Two Big Fiction Debuts, Gaitskill, Lamott, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Apr. 2017, Pt. 3


El Akkad, Omar. American War. Knopf. Apr. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780451493583. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780451493590. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/DYSTOPIAN FICTION Having reported on key issues from the war in Afghanistan to the Black Lives Matter movement, Egyptian-born, Canadian-based journalist El Akkad not surprisingly offers a debut novel shaped by current events while pointing […]

Books for Our Times | Nonfiction Previews, Apr. 2017, Pt. 1


Douthat, Ross. To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism. S. & S. Apr. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781501146923. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501146947. RELIGION As conservative New York Times columnist Douthat clarifies, Pope Francis’s stewardship as 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church is not without controversy. His raising issues like communion for […]

Elif Batuman, Mohsin Hamid, Chris Hayes, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2017, Pt. 1


Batuman, Elif. The Idiot. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781594205613. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101622513. lrg. prnt. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY FICTION As evidenced by her National Book Critics Circle finalist, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Batuman is a refreshingly different breed of critic, offering intriguingly personal and […]

Award-Worthy Fiction | Fiction Previews, Feb. 2017, Pt. 1


Danielewski, Mark Z. The Familiar. Vol. 4: Hades. Pantheon. Feb. 2017. 880p. ISBN 9780375715006. pap. $26.95. LITERARY/FANTASY One Rainy Day in May, the first volume of National Book Award finalist Danielewski’s magnum opus, The Familiar, was published in 2015 and quickly hit the New York Times best sellers list, rising to No. 5. The entire […]

Essential Literary Fiction | Fiction Previews, Jan. 2017, Pt. 3


Appelfeld, Aharon. The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping. Schocken. Jan. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780805243192. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780805243208. LITERARY In this new work from celebrated Israeli author Appelfeld (winner of two National Jewish Book Awards), a young Holocaust survivor barely recalls his journey from Europe to Palestine, where he now works on a kibbutz. But […]

Rising Stars | Fiction Previews, Jan. 2017, Pt. 1


Barkan, Josh. Mexico: Stories. Hogarth: Crown. Jan. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781101906293. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101906309. SHORT STORIES What do you do when a drug lord walks into your restaurant? Or when a parent walks into your classroom and threatens to kill you if his son falls for the wrong girl? These are some of the […]

Queen Victoria, Pixar, Space Travel, & More | Nonfiction Previews, Nov. 2016, Pt. 4


Alvarez, Walter. A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves. Norton. Nov. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9780393292695. $26.95. SCIENCE/COSMOLOGY If you’re familiar with the “Impact Theory,” which blames dinosaur extinction on a crash-landed asteroid, then you’re familiar with Berkeley geologist Alvarez; he originated the idea. Here he argues that Big History, which […]

Five Big Debuts | Fiction Previews, Oct. 1, 2016, Pt. 1


  Bennett, Brit. The Mothers. Riverhead. Oct. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9780399184512. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399184536. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/WOMEN’S FICTION In a contemporary black community in Southern California, 17-year-old Nadia Turner and 21-year-old Luke Sheppard launch a soulful affair. She’s lost her mother to suicide, he’s lost a football career to injury, and the decisions […]

Delia Ephron, Laura McHugh, Cynthia Ozick, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jul. 2016, Pt. 3


Bennett, Claire-Louise. Pond. Riverhead. Jul. 2016. 208p. ISBN 9780399575891. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399575914. SHORT STORIES Originally published by the Dublin press Stinging Fly, which has given us the likes of Kevin Barry and Colin Barrett, Bennett’s story collection attracted enough attention to get a book deal in Britain, where the Guardian called it “stunning.” This […]

Anne Tyler Revisits Shakespeare, plus Ausubel, Danielewski, & Newcomer El Rashidi | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Jun. 2016. Pt. 4


Ausubel, Ramona. Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty. Riverhead. Jun. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781616205621. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698410855. LITERARY Ausubel debuted with No One Is Here Except All of Us, winner of the PEN Center USA Fiction Award and a New York Public Library’s Young Lions finalist that was ambitious, gorgeously written, and occasionally […]