“Together and alone, we need literature as the California valleys need rain,” muses David Denby, author of Great Books (1996) and staff writer for The New Yorker. But, he wondered, in an age of texting and tweeting, are teens still reading complex literary works? And can an appetite for serious reading be developed in high school?
If you could press a button to stop the upcoming destruction of the world, would you? Henry’s been abducted by aliens and offered this choice, and he has 144 days to decide.
It’s hard to write about Shame and Wonder, albeit for good reason. David Searcy’s collection of 21 essays are unlike anything I’ve read before, though they feel achingly familiar. The subject matter is the stuff of everyday life, or an era just passed: comic strips, the prizes in cereal boxes, the craft of folding a perfect paper airplane. But woven through each essay is a haunting quality, humor and loss uncomfortably conjoined on the page.
Within a few months of the stunning July 4, 1976, Israeli raid on the airport at Entebbe, Uganda, to free hostages taken by pro-Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked a commercial airliner, three books had been written about the operation. That was just the beginning, as more books followed, along with multiple movies and documentaries. So, other than to commemorate the upcoming 40th anniversary of the raid, why do we need another book? In Saul David's view, the story "had not yet been properly told"—and he set out to fix that. With Operation Thunderbolt, he has succeeded.
David Mitchell’s novel Slade House first came to life as a short story delivered in 140-character bursts on Twitter. That story, “The Right Sort,” is now the first entry in a chilling novel in stories that’s an intriguing companion piece to Mitchell’s 2014 novel, The Bone Clocks, an intricate saga of a war between two groups of time travelers.
Tightly paced and furiously entertaining, The Witch of Lime Street tells the fascinating story of the rise of spiritualism in the years after World War One. With an entire generation lost to the trenches and the Spanish flu, charlatans and hucksters emerged in force to put grieving families in touch with their beloved dead. This was the era of séances, table rapping, ectoplasm and “spirit photography”—done with a camera that supposedly captured an image of you posing with your dearly departed’s ghost.
“Anger has always been my adversary, crouching just outside the door.” One might not expect to hear such a confession from a figure like David Gregory, the NBC newsman who moderated “Meet the Press” and served as the White House correspondent during the second Bush administration. But in How’s Your Faith?: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey, a kind of measured honesty keeps Gregory revealing unexpected sides.
David Maraniss didn’t set out to write a ghost story, but Once in a Great City, his glimmering portrait of Detroit, has a lingering, melancholy quality that will leave the reader thoroughly haunted.
In Supersymmetry, Walton returns to the near-future world of Jacob Kelley and his family, this time focusing on his now-adult daughters, Alex and Sandra. Alex and Sandra are more than twins: They are actually two versions of the same person, an as-yet uncollapsed wave-form of two quantum potentialities left over by the events of the first book.
What motivated Adolf Tolkachev to begin spying for the CIA? Was it for money? Did he require an ego boost? Was it based on his hatred of the Soviet system? It likely was a combination of all three. But what mattered most to the CIA was that Tolkachev was delivering a treasure trove of Soviet military secrets during a critical period of the Cold War. Tolkachev’s daring exploits are described in riveting detail in David E. Hoffman’s The Billion Dollar Spy.