Richard Bausch, Malcolm Brooks, Jules Feiffer, Richard Flanagan, Elizabeth Green, Daniel J. Levitin| Barbara’s Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 1

Bausch, Richard. Before, During, After. Knopf. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780307266262. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
Winner of everything from a PEN/Malamud Award to the Literature Award from the American bauschAcademy of Arts and Letters, Bausch offers a 20th work of fiction that blends private and public trauma to devastating effect. Disaffected Congressional aide Natasha and faith-challenged Episcopal priest Michael Faulk fall in love instantly, but shortly before their wedding, while Natasha is vacationing in Jamaica, Michael appears to have been lost to 9/11. Though they are reunited, the pain they’ve endured—Natasha had her own awful experience in Jamaica—splits their life in two. With a reading group guide; West Coast tour.

Brooks, Malcolm. Painted Horses. Grove. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780802121646. $25. LITERARY FICTION
Set in grandly imposing Montana in the mid-1950s and weaving together Old World and New World archaeology while vividly portraying an American West now lost, this debut also works in miniature as it deftly portrays two characters who become unlikely allies. Catherine Lemay, a young archaeologist tasked with determining whether anything of historical value is threatened by a dam project, comes to appreciate the landscape’s rough beauty with the help of John H, a former mustanger now hiding away in the canyon Catherine is assessing. A bold, beautiful read; with a five-city tour to Denver, Missoula (MT), San Francisco, Portland (OR), and Seattle.

Feiffer, Jules. Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel. Liveright: Norton Aug. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9780871403148. $27.95. GRAPHIC NOVEL/NOIRfeifer
Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, several Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America, Feiffer offers his first noir graphic novel, having decided in his eighties to learn to adapt his cartoon-strip technique to the overarching story format. His setting is the 1930s, and wild and woolly teenager Annie Hannigan really would like to kill her mother, Elsie, who’s working for a swimming-in-drink private eye now that Annie’s dad is dead. When Elsie gets caught up in a client’s case, the plot careens from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the South Pacific. As the promo says, “Like the movies they don’t make anymore.”

Flanagan, Richard. A Narrow Road to the Deep North. Knopf. Aug. 2014. ISBN 9780385352857. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780385352864. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Australian author Flanagan has anticipated writing this novel much of his life, working on it for 12 years and completing it on the day his father died. His father had been a survivor of a Japanese POW camp and the brutal building of the Thai-Burma death railway, famously depicted in Bridge on the River Kwai, as is the protagonist here. In the POW camp, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans struggles to protect his men, even as he recalls an illicit affair from the past. A letter from home changes everything, and the story is brought up to the present day. Reviews from Australia and the U.K. have been, not surprisingly, ecstatic.

Green, Elizabeth. Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). Norton. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780393081596. $27.95. EDUCATION
A former Spencer Fellow at the Columbia School of Journalism and cofounder of Chalkbeat, a news site covering educational change in New York City schools, Green has spoken with lots of people, e.g., a former principal trying to understand what works best in the classroom by studying top educators, to determine what really makes a good teacher today. Originating with a March 2010 cover story for the New York Times Magazine; with a six-city tour to Boston, Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.levitin

Levitin, Daniel J. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Dutton. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780525954187. $27.95. COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
Admit it, you loved Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs, and you weren’t alone; both were New York Times best sellers. The McGill University neuroscientist is back with a book we could all use. Surveying the welter of information often sinking us today, even as we’re pushed to make ever faster decisions, he points out that some folks aren’t so overwhelmed that they continually lose their car keys—or their minds. Levitin draws on the latest studies to come up with best practices for mastering the overload and regaining control of one’s home, workplace, and sanity. Bravo!


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.