Book Review

Veteran bookseller Sarah Bagby shares her experience and insight into the literary world. You also listen to Sarah's book reviews through iTunes. Listen or subscribe here

Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny draws inspiration from British writers such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Josephine Tey in her series featuring the beloved Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete Academy du Quebec. In each of her award-winning 12 novels, Penny lures us into the fictional close-knit village of Three Pines, hooks us with characters that mirror ourselves, yanks us around with plots that build intricately, all while serving up a master class in the history of her native Canada. 

I can trace my appreciation of art in the broadest sense to frequent visits to three local museums: The Wichita Art Museum, WSU’s Ulrich Museum of Art, and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Visits to museums further afield stay in my psyche through gorgeously illustrated exhibition catalogs.

One of Dorothea Lange’s 1930s iconic portraits of a mother living through the dust bowl features a woman and her suckling child staring directly into the camera from their dusty roadside camp along a gritty, endless highway. The intrusive gaze of the mother and child is disturbing, challenging, hard. They have suffered in an environment that is cruel and unusual. 

The portrait inspired Rea Meadows to write the novel, I Will Send Rain.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman, an ambitious debut novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge, examines the complexities of scientific research, the often misguided conclusions drawn about race and evolution, and how a family experiment can go wildly wrong.

Liz Ligouri

This commentary originally aired on May 4, 2015.

Sally Mann’s exhibition of photographs of her children brought her persecution. She was accused of exploitation because of the naked images she produced of them at their remote Virginia home.

It is appropriate that the cover of The Girls by Emma Cline pays homage to the psychedelic band gig posters prominent in San Francisco during the late sixties; the book takes place in 1969 in Northern California, characters drop out, and visionaries distort reality. While Cline drew her inspiration from the effect of despicable charm a man like Charles Manson has on young vulnerable girls, her novel is a more universal story about young girls everywhere. 

Novelist and short story writer Adam Haslett’s new novel Imagine Me Gone portrays a family of five whose story is tragic, loving, and at times, gut-wrenching. In the 1960s Margaret faces a choice when her fiancé John is hospitalized for depression. Such is her sense of commitment and love that she marries John and they have three children.

Noah Hawley is an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Award-winning author, screenwriter and producer, and most recently an executive producer, writer, and show runner for the TV series Fargo. Hawley is also a writer of novels, and his latest, Before the Fall, is a thrill ride of a book, a perfect summer beach read.   

Three time periods, three cities, and one gorgeous painting, in a smart and well crafted novel: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith.

Richard Russo is a magnificent storyteller whose delightfully flawed characters are the people who often go unseen. In his new novel, Everybody’s Fool, Russo resurrects such characters from his beguiling 1993 novel Nobody’s Fool picking them up 10 years later, still in the fictional small upstate New York town of North Bath.