books

Mary Norris describes the birth of her love affair with the New Yorker in her new book Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

In the summer of 1977, she was reading one of writer John McPhee’s impeccable and exact pieces about the Alaskan wilderness, and came across a new word, "synecdoche." She could deduce what it meant from the context—a small thing writ large—as in the wilds of Alaska. What made her ecstatic was the knowledge that when McPhee used such a word, she knew it was the right word at exactly the right time.

James Duncan Davidson / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a private, nonprofit human rights organization, helping the poor, the incarcerated, the condemned and children. He is also professor of law at New York University School of Law and received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, and also won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.

If you’re travelling to Berlin, you’d do well to read Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. Going to Chicago? Read his The Devil in the White City. However, if you’re going on a cruise, beware Larson’s latest-- and, I think, best-- book, Dead Wake. Larson combines impeccable research, fully drawn characters and social history to tell of a fateful journey when the rules of war became more dangerous for all people.

Richard Price writes immaculate crime novels. He set his lengthy novel Clockers in one square mile of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where a cop can see an entire world making only right-hand turns. As a writer for HBO’s series “The Wire,” Price immersed himself in the vernacular of cops and drug dealers particular to Baltimore.

In an interview, short story writer Charles Baxter explained that, “the short story begins when things start to go wrong.” Elsewhere, he maintained that, “no story can keep a secret. A writer needs to find the secret and bring it to the surface.”

If measured by his own comments, Baxter’s new collection, There’s Something I Want You to Do, is triumphant. Set mostly in Minneapolis along the Mississippi River, the 10 stories are divided into two sections-- one devoted to virtues and the other to vices.

A Relentless 'Descent'

Jan 26, 2015

Tim Johnston’s suspenseful novel, Descent, kept me up late. Then, I reached for it first thing the next morning.

Caitlin Courtland, 18, disappears in the mountains of Colorado. Until the mystery of the disappearance is solved, Caitlin’s family suffers deeply from the tragedy and Johnston examines the fragility of life and faith.

Christopher Scotton’s debut novel The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is riveting.

Set in Medgar, Kentucky, in 1985, it is the multigenerational story of a disparate population of mine owners and their laborers in a community on the verge of major change. Scotton explores the epic theme of man’s dominion over nature and beautifully renders his reverence for the natural landscape.

Leave it to the creatives at the Berkeley-based Ten Speed Press to team up with the uber-fanatic leaders of the craft cocktail underground to create the elegant new book Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails. The book is designed for enthusiasts and professionals alike, as the owners of New York-based lounge Death & Company share their passion and extreme knowledge of all things cocktail.

  Nobel Peace Prize winner and president of South Africa from 1994-1999, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. He and other members of the African National Congress were deemed South Africa’s most dangerous criminals as they rebelled against Apartheid.

Christo Brand is an Afrikaner, who was raised in a multi-ethnic community, unaware of the realities of Apartheid. In 1978, when he turned 18, he chose to be a prison guard rather than a soldier or policeman. The brutality and danger, and the racism inherent in the law, were confusing to his tolerant sensibility.

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; and two story collections. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.

Tóibín’s latest novel, Nora Webster, displays a singular vision into the interior lives of ordinary people. Like other Tóibín novels, this one is set in a small Irish town in the middle of the 20th century, a time and place he is intimately familiar with from his own childhood.

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