It’s sometimes amazing to realize how an obsession for sports can take over a life. In John L. Parker Jr.’s amiable new work, a prequel to his 1978 bestseller Once a Runner, Quenton Cassidy, teenage native of Citrus City, Florida, is so wrapped up in his athletic pursuits that the great upheavals of his era—the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of JFK, civil rights and the arrival of the Beatles for goodness’ sake!—stick in his mind the way anything sticks to Teflon.
There was no major emergency that motivated John Marshall to uproot his family for six months of global volunteer work. It was lots of little things: declining intimacy with his wife of 20 years; the desire for quality time with their teenagers; and a general sense of boredom at work. Their travels do change their lives, in ways both expected and highly surprising.
Who is Sean Phillips? And how did he end up like this? That’s the central conceit of John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, a compact but wide-ranging novel that follows -Sean’s development from unpopular teenager to reclusive adult.
The end of the world might seem like an odd time to care about music and art; why worry about Shakespeare when civilization has collapsed? But in Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, it seems perfectly plausible that a Traveling Symphony would cross the wasteland that exists 20 years after most of the world’s population has died from a flu epidemic.
An intriguing hybrid of Asimovian I, Robot-flavored sci-fi, the quasi-contemporary speculative fiction of William Gibson and the enjoyable detective/crime procedural work of . . . well, countless writers, John Scalzi’s latest novel, Lock In, interweaves the threads of a number of familiar genre conventions to impressive effect.
Ah, the metric system—the logical way of meting out the world that confounds most Americans. Readers who have failed to crack its code will find comfort in John Bemelmans Marciano’s Whatever Happened to the Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet, an intriguing look at why the system failed to take hold here.
On the heels of her death in February comes an intriguing new book examining the legacy of Shirley Temple. Author John F. Kasson confines his study to the child star’s impact on popular culture at a time when escapist entertainment was both luxury and dire necessity. The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression may sound like hyperbole, but Temple’s impact on the nation’s self-image proves unimpeachable.
BookPage Teen Top Pick, April 2014
When 16-year-old Travis Coates, dying from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, donated his head (the only part of his body not ravaged by cancer) to be cryogenically stored at the Saranson Center for Life Preservation, he imagined being reinstated in 100 years, alongside jet packs and other futuristic gadgets.
If you enjoy black humor, then you will adore the opening lines of The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield:"A grave should be a sad thing, and the grave of a child the saddest thing of all.The tombstone reads:Here Lies Alexander Baddenfield,Who Departed This Mortal Coil after a Dozen Years.He was the Last of the Baddenfields?Thank God!"Imagine, if you will, an Edward Gorey-like tale...
By its very nature, most literary reportage is ephemeral. A review or author interview tied to the publication of a new book serves its intended purpose—helping to bring the book to the public’s attention and spur some sales—but few of these pieces have lasting value. So, gathering a collection of writer profiles that first ran in newspapers a decade or more ago may seem, on...