Bruce Jacobs reading archive

December 2018

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!

June 2018

Scribbled in the Dark by Charles Simic

Simic's newest poetry volume is a slight collection of short poems that dance around the dark side...with a little humor now and then.

The Devoted by Blair Hurley

Hurley's first novel takes us into the mysteries of Zen and a young woman's search for understanding while having an unfortunate romantic relationship with her sensei.

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Another first-rate, sensitive novel by National Book Award finalist Ackerman. He understands war and all its bad stuff besides the killing and destruction.

Rough Animals by Rae Delbianco

Another excellent first novel...another voice and setting like those of Cormac McCarthy or Philipp Meyer, but transplanted to Box Elder County, Utah.

Brothers of the Gun by Marwan Hisham and illustrated by Molly Crabapple

Hisham's dramatic personal account of the war in Syria is highlighted by extraordinary Crabapple drawings.

The Sobbing School by Joshua Bennett

A two-year-old poetry debut that I just now am getting around to. Good stuff.

Presidio by Randy Kennedy

Kennedy's fine first novel of crime in the Texas Panhandle echoes those old "Mc" longhorns Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry.

Evolution by Eileen Myles

Sly, clever, funny, hip, thoughtful...these new poems by the prolific Myles is a gem.

Other People's Love Affairs by D. Wystan Owen

A debut story collection about the lonely townspeople of Glass, England

First Person by Richard Flanagan

Flanagan is often a tough read, but almost always worth the he is in this new semi-autobiographical novel.

Boom Town by Sam Anderson

Anderson's history of OKC is both interesting and very funny...but, of course, how can Oklahoma City not be funny.

The Pisces by Melissa Border

Poet, essayist, popular columnist, Broder takes a crack at the novel in this juicy debut -- part fantasy and part Southern California realism.

Beyond the Map by Alastair Bonnett

Bonnet takes a personal trip off-map to uncover the disputed borders, ethnic enclaves, all sort of diaspora, and other surprising  "nations" across the globe.

Brown by Kevin Young

New poems by Young...always a treat.

May 2018

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

In Abbott's latest crime noir, a couple of young women find themselves bound by ambition, violence, and teenage friendship/competition.

Early Work by Andrew Martin

A boozy, bawdy first novel about boozy, bawdy would-be novelists.

OK, Mr. Field by Katharine Kilalea

Poet Kilalea's short first novel is sublime.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Wolitzer's new novel is on the long side, but her characters are hard to let go of.

The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser

Let's talk about sand: the stuff of beaches, concrete, fracking...with a kind of Huck Finn edgy resilience.

Horse by Talley English

A poet from Virginia, Talley English has filled her first novel with horses and horse lore...and a teen girl's struggle to grow up in a freshly broken family.

Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson

Robertson's fiction has won many, mostly UK awards. This novel takes a bit of attention...and then a bit more...and then, well I lost patience.

Acid West by Joshua Wheeler

Smart, funny, caustic essays by a New Mexico native who gets on a roll and can hardly stop himself. Politics, religion, the military-industrial complex, family...everything is fair game and takes a beating.

Rowing Inland by Jim Daniels

A new collection of Daniels poems is not to be missed.

The Fix by Lisa Wells

A fine, raw, striking debut collection of poems by Portland essayist Lisa Wells.

Bluff by Michael Kardos

A fast-paced tale of a magician/card shark con

Driven by Melissa Stephenson

In this debut memoir Stephenson chronicles a troubled life under the umbrella of the many cars that motored her along.

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton

Australian Winton's latest novel is a rich outback Huck Finn parable.

Blown by Mark Haskell Smith

Funny, clever, easy-in and easy-out, Smith's new novel is a winner.

Northland by Porter Fox

The U.S./Canada border is diverse and remote--and even more porous than the one everyone talks about to our south. But then it's also way wetter and colder. Fox takes it all in.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

I don't care much about trees, but I care a lot about what's in Richard Powers' head. His often difficult fiction is always worth reading to discover the new path he cuts through the world.

April 2018

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen

The new novel by the author who got my undivided attention with The Epicure's Lament.

Whiskey by Bruce Holbert

Holbert's new novel cuts to the heart of three generations of a whiskey-soaked family in the Pacific Northwest.

Graffiti Palace by A. G. Lombardo

A solid debut novel that swims through the tangled currents of races and ethnicities in 1960s Los Angeles.

The Disappeared by C. J. Box

Box rarely misses, and this latest Joe Pickett is another top-flight Wyoming noir adventure.

Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie

This outstanding novel is cleverly, whimsically, and contemplatively told by a woman expat in Sao Paulo. She is a character you won't forget. How did MacKenzie get into her head so well?

Black and White Ball by Loren D. Estleman

Estleman has written a million novels. This very good one has both his characters Amos Walker and Peter Macklin. As always, good stuff from a master.

Ties by Domenico Starnone

This short innovative Italian novel of family and marriage is translated by award-winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri who has made something of a new career from her time spent in Italy immersed in its language.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

A solid crime mystery set in the bushlands outside Melbourne, Australia.

Blood Pages by George Bilgere

Great new poems from Bilgere...great-looking this book!

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

A fine second novel in which the suffering of macular  degeneration opens the protagonist's eyes to the instability of his life.

Aroused by Rand Hutter Epstein

In the vein of Lab Girl and Gulp Epstein makes medical science and its history funny and dramatic.

Chosen Country by James Pogue

One journalist's story of the "Bundy rebellion" in remote Oregon 

The Dependents by Katharine Dion

Another solid first novel where a grieving small-town New Hampshire widower confronts the loss of his wife, the estrangement of his daughter, and a tenuous relationship with his longtime best friend.

March 2018

Kickflip Boys by Neal Thompson

What's a nice liberal white upper middle-ish father to do when his boys go all Tony Hawk outlaw and relive his own stick-it-to-the-man past? Thompson's memoir of his struggles is part parenting guide and part study of the skateboard culture of ollies, tats, and kickflips.

Bad Kansas by Becky Mandelbaum

Mandelbaum's first collection of stories is all Kansas, filled with humor, cynicism, and heart.

Flash by Christopher Bonanos

Weegee was a weird little guy, but he always got the money shots before everyone else. This is his story.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

What a wonderful, subtle, penetrating new novel from Whiting Award-winner Nunez.

Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss

A powerful new poetry collection from Seuss whose earlier collection was a Pulitzer finalist.

Kicks by Nicolas Smith

A fun history of our obsession with sneakers like those beat up Chucks, Jordans, Keds, Vans, etc.

Brolliology by Marion Rankine

A clever, enlightening look at those odd objects which are never in hand when we need them.

Bearskin by James McLaughlin

Another striking first novel. McLaughlin explores the flora and fauna of the Appalachians while spinning a tale of crime and violence that tracks from Mexico to Virginia.

Peach by Emma Glass

A startling, raw, and short first novel by a literature student who took up nursing to pay the bills.

Rail by Kai Carlson-Wee

Photographer, filmmaker, and poet, Carlson-Wee has deservedly earned a bunch of fellowships and awards. These narrative poems tell stories of those engaged in working hard to make it in these United States.

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Even without his irascible signature character Easy Rawlins, Mosley's new novel is still a damn fine book.

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian

Best known for his Victorian crime novel series, Kansan Grecian here tries his hand it a contemporary thriller set in his home state.

The Ghosts of Galway by Ken Bruen

Like all his Jack Taylor crime novels, Bruen's latest is a gem.

R. B. Kitaj: Confessions by R. B.Kitaj

A fascinating autobiography by the renowned and outspoken painter.

God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright

Texan and former Texas Monthly writer, Wright tackles his home state's idiosyncrasies with wit and open eyes.

February 2018

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

A Whiting Award-winner reflects on his Border Patrol years on the troubled, troublesome, and politically charged Mexican-American border.

Little Disasters by Randall Klein

 Yet another solid first novel...such a deep bench of young novelists we have!

Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams

Funny, informative...Adam's latest history-cum-travelogue is a great look at Alaska back in the day and Alaska today.

Winter by Ali Smith

The second in Smith's "seasonal quartet" novels. Last year's Autumn was one of the best novels of 2017.

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

A new novel from a Kenyan who is a stalwart of "shithole" lit.

The Ancient Rain by Bob Kaufman

Collected poems of one of the Beat School originals. His poems perhaps are a good example of why much of this stuff disappeared.

Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin

Another dynamic debut novel from another Whiting Award-winner.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Rooney's debut novel digs into what makes young women tick, but labors to do so.

A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham Thornton

In her second novel, Thornton writes well of the globe-trotting young and wealthy who fall in love but then...what?

The Balcony by Jane Delury

Another first novel with style and panache. Where do all these good writers come from?

Berenice Abbott by Julia Van Haaften

A heavily and helpfully illustrated biography of this notable photographer and pioneer feminist. 

Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch by David Bottoms

Award-winning Bottoms writes colloquial thoughtful poems in the James Dickey southern tradition.

Night School by Carl Dennis

This new poetry collection shows off Buffalo poet Dennis's remarkable talent.

A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

A sensitive debut story collection about young black males growing up in New York City.

The Transition by Luke Kennard

A funny first novel about a sinister organization remaking the human race by feeding on those who get into debt and can't get out.

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

This tale of a weird crime and weird fly-tying cults is great stuff. The best quirky nonfiction history since Devil in the White City.

The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

A debut novel of two families in Cleveland from opposite sides of the tracks. Frumkin can really write, and I'm anxious to see what she does next.

The Road Not Taken by Max Boot

Another Southeast Asia/Vietnam War tome, but irresistible to those of us who were young at the time and consumed by America's war folly.

Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn

A family financial fortune goes south in St Aubyn's retelling of King Lear in the age of Wall Street wealth.

China's Great Wall of  Debt by Dinny McMahon

A personal analysis of China's debt economy by an Australian journalist who's been there and seen things.

January 2018

Bring Out the Dog by Will Mackin

A terrific debut story collection about soldiers and modern warfare by a writer to watch.

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe

The spunky narrator of Sharpe's first novel of northern California feuding backwoods crime families is a young woman with attitude and a violent streak to back it up.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

Messud's wide-ranging fiction is always a welcome way to spend a few hours.

Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Surreal, imagist poems about immigration, sexuality, and other ambiguities.

Green Sun by Kent Anderson

A strong Oakland crime novel featuring a Vietnam War Vet cop.

American Witness by RJ Smith

A fascinating biography of this fascinating and reclusive iconic photographer.

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

The latest short comic novel of life in the Congo by one of the foremost contemporary writers setting his fiction in sub-Saharan Africa.

Chicago by David Mamet

Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, novelist, film director, etc. etc, Mamet knows how to make characters tell a story by just talking. This historical novel about Chicago in the mobster 1920s does for Mamet's hometown what George V. Higgins did for his Boston.

Sociable by Rebecca Harrington

An amusing novel of Millennial angst among bottom-crawling young New Yorkers trying to find their way in a city and digital milieu that they can't afford...kind of a long episode of "Girls."

Dressed Up for a Riot by Michael Idov

A young hipster journalist immigrant from Latvia goes to Moscow to juice up GQ Russia and learns the ins and outs of politics and culture...then amusingly tells of his "misadventures."

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

A quirky, clever first novel about a Brooklyn mom who goes on the lam after embezzling big bucks from her kids' private school.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Miles exceptional third novel is a sharp, very funny, satirical look at the chaos that ensues when a disabled war vet suddenly can walk, and he and his Biloxi town are besieged by those who revel in miracles - for religious justification and commercial gain.

Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin

Helprin's new novel captures the ambiance of Paris as a suitable setting for a man in his seventies coming to grips with his life...although the telling of this tale is a little boring.

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith

Another taut novel of Southern noir set in the Mississippi Delta around Clarksdale by the very talented Smith

Young China by Zak Dychtwald

The future of a country is written in the ideas and focus of its young people. China will be no exception. Look at the kids, not at the entrenched politicians.

December 2017

The Spoils by Casey Pycior

A not bad first collection of stories by this graduate of WSU's MFA program

Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon

Another strong debut novel. There are young talented fiction writers everywhere these days. Who says the novel is so over?

Crossing the Border by Daniel Olivas

New poems by the SoCal lawyer and activist who is also one helluva writer.

Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan

Hagan's first book is a thorough history of Rolling Stone magazine and biography of its founder Jann Wenner--who comes off as an egotistic short-guy with a lust for drugs, sex, power, wealth, and fame.

The Source by Martin Doyle

An interesting history of the management of navigable rivers in making the United States an immigration and economic powerhouse.

November 2017

The Gambler by William Rempel

Rempel's biography of the bootstrap billionaire Kerkorian is not only a pretty interesting tale of a man with a high tolerance for risk and "my word is bond" integrity, but also a striking contrast to that other self-proclaimed, self-promoting "billionaire" over whom the media obsesses. 

The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey

One would think Dorsey would have run out of goofball Serge and Coleman plots by now, but apparently the Florida experience has no end of diversions for our intrepid doper and savant.

The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens

A pretty good first crime novel about random murders of the elderly in South Florida -- where there are more than enough targets.

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Nice to have Connelly return to his Bosch noir in this latest installment about the crusty old jazz-loving, brooding, now-retired cop.

Vivian Maier by Pamela Bannos

Maier's photographs are amazingly good. Her life, as researched and described in this first biography was also pretty amazing.

Ali by Jonathan Eig

The definitive biography of a man wholly self-made (and self-promoted).

Pray Me Stay Eager by Ellen Watson

A great collection of poems about aging, romance, and the vicissitudes of life by a poet of some renown who is nevertheless new to me.

Mrs. by Caitlin Macy

A snappy novel about certain wealthy married women of New York City...and the men who bring home their bacon.

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

This Whiting Award-winner's second novel is ambitious but disappointingly slow out of the gate. Patience, however, is rewarded.

The Driver by Hart Hanson

From the creator of TV's Bones, a smart and smart-alecky debut thriller.

Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

Burke is Robicheaux: out to save the world and rant and long as he can save himself and his family. Hard to believe how many Robicheaux novels he's written.

Reckless Daughter by David Yaffe

Her songs are often sad, haunting, romantic...her life had a little of that too.

New People by Danzy  Senna

Two light-skinned mixed-race cool people plan to marry, but she's not comfortable with it all. Will the world ever reach the point where black and white become brown?

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan

This my first Hallinan crime novel. Shame on me for taking so long. He's good: funny, street-wise, easy-reading.

The Accomplished Guest by Ann Beattie

Beattie owns the short story. This new collection's characters age cleverly into our contemporary her characters always do--aging along with her.

Gene Smith's Sink by Sam Stephenson

Longtime obsessive Gene Smith biographer Stephenson briefly chronicles the life story of the photographer, from his Wichita childhood as an altar boy at St Mary's to his final years in Tucson where "he died of everything."

When Montezuma Met Cortes by Matthew Restall

Mesoamerican academic specialist Restall tackles the dubious "accepted" history of Montezuma and Cortes in this revisionist history of perhaps the quintessential meeting of European imperialism and indigenous American civilization.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

A new thriller writer on the scene. Always room for one...if it's a good one like Cleveland.

October 2017

Bones, Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream by Joe Tone

A great narrative nonfiction debut about the life of two brothers caught in the crime and money world of the Tex-Mex border.

The Forgetting Tree by Rae Paris

Paris is an earnest advocate and academic who has put together a collage of pictures, poems, and essays to try to understand her personal and racial past. 

Lullaby Road by James Anderson

The excellent follow-up to his almost as good debut The Never-Open Desert Diner, this crime novel set on Utah's high desert features the well-intentioned but headstrong delivery truck driver Ben Jones and a cast of desert oddballs. Anderson plans for a trilogy of Ben Jones novels, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the conclusion.

Ultraluminous by Katherine Faw

High-end prostitution, NYC, and the dangerous edges of both underlie this crisply written second novel.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Everybody seems to love this first novel. It starts slowly, continues slowly, and eventually bogs down in an avalanche of Northern California flora and fauna, the elliptical mind of a feral fourteen-year-old girl, and the danger of her weird-ass, abusive father. Oh well.

The Smack by Richard Lange

A lifetime con man finds danger, family, and love when he uncovers a huge Los Angeles score.

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne

Osborne's moody novel of the idle rich on a Greek island captures the intersection of wealth and refugee migration.

The Ways of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

More Tex-Mex border noir featuring the slightly crazy Wolfe family. Blake gets better with each book.

Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey

Sealey's poems are all about race in the way that a black woman's life may often seem all about race.

Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block

In Block's fine novel, a West Texas family is broken apart by a high school shooting that puts their oldest son in a coma. Some heavy literary sledding now and then, but worth it.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

A highly touted first novel of a sensual affair that smolders.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

Heiny is very funny, and this novel of divorce and remarriage and perhaps remarriage again to one's original spouse is sharp and poignant.


September 2017

A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel

Maazel's fiction is funny and ambitious...and well worth the ride. This latest novel is as weirdly unweird as all of them.

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen

A coming-of-age first novel told by the only white middle school kid in a Boston public school in the 90s where being a Larry Bird fan or using the word "awesome" marks one as not-cool from the git-go.

Equipment for Living by Michael Robbins

Rose Hill, KS born poet Robbins takes on movies, rock music, and poetry in this eclectic collection of essays and musings. For example, here's Robbins on Neil Young's memoir Waging Heavy Peace: "It's depressing to learn that one of your heroes writes like a composition student aiming for the earnest tone of a public service announcement." Good stuff.

The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman

Some of Goodman's fiction is a bit slow. This novel is one of the good ones.

Beeronomics by Swinnen and Briski

The rise of civilization as seen through the history of beer...and why not!

The Bughouse by Daniel Swift

Literary criticism meets biography meets poetry gossip in Swift's absorbing history of Ezra Pound's twelve-year incarceration in a famous Wash DC nuthouse.

The Dawn Watch by Maya Jasanoff

A first-rate literary biography of the man whose novels captured the dilemma of modern man in a rapidly changing world of global trade, colonization, and distrust.

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

Set in the cold no-man's land of Antarctica, Shelby's first novel is a funny but smart Lord of the Flies sort of take on scientists and oddballs thrown together to escape from whatever needs escaping back in civilization. 

One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson

A top executive at a large NYC publisher, Olafsson continues to write his own top-flight fiction. This is a thoughtful, tight novel featuring a neuroscientist who recognizes that between two people the brain is more than chemistry and synapses.

The Great Nadar by Adam Begley

A great little biography of this 19th century Paris photographer, caricaturist, and bon vivant who hung with Baudelaire, Verne, and Hugo.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Gin Phillips (with that knock out first name) tells a great story about a mother and her 4-year-old trapped in a zoo under siege.hillips

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

One of those family Thanksgiving novels that tells of chaos, regret, anger, jealousy, etc. and still finds some sort of satisfactory ending.

Texas Blood by Roger Hodge

Magazine editor and journalist (and Texas native) Hodge takes a road trip into his family past and Texas history.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

A fine first novel about an adult daughter dealing with her father's growing dementia and her personal disappointments.

Catalina by Liska Jacobs

One of the many young fiction writers on everybody's "hot list" chronicles the wasted and worried young of Los Angeles.

The Phoenix Years by Madeleine O'Dea

A nicely done memoir/history of modern China with a focus on dissident artists and intellectuals. Australian journalist O'Dea knows her stuff after covering the country for three decades.

August 2017

Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Bowden goes way long in this detailed story of one key battle in the Vietnam War, but for those whose lives were defined by this futile war, it is a fascinating history.

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Pochoda's new novel is a gritty SoCal story of drifters and the lost ones looking for something better in the desert or L. A...

Camino Island by John Grisham

I haven't read Grisham in awhile, but this new novel seems like a good place to pick him up again.

The King of Lighting Fixtures by Daniel Olivas

Working in fiction's shadows, Los Angeles attorney Olivas has crafted several books of short stories and novels and anthologies. This latest collection of stories is another interesting mix of realism, magical realism, and meta fiction largely featuring Latino characters in and around L. A.

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery

Peery's new novel tells the story of a Kansas family of adult children with issues and their aging parents with their own issues. An extraordinarily well-written, quiet but startling work.

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

A prize-winning Texas journalist tells the story of the fate of one famous wolf and her offspring...and in the telling, explores what America is like today.

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klamm

A novel of infidelity and cartoons...what's not to like?

Silencer by Marcus Wicker

With an undercurrent of hip-hop, Wicker's poems about being a black man in America are both combative and conversational.

How To Get Over by t'ai freedom ford

The voice in t'ai freedom ford's first poetry collection is hot, angry, rhymey and hiphoppy. Sex, race, violence, memory, history,'s all here -- "nothing left but bass line, voice, and dazzle." She doesn't flinch: "although she guitar strapped playing that / rock shit, her ass got Africa tattooed / all over it."

Chasing Phil by David Howard

A true-crime story of two rogue FBI agents after the 1970's biggest white collar con man.

The Force by Don Winslow

Winslow moves his often dark SoCal/border noir to NYC, but he's still plenty dark and still tells a good story.

Liner Notes by Loudon Wainwright III

The singer-songwriter may be more a writer than a singer, so this memoir (with pics and lyrics) is great fun.

July 2017

Wild Horse Country by David Philipps

We have thousands and thousands of wild horses. Why do we have laws protecting them? What are we going to do with them all? Who wins all the money in this complicated government scheme?

The Exile by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark

This long, complicated investigation into the Bin Laden life post-9/11 is an indispensable history surrounding what might be the event which more than any other shaped the 21st Century. Surprisingly engrossing.

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Habash's engaging first novel is a kind of Catcher in the Rye of wrestling. Move over John Irving.

Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

Andersen's a funny, clever guy, and this history of American kooks puts today's political circus in perspective. This country was founded by whackos, so what's another one?

Did It! From Yippie to Yuppie by Pat Thomas

Does the world need an oversized, $50 book about Yippie founder Jerry Rubin? Based on this comprehensive dip into his life and work, the answer is definitely yes!

Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford

Financial Times columnist Harford picks his top fifty big dogs of world-changing inventions. Funny, clever, quixotic...he is never boring.

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

A sharp, short novel about an older couple who learn how to stay a couple and be older successfully--together maybe.

The Man From the Train by Bill James

Bill James, the baseball statistics guy, writes a true crime history of a Midwest serial ax murderer..for a change-up.

Ranger Games by Ben Blum

A straight arrow Army Ranger joins an armed robbery with a couple of his fellow soldiers before his first deployment. His writer cousin tries to figure out why in this memoir/biography.

Testimony by Scott Turow

Turow goes longer than usual in this latest novel of courtroom drama that takes place mostly in The Hague and Bosnia. He's a pro at this stuff and always a pleasure.

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

After a slow start, Krauss gets her mojo working in this new novel about an older rabbinical man and a younger woman in Tel Aviv.

Marlena by Julie Buntin

Buntin's debut coming-of-age novel is set in Michigan, so it can't hardly be bad. In fact, it's quite good.

One More Cup of Coffee by Tom Pappalardo

Funny, observant essays on our coffee culture playing on the Dylan song and complete with cool sketches. This is a neat little publishing gem.

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman

This Kalman is a couple years old, but it is another of her quirky, sensible prose/poetry/sketch masterpieces.

Faster, Higher, Farther by Jack Ewing

Volkswagen screwed up and Ewing covers it all; however, in the bigger picture, not meeting current emission standards merely means newer VW diesel engines had fewer emissions than those made, say, ten years ago...but not as few as the legislators required.

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

NY Times Book Editor Paul's memoir tracking her reading journal is entertaining but kind of a one-trick pony.

Cuz by Danielle Allen

A very successful academic black woman tells the sad and frightening story of how she lost her younger cousin at age fifteen to the adult prison system in California for eleven years...and then lost him forever in a street shooting after he was released. With all her resources, she was unable to beat the system and help him enter the productive community.