“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?
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.
“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.
It is arguably America’s most famous and favorite poem. But do we really know what Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is about? Not so much, says David Orr.
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.
There’s probably no place that’s ideal for a teenage boy to realize he’s gay, but among the truly suboptimal locations consider San Antonio, Texas. The heat melts all the product out of your hair, and there’s a good chance your classmates know your secret before you do and are prepared to start torturing you well in advance of your coming out. So it was for David Crabb.
Nowadays, the title of a nonfiction book is almost invariably followed by a phrase hyping the contents, including words like incredible, survival or secret. No such subtitle is needed for two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough’s latest book, The Wright Brothers, even though it contains all three elements.
While they are often roped together as Western or regional writers (narrow classifications they both loathed), and their prime writing years and geographic terrain overlapped to a degree, there could not have been two more different writers—or men—than Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey.