In The Road to Little Dribbling, as in all of Bill Bryson’s travel books, you can be assured of two constants: first, that your guide is a sensualist who immerses himself (and thus, the reader) in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes he encounters on his wanderings; and second, that along the way he will spot surprises, incongruities and contradictions that he obligingly transmutes into laughter.
Once in a while, a reader needs to dive into a book that makes her feel just a bit unclean. The book doesn’t have to be trashy—and Chris Bohjalian’s latest, The Guest Room, is much too well-written and psychologically astute to be close to trashy—but the author must have no compunction about dropping the reader into the muck and leaving her there. This Bohjalian certainly does, with glee.
“I'm in a swamp in County Sligo,” Kevin Barry tells me over the phone. The Irish author has lived in at least a dozen places, from his childhood home of Limerick to Spain to Santa Barbara, but he’s settled now in an old police station built in the 1840s, known as the Barracks. Sadly, he says, it doesn’t appear to be haunted.
Roger Angell, now 94, has had an extraordinary life. A longtime fiction editor of The New Yorker and one of the best-ever writers on baseball, he is the only writer elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Baseball Hall of Fame. His wonderful new collection, This Old Man: All in Pieces, is, he says, a grab bag, a portrait of his brain at this point in his life. The title piece, a moving and personal account of aging, received the 2014 prize for best essay from the American Society of Magazine Editors.
The holidays can be a bit stressful, but luckily, laughter is an excellent stress reliever! So crack open one of the three books below and crack up around the Christmas tree.
As you’d imagine from the title, bats are a key element in Zachary Thomas Dodson’s intricately constructed and elaborately illustrated debut. But the book’s real spirit animal is the ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail. Built as a novel within a novel, with supporting material in the form of letters and journal pages and drawings (all reproduced here as if photocopied from an archive), Bats of the Republic follows a pair of adventurous young men, several generations apart, on similar missions.
The creepy motel is a staple of the horror genre—think the Overlook or the Bates. In her chilling seventh novel, The Night Sister, Jennifer McMahon has created a worthy addition to that roster: the Tower Motel.
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.
After 11 years, seven national best-selling books and a hit television series that became something of a pop culture phenomenon, author and Dexter series creator Jeff Lindsay closes out the series with his eighth and aptly titled final novel, Dexter Is Dead. Lindsay talks candidly about Dexter’s surprising success, ending his own decade-long relationship with the iconic character and his own uncertain future as a novelist and playwright.
Kevin Kwan is not where one might expect to find a best-selling, New York City-dwelling author. “I’m taking a little break before the craziness of three solid months of touring,” Kwan says from an undisclosed southwestern location far, far away from Manhattan. “I thought I’d look at rabbits frolicking in a field for a while first.”