Book Reviews

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

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It’s not so much the counter-intuitive perspective of Zorba’s philosophy that makes him lovable and agreeable, but rather the innocent, childlike wonder with which the sixty-year-old expresses himself.

Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio

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Loitering is one of those few books you own that you know you’ll re-read, that you’ll feel pulled to from time to time throughout your entire life.

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

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Considering the abundance of material by and about Fitzgerald, it might be reasonable to ask what a novelization of his life might offer. The answer, like Fitzgerald’s best writing, is simple and beautiful—it’s an amazing story.

Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong

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In tracing the history of violence through the history of the world’s religions, Armstrong shows that humanity has been perennially locked in a dilemma—how to be peaceful in a violent world—and that each religious development has ended in contradictions, ironies, and paradoxes.

The End of War By John Horgan

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Adding all this together, Horgan says that if there isn’t a direct, clear-cut correlation between war and any cause, then there’s no reason for war to exist. We have the power to end war, simply by choosing to end it.

Street of Thieves by Mathias Énard

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At the core of the book, beneath the religion and politics, is the idea of identity, and how it’s a misconception that we have one, because we’re really all the same.

Man V. Nature by Diane Cook

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Cook delights in her role as fortune-teller, imparting visions of the world we will inherit, like hazy, pearl-tinged vignettes massaged from a crystal ball that are both unexpected, nightmarish prophecies and the logical fulfillment of our current world.

All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm

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Stamm masterfully teases out such questions and connections, the random decisions and actions that seem insignificant when isolated, yet determine major life directions when viewed in hindsight.

Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World by Jeff Madrick

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While many economists have published books aiming to explain the financial collapse and Great Recession of 2008, Madrick has instead written about the fundamental misconceptions that lie at the heart of mainstream economics. And while the book isn’t nearly as lacerating as his Anti-Economist columns in Harper’s, it should be enough to make any laissez-faire believer have doubts.

The Afflictions by Vikram Paralkar

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The Afflictions does not stop at a unique sickness and turn the consequences into a story. It catalogues a world of unknown ailments, touches upon the moral ramifications of each, and lets the reader imagine the rest.

A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolaño

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I know what you’re thinking: Really? New Directions published another book by Roberto Bolaño? How many more are there? Is the guy writing from beyond the grave? Do readers need another hundred-page Bolaño novella that can be read in one sitting? The answer to that question is yes.

Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich

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There are no crowds in Cold Antler Farm, only six acres of pure, organic nature with chickens, pigs, goats, horses, dogs, and sheep. Between stories of escaping livestock, old traditions, new friends, festivals, farming and hunting, Woginrich shares some of her favorite recipes and a whole lot of wisdom.

The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant

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These stories are wild without being ridiculous, so they never feel like a hollow experiment. They’re intimate and real, but you never get the sense that Poissant is merely transcribing autobiography. They’re heartbreakingly sad and they’re laugh-out-loud funny.

The Universe edited by John Brockman

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If your understanding of the universe is mostly based on Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, then you should read The Universe, because a lot has changed in the past twenty years.

10:04 by Ben Lerner

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A narrative as much a novel as it is a poem; an autobiography as factual as it is imagined; a fiction as real as it is unreal. Experiences that are the same, yet totally different.

J by Howard Jacobson

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When one of the world’s greatest living satirists writes a love story, it’s only a matter of time before you realize it’s all bound to be a big trick.

A Distant Father by Antonio Skarmeta

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He creates impressive images with a few phrases, meaning he knows how to use language without overusing language and that’s not surprising, since Skarmeta is the author of Il Postino, which was made into that delightful movie you saw, or should have seen.

Green Girl by Kate Zambreno

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We’re never far from a screen in which we might pluck a scrap of identity, represent a tidy image of the self, be watched.