Book Reviews

Fidel Castro by Nick Caistor

Fidel Castro is brief, flows smoothly through six decades, and outlines the development of Castro’s political consciousness and official ideology, from Nationalism to Communism and back again.

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash

nothing gold can stay

Considering the glut of zombies lunching on people’s feet and pallid vampires sucking down plasma in fiction these days, it’s refreshing to find a different variety of horror, sadness and human emotion in Nothing Gold Can Stay, Ron Rash’s superb short story collection.

A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

a guide to being born - ramona ausubel

Fortunately for readers, Ausubel is here to guide us through her richly imagined worlds with grace and sensitivity, wiping away the sentimentality to get to the heart of what it means to survive under the weight of tragedy.

I Don’t Know I Said by Matthew Savoca

I Don’t Know I Said tells the story of a young twenty-something couple traveling nomadically across America in search of finding what they can’t even manage to put into words. Something.

Forty-One Jane Doe’s by Carrie Olivia Adams

41JaneDoesCover-350x466

Drawing on quotes from Stephen Hawking, Leonard Euler, and Pythagoras, Adams embraces science and mathematics to create a wonderland of words. She is at once large in her curiosities and gentle in her explorations.

The Reprisal by Laudomia Bonanni

reprisal

It’s midwinter in an Italian Alpine village, in the midst of World War Two. The Nazis are essentially occupying the country, Italian fascists are eliminating their own liberals, who are waging a guerilla war, and everything comes together in an abandoned monastery.

Wise Men by Stuart Nadler

wisemen

In 2013, it’s hard to read a book that focuses on an obscenely wealthy family without hearing echoes of “We are the 99 percent” and “People Over Profits.” At the start of Stuart Nadler’s novel Wise Men, the Wise family is on the way up. It’s 1947, and a passenger airplane has crashed into the Narragansett Bay, leaving no survivors.

Truth in Advertising by John Kenney

truthinadvertising

He’s nearing forty, living alone in a small New York apartment—the greatest feature of which is the toilet off-set from the rest of the bathroom—and he’s been unable to bring himself to use airline tickets leftover from what should have been his honeymoon.

Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained: The True Meaning of Democracy by Arthur D. Robbins

paradiselost

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Democracy is a word all public men use and none understand.” If this is true, which it is, then there is one book that politicians should read, and that’s Arthur Robbins’ Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, which Ralph Nader has called “a fresh, torrential shower of revealing insights and vibrant lessons.”

The FSG Book of Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry

fsg20thclatinamericanpoetry

For fans of Latin American literature, The FSG Book of Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry is like a child getting a hundred dollar gift certificate to a candy store; there are oodles of treasure to be found in the massive collection, edited by Ilan Stavans, a professor at Amherst.

Little Raw Souls by Steven Schwartz

By Maria Anderson Autumn House Press, January 2013   The title of Steven Schwartz’s newest story collection may be Little Raw Souls, but these stories are anything but small. A Pennsylvania native who has lived in Colorado for the past thirty years, Steven Schwartz is unafraid to tackle entire worlds. In an interview with Fiction…

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

book-of-my-lives-5d1b0d83d6286b680aa890c0a34880f3cada926e-s6-c10

His latest book, The Book of My Lives, a collection of personal essays, will reveal the man behind the novels, stories, and awards, and it will make fans of readers currently unfamiliar with his work.

Notes from a Coma by Mike McCormack

notesfromacoma

With over six million incarcerated Americans, the prison population would be our nation’s fifth largest city. On average, $100,000 is spent on each prisoner every year. Notes From a Coma offers a solution to the cost-benefit problem of our prisons: the “Somnos Project.”

Donnybrook by Frank Bill

donnybrook

It is such a misstep, so ill-conceived and executed, that every consideration of its elements just makes the admirer of Crimes more exasperated in wondering what the hell happened.

Donnybrook by Frank Bill

donnybrook

It is such a misstep, so ill-conceived and executed, that every consideration of its elements just makes the admirer of Crimes more exasperated in wondering what the hell happened.

Married Love and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley

married love

Married Love and Other Stories is made up of stories that taste too different for a reader to get comfortable. The collection displays an emotional progression: stories with older characters are calmer about love and infidelity, more complacent about career failures, than those pumping with young blood.

The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte

funparts

Lipsyte’s dark humor, paired with his intrigue in the mundane, brings to light the fruitless, embarrassing, pathetic, but edging on beautiful reality of being alive and having to be yourself—your real self—no matter how much you don’t want to be.

The Tuner of Silences by Mia Couto

tunerofsilences

The Tuner of Silences is Couto’s masterful turn toward a more subtle and surreal story: an eleven-year-old’s attempt to reconstruct his family’s taboo history in the scarred emotional and geographical landscape of a post-colonial country torn by war, poverty, and disease.

Pow! by Mo Yan

Layout 1

Judging from the first half of the book, it seemed safe to predict that Pow! would be the best novel of the year.

Best European Fiction 2013 Edited by Aleksandar Hemon

besteuropeanfiction

Ambitiously representing thirty-two countries, the thirty-five stories in this laudable anthology are written by authors using techniques as diverse as Europe itself, which is at once the book’s bane and it’s blessing.

The Heart Broke In by James Meek

heartbrokein3

Meek’s previous novels The People’s Act of Love and We are Now Beginning Our Descent have earned him comparisons to John Irving, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. He’s been called “Britain’s answer to Don DeLillo,” but if comparisons are necessary, then Meek can be more accurately compared to Jonathan Franzen, with The Heart Broke In like a British version of Freedom.

Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas

Dublinesque2_300_480

Reviewed by Randy Rosenthal Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey New Directions, June 2012 As readers, we are on a perpetual search for great books, but also for great authors.  As editors, critics, and publishers, this is also true.  But it is for readers especially, because  we are all readers.  And…

Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen

fartheraway

Not only is Jonathan Franzen the most important novelist of our time, but that he is also an incredibly wise and clear-headed thinker who can humbly analyze and explain some of the most complex situations through the most poignant, insightful, and precise observations.