Friday, December 18, 2009


Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder 304 pages; Random House
Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains is the astonishing real-life story of a man called Deo, who, after witnessing the destruction of his native Burundi, faced poverty and deep humiliation in America—and rose above it. Kidder can describe a 14-hour trek up a mountainside so vividly you understand that moving on can be a show of strength, as some things matter more than a broken heart.
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertisb384 pages; Knopf
Carolina De Robertis's The Invisible Mountain—about three generations of strong women whose passions play out against the politics of 20th-century South America—does what the best, most readable novels do: It tells a compelling human story about identity while also quietly evoking a place and time.
Some Things That Meant the World to Me by Joshua Mohr 208 pages; Two Dollar Radio Meet Rhonda, a man who spends his haunted, liquor-fueled days Dumpster diving for redemption. With his first line—"I'd like to brag about the night I saved a hooker's life"—debut writer Joshua Mohr sucks you into Some Things That Meant the World to Me. Charles Bukowski fans will dig the grit in this seedy novel, a poetic rendering of postmodern San Francisco culminating in, of all places, Home Depot.
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan 368 pages; Back Bay
Only Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian-born writer and Jesuit priest, could guide us though such desperate terrain, from street slums in Nairobi to war-torn Rwanda, with something like hope in our hands. No doubt, these stories of rape, slaughter, and child slavery are difficult to bear. But, told mostly by children, Say You're One of Them, a recent pick of Oprah's Book Club, tempers ineffable treachery with wild-eyed imagination, offering a ravenous prayer for a better world.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 342 pages; McSweeney's
We already knew Dave Eggers could tell his own story very well—see 2000's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius—but he leaves himself out of Zeitoun. Here, the subject is a Syrian-born contractor who should have been lionized for his selfless work in New Orleans during and after Katrina but was instead caged like an animal in a makeshift jail; the book is a masterpiece of compassionate reporting about a shameful time in our history.
Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley 251 pages; Twelve
Christopher Buckley's life wasn't exactly like most people's—his parents were William F. and Patricia Buckley, East Coast social and intellectual fixtures. But Losing Mum and Pup, his memoir of the year in which they both died—is universal in its evocation of loss. It's extraordinary for its clarity and, of course, its wit (Buckley has also written many comic novels, including Thank You for Smoking). "Lovely people sometimes do unlovely things," Buckley has said. But he—and we—can love them anyway.
Blame by Michelle Huneven 304 pages; Sarah Crichton/FSG
Sly yet openhearted, Michelle Huneven's Blame takes on the recovery movement in this novel about Patsy MacLemoore, a slightly wild, 20-something history professor involved in an alcohol-related crime. All too flawed, Patsy eventually finds redemption, only to wind up questioning her hard-won moral certainties later on. Think The Good Mother or House of Sand and Fog: It's that good.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave 288 pages; Simon & Schuster
A terrifying memory unites two very different women—a wry and ingenious young Nigerian refugee newly sprung from a British detention center, and an editor of a fashionable English women's magazine—in Chris Cleave's hauntingly original novel, Little Bee. A story about what it takes to look horror in the face and still find beauty.
Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich 384 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
What do you do when rotten luck leaves you speechless? After two bouts with cancer and the shock of getting fired, Katherine Russell Rich "no longer had the language to describe my own life. So I decided I'd borrow someone else's." Dreaming in Hindi is the verbally and emotionally dazzling story of Rich's passage to India, where she tried to master an intricate foreign tongue—and became fluent in the language of human possibility.
The Bolter by Frances Osborne 320 pages; Knopf
The Bolter chronicles the life of Idina Sackville, a wellborn British woman who defied convention by having "lovers without number" and choosing a decadent expat life in Kenya in 1918. Was Sackville a protofeminist free spirit à la Isak Dinesen or a spoiled rich girl who couldn't resist a scandal? Author Frances Osborne—Sackville's great-granddaughter—traces her ancestor's journey from madcap to just plain mad.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Titles reviewed in Oprah Magazine

Got Sisters? Cathleen Medwick reviews You Were Always Mom's Favorite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives by Deborah Tannen, an exploration of connection between sisters.October 2009

The Happiness Gene Vince Passaro reviews Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers, a fiction novel about the discovery of a happiness gene -- and the mayhem that ensues.October 2009

Now You See Her Vince Passaro reviews The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, stories by the respected short-story writer which are able to convert everyday experience into light comic drama.October 2009

Day After Tomorrow Pam Houston reviews The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, a darkly humorous cautionary novel about a grim dystopia set in the not-to-distant future.October 2009

Over There Francine Prose reviews The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, an up-close-and-personal look at one U.S. battalion's gripping experiences in Iraq.October 2009

Brooch of Protocol Jessica Winter reviews Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright, the diplomat's offbeat illustrated memoir.October 2009

Vanishing Eden Cathleen Medwick reviews A Shadow Falls by Nick Brandt, a photographic portrayal of a wild East African landscape that may soon be no more.October 2009

Mommy Deadest Cathleen Medwick reviews The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah, an irresistibly convoluted new thriller about lust, loyalty, and the violent emotions of motherhood.October 2009

A Little Night Music Elaina Richardson reviews Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, a collection of five related stories involving misfits and a love for music.October 2009

After Him Cathleen Medwick reviews Nothing Was the Same by Kay Redfield Jamison, the elegiac and emotionally precise story of life with and without the author's late husband, scientist Richard Wyatt.October 2009

Old Haunts Cathleen Medwick reviews Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, a gravely buoyant new novel of phantom loves and all-too-tangible fears.October 2009

Antlered States Cathleen Medwick reviews The Hidden Life of Deer by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, in which the author illustrates how these creatures' interactions can be remarkably similar to our own.October 2009