Looted Books, Librarian Heroes


Published in spring 2016, Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu celebrated the librarians who recently rescued hundreds of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts when militants invaded their city. Anders Rydell’s The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race To Return a Literary Inheritance (Viking. Feb. 2017. 384p. tr. […]

Jamison, Oates, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2107, Pt. 2


Darnielle, John. Universal Harvester. Farrar. Feb. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780374282103. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780374714024. CD: Macmillan Audio. LITERARY FICTION Mountain Goats composer/performer Darnielle launched his writing career in a big way with 2014’s Wolf in White Van, a New York Times best seller that was long-listed for the National Book Award, a finalist for the […]

Drabble, Nguyen, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2017, Pt. 1


Drabble, Margaret. The Dark Flood Rises. Farrar. Feb. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780374134952. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374715762. LITERARY FICTION A durable author of contemporary English-language literature named a Dame of the British Empire in 2008, Drabble has plenty of life experience to bring to her portrait of graying if relentlessly busy Francesca Stubbs. Even as she […]

Debuting Arden, Award Winner Krivák, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2017, Pt. 4


Arden, Katherine. The Bear and the Nightingale. Del Rey. Jan. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781101885932. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101885949. Downloadable: Random Audio. FANTASY/LITERARY A darkly magical fairy tale for adults, this promising debut takes us to the edge of Russia’s immense wilderness, where Vasilisa loves hearing her nurse’s old-time stories, especially about the blue-eyed winter demon […]

From Aciman to Coretta Scott King | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2017, Pt. 3


Aciman, André. Enigma Variations. Farrar. Jan. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780374148430. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374714772. LITERARY FICTION Aciman made his name with the memoir Out of Egypt and came forth as a novelist with 2007’s Let Me Call Your Name, a New York Times Notable Book that won numerous other honors; 2013’s Harvard Square got raves. […]

Auster, Cusk, Lescroart, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2017, Pt. 2


Adiga, Aravind. Selection Day. Scribner. Jan. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781501150838. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501150852. LITERARY FICTION As with his Booker Prize–winning The White Tiger, Adiga shows us caste-ridden contemporary India but focuses on something more personal: the heavy burdens parents can place on children and the compelling complexity of sibling relationships. Two brothers in a […]

Eliot Ackerman, Han Kang, Mark Kurlansky, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2017, Pt. 1


Ackerman, Elliot. Dark at the Crossing. Knopf. Jan. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781101947371. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101947388. LITERARY A Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart recipient who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ackerman is among the soldier-writers who have returned home to give us a considered view of the fighting. He’s […]

Missy Franklin, Siri Hustvedt, Dava Sobel | Barbara’s Picks, Dec. 2106, Pt. 3


Franklin, Missy & others. Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion. Dutton. Dec. 2016.320p. ISBN 9781101984925. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101984932. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. MEMOIR Having won five medals—including four golds—at the London Olympics, Franklin will be one of the highest-profile members of the U.S. Olympics team in Rio this summer. Meanwhile, she’s just gone […]

Richard Fortey & Val McDermid | Barbara’s Picks, Dec. 2016, Pt. 2


Fortey, Richard. The Wood for the Trees: One Man’s Long View of Nature. Knopf. Dec. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781101875759. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101875766. SCIENCE As evidenced by a stack of awards, including the 2002 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing About Science, Fortey can make science sing, and his books always sell well. His new work […]

Günter Grass’s Last Work, the Nabokov-Wilson Feud, & More | Barbara’s Picks, December 2016, Pt. 1


Beam, Alex. The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship. Pantheon. Dec. 2016. 224p. ISBN 9781101870228. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870235. LITERATURE/biogr In 1940, leading man of American letters Edmund Wilson helped asylum-seeker Vladimir Nabokov get settled in this country, introducing him to editors and assigning him book reviews for the […]