It’s hard to say whether Ruth Reichl is best known for her scrumptiously honest memoirs (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires) or her long stints as restaurant reviewer for the New York Times and editor of Gourmet magazine.
Like the Vietnam War a generation or so later, the Spanish Civil War was a localized conflict that took on global resonance. Major Western powers adopted an official hands-off policy toward the Iberian struggle between socialists and fascists, afraid to upset the fragile diplomatic balance in the uneasy Europe of the 1930s. Still, the bloody hostilities gained the wider public’s attention and sympathies, in no small part due to a coterie of impassioned journalists and intellectuals who took up the cause of Spain. In her meticulously researched and beautifully told new book, Hotel Florida, Amanda Vaill refracts the turbulent events that took place between July 1936 and March 1939 through a prism of six such determined believers.
Fans of Roz Chast’s cartoons in The New Yorker will not be surprised to learn that her parents were an unlikely couple: Her mother, Elizabeth, was a bossy perfectionist. Her father, George, was a sensitive man often gripped by anxiety.
In her first memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Chast captures her parents’ long, painful decline and her struggle to deal with their descent—from their cluttered Brooklyn apartment to assisted living and eventually to hospice care.
BookPage Children's Top Pick, May 2014
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Shaun Tan’s books are breathtaking—just consider his wordless graphic novel, The Arrival. But the effect is even more astounding when he puts words and images together, as he’s done in Rules of Summer. There is an underlying beauty to his work that transcends our everyday lives. His design sense is striking, and he pushes the boundaries of picture books in delightful ways.
Two excellent crime novels and a polished memoir on dying make for great listening.
This month's Whodunit column spotlights a standalone from Nesbø, a mystery in the French countryside, a mother's bloody return and the second adventure from Daniel Friedman's octogenarian hero.
A beehive is a place of order, control, maybe even oppression. In Laline Paull’s debut novel, The Bees, Flora 717 is a sterile worker bee from the lowest caste of an orchard hive. Like her sisters, she is bound by the motto to accept, obey and serve. But during a period of famine and environmental crisis, Flora is asked to take on new tasks: first, feeding the newborns in the hive’s nursery and then becoming a forager, flying freely in search of pollen and nectar. Her size and strength make her a formidable worker, and she proves to be a quick learner.
How do you talk about a story so shrouded in secrecy, its own heroine doesn’t know what’s going on? Here’s what we do know: The characters in E. Lockhart’s 10th novel are members of a privileged American family. We know that a private island is involved, on which both intense friendship and romance bloom. But anything else we think we know could be a lie.
With books meant for younger readers, it can be far too easy to tell where a story is going. There are certain tropes that telegraph the ending, like evil being vanquished, the protagonist struggling with a quest and so on. One of the best things about Rebecca Hahn’s A Creature of Moonlight is that the story doesn’t go where you think it might, and yet it still flows naturally.
Three excellent novels from 2013 are now available in paperback, perfect for sparking discussion in your reading group.