Bruce Jacobs reading archive

March 2019

Bowlaway by Elizabeth Mccracken

In her new novel, McCracken rocks a little Dickens, a little John Irving, and a lot of just her own slightly off-plumb imagination.

A Time To Scatter Stones by Lawrence Block

Welcome back Matt Scudder. It's been a while. We've missed you.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Luiselli's first novels and essays were intriguing, short, and almost experimental. In her latest, she goes long and more narratively straightforward...and it's getting the sort of review and sales attention she deserves.

Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer

A longtime editor and member of the Twitterati, Dreyer entertains and instructs and muses with good humor and common sense. He lets us know how it should be done without making us feel like idiots.

February 2019

El Norte by Carrie Gibson

Gibson's endlessly informative history reminds us that what we call the United States of America is more a tree with Hispanic roots than one grown from English seeds.

Looker by Laura Sims

A tight little debut novel that won't let go.

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

Barnes latest novel is a paean to young love through the eyes of a wise, self-deprecating man reflecting on his first love at age nineteen with a 49-year-old married woman. Top notch!

The Absolved by Matthew Binder

A kind of funny, kind of scary peek into a future United States when AI and machines do everything from driving cars to actually creating the music we like rather than making Pandora playlists of existing music.

Gate 76 by Andrew Diamond

A zesty crime novel featuring a beat down, beat up ex-boxer with a past who unravels political corruption in Texas, among the Feds, and just about everywhere.

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones

Jones' latest August Snow crime novel is even better than his excellent debut. His is the Detroit we can learn to love.

Elsey Come Home by Susan Conley

Conley's new novel is a taut little beauty set in Beijing in the voice of a modern Emma Bovary who doesn't get her life...and drinks too much.

Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan

This tale of a wild bank robbery in California's huge, diverse Riverside County is the best kind of true crime writing with colorful characters, trenchant wit, bizarre human behavior, and a cinematic pace.

No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey

Oh boy...a new Serge and Coleman whopper from the man whose novels mine the bottomless pit of Florida history, hysteria and madness.

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley

Hadley gets better and better. This new novel is perhaps her best.

Talk To Me by John Kenney

A sly, funny-when-it-needs-to-be new novel by The New Yorker writer, poet, and novelist Kenney.

January 2019

Sophisticated Giant by Maxine Gordon

The great Dexter Gordon's wife weaves storytelling, data, photos, anecdotes, cameos, and the history of jazz into a terrific, idiosyncratic biography

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Late to this after reading Enger's extraordinary new novel Virgil Wander. Peace is equally good.

The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam

The history of twentieth century Ethiopia told through an immersive, embracing biography of the author's grandmother.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

One of the most heralded novels of 2018...and rightly so.

The Unlounging by Selraybob

This funny, oddball first-person narrative is a kind of 21st Century Notes from the Underground featuring a redneck Busch drinker slouched in his La-Z-Boy recliner.

Sins As Scarlet by Nicolas Obregon

A terrific follow-up crime novel featuring Kosuke Iwata, Obregon's Japanese detective who debuted in Blue Light Yokohama. Iwata is now living in L.A. where there is plenty of private eye work along the Mexican border.

Gods of Wood and Stone by Mark Di Ionno

Nothing like a good baseball novel to fill those empty winter months when all we have is post-season football and endless NBA basketball.

Sugar Land by Tammy Lynne Stoner

Stoner's debut is a smart historical novel told by a 1920s lesbian prison guard in Texas who bumps up against the startling prisoner Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly). This is a really great novel that deserves a wider audience than it will likely get.

The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy

An immensely entertaining history of the idiosyncrasies of the English language as written, spoken, and butchered.

December 2018

In the Galway Silence by Ken Bruen

I never miss a new Jack Taylor novel even though Bruen sacrifices plot for character and lively asides on music and literature.

A History of America in 100 Maps by Susan Schulten

As Schulten shows, maps often make the world. When we now have them in our pockets and our cars will drive by their own mappery, she is more right than ever.

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

In her new novel, Novey once again creates an imagined country with characters and a shadowy plot right out of what seems to be the "real world."

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang

Bold essays about a touchy subject, but Yang is a pretty angry dude a bit obsessed with geopolitics (as is everybody it seems these days).

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

Enger captures Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior and its vagabond, last-legs, small-town people with humor, insight, and compassion for their quirky foibles.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

A remarkable narrative in the vein of Dos Passos but in jazzy, subtle, sublime verse.

Gone So Long by Andre Dubus, III

Dubus III continues to elevate fiction to artful storytelling. He's on his game with this one.

Peaches Goes It Alone by Frederick Seidel

Seidel is simply one of our best contemporary poets. Read everything he writes!

The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard

Stoppard on stage may be best, but reading him allows one to pause and catch his catchy lines that pass too quickly in the theater...lines like: "Altruism is always self-interest, it just needs a little working out."

November 2018

Country Dark by Chris Offutt

Nice to have Offutt publishing fiction again...chock full of the myth and mystery of the mountain South. 

This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero

Comic noir from a Catalon cartoonist with flair to spare.

The Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

With his usual understated description and banter of street cops and criminals, Connelly skillfully weaves a tale featuring old man Bosch and the young, damaged "late show" cop Renee Ballard into another winning novel.

Wild Justice by Loren Estleman

Estleman's 75+ novels are 80% dynamite and 20% just OK, but I'll read anything he writes. This new Page Murdock hits the spot.

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos

You can't beat Pelecanos, even in this latest short almost breezy DC crime novel.

Crudo by Olivia Laing

Laing's short first novel is a marvel of wit and style. See for yourself.

The Reckoning by John Grisham

Sometimes Grisham is just what you need. His latest runs a little long and a little excessive, but worth the ride.

Godsend by John Wray

Wray's new novel once again takes us to a place we probably won't find on our own: a young San Francisco woman heads to Afghanistan to become a radical Islamic jihadi.

A Double Life by Flynn Berry

Complex, surprising, sharply observed and well-written, Berry's second novel is exceptional.

October 2018

The Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen

This Norwegian novel of a marriage running off the rails is a terrific taut story told by a husband who doesn't quite get it. Marriage may have been worked to fictional death over the centuries, but Gullicksen's tale is a worthy addition.

The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz

A complex first novel about complex humans. Memorable and a bit eerie.

Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Osborne brings Chandler's Marlowe to life as a retired private dick in his early seventies wiling away his time on Mexico's Pacific coast "puzzled but not defeated." This is a great tale with plenty of wit, existentialism, and a touch of beauty.

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

Just catching up with this talented novelist's debut from 2014...and glad I am.

Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter

The spy novel we deserve by a versatile editor, screenwriter, and smart novelist.

The Lonely Witness by William Boyle

Although this new novel shares some characters with Boyle's debut Gravesend, it doesn't share the same snappy dialogue and intense pacing.

September 2018

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

Locascio's accomplished first novel is the story of an eighteen-year-old Chicago woman finding comfort with her body and her desires in a memorable Danish summer abroad.

If They Come for Us by Fatima Asghar

A first-rate poetry collection by a versatile Emmy-winning writer.

Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton

Hamilton's always engaging PI Alex McKnight is back...but a bit more gruesome than usual.

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

We may never understand Russia (just like we probably can't really understand any country), but Gessen's second novel makes the place real enough for me. Wise and witty, this is great storytelling.

Detective Fiction by William Wells

A pretty lightweight but amusing noir novel of old, monied snowbirds being offed in Naples, Florida.

The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne

A British embezzler grinds out his days on the lam in the casinos of Macau...modern existentialism with an Asian ambiance.

The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera

The definitive 1978 fiction account of growing up in Rhodesia before independence renamed the colony Zimbabwe.

The Price You Pay by Aidan Truhen

Truhen's protagonist Jack Price is a smart-mouthed, smart, smarty-pants coke dealer in this smokin' new piece of urban noir.

The Silver Ghost by Chuck Kinder

In the late 70s Kinder wrote this fond novel of those 1950s of Jack Kerouac and James Dean--the rebels of the day who made us want to run away from our parents' home and hit the road. Kinder gets it right.

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold

Now this is memoir the way memoir should be.

August 2018

There There by Tommy Orange

I'm late to the party on this debut novel rocking the book world, and I fear I'm disappointed.

The Sinners by Ace Atkins

A new Quinn Colson novel (hooray) from this master of redneck noir.

Things As It Is by Chase Twichell

A great new collection from a fine poet.

Some Die Nameless by Wallace Stroby

Reviews have not been kind to this new Stroby crime novel...but who cares? Stroby's got the goods, regardless of what the critics say.

Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn

Got bugs? This is a pretty funny look at the biome ecosystem inside our houses, and the way too much bug spray is wiping out the good bugs and endangering our health. One solution is to get the hell outside more.

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

While Tyler's fiction always seems to go down easy, there is more to it than oatmeal. She's mastered her craft and always has something to say.

Pulse by Michael Harvey

Chicago journalist, crime novelist, and screenwriter Harvey returns to his Boston roots in another crime novel set in the streets of The Hub.

Think of a Number by John Verdon

Just catching up now on the first of an NYC crime series I somehow overlooked when it first appeared.

Kafka's Last Trial by Benjamin Balint

An intriguing story of the little-known battle over Kafka's personal papers and manuscripts.

July 2018

The Second O of Sorrow by Sean Thomas Dougherty

Dougherty's prosey poems are consistently striking.

Wonderland by Matthew Dickman

A fine new collection of Dickman poems.

The Tales Teeth Tell by Tanya Smith

Much more than a scientific study of dental paleontology with charts and illustrations, Smith's first book is an entertaining story of oral anatomy and human evolution...and a personal memoir of the making of a scientist. Fascinating and surprising.

Gravesend by William Boyle

A reissue of a 2013 small press first novel by a new wizard of noir fiction in the tradition of the great George V. Higgins.

Fight No More by Lydia Millet

L. A., real estate markets, family screw-ups...nothing gets much realer than these excellent linked stories.

Mother American Night by John Perry Barlow

We lost a great one when Barlow died this year. Here's his own very amusing story of his amazing life from the Grateful Dead "to infinity and beyond"...and it's a terrific, well-told tale. I'm not sure I would want to hang out with this guy, but he sure as hell is fun to read.

One of a Kind by Nola Dalla and Peter Alson

The wild story of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar, poker king.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

A well-reviewed debut and Watermark favorite.

North American Stadiums by Grady Chambers

Another strong debut poetry collection. The poets are winning these days!































































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