Best Poetry 2013, the Extended Version: We’ve Got 12 Top Titles for You

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Officially, Library Journal lists five Best Poetry titles in its December issue, along with all the other Bests of the year. But my colleague Annalisa Pesek and I couldn’t stop there. After several rounds of reading and discussion, we found that the following 12 titles sifted out naturally as the works that grabbed our attention […]

Joseph Boyden, Rivka Galchen, Tom Rachman, Phyllis Rose, Colson Whitehead | Barbara’s Picks, May 2014, Pt. 5

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Boyden, Joseph. The Orenda. Knopf. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780385350730. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350747. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION Canadian Boyden has a shelf full of awards for his first two novels, and from what I’ve seen of this arrestingly written new work, soon he’ll have more. When his guides flee the rampaging Iroquois, Jesuit missionary Christophe finds […]

Leon & Shipstead in Fiction, Caldwell & Ehrenreich in Nonfiction | Barbara’s Picks, Apr. 2014, Pt. 4

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Caldwell, Gail. New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir. Random. Apr. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9781400069545. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780679604426. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR Highly regarded when she served as chief book critic for the Boston Globe—she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism—Caldwell has since made her mark with the thoughtful and beautifully wrought memoirs Let’s Take […]

History & Political Science from the Fight for Marriage Equality to the Lives of Mitterrand | Nonfiction Previews, Apr. 2014, Pt. 4

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Aly, Götz. Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust. Metropolitan: Holt. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780805097009. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780805097047. HISTORY A noted scholar of the Holocaust who’s won the National Jewish Book Award and the Heinrich Mann Prize, among other honors, Aly argues that German anti-Semitism […]

Self-Help (Marlo Thomas), Cooking (the Neelys), Getting Fit (Bob Harper), Sports (John Calipari) | Nonfiction Previews, Apr. 2014, Pt. 4

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Calipari, John & Michael Sokolove. Players First: Success from the Inside Out. Penguin Pr. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781594205736. $28.95. SPORTS In a book that the publisher expects to be big, famed and famously blunt University of Kentucky basketball coach Calipari explains what distinguishes good teams (and coaches) from bad ones and what’s gone haywire […]

Maeve Binchy, Lydia Davis, Julia Glass, Mo Hayder, Laura Kasischke | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Apr. 2014, Pt. 3

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Binchy, Maeve. Chestnut Street. Knopf. Apr. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780385351850. $26.95. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. POP FICTION Following Binchy’s untimely death in July 2012, this set of previously unpublished linked short stories will warm the hearts of fans everywhere. Binchy wrote these pieces intermittently while producing her big novels and Irish Times columns, hoping someday to […]

Doyle, Figes, McCracken, Simpson, Vaill, Wilson | Barbara’s Picks, Apr. 2014, Pt. 2

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Doyle, Brian. The Plover. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250034779. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250034786. LITERARY FICTION Editor of Portland Magazine, Doyle has written 13 books of fiction, poetry, and essays but came to my attention only with the original and wittily lyrical 2010 novel Mink River—which actually caught the attention of plenty […]

History, from America’s First War Correspondents to the Trial of a Khmer Rouge Prison Officer | Nonfiction Previews, Apr. 2014, Pt. 1

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Brown, Frederick. The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914–1940. Knopf. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780307595157. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351638. HISTORY Ah, France, home of the Enlightenment, where art, reason, and humanist tradition reign. In fact, Brown, a distinguished cultural historian (e.g., Flaubert, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist) here shows how these ideals collapsed in […]

Fiction from Fortier, Moore, & Mosse, a Memoir from Feldman, a Soldier’s Story | Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2014, Pt. 2

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Feldman, Deborah. Exodus. Blue Rider. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399162770. $26.95. MEMOIR As she recounted in her eye-opening memoir, Unorthodox, a New York Times best seller, Feldman was raised in a strict Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn but eventually abandoned her roots and a loveless marriage, attending Sarah Lawrence College and becoming a writer. Here […]

Teju Cole, David Grossman, Dinaw Mengestu, Muslim Youth | Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2014, Pt. 1

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Aidi, Hisham. Rebel Music : Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture. Pantheon. Mar. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780375424908. $27.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE/ISLAMIC STUDIES Since 9/11, young Muslims worldwide have worked to forge a distinctively racial, radicalized identity in the face of the West’s War Against Terror, resisting American efforts in particular to subsume Muslims within the […]

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