September 20, 2010 |
Studded with vivid character sketches and evocative descriptions of the American landscape, journalist Judy Pasternak's scarifying account of uranium mining's disastrous consequences often reads like a novel — though you will wish that the bad guys got punished as effectively as they do in commercial fiction. Real life is complicated, and Pasternak, a veteran of 24 years with the Los Angeles Times, does justice to the historical and ethical ambiguities of her tale while crafting a narrative of exemplary clarity.
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.
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 He was forced to wait decades before several of his novels saw print, and two of them remain unpublished long after his death in 1988.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.
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.
February 7, 2011 |
By his own admission, Michael Oher preferred to observe rather than participate in social settings when he was a young man. In fact, his silence was so disconcerting to social workers in Memphis, Tenn., he says, that it was misdiagnosed as repressed rage, and he was locked up in a hospital for observation. Oher's reticence left it to others to tell his story ? of a black child in Memphis' inner city who was neglected by his mother and essentially had no place to call home but ultimately blossomed when a rich, white family took him in and introduced him to the twin satisfactions of athletic and academic achievement.
September 16, 2010 |
During the all-too-brief life of their physically disabled son, Jesse, who died in his sleep five years ago at the age of 17, the actors Marianne Leone (who played the mother of actor Michael Imperioli on HBO's "The Sopranos") and Chris Cooper (an Academy Award winner for his work in "Adaptation"), often sought relief in black humor. They would joke that if they were booked onto an afternoon talk show, their screen ID would read: "Tragic parents of severely handicapped child. " What made the line funny was not just that it was politically incorrect but that it captured their dilemma.
December 4, 2011 |
If it had not caught the attention of a handful of important readers, Jesmyn Ward's "Salvage the Bones" would most likely have quietly faded into obscurity; many worthy books do. Now, however, this novel about a poor Mississippi family in the weeks leading up to 2005's Hurricane Katrina has a prominent place in bookstores and boasts the gold medallion that comes with winning the 2011 National Book Award. Book awards are marvelously idiosyncratic. While major film and music awards are based on the votes of a large group - meaning there is a general consensus or popularity - book awards are frequently selected by just a few people.