Kirsten Grind
A business journalist's novel-like recounting of the fall of Washington Mutual in the financial meltdown of 2008.
The Might Have Been by Joe Schuster
This is the baseball book to open the season: the majors, the minors, and life (such as it is) after the Bigs.
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houllebecq
As always, the bad boy of French literature is amusing and perceptive. This latest novel digs behind the life of an artist and his art.
The Art of Robert Frost by Tim Kendall
The latest addition to the Frost critical canon is both an anthology and a critique of his major poems.
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
A novel of the Afghan war where multiple narrators representing all the constituents help deepen our understanding of the complexities of the war, the country, the land, and the people. Like so many wars, this one is unwinnable and unimaginably destructive not just to lives, but to the very soul of a place.
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
This first novel channels Richard Russo's exploration of married life, but the humor lacks Russo's compassion.
Flatscreen by Adam Wilson
A very funny and winning loser novel.
A Meaning for Wife by Mark Yakich
A well-done first novel about a recently widowed father who attends a twenty year high school reunion and tries to cope with the past and a young son.
Jonah Man by Christopher Narozny
A first novel of vaudeville with one-armed jugglers and junkies and a creative, sympathetic understanding of the human condition.
Black Box by Erin Belieu
Belieu is a very good poet with a refreshing bluntness to her lyrics. Who from Kansas will not appreciate: "Unlike your ocean, / there's nothing sneaky about a field. I like their / ugly-girl frankness. I like that, sitting in the dirt, / I can hear what's coming between the stalks."
Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand
Hands' heroine, rode-hard photographer/journalist Cass Neary, gives dragon tattoo Salander a run for her money.
Engines of Change by Paul Ingrassia
An entertaining history of the fifteen cars that made us who we are (or who we imagined ourselves to be).
When Elves Attack by Tim Dorsey
A short, light (aren't they all?) holiday gift from Tim Dorsey and his whacko hero Serge Storms.
Trapeze by Simon Mawer
An historical novel of occupied France and a British woman working behind enemy lines.
The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty
Former front man and founder of the great band Soul Coughing, Doughty's memoir is a gritty story of life on the floor of the john at the Knitting Factory and other deep dive spots as he crashed and then finally recovered.
The Drop by Michael Connelly
Unless you're tired of Harry Bosch (and how could you be?), Connelly's latest is more good stuff.
When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek
A first novel of the Pacific Northwest islands with echoes of Robert Louis Stevenson mashed up with Camus, Sartre, and Walker Percy.
Ranchero by Rick Gavin
A well-done first novel of repo-man noir.
The Master Blaster by P.F. Kluge
Kluge's new novel gathers disparate characters on a remote US Commonwealth Pacific island just north of Guam where troubles are just like anywhere else.
Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton
Hamilton's latest novel in his series set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and featuring ex-cop loner Alex McKnight.
The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead
A grim historical novel of misguided love, war, and detachment that somehow avoids being depressing.
What It Was by George Pelecanos
A new Pelecanos novel of Washington is always cause for celebration, even if, like this one, it retraces the histories of his more memorable characters.
Meeks by Julia Holmes
A strange, sort of dystopian novel that you either buy into or lose interest; I'm afraid I took the latter course.
Becoming George Sand by Rosalind Brackenbury
A novel exploring a modern marital affair in the context of the protagonist's studies of George Sand and her affairs.
Lucking Out by James Wolcott
A fun memoir about New York in the 70s by a critic and writer who made the rounds and did what needed to be done.
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
Tuck's latest novel is the story not only of a marriage, but also of the broad world we all inhabit. Her succinct yet meaty prose is a treat.
The Book of Life by Stuart Nadler
A first collection of linked stories that suggest a new fiction talent on the rise.
Infernal Angels by Loren Estleman
Estleman's classic noir detective Amos Walker again prowls the streets of Detroit talking tough and taking a few poundings for his smart lip before he solves the crime.
Absolution by Patrick Flanery
A strong first novel set in South Africa where mysteries of the past and present drive characters to difficult reconciliations...and ultimately forgiveness.
Dead Last by James W. Hall
The latest in Hall's consistently good series of Thorn novels set in South Florida.
The Grey Album by Kevin Young
Award-winning poet Young tackles a cohesive, unique, and personal analysis of the basis of African American culture and arts.
Thornton Wilder by Penelope Niven
The long, but definitive biography of the long under-rated author of everyone's high school play "Our Town."
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Modern love and marriage in the privileged world of Brown University graduates.
The Variations by John Donatich
Donatich's first novel richly explores the internal conflicts of faith and vocation of a New Haven priest whose shrinking parish is scheduled for closing.
Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan
This collection of magazine pieces follows Sullivan's wild and scattered journeys to cover things we are unlikely to have heard of - like potato guns in Nebraska.
The Color of Night by Madison Smartt Bell
Bell's new novel, a paperback original, is a complicated flashback tale of a damaged blackjack dealer's confrontation with 9/11.
Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa
A short novel of Japanese obsession and kink.
China in Ten Words by Yu Hua
A Chinese writer lifts the curtain to expose the underside of China's "economic miracle."
We Almost Disappear by David Bottoms
New work from the poet who gave us the great "Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump."
Songs of Unreason by Jim Harrison
New poems from the old bear Jim Harrison - and he is getting old as he moves through his 70s.
Never the Hope Itself by Gary Hadden
Working the NPR beat in Mexico, Haiti, and other hot-spots of Latin America.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wlison
A novel about a flash-mobbing family making and unmaking its way through life.
Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. 2 by Samuel Beckett
I might as well start off the new year with a nice thick one; and, based on the first volume, one guaranteed to be good.
Reverend America by Kris Saknussemm
"A albino ex-child-preacher searches for personal salvation in the heart of the heart of the country. Dangerous, hilarious, wildly imagined, weird as a carnival midway, and real and tragic as blues harmonica." I can't describe it any better than this blurb from Janet Fitch.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
A first novel of jazz and the smoky pre-World War II Berlin clubs that has already been recognized for the Man Booker and Scotiabank Giller awards.
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell
Powell's latest poems explore gay eroticism, punk culture, marching bands, California, and what all with a deft touch for forms, sounds, puns and images. He can give Goldbarth a run for his money.
At Last by Edward St. Aubyn
The excellent conclusion to St. Aubyns' brilliant five novel cycle of Patrick Melrose and his family.
Rez Life by David Treuer
Treuer brings a novelist's touch to a non-fiction look at today's life on Indian Reservations, debunking the stereotypes of both big casino money and horrible poverty and crime.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
Englander's second story collection ranges from a bizarre peep show to the history of Israel.
El Narco by Ioan Grillo
Grillo has done a good job of exploring the world inside Mexico's cartels and the despair that follows those caught in the crossfire between all those chasing the huge black market drug profits - this is great non-fiction storytelling.
The Evening Hour by A. Carter Sickels
A pretty good character-driven first novel about dead end life in West Virginia where the mine companies decapitate the surrounding mountains to strip the coal.
Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
Auslander's first novel is funny - if you can let yourself laugh at misfortune and philosophical conundrums.
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
In Bank's latest strong novel, he finds his usual misfits and outcasts isolated in a homeless tent city under a Florida causeway due largely to sex crime paranoia.
The Last Holiday by Gil Scott Heron
Scott-Heron died last May, and this posthumous memoir was started in 2003 getting his attention on and off as he battled cocaine addiction and jail time. It is not a hard-luck story of urban gangs and bad schools, but rather an uplifting story of strong family influence teaching the value of education and manners.
Headstone by Ken Bruen
Bruen's latest Jack Taylor novel is better than the last one. Violent, alcoholic, tenacious Jack stops an ugly cult killing spree but also takes out a few innocents in the process. No wonder he drinks.
You Don't Love This Man by Dan DeWeese
A "regular" guy who runs a bank prepares to marry off his daughter and deal with a bank robbery on the same day in a pretty good first novel.
Crimes in Southern Indianaby Frank Bill
This tough, crude, down-in-the-dirt first collection of stories suggests that Indiana is more than Bobby Knight and the Colts.
Something for Nothing by David Anthony
Anthony's first novel takes place in those grim late 1970s when Nixon fell, gas prices skyrocketed, and the economy was in dire straights.
Drift by Victoria Patterson
Patterson's strong connected stories tell of a Newport Beach that is more real than the real one.
You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik
Maksik's frist novel of love and morality among Paris high school students and their expatriate teachers captures the perils of youth and idealism in an intolerant world.
No Enemies, No Hatred by Liu Xiaobo
This collection of poet, essayist, dissident, Nobel Prize winner, and Chinese prisoner Liu's works reveals the China few see where power rules and freedom is throttled.
Zona by Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer knows just about everything, and in this study of a film unknown to many of us, his wit and erudition shine.
Back Of Beyond by C.J. Box
Although his protagonist in this latest ranger-noir novel is not the Joe Pickett of Box's long series, Helena detective and alcoholic Cody Hoyt is a character worth getting to know.
The Submission by Amy Waldman
A first novel that is one of the year's best.
The Adjustment by Scott Phillips
Phillips immortalizes Wichita again in his own inimitable style.
Who Shot the Water Buffalo by Ken Babbs
Kesey's sidekick Babbs tells a good Vietnam War story.
Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger
These days Krueger is doing much better with the great midwest North Country than Jim Harrison; and his latest Cork O'Connor thriller proves it.
I Love a Broad Margin to My Life by Maxine Hong Kingston
In straightforward but still lyrical verse, Kingston explores the mysteries of her aging, her many ethnic roots, her family, and her future.
Whose Afraid of Post-Blackness by TourE
A timely reflection about race and what it means to be black in America in an age when the POTUS is black...as his current leading contender in the 2012 election.
The Great Leader by Jim Harrison
Harrison's latest novel of a tough guy chasing weridos in Upper Michigan and Arizona is a big disappointment.
Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Gates's latest scholarly history reminds us that slavery and the migration of blacks across two continents took place in greater numbers in the Spanish speaking countries than in the United States...and it went better for them there also.
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
A creative and dramatically good first novel.
What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
Marlantes' novel "Matterhorn" said much more about war and its effect on soldiers than this more earnest, philosophical discussion of the same topic.
Getting Off by Lawrence Block
Block is just playing around with this one - disappointing.
The Killer is Dying by James Sallis
Sallis is so good at the short novel of the struggles of mostly men's lives, that it is a shame he isn't more widely read. But then we all like that special cool something that only a very few know of.
Body of a Dancer by Renee D'Aoust
The memoir of a young Montana ballet dancer's experience trying out for the Martha Graham Company in New York. All the aches and pains, love and sex, successes and failures are here in this candid and well-told story.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
It's October and more than ever a good time for a great baseball novel.
Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson
Is there need for another Hemingway biography? Well yes, when it is written with Hendrickson's unique approach to focus on Papa's famous fishing boat, the Pilar. By exploring what "floats his boat," Hendrickson opens up new examples of Hemingway's complex friendships and emotional insecurities.
Rebels in Paradise by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
A good gossipy panorama of the art scene in LA in the sixties.
Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
A raucous first novel that is all over the place but still grounded in good storytelling.
We All Fall Down by Michael Harvey
Harvey's latest Chicago thriller about bio-terrorism on the L is not up to his previous work, but still worth it for the Chicago color.
The Last Sultan by Robert Greenfield
Greenfield's biography of Ahmet Ertegun is a history of the 20th century music recording industry. Ertegun went from riches to rags, capitalizing on his Turkish aristocratic roots in his quest to prowl the black gin joints and alleys of American Blues and R & B to find and record the best of them and bring their music to the largely young white world.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Another great narrative from Patchett told with great style about scientists, a drug company, and the steamy dangers of the Brazilian river jungles.
The Great A & P by Marck Levinson
Our kids ask "What is A & P?" Imagine their kids asking "What is WalMart?" Levinson's narrative of the "creative destruction" of the market is both great storytelling and insightful.
The Least Cricket of Evening by Robert Vivian
A new book of contemplative essays from a poet, playwright, and novelist who accepts and heralds his life in small town Michigan.
Clark by Clark Terry
Terry's life in jazz spans the 20th century, and he seems to remember all of it...every sideman, every recording session, every jazz class he taught.
Once Upon a Car by Bill Vlasic
Detroit News / New York Times journalist Vlasic has delivered the best car business book since Iacocca's self-aggrandizing autobiography. He tells a great story of how the "Big Three" jumped off the cliff holding hands with the UAW.
The Chitlin' Circuit by Preston Lauterbach
A detailed entertaining story of the black club scene where R & B thrived and Rock 'n' Roll was born.
The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur
25 year old wannabe journalist Bahadur goes to Somalia to cover the pirate "industry" and lives to tell about it...and what a tale he tells!
House of Holes by Nicholson Baker
In this latest novel, the always entertaining Baker brings his dead-on observations and creative language to pornography in a fantasy world where you don't get what you need but you always get what you want.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
Post-Katrina New Orleans and a detective who won't quit - a great combination for a sharp new series.
Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner
A seventeen year old boy and life-long resident of Greenwich Village loses his virginity and spends a day wondering about life, love, and cooking sweetbreads...think Holden Caulfield as imagined by Nicholson Baker.
Revolution by Deb Olin Unferth
Unferth's new book is a memoir of sorts in which she tells the very funny story of her 1987, a year in Latin America with her boyfriend looking for a good, serious revolution to join.
Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy
Kennedy is back in Albany, but this time by way of Cuba. With his usual mixture of fact and fiction, he tells a wild tale of gangsters, politics, and music.
The Missing Martyrs by Charles Kurzman
Kurzman dares to ask the contrarian question as to why the USA is so paranoid of Muslim terrorists when, in fact, there are remarkably few in proportion to the billion or more Muslims around the world.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Now that summer's almost over, I'm getting to the good stuff I've missed - strong women, lake front cocktails, trouble.
States of Confusion by Paul Jury
The ultimate post-college, find yourself road trip through all the lower 48 states including four pages about the famous Crawford, KS Corn Maze.
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
Perhaps the best novel of 2011 - Spiotta gets better with each new book.
By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish, 1916-1959 by William Carlos Williams
The "red wheelbarrow" poet translates selected poems of Spain and the Hispanic Americas.
American Boy by Larry Watson
Watson's new novel follows a young man in a small Minnesota town who is drawn into events he can't control.
A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
Block at his best - a "prequel" to his series of Matt Scudder novels.
Ruins by Margaret Randall
After many many years of social activism throughout the world, Randall has now collected a series of poems and photographs contemplating the ruins of ancient civilizations.
Lucky Bruce by Bruce Jay Friedman
The funny memoir of a funny writer of novels, plays, and screenplays.
The Matter with Morris by David Bergen
The new novel by a Giller Award winning Canadian novelist.
Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr
A novel of racial prejudice in small town Wisconsin in the 70's.
Bear Down, Bear North by Melinda Moustakis
An excellent first collection of connected stories.
Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Give an independent, self-reliant, Midwestern woman a rifle, and you better watch out. Margo Crane is a tough and remarkable character.
Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean
Like Orlean's best New Yorker pieces, her new book delves into both the personal and historical as it explores the story of America's favorite dog.
Eyeminded by Kellie Jones
Jones is a Columbia art professor with a poetry pedigree. Her new book contains fascinating discussions about mostly black artists in the form of critiques, dialogues, interviews, and illustrations.
The Secret Knowledge by David Mamet
The serious and successful playwright tries his hand at a political/philosophical discourse on freedom. Although he instinctively gets it right that individual citizen freedom is more important than government lawmaking, his book is a mish-mash of various quotations from better writers on the subject and anecdotes that don't hang together. Nice try, Mamet...but no cigar.
Fall Higher by Dean Young
Excellent new collection of poems...with a great title.
The Astral by Kate Christensen
Christensen's latest novel may be the bleak story of a Brooklyn family falling apart, but it is also her best work - chock full of fine writing, humor, and perception.
Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman
An ambitious first novel from the UK with weird Nazi memorabilia collectors, a fascist entomologist, and a runty, nine-toed boxer. It's a bit of madness.
Red on Red by Edward Conlon
New York City cop Conlon's first novel is a solid story of life on the wrong side of the law, life on the right side of the law, and the blurry lines between them.
On Booze by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This collection of bits and pieces about booze, insomnia, and driving too fast is too hit-or-miss to provide much insight into either Fitzgerald or booze.
Lennon by Tim Riley
At $35 and 700 pages this new biography certainly has the heft to measure up to its subtitle: "The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life."
In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway
As she does in her weekly "Financial Times" column, Kellaway humorously takes on office romance and business cliches in this novel filled with a healthy dose of poorly considered emails.
Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe
This latest memoir by "feminist" Roiphe recounts the exploits of the New York writers and artists in her circle during the 50's and 60's. Ego, alcohol, sex, and machismo seem to dominate the era.
When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley
The third in a new Mosley series featuring New York PI Leonid McGill, this is the best one so far.
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
Poet Lerner's first novel is a brooding meditation about a slacker poet wandering loose in Madrid on a fully funded foundation grant.
Traveler: Poems by Devin Johnston
New poems that touch on the tangible and tactile surfaces and depths of various countries and places in the world.
The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming
Cumming's latest is an old school spy thriller about those murky cold war days when Russia's KGB and Britain's M16 duked it out in the shadows of government.
Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry
Easily the best baseball book this year, this gem tells the story of the longest ballgame in history with all the rich characters, contradictions, and traditions that baseball provides.
The Persistence of the Color Line by Randall Kennedy
Harvard law professor Kennedy's latest book on race relations in the USA focuses on the meaning, disappointment, and potential of the 2008 Obama election.
Golden-Silk Smoke by Carol Benedict
Like everything China, their 400 years of tobacco use is a complicated story of economics, culture, religion, and a society of consumption - particularly that of Western products. Benedict's study of the tobacco phenomenon in China is dense and detailed. It would be interesting to see a similar study for the USA without the histrionics of anti-smoking rhetoric.
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
A natural raconteur, Russell writes with grace and wit about the adventures of Doc Holliday in the Kansas Wild West - a time more difficult and demanding than "wild."
Wire to Wire by Scott Sparling
This first novel is a rough ride of protagonist Michael Slater's smacked and smashed life racing among New York, Michigan, Arizona, and somewhere vaguely inside his own head.
Drift: Stories by Victoria Patterson
Patterson's first collection of linked stories explores the dark side of tony Newport Beach with characters who can't quite get it together.
A Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner
Although Mitzner's first court room thriller has been compared to Turow's "Presumed Innocent," it doesn't quite make it. However, just getting close to Turow is an achievement, so this is worth a look.
Spiral by Paul McEuen
McEuen's first novel is a well-paced science thriller about professors, bio-warfare, and brutal assaasins.
Here and Now: Poems by Stephen Dunn
More great poems in this newest collection of the great poet Stephen Dunn.
New Atlantis by John Swenson
The well-regarded HBO show "Treme" has made us all wonder about "second lines" and "Mardi Gras Indians." Swenson explains it all in this detailed exploration of the musicians and legacies of New Orleans as it rebuilds itself.
The Terror of Living by Urban Waite
Waite's first novel is a little slow out of the gate, but gradually the characters and plot gather momentum and make it worth the wait.
More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan, Jacob Appel
This may sound like a boring cross between an economics text and a philanthropy handbook, but it is actually a fascinating and well-written exploration of what actually is working now to address global malnutrition and poverty.
Onward by Howard Schultz, Joanne Gordon
Starbucks makes a good cup of coffee when a local independent cafe is not around. Schultz's story of saving the company he founded is better than one might expect, perhaps because of the help he had with the book from Joanne Gordon of "Forbes."
Cold Wind by C.J. Box
Box's latest Joe Pickett novel is longer than the others and so more complex...and rewarding. This is a great series.
My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe
A writer for the "Paris Review," Howe tells the story of how he and his wife bought a Korean Deli Grocery to please her Korean mother, touch the "real world," and maybe even make some money. This is a funny, very New York book.
Widow: Stories by Michelle Latiolais
These well-wrought stories explore the language and strains of relationships, particularly those cut short by death or separation.
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series only gets better with each book.
Ardency by Kevin Young
Young is a tremendously versatile poet who brings new eyes and ears to the familiar story of the Amistad mutiny.
Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin
Breslin writes like Breslin, but when his subject is the man who may have single-handedly broken the legacy of segregation by putting Jackie Robinson in the big leagues, he soars.
Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan
Growing old is no fun, but O'Nan delivers gentle humor and compassion as he explores the fine points of aging in this latest novel.
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
Stevens' first novel is a thriller with a great heroine who moves as easily in Dallas's lower Greenville bars as in the slums of East Africa.
Arrival City by Doug Saunders
In this broad study of migration, Saunders argues that during the next century, the world's population will complete its historical migration from the rural to the urban; and so our future depends on how well our cities work and provide opportunity for the newly arrived.
Trillin on Texas by Calvin Trillin
Staff New Yorker writer Trillin on New York City or on Kansas City or on his family's peculiarities can be very funny. For some reason this collection of essays on Texas doesn't seem quite so funny. Maybe Texas is just not a funny place.
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Wolitzer's new novel is as rewarding as we have come to expect with its smart and funny take on domestic life...particularly the always awkward drama of the bedroom.
When the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
Boyle's latest novel is a straight ahead story of family struggle and environmentalism gone awry - at least as straight ahead as Boyle ever is.
Lee Krasner: A Biography by Gail Levin
To most of us, Krasner has always been Jackson Pollock's wife. In Levin's new biography, she rises to the independent and talented artist she always was.
The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
Mickey Haller takes on the big banks in Connelly's latest novel featuring the Lincoln Lawyer.
Knuckler by Tim Wakefield
When you can't throw smoke, you have to throw mirrors. Wakefield tells a good baseball story about how one special skill took him to the top of the game as one of the longest service Bosox in history.
This Vacant Paradise by Victoria Patterson
A novel about interesting Orange County women and a not so interesting sociology professor who pursues them.
Devotions by Bruce Smith
New poems about what's sacred these days...and what is not.
Haywire by George Bilgere
More poems from the great bard of Cleveland.
Enough About Love by Herve Le Tellier
A translated French novel about love...what else need be said.
Other People We Married by Emma Straub
Brooklyn bookseller Straub is all over Twitter and the author event gigs. We'll see if these stories overcome the social publicity she so easily gins up.
The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor
If you can get past Taylor's loser characters in this first novel, you might find some good writing and interesting perspectives...but you'll have to work for them.
Deus Ex Machina by Andrew Foster Altshul
Altschul takes us on a ride behind the scenes of reality TV (which i confess to not having watched...yet) with laughs and the eerie sense that there is no reality any more.
Short by Cortright McMeel
This novel about the players on the trading desk of a Boston investment firm talks the talk and mostly walks the walk.
Modigliani: A Life by Meryle Secrest
Modigiliani was the quintessential early 20th century Paris artist with a life of both brilliance and dissipation. Secrest's long biography explores the details of his genius, his sickness, and his friends and lovers.
Satori by Don Winslow
Best known for his San Diego border noir, Winslow amplifies the story of assassin Nicholas Hel from the well-known Trevanian novel "Shibumi" in this latest thriller.
Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser
Glaeser is an effective advocate of the city. He see cities as our hope for the future as centers of creativity and opportunity. The fact that they attract so many poor is not a sign of their decay, but rather a sign of their ability to give hope for a better life to those stuck in hopeless rural poverty.
Moby-Duckby Donovan Hohn
Fortunately, Hohn's long story of tidal currents and global beachcombers is interesting and informative. Unfortunately, Viking has chosen a terrible title, subtitle, and jacket design. What were they thinking?
How Long by Ron Padgett
A new collection of Padgett poems is always a pleasure - just pick one after another and enjoy yourself.
Rodin's Debutante by Ward Just
With James Salter, Ward Just stands at the top of the under-appreciated but consistently extraordinary novelists in America. His new novel returns to his Chicago roots where he explores the never old-fashioned concepts of honor and morality
Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian
Such interesting characters, such funny and insightful writing...too bad Edgarian's second novel has a kind of lame plot. Still, this is well worth the time to savor her talent.
Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Everybody's talking about Hamilton, her NYC restaurant Prune, and this memoir...which is as much about her wild youth as about her recipes and business experiences. And it is no wonder: the first section "Blood" ends with the graphic scene of a badly hatcheted beheading of a chicken that might explain the etymology of the verb "butcher."
Becoming Weather: Poems by Chris Martin
Townie by Andres Dubus III
Yet another memoir, but this one is by the talented Andre Dubus III who doesn't shy from describing the brutality of his past or the cathartic value of writing and literature.
The Book of Men: Poems by Dorianne Laux
Laux's poems in this latest collection ostensibly explore gender, but mostly explore the peculiarities, appearances, and follies of all of us. "I wanted to be Cher, tall/as a glass of iced tea,/her bony shoulders draped/with a curtain of dark hair/the cut tips brushing/her nonexistent butt" begins one poem which later brings in Sonny's "thick neck" and "blunt fingers" in counterpoise.
Open City by Teju Cole
A Nigerian immigrant psychiatry resident walks the streets of New York City and discovers not just the ghosts in his world, but also those in ours. Cole's first novel is pensive, deliberate, and revealing.
The Price of Everything by Eduardo Porter
I'm not sure why this has received such good reviews. Porter is not as entertaining or eclectic as Gladwell, and his book does little more than give examples of basic micro-economic rules about how price is driven by supply, demand, and the trade-off valuations of consumers.
These Old Blue Arms by Jon Reiter
Amund Dietzel was the Midwest's premier tattoo artist of the 20th century. This is his history, complete with color plates of his "flash" designs carried and buried on the bodies of countless sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
The Lady Matador's Hotel by Cristina Garcia
Six characters mingle in a Latin American luxury hotel in Garcia's new novel. Their world is one of sensuality, surfeit, and surrealism.
The White Museum by George Bilgere
I enjoy discovering poets who are new to me. Bilgere has now published five small press collections; and if his previous four have the same perspective and voice as this new one, I want them all for my shelf. Teaching at a small college in Cleveland, he may never read at a presidential inauguration; but I would vote for anyone who promised him this role.
Down and Delirious in Mexico City by Daniel Hernandez
Mexico City makes New York, even Los Angeles, look like old folks homes when Hernandez takes us to the streets of the largest city in the Americas.
Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey
I would have expected Dorsey to have run out of Florida by now and to have run out of funny things for his heroes Serge and Coleman to say and do; but no, in this thirteenth adventure, there is still plenty of madness to go around.
More Perfect Depictions of Noise by Justin Taylor
2008 small press poems by 2010's hot Brooklyn fiction author. Here's a snippet: "...You stood/ when it seemed like time to stand, guessed/that God exists, but at a cold remove./(You were half right, as you ever are.)"
Jeremy Schmall & The Cult of Comfort by Jeremy Schmall
A small book from a small Brooklyn press with funny, bulls-eye poems. A taste: "A limp handshake/torpedoed my middle adolescence,/but they don't teach you that in school./You learn locker combinations & a new/more violent boredom/& something about the double hook/holding bras up."
The Black Minutes by Martin Solares
In this first novel translated from Spanish, Solares covers four decades of crime, corruption, and loss in a well-imagined Mexican Gulf port city. In spite of a large cast, he moves the underlying detective story fast enough for us to gradually know them all as the mystery unfolds.
Rut by Scott Phillips
Phillips view of a future with mutant frogs and one-legged former soldiers in a small Colorado town is both dark and funny.
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
In her first published fiction, Fallon's excellent collection of linked stories provides a frank but sensitive window into the lives of military families as they navigate the aisles of the base PX, raise children, and wait anxiously for word of those dodging IEDs in Iraq.
Martin Quinn by Anthony Lee
Once trapped in the New York mob life, the eponymous Martin Quinn can find no easy way out...think "Law & Order" from the framed criminal's point of view. Lee's 2003 novel never made it to paperback, but keep your eye out for a used edition.
Swallow by Mary Cappello
An early twentieth century Philadelphia doctor and scientist extracted all manner of things swallowed by his patients...and then weirdly saved them. His collection became a museum, and this is his story as well as an interesting history of early endoscopy.
Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Forman Dew
Dew's new novel tells of a happier time in post-World War II in Ohio...or was it really happier?
Caribou Island by David Vann
Hemingway goes to Alaska in Vann's first novel, where men build cabins by hand and fish for salmon while women weep with despair. Not for the happy-ending romantic.
Punching Out by Paul Clemens
Clemens does a nice hands on job of reporting about the 2007 dismantling of an auto stamping plant and shipping the equipment to Mexico. Unfortunately, he lets the worst recession in decades become his template for the future. It would be interesting to read his account of the building or expansion of one of the many new manufacturing operations underway today as we climb out of this cyclical recession.
Outrageous Fortunes by Daniel Altman
NYU professor and economist, Altman is not afraid to speculate on the big fundamentals which will direct the global economy fifty years from now. Whether right or wrong, he at least is one of the few to suggest that China's growth may reverse by 2050 if it doesn't do something about relaxing state control and addressing the population shift to an overload of old people. The USA should take heed.
By the Numbers by James Richardson
Richardson has been writing award-winning poetry collections for thirty years and this was a 2010 National Book Award finalist. Here's a taste from the poem Road Not Taken: "And for those who might have been following me, / odds are I lost them long, long ago."
Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet
A slight novel of a "perfect" marriage undermined by the dark vortex of sexual obsession.
Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby
Stroby's fourth novel of Jersey crime lifts him into the pantheon of Elmore Leonard and George Pelecanos...he is that good.
Hume's Fork by Ron Cooper
Ron Cooper is new to me, and this first novel from 2007 promises that this academic philosophy professor can tell a funny story. This one's about a family run amok at a philosophical association convention where wrestling is the main entertainment...strange stuff.
Mr. Hooligan by Ian Vasquez
Vasquez is earning his noir bones in this second novel of crime in Belize.
Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes, trans. by Edith Grossman
This latest from Carlos Fuentes, the most revered novelist in Mexico, is an interesting and comprehensive look at the forces which have driven Mexican life for centuries told through the story of two orphans climbing the political ladder of Mexico City power.
House Divided by Mike Lawson
A July release of Lawson's latest Joe DeMarco political thriller series, this time pitting Joe against three clandestine agencies within the Justice Department hell bent on "removing" terrorists and their supporters while operating outside even the current loose safeguards of Homeland Security Laws. Joe is caught in the middle as all three seem to take on each other in a fast-paced plot to see if the President is willing to risk political suicide and expose our government's covert lawlessness.
Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty by Phoebe Hoban
Alice Neel's career as an American artist spanned the twentieth century, and Hoban's new biography captures this exciting world of modern art as well as the life of Neel.
Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye
A thoughtful first novel and a good story of life in our North Country, the Great Lakes, and fathers and sons.
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
It's good to have Bass back from his wilderness, environmental ramblings and writing fiction again.
The Petting Zoo by Jim Carroll
Carroll died young after living the writer, musician, artist life in New York City. This is his last novel that captures that scene in the last days of the 80's.
Mentor by Tom Grimes
Grimes studied under Frank Conroy at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. This memoir of that time may be exciting to writers, but seems slow and and self-centered to the rest of us...or is that just the way it is with workshop writers?
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
Gordon's National Book Award winning novel takes us into the argot and smells of small track claiming races and the horses, owners, trainers, and stable-rats who inhabit them.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Martin is quite the "renaissance man," and his new book is an object of publishing beauty that contains a good story grounded in the real world of art, galleries, and museums.
The Left-handed Dollar by Loren D. Estleman
Detroit may have its problems, but Estleman's enduring Amos Walker gives the city something to be proud of - he is one of crime fiction's best characters.
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Another medical doctor with a talent for writing, Mukherjee explores the history, pathology, etiology and treatment of cancer in a creative anthropomorphic "biography" of what may be our most "feared" disease. Unfortunately, perhaps, he gives the disease more pages and "power" than it deserves.
How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu
Mengestu's first novel "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" received deserved and widespread praise for examining the lives of immigrant shopkeepers in Washington DC. This second novel is even better, perhaps because he successfully jumps generations of immigrants and grounds the story largely in the Midwest.
C by Tom Mccarthy
McCarthy's first novel "Remainder" was an acclaimed but odd allegorical novel that stretched the reader. "C" is also a stretch for the reader as it spans the last century through a somewhat complicated plot. McCarthy is an acquired taste.
The Whole Wide Beauty by Emily Woof
An English family holds itself together with spit, polish, and a stiff-upper-lip facade in this small jewel of a first novel. Woof's characters are as sensitive inside as they are resilient outside.
The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile.
Guilfoile's second novel is a good Chicago crime story starring a sexy woman with a special talent (not unlike you-know-who Lisbeth), but it drifts too much into Dan Brown's pseudo-historical secret society territory.
Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier.
History, economics, people, weather - Frazier covers it all in this long personal tribute to Russia, the largest country in the world, and in particular, to its infamous region of Siberia.
Life by Keith Richards.
What's to say - it's Keith Richards and titled "Life." He's 67 years old and has lived every one of them - hard.
Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger.
Krueger has been quietly working the Minnesota Iron Range with a high quality series featuring former sheriff Cork O'Connor. This is the tenth in the series and one of the best.
Sunset Park by Paul Auster.
Auster's latest novel is a moody piece which chronicles the broken lives of young squatters in a derelict house in Sunset Park, members of a troubled intellectual family, Florida immigrants, international writers, and more. It is not as grim as it sounds, and Auster is always thought provoking...and entertaining.
In Search of Mercy by Michael Ayoob.
Ayoob's first novel is already an award winner having been chosen as Best First Private Eye Novel. He takes his characters into the noir world of a Pittsburgh filled with hockey, warehouse life, and abduction.
Vida by Patricia Engel.
Engel's first novel is a tight, character-driven story of immigration and isolation.
Ladie's Man by Richard Price.
This is an early Price novel which shows his sense of the language of the street...but otherwise doesn't work. Consider it dues paying so that his recent novels could be so good.
First Fire, Then Birds by H. L. Hix.
This collection of Hix poems chosen (and in some cases revised) from the last fifteen years is pretty heavy going with too many biblical and historical references for my taste.
The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart.
Machart's strong first novel is an atmospheric story of Texas ranching life in the early 20th century - but more, it is a story of fathers and sons, ambition and greed...and horses.
Letters by Saul Bellow.
Bellow is as challenging, wise, and amusing in his letters as he is in his fiction. These letters provide a good window into the life of one of our great writers.
One With Others by C. D. Wright.
Wright's new book is a narrative story told in verse of an episode in Arkansas during the Civil Rights Movement.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.
Franklin's new novel may be a "thriller," but it is a thriller where the sense of place and propriety in our deep South is as important as character and plot.
The Masque of Africa by V. S Naipaul.
The always opinionated Naipaul (whose best novel A Bend in the River takes place in Africa) reflects on the impact of various Western and Eastern religions on the beliefs of native Africans.
On Balance by Adam Phillips.
Philosopher and psychoanalyst Phillips writes a fresh and entertaining study of our ostensible aspiration for "balance" which shows, instead, that it is really our excesses which define us...and nothing is more excessive than our outrage and vindictiveness toward what we perceive to be the excesses of others (eg. Wall Street, Unions, Pornographers, religious zealots, etc).
If You're Not Yet Like Me by Edan Lepucki.
A novella (short story really) from a small California press by a new writer who tells a funny story about a misguided date which turns into a baby and a new life.
How to Become a Scandal by Laura Kipnis.
This short book about how we all have our "blind spots" and we all "compartmentalize" bad behavior, could just as easily been a long magazine article; but Kipnis is funny, and it is a pleasure to join her journey through our world of gossip, outrage, and folly.
Dogfight, A Love Story by Matt Burgess.
This first novel of a Queens, NY drug deal gone bad with the Russian Mafia banging on the door, puts newcomer Burgess square in the company of other New York hard company writers like Richard Price.
Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz.
I first wondered why the world needs another Dylan book, but Wilentz is a serious history professor at Princeton (and a Dylan fan since age thirteen), and his new book brings a unique perspective on Dylan's role and impact on the last fifty years of American History.
The Reversal by Michael Connelly.
Bosch again teams up with Mickey Haller (and his ex-wives) to put a bad guy back in the hoosegow. As always, Connelly tells a well-paced, interesting story.
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham.
Cunningham's tightly written new novel considers the successes and secrets of a middle-aged couple living a life of art in New York City.
Grant Wood, A Life by R. Tripp Evans.
120 pages of epilogue, footnotes, and index along with numerous illustrations make this excellent new biography less intimidating than its length makes it first appear.
Great House by Nicole Krauss.
After her well-reviewed The History of Love, Krauss's new novel has been nominated for this year's National Book Award. It's a novel whose stories are held together by a "writing desk", as much a character as the characters.
Man with a Blue Scarf by Martin Gayford.
Writer and art critic Gayford's diary of a portrait sitting with one of the 20th Century's greatest artists (still very much working in his late 80's, Lucian Freud, tells much about the sitter, the artist, and the making of great art.
A Pie by Luigi Amara.
This 100 page poem in Spanish chronicles a day in Mexico City "on foot." It is fairly easy to get into the rhythm of Amara's walk even if one is not fluent in Spanish, and so one gets a good feel for one of the largest cities in the world. The book itself is beautifully made with a cut-out of a Chuck Taylor shoe on the cover and nice graphics inside. This is a gem for anyone interested in Mexico at street level rather than at 30,000 feet.
Driving on the Rim by Tom McGuane.
It's nice to see McGuane writing fiction again - brilliantly written or not, his fiction is more entertaining than his non-fiction.
The Sandbox by David Zimmerman.
A pretty good first novel about the war in Iraq.
Death Is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca.
Rivecca's strong first book collection of stories is worth a look. She can write.
The Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody.
Moody's new novel is long (a very long 725 pages) and a weird kind of fantasy - a sort of dystopian story of space travel and baseball cards. What is Moody up to?
Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey.
A well-written first novel about a daughter and her well-read father, a relationship that sadly only matures after his death.
The Match by Mark Frost.
My dad, a nationally ranked amateur at the time, swears this golf book is both true and the best golf book he has ever read. Dads being dads and sons being sons, I'm compelled to read it. As usual, he may be right about this one.
The Good Physician by Kent Harrington.
A 2008 thriller whose story of terrorism, government agency abuses, and personal moral dilemmas is as timely as ever.
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson (trans. Ivo Jarosy).
This is a reissure of a classic novel originally published in German in 1959. It is sort of an adult Anne Frank; the author was in hiding in World War II and wrote this novel to try to explain the terror of Hitler's rising power.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg.
This global bestseller is another crime novel from Sweden translated by the same guy who did Stieg Larsson's books. Lackberg brings the same cold desolate landscape to the plot, but her writing lacks much creativity (or perhaps just the translation is lacking).
Secret Historian by Justin Spring.
Sam Steward was a Chicago tattoo artist, pornographer, and pro-homosexual writer. Spring's biography is based on recently discovered papers which show Steward's range of friendships with notable writers and intellectuals of his time, a time when to be "out" doomed many creative lives. Spring's book reveals an interesting and troubled man of whom few of us are aware, yet who lived among and corresponded with the most famous.
Encounter by Milan Kundera.
Kundera is not only a novelist, but also (much in the European tradition) an intellectual, curious and analytical about the state of his art. In this new collection of essays his perceptive thoughts roam the literary landscape from the familiar (Phillip Roth) to the obscure (Iannis Xenakis).