October 9, 2011 |
The Barbarian Nurseries A Novel Héctor Tobar Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 422 pp., $27 "The Barbarian Nurseries" is a book of extraordinary scope and extraordinary power. Héctor Tobar's second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system. The publishers compare it to Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities. " That's right only up to a point, for Tobar's concern isn't satire but the possibilities of social inclusion and redemption.
May 21, 2011 |
We're living in an age of prize proliferation. It might not feel like it — especially with so many families hit hard by economic turmoil in the last few years — but it still exists, according to Joel Best's "Everyone's a Winner," a book that looks at the ways and the reasons why our society puts so much emphasis on a pat on the back. Everyone knows that the gentleman's C of years ago has become the B-plus or A-minus of today. Averages higher than 4.0 are commonplace in high schools and, at graduation time, many schools crown not one but multiple valedictorians.
November 28, 2010 |
Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand Random House: 480 pp., $27 As I read Laura Hillenbrand's stirring and triumphant account of the harrowing experiences of American Olympic runner and World War II POW Louis Zamperini, I thought of the double load that the research and writing of "Unbroken" had put on its author. Hillenbrand is herself a steely example of triumph over more than 23 years of debilitating illness.
January 30, 2011 |
Vietnamerica A Family's Journey GB Tran Villard: 179 pp., $30 Where does memory end and myth begin? GB Tran's graphic novel "Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey" occupies the messy middle ground of that question. Born in 1976 in South Carolina, Tran was separated by time and geography from his family's Vietnamese roots His parents left Vietnam with their two older children three days before the fall of Saigon in 1975: Their American-born son is literally a man between cultures, with no experience of what his parents and siblings left behind.
April 10, 2011 |
Panorama A Novel H.G. Adler, translated from the German by Peter Filkins Random House: 454 pp., $26 Life is short and art is long, as the saying goes, but the sad fact is that a work of literature may not outlive its human author. Such was the apparent fate of the work of H.G. Adler. He was forced to wait decades before several of his novels saw print, and two of them remain unpublished long after his death in 1988. But, remarkably, Adler has been rediscovered by American publishers and readers, and his 1948 novel "Panorama" is now available in an English translation.
August 7, 2010 |
I'm of two minds about whether "Savages," Don Winslow's marvelous, adrenaline-juiced roller coaster of a novel, is a rookie reader's best introduction to his work. There's a delicious sense of satisfaction in seeing how Winslow has chiseled his increasingly lean prose to diamond-like precision over the course of 12 novels and fused the themes of "The Power of the Dog" (2005), his epic account of the country's never-ending war on drugs, with the razzmatazz syntax of his surf-detective novel "The Dawn Patrol" (2008)
September 21, 2011 |
With "Start Something That Matters," Blake Mycoskie, the sailboat-dwelling former reality show contestant, serial entrepreneur, unbridled optimist and philanthropically motivated founder of Toms Shoes, has added author to his resume. He's also managed to pen a quick read of a motivational guide for well-intentioned millennials and a dirt-easy-to-follow blueprint for anyone thinking about following in the footsteps of his alpargatas. Alpargatas, of course, are the slipper-like, jute-soled, soft canvas Argentine footwear that are the foundation and literal sole of the Toms business, which Mycoskie discovered during a 2006 trip to Argentina.
December 8, 2010 |
OK, so apart from those genuinely saintly souls sent by Providence as examples to the rest of us, is there anyone with a pulse in this country who wouldn't like to see Osama bin Laden dead? Should he yet fall into our hands, even this writer ? an implacable opponent of capital punishment ? sees no reason to take the evil SOB alive. That's the animating fantasy at the heart of Tom Clancy's sprawling but propulsive new thriller, "Dead or Alive," his 15th novel since he exploded like a cluster bomb onto bestseller lists with "The Hunt for Red October" in 1984.