Booklover Book Reviews
Booklover Book Reviews: Find the best books to read today
I’m Jo, an Aussie book reviewer. I started this Booklover Book Reviews site in 2009 and quickly realised I enjoy blogging and reviewing books almost as much as actually reading them. I hope you enjoy browsing all the reviews of books, book lists and author interviews I have amassed over that time and find the perfect book for you. Then, sit back in your favourite reading chair and join me on this bookworm’s quest to find the best books to read!
Browse the several hundred book reviews on this site by genre:
Book format & special features:, want only the best books to read browse book reviews by rating:, book list spotlight, latest book reviews & author interviews, mhairi mcfarlane’s last night, review: depth-filled rom-com.
Mhairi McFarlane’s Last Night is a modern friendship romcom with uncommon emotional depth and refreshingly unexpected humour. Read my full review.
When I First Held You by Anstey Harris, Review: Deeply moving
When I First Held You by Anstey Harris is a deeply moving, emotionally honest drama about historical wrongs that echo through generations. Read my review.
Ninth House sequel, Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo: Book Review
Ninth House sequel, Hell Bent, Leigh Bardugo’s new adult-fantasy novel featuring Alex Stern, has definitely been worth the wait. Read my 5-star review.
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, Review
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson is an impressively original, clever and entertaining meta crime mystery. My review of the audiobook.
More Popular Book Lists
5 star book reviews, ninth house by leigh bardugo, review: engrossing epic.
Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo’s impressive adult debut is an engrossing epic, a multi-layered and deeply human fantasy novel. Read my full review.
The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock, Review: Deep charm
The Other Side of Beautiful, Kim Lock’s break out novel, offers a deeply impactful perspective wrapped in a charming warm-hearted package. Read my full review.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy, Review: Mesmerising
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy is as mesmerising as it is thrilling; the work of an exceptionally talented author. Read my full review.
Falling by TJ Newman, Book Review: Gripping depths
Falling by TJ Newman is more than deserving of all the praise it has received; an almost flawlessly executed thriller that plumbs gripping depths. Read my full review.
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Walter Mosley’s New York: Classes Divided, Races at War
His new novel, “Every Man a King,” is a hard-boiled tale of billionaires, white nationalists and a detective with a complicated past.
By Daniel Nieh
The Cousins Who Ruled 19th-Century Europe, Miserably
“Empty Theatre,” a novel by Jac Jemc, reimagines the lives of two eccentric royals, King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
By Katy Simpson Smith
For Thomas Mann, the World’s Chaos Is Inside the House
A newly translated story by the German master explores a father’s feelings for his children in a time of fierce social change.
By Colm Toibin
A Louche Life Set to a Show-Tunes Score
In his name-dropping novel “Up With the Sun,” Thomas Mallon fictionalizes the minor career and tabloid murder of the Broadway actor Dick Kallman.
By Alexandra Jacobs
Margaret Atwood Is Still Sending Us Notes From the Future
Her new story collection, “Old Babes in the Wood,” offers elegiac scenes from a marriage plus a grab bag of curious fables.
By Rebecca Makkai
A Picaresque Silk Road Adventure About Storytelling Itself
In Daniel Nayeri’s new middle grade novel, a runaway orphan boy joins a caravan and falls under the sway of its loquacious leader.
By Aditi Sriram
The Book Review Podcast
On reading ‘a wrinkle in time’.
Sarah Lyall discusses reading Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel at a pivotal moment in her childhood, and the lessons she has extracted from the book throughout her life.
9 New Books We Recommend This Week
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.
Best-Seller Lists: Feb. 19, 2023
All the lists: print, e-books, fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and more.
What to Read Right Now
Book recommendations from editors at the New York Times Book Review.
Big Money, Big Houses and Big Problems in Brooklyn Heights
In Jenny Jackson’s debut novel, “Pineapple Street,” readers get a tour of a world they might learn not to envy by the end of the book.
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
A Father and Son, United by a Cause, Divided by an Assassin
Raja Shehadeh’s highly personal memoir probes a relationship that might have been.
By Hisham Matar
Meet the Electrome. It Can Turn You Into an Assassin.
In “We Are Electric,” Sally Adee explores the body’s capacity for electricity; the results can be shocking.
By Simon Winchester
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Exploring the Wilds: Magical Marshlands, Nascent Planets
New books by Frances Hardinge, Annalee Newitz and Freya Marske.
By Amal El-Mohtar
Fairy Tales Helped Her Navigate Real Life’s Joy and Discord
“Happily,” a book of essays by Sabrina Orah Mark, reveals the lessons that children’s stories teach us well into adulthood.
By Lauren LeBlanc
Osamu Dazai, With Help From TikTok, Keeps Finding New Fans
The enduring appeal of a midcentury Japanese novelist who wrote of alienation and suicide.
By Andrew Martin
It’s Not Over Until the Country Music Star Says So
In her second novel, “The Farewell Tour,” Stephanie Clifford follows a veteran singer who’s wrapping up a long career on her own terms.
By Amanda Eyre Ward
Revisiting ‘Wisconsin Death Trip,’ 50 Years Later
The Times’s critic Dwight Garner looks back on Michael Lesy’s cult classic of documentary literature, which was first published in 1973.
Lit Trivia: How Many Science Fiction and Fantasy Trilogies Do You Know?
There’s nothing like a good three-book series to get you deep into new worlds. Try this quiz to see how much you know about popular and recent literary trios.
By J. D. Biersdorfer
Life After the Spanish Civil War, Captured in a Teeming Novel
Some 300 characters — bartenders, deadbeats, dreamers — animate Madrid in “The Hive,” by the Nobel laureate Camilo José Cela.
By Adrian Nathan West
6 paperback books to read this week.
New releases include titles by Jennifer Egan, Eloghosa Osunde and more.
By Miguel Salazar
Inside the Best-Seller List
And the oscar goes to … books.
The Dolby Theater isn’t the only place where stars gather; they also tend to pop up on the best-seller list. Here are four recent visitors who deserve to take a bow.
By Elisabeth Egan
By the Book
Ari shapiro reads cookbooks for comfort and pleasure.
“They demand nothing of the reader,” says the host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” whose new book is “The Best Strangers in the World: Stories From a Life Spent Listening.” “And every page has the promise of a happy ending.”
50 years on, ‘wisconsin death trip’ still haunts and inspires.
Michael Lesy’s book of historical photographs and found text offers a singular portrait of American life.
By Dwight Garner
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Rebecca Makkai's smart, prep school murder novel is self-aware about the 'ick' factor
March 1, 2023 The thickly-plotted mystery, I Have Some Questions for You, is the latest from the author of The Great Believers. It has been compared to Donna Tartt's 1992 blockbuster, The Secret History.
'Homestead' is a story about starting fresh, and the joys and trials of melding lives
February 28, 2023 Alaska-born author Melinda Moustakis' debut novel Homestead is beautiful; it's also a profound look at how we navigate one another, and what it means to reveal ourselves to the ones we care about.
'I Have Some Questions For You' is a dark, uncomfortable story that feels universal
February 27, 2023 In less capable hands, all of this would be too much. But Rebecca Makkai manages to juggle every subplot brilliantly; each sings with a unique voice that harmonizes with the crime story at the heart.
'The Great Displacement' looks at communities forever altered by climate change
February 24, 2023 Jack Bittle's book takes a look at several communities that have been affected by climate change, and how the lives of their residents — those who have survived — have been altered by extreme weather.
'We Should Not Be Friends' offers a rare view of male friendship
February 23, 2023 Literary editor Will Schwalbe's new book is a tale about connecting across divides — which is particularly heartening in our polarized culture.
5 new mysteries and thrillers to help get you through winter
February 21, 2023 The long days of January and February usually herald some great reads featuring crime, suspense and — everyone's favorite — murder.
Want to be a writer? This bleak but buoyant guide says to get used to rejection
February 14, 2023 On Writing and Failure isn't your standard meditation on the art and nobility of writing as a profession; instead, author Stephen Marche argues writers should be prepared to fail — again and again.
'All the Beauty in the World' conveys Met guard's profound appreciation for art
February 14, 2023 Patrick Bringley's story — he jumped off the career ladder, deliberately taking a position divorced from ambition in order to find the space for quiet contemplation — is oddly suited to our times.
'Hijab Butch Blues' challenges stereotypes and upholds activist self-care
February 13, 2023 Lamya H's memoir is a study guide on Islam and a queer manifesto that follows them from a childhood a move to the U.S. through questions of faith, gender and sexuality.
3 books in translation that have received acclaim in their original languages
February 10, 2023 On a Woman's Madness and Forbidden Notebook have been highly lauded in their original languages for decades but, like the more recent Black Foam , inaccessible to English readers — until now.
Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg waits in Erkelenz, Germany, to take part in a demonstration at a nearby a coal mine on Jan. 14. Michael Probst/AP hide caption
Greta Thunberg's 'The Climate Book' urges world to keep climate justice out front
February 9, 2023 Activist Greta Thunberg was just 15 when she called on the world to take action on the climate crisis. Just as impressively, she has now pulled together essays by 100 scholars on what's needed now.
A showbiz striver gets one more moment in the spotlight in 'Up With the Sun'
February 7, 2023 Author Thomas Mallon's sweeping new historical novel captures a slice of gay life in mid-to-late 20th century America as it reimagines the life — and violent death — of B-list actor Dick Kallman.
'Brutes' captures the simultaneous impatience and mercurial swings of girlhood
February 7, 2023 In plunging us into the collective mind of a group of girls watching the search for a missing girl, author Dizz Tate creates an original, stylistically ambitious take on well-trodden subject matter.
Black History Month 2023
'black on black' celebrates black culture while exploring history and racial tension.
February 2, 2023 Daniel Black's essays call for an overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system, of the Black church, of the way Black people see themselves, and of the country itself — and do so with authority
5 YA books this winter dealing with identity and overcoming hardships
February 1, 2023 The pale daylight and early darkness of winter create a space for stories — in particular for stories that ask the reader to mull themes and ideas that can sometimes be difficult.
Classic LA noir meets the #MeToo era in the suspense novel 'Everybody Knows'
January 26, 2023 Jordan Harper's hardboiled plot centers on a "black-bag publicist" who works for a prestige crisis management firm, putting out fires and quieting scandals for Hollywood's elite.
'After Sappho' brings women in history to life to claim their stories
January 26, 2023 Selby Wynn Schwartz's debut, longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, is partly a love letter to Virginia Woolf and poet Sappho, partly a work of literary criticism and partly a speculative biography.
'Children of the State' examines the American juvenile justice system
January 25, 2023 In a new book, Jeff Hobbs, author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace , looks at the evolution of the juvenile justice system in America — primarily through people, not statistics.
'How to Sell a Haunted House' is campy and tense, dark but also deep
January 20, 2023 Grady Hendrix's tale of siblings who come together after the deaths of their parents to sell their house fully embraces all the elements readers have come to love about Hendrix's storytelling.
Racism tears a Maine fishing community apart in 'This Other Eden'
January 20, 2023 In 1912, the 47 residents of Malaga Island were forcibly removed from their small, interracial community. Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding fictionalizes the story in a stunning new historical novel.
Bret Easton Ellis' first novel in more than a decade, 'The Shards,' is worth the wait
January 19, 2023 Hermetic, paranoid, sleek, dark — and with brief explosions of the sex and violence that have characterized Ellis' oeuvre — The Shards is a stark reminder that the author is a genre unto himself.
Medical staff in the Kansai region of Japan clean a hotel room that was used as a COVID-19 for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients. Kazuma Obara/National Geographic hide caption
'Inside the Curve' attempts to offer an overview of COVID's full impact everywhere
January 14, 2023 Visually striking — NatGeo and superb photography have always walked hand-in-hand — and incredibly complete, deep and nuanced, this is a book that comes close to the impossible.
'Sam,' the latest novel from Allegra Goodman, is small, but not simple
January 13, 2023 The novel follows a white working-class girl from age 7 through her late teens, navigating a world tightly circumscribed by class and culture.
'Still Pictures' offers one more glimpse of writer Janet Malcolm
January 12, 2023 The New Yorker writer's posthumously published quasi-memoir is succinct and thought-provoking — and manages to capture so much of what made her so unfailingly interesting.
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The 10 Best Book Reviews of 2022
Merve emre on gerald murnane, casey cep on harry crews, maggie doherty on cormac mccarthy, and more.
Way back in the mid-aughts when I first started writing about books, pitching a print publication was the only reliable way for book critics to get paid, and third-person point of view was all the vogue. Much has changed in the years since: Newspaper and magazine book sections have shuttered, many digital outlets offer compensation when they can, and first-person criticism has become much more pervasive.
I don’t celebrate all these changes, but I’m certain of one thing in particular: I love book reviews and critical essays written in the first-person. Done well, they are generous invitations into the lives of critics—and into their memory palaces. With that in mind, most of my picks for the best book reviews of 2022 were written in the first person this year.
Brought to you by Book Marks , Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes for books.”
Adam Dalva on Stefan Zweig’s Chess Story , translated by Joel Rotenberg ( Los Angeles Review of Books )
Dalva’s review of Chess Story is a great example of the power of a first-person point of view—he doesn’t just examine the book, he narrates his own journey to understand it.
“In my own quest to understand Chess Story, I gradually realized that I would have to learn the game it centers on. And that has led me into a second obsession, much more problematic: I have fallen passionately in love with online bullet chess.”
Merve Emre on Gerald Murnane’s Last Letter to a Reader ( The New Yorker )
Merve Emre’s analysis of Gerald Murnane’s final book is a beautiful piece of writing. I love how she opens on a note of suspense, pulling you into a story you can’t stop reading.
“On most evenings this past spring, the man who lives across the street sat at his small desk, turned on the lamp, and began to write as the light faded. The white curtains in his room were seldom drawn. From where I sat, I had a clear view of him, and he, were he to look up from his writing, would have had a clear view of a house across the street, where a woman with dark hair and a faintly olive complexion was seated by a window, watching him write. At the moment he glanced up from his page, the woman supposed him to be contemplating the look, or perhaps the sound, of the sentence he had just written. The sentence was this: ‘Since then I have tried to avoid those rooms that grow steadily more crowded with works to explain away Time.’”
Minyoung Lee on Joseph Han’s Nuclear Family ( Chicago Review of Books )
Lee brings her own experience to bear in this insightful review of a novel about Korean Americans in the diaspora. (Disclosure: I founded the Chicago Review of Books in 2016, but stepped back from an editorial role in 2019.)
“In diaspora communities, it’s not uncommon to find cultural practices from the homeland, even after they’ve become unpopular or forgotten there. This is colloquially referred to as ‘the immigrant time capsule effect.’ It can be experienced in many of the ethnic enclaves in the U.S. My first impression of Los Angeles’ Koreatown when I visited in the 2010s, for example, was that it felt very much like Seoul in the 1980s. Grocery stores were even selling canned grape drinks that were popular when I was a child but that I haven’t seen since.”
Chelsea Leu on Thuận’s Chinatown , translated by Nguyen An Lý ( Astra )
Astra magazine’s “ bangers only ” editorial policy led to some spectacular reviews, like this Chelsea Leu number that opens with a fascinating linguistics lesson.
“It was in high school Latin that I learned that language could have moods, and that one of those moods was the subjunctive. We use the indicative mood for statements of fact, but the subjunctive (which barely exists in English anymore) expresses possibilities, wishes, hopes and fears: ‘I wouldn’t trust those Greeks bearing gifts if I were you.’ More recently, I’ve learned there exists a whole class of moods called irrealis moods, of which the subjunctive is merely one flavor. André Aciman’s recent essay collection, Homo Irrealis, is entirely dedicated to these moods, celebrating the fact that they express sentiments that fly in the face of settled reality.”
Casey Cep on Harry Crews’ A Childhood: The Biography of a Place ( The New Yorker )
Cep is a magician when it comes to capturing a sense of place, as evidenced by her book about Harper Lee, Furious Hours , and this review of a book about another Southern writer, Harry Crews.
“Dehairing a shoat is the sort of thing Crews knew all about, along with cooking possum, cleaning a rooster’s craw, making moonshine, trapping birds, tanning hides, and getting rid of screwworms. Although he lived until 2012, Crews and his books—sixteen novels, two essay collections, and a memoir—recall a bygone era. The best of what he wrote evokes W.P.A. guides or Foxfire books, full of gripping folklore and hardscrabble lives, stories from the back of beyond about a time when the world seemed black and white in all possible senses.”
Victoria Chang and Dean Rader on Roger Reeves’ Best Barbarian ( Los Angeles Review of Books )
Last year I professed my love for “reviews in dialogue” between two critics, and Chang and Rader continue to be masters of the form in this conversation about Roger Reeves’ second poetry collection.
“Victoria: Do you have thoughts on the flow of the poems or allusions? I have a feeling you will talk about the biblical references. But I’m most curious to hear what you have to say about the purpose of the allusions and references. Is the speaker agreeing with them, subverting them, both? Is the speaker using them as a way to press against or think against, or toward? I know you will say something smart and insightful.”
“Dean: That is a lot of pressure. I’ll try not to let you down.”
Maggie Doherty on Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger and Stella Maris ( The New Republic )
I didn’t think anyone could persuade me to read another Cormac McCarthy novel after The Road, but Maggie Doherty makes every book sound fascinating by making it part of a bigger, true story.
“Such is the paradox of The Passenger , a novel at once highly attuned to the pleasures of collective life and resistant to the very idea of it. Unlike the violent, stylized books for which McCarthy is best known, this new novel is loose, warm, colloquial. It explores the sustaining, if impermanent, bonds formed among male friends. It’s full of theories and anecdotes, memories and stories, all voiced by some of the liveliest characters McCarthy has ever crafted. The Passenger is McCarthy’s first novel in over 15 years; its coda, S tella Maris , is published in December. Together, the books represent a new, perhaps final direction for McCarthy. The Passenger in particular is McCarthy’s most peopled novel, his most polyphonic—and it’s wonderfully entertaining, in a way that few of his previous books have been. It is also his loneliest novel yet.”
Allison Bulger on Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria , translated by Max Lawton ( Words Without Borders )
I’m always interested in how critics find new ways to start a review, and Bulger’s opening lines here are a particularly sharp hook.
“Of all the jobs esteemed translator Larissa Volokhonsky has rejected, only one text was physically removed from her apartment on the Villa Poirier in Paris.
‘Take it back,’ she said. ‘Rid me of its presence.’
“The cursed title was Blue Lard (1999) by Vladimir Sorokin, known to some as Russia’s De Sade, and Volokhonsky’s revulsion was par for the course. It would be twenty years before another translator, Max Lawton, would provide eight Sorokin works unseen in the West, including Blue Lard , in which a clone of Khrushchev sodomizes a clone of Stalin.”
Summer Farah on Solmaz Sharif’s Customs ( Cleveland Review of Books )
Farah’s nuanced review of Solmaz Sharif’s new poetry collection further illustrates the potency of a first-person voice.
“Our poets write of our martyrs and resist alongside them; sometimes, I wonder, what life will be like after we are free, and what a truly free Palestine looks like. Last spring, the hashtag “#غرد_كأنها_حرة” circulated on Twitter, a collection of Palestinians imagining life as if our land was free; people imagined themselves moving from Akka to Ramallah with ease, returning to their homes their grandparents left in 1948, and traveling across the Levant without the obstacle of borders. This stanza acknowledges there is more work to be done than just ridding ourselves of the obvious systems that oppress us; decolonization and anti-imperial work are more holistic than we know. Sharif’s work is about attunement to the ways imperialism is ingrained into our lives, our speech, our poetry; this moment is direct in that acknowledgement.”
Nicole LeFebvre on Dorthe Nors’ A Line in the World ( On the Seawall )
LeFebvre opens this review like she’s writing a memoir or a personal essay—an unexpected joy that would be very hard to do in third-person.
“Each morning when I wake up, I hear the gentle crash and lull of waves on a beach. ‘Gather, scatter,’ as Dorthe Nors describes the sound. My eyes open and blink, adjusting to the dark. The sun’s not up yet. I scoot back into my partner’s body, kept asleep by the rhythmic thrum of the white noise machine, which covers the cars idling in the 7-Eleven parking lot, the motorcyclists showing off their scary-high speeds. For a few minutes, I accept the illusion of a calmer, quiet life. ‘Gather, scatter.’ A life by the sea.”
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Margaret Verble is the author of several previous novels, including Maud's Line , a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky , which was the subject of a BookBrowse book ...
Beyond the Book
Cultural Diversity in 15th Century North America
Margaret Verble's novel, Stealing, centers around Kit, a young girl who is part Cherokee. Set in the 1950s, she is removed from her home and sent to a Christian boarding school where a significant ...
Ghost Season is the debut novel of writer Fatin Abbas, a recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize and the Miriam Weinberg Richter Award. Our First Impressions reviewers were taken in by its ...
The First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars
Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas takes place in an NGO (non-government organization) facility in Saraaya, a town close to the border between northern and southern Sudan, during the Second Sudanese ...
The World and All That It Holds
Aleksandar Hemon's characters are romantics. We know this not only because they write love songs and poetry, quote Shakespeare or eke out meager livings as writers, but because whenever they meet a ...
Little Vienna, a Jewish Haven in Shanghai
In Aleksandar Hemon's novel The World and All That It Holds, Rafael Pinto is a Sephardic Jew in Sarajevo at the beginning of the 20th century. When World War I erupts, he's flung east—first ...
Skull Water begins with teenage Insu in 1974. He is returning to his mother's homeland of Korea due to his German-American military father's redeployment, after living abroad for much of his childhood...
American Involvement in Korea During and After the Korean War
The novel Skull Water by Heinz Insu Fenkl is divided between the experiences of the character Big Uncle during the Korean War in 1950 and his nephew Insu's adolescence in the 1970s. It shows how ...
The Mitford Affair
Marie Benedict's The Mitford Affair follows the activities of three daughters of England's aristocratic Mitford family: Nancy (1904–1973), Diana (1910–2003) and Unity (1914–...
Fascism in Pre-War England
In Marie Benedict's historical novel The Mitford Affair, much of the narrative focuses on the rise of fascism in Great Britain before World War II. Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a ...
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder's Rough Sleepers follows the career of Dr. Jim O'Connell, a Harvard-educated physician who has spent over 30 years providing care to Boston's unsheltered ...
In Tracy Kidder's Rough Sleepers, the drug naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, saves the lives of multiple people in the throes of an overdose from opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone. ...
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Homestead by Melinda Moustakis
From National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree, a debut novel set in 1950s Alaska about two unlikely homesteaders. Reviews
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- Audio , Memoir , Nonfiction
- by Maya Fleischmann
There’s wit, honesty and insight in Madly, Deeply (19.5 hours), a collection of Alan Rickman’s succinct yet keenly observant diary entries spanning 1993 to 2015. The late actor’s journals reveal a palpable lack of pretentiousness and a go-with-the-flow attitude (even after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer), as well as a compelling contrast between his two worlds: his celebrity life in theater and film, and his private day-to-day existence.
Voice actor Steven Crossley does a fabulous job of capturing Rickman’s delivery and pacing while recounting Rickman’s candid remarks about co-stars, warm gatherings with friends and his love for Rima Horton, his childhood sweetheart and wife. Bonnie Wright (who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films) narrates the stirring foreword by Emma Thompson, bringing out Thompson’s admiration and fond memories of her dear friend. Equally affecting is the afterword, written and narrated by Horton, in which she reveals how even in his last weeks, Rickman lived life with poignancy and celebration.
Profound and heart-rending, this is an inspiring listen for fans of Alan Rickman.
- Audio , Essays , Nonfiction
My First Popsicle
- by Norah Piehl
For My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings (7 hours), actor Zosia Mamet (“Girls,” “The Flight Attendant”) has gathered a who’s-who of creative folks, including fellow actors like Busy Philipps, musicians like Patti Smith, writers like David Sedaris and chefs like Kwame Onwuachi. Each contributed an essay about food or a food-related memory, and the collection of nearly 50 essays offers a veritable smorgasbord of cuisines and emotional resonance. Some essays are funny and sweet, while others engage with more serious subjects, such as depression or disordered eating. Because the essays are short (most run well under 10 minutes), listening to the collection feels like browsing a gourmet buffet. Many contributors read their own works; others are read by notable audiobook narrators or actors, including Mamet herself. The audiobook comes with a PDF of recipes associated with each essay.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to pop on an audiobook or podcast while you’re cooking, My First Popsicle might be just the thing for dinner tonight.
- Audio , History , Nonfiction
The Escape Artist
- by Mari Carlson
The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World (12 hours) begins with a perilous escape attempt from Auschwitz and expands into a larger story about Rudolf Vrba, one of the first Jewish people to escape from the notorious concentration camp.
British author Jonathan Freedland (known for both his thrillers and work in journalism) depicts Vrba as a demanding and complicated person whose eyewitness account, though verified and reported by the Jewish Council, failed to reach the number of people he’d hoped. As author and narrator of this probing biography, Freedland recounts the dire circumstances preventing Vrba’s compatriots and fellow Jews from protesting the existence of the death camps. Freedland also explores history’s restrictive expectations of the Holocaust survivor and how Vrba’s decadent lifestyle (he enjoyed fine food, travel and a good argument) did not aid his case.
Through this gripping narrative and his commanding yet disarming voice, Freedland reinforces Vrba’s place within the annals of history.
Read our review of the print edition of The Escape Artist .
Correction February 13, 2023: This article was updated to clarify that Vrba was one of the first Jewish people to escape from Auschwitz.
This audiobook was published by an imprint of HarperCollins. More than 250 union employees at HarperCollins have been on strike since November 10, 2022. Click here to learn more about the contract that the HarperCollins Union is seeking or to find out how you can support the strike.
The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man
- by G. Robert Frazier
In the 1980s, Paul Newman began working with screenwriter Stewart Stern to compose an oral history about the actor’s life, from his difficult upbringing to his Hollywood career to his passions for racing and philanthropy. But the project remained incomplete after Newman’s death in 2008—until the arrival of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man (9 hours).
Newman’s story is raw, unfiltered and brutal. He explains that his acting career originated from a “hunch,” and fortunately for us, it’s a hunch that paid off, yielding memorable roles in such movies as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , The Sting , Cool Hand Luke and The Color of Money (for which he won an Academy Award). But at times Newman considered himself to be a great failure as a father, husband and actor, and he credits much of his success to his wife, Joanne Woodward.
The audiobook is superbly narrated by actor Jeff Daniels, whose heartfelt passion and sincerity come through loud and clear. The voices of family and peers, including Newman’s daughters Melissa Newman and Clea Newman Soderlund, fill in the rest of the story.
Read our review of the print edition of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man .
In Waypoints: My Scottish Journey (8 hours), Scottish actor Sam Heughan, best known for playing Jamie Fraser in the TV series “Outlander,” describes the experience of hiking the West Highland Way, from his journey’s impulsive beginning to its funniest and most painful moments, all the way to its successful end.
With disarming asides and humorous accents, Heughan’s narration reveals the fun-loving yet thoughtful man behind his acting roles. He describes getting caught by another climber as he’s talking to mushroom “armies” along the trail, which reminds Heughan of other embarrassing moments on and off set. The actor grew up in and was shaped by this landscape, and the beautiful yet rugged lochs and hills are the perfect backdrop to his descriptions of the grandeur and costs of fame.
Bookended by scenes with Heughan’s estranged father, Waypoints is a companionable and inspiring memoir that encourages soul-searching and mindfulness.
Read our review of the print edition of Waypoints .
- Children's & YA , YA , YA Fiction
6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)
- by Mariel Fechik
For their entire lives, Penny and Tate have orbited each other reluctantly. Since before Penny and Tate were born, their moms, Lottie and Anna, have been attached at the hip, and this permanent package deal means constant, unwanted proximity for the two daughters. See, Penny and Tate are not friends. They’re also not not friends. They just . . . can’t seem to stop almost kissing at extremely inopportune moments.
But Tate lives with the ever-present threat that her mom’s illness, a genetic condition that impacts Anna’s lungs and liver, will spiral out of control, while Penny lives in the aftermath of a horrific rafting accident that took her father’s life. Penny’s mom, Lottie, has been distant and cold in the two years since the accident, and Penny tries to tiptoe around her while working through her own grief and guilt.
So when Lottie decides to become a living liver donor for Anna and combine their two households to save money while they recover, it’s a shock to the fragile ecosystem that Penny has so carefully constructed. There’s no way she and Tate can survive an entire summer in the same house without exploding, so they decide to call a truce. Its terms include no fighting, no snitching, equitable division of labor and no stressing out their moms. Unfortunately for Penny and Tate, some things between them just can’t stay buried forever, truce or not.
6 Times We Almost Kissed (and One Time We Did) may sound like the title of a sweet, comedy-of-errors rom-com, but Tess Sharpe’s novel is not so fluffy. Although inspired by the “five things” fan-fiction story concept, the book playfully subverts reader expectations by being about much more than six near kisses. Penny and Tate’s story is rich with the complexity of friendship and family and the messiness of grief. Their relationship leans heavily into a number of classic rom-com tropes, including “only one bed,” roommates and height differences. Both girls are well-drawn, grounded characters, and their internal struggles feel emotional and realistic.
One of the novel’s strongest subplots is the arc of Penny’s relationship with her mom. Sharpe never suggests that a relationship as fraught as theirs can be easily fixed with apologies or in a single conversation. Indeed, she acknowledges that such a relationship might not be possible to repair. Teen readers with difficult parental situations of their own will feel validated by the nuance Sharpe brings to this portrayal.
Sharpe untangles the knotted web of her novel with exacting balance and grace while never compromising the love story at its core. This swoony, Sapphic story is sure to please readers who like their romance with a side of emotional devastation.
- Children's , Children's & YA , Picture Book
A Crown for Corina
- by Billie Little
Pura Belpré Honor author Laekan Zea Kemp ( Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet ) offers a sweet ode to the special bond between grandmother and grandchild in A Crown for Corina , her first picture book.
Corina is celebrating her birthday in Abuela’s garden, where her grandmother helps her select meaningful blooms to incorporate into her flower corona, her very own crown. Abuela’s garden is the perfect place for a party, so full of flowers that Corina thinks it looks like “la tierra is throwing una fiesta.”
At Abuela’s urging, Corina begins by choosing flowers that represent her family. There’s a happy sunflower for Mamá, who loves the color yellow, a bluebonnet that reminds Corina of her pet rabbit’s fluffy tail, morning glories that pay tribute to Abuelo’s trumpet and more. Next, Abuela asks Corina to add flowers that symbolize who she wants to grow up to become, and Corina picks sunny esperanzas for hope, daisies for strength and mistflowers for their sweet scent that draws butterflies. As Corina explores Abuela’s garden, she discovers a language she never knew before, “one spoken not in words but in the prick of a cactus needle, in the bright orange plums of a bird of paradise, and in the sweet scent of a chocolate cosmos.”
Finally, Abuela places the corona on Corina’s head and reminds her granddaughter that to wear a flower crown is to “become its roots, reaching back through time to hold on to the things that matter.” Corina realizes that she will carry the memory of this day spent with her Abuela forever.
Kemp incorporates Spanish words and phrases throughout the text as she welcomes readers into Corina’s family’s stories. Kemp’s use of sensory imagery is especially well done, enabling the reader to experience not only the way Abuela’s garden looks but also how it smells, sounds and feels. Kemp’s lyrical prose blends seamlessly with Elise Chavarri’s cheerful, detailed watercolor artwork to create a lively Eden bursting with hummingbirds, honey bees, blossoms and butterflies. Her spreads are filled with vivid greens and warm, saturated magentas and oranges that reflect Corina’s own feelings of lightness and joy.
Just like Abuela’s garden grows with care, Corina feels supported and loved by her family as she grows another year older. A Crown for Corina is a moving portrayal of the connections between family members, generations, the earth, the past and a very bright future.
- American History , Black History , History , Nonfiction
A Few Days Full of Trouble
- by Priscilla Kipp
Sixty-seven years after the savage murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi, his cousin still seeks some kind of justice. Haunted by the 1955 hate crime that ignited the civil rights movement, Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr. brings everything and everyone back to life in A Few Days Full of Trouble: Revelations on the Journey to Justice for My Cousin and Best Friend, Emmett Till . The title comes from the Bible—“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, NIV)—and is aptly applied to the short life and violent death of 14-year-old Till, while also ironically relating to the decades of delayed and denied justice that followed.
Till’s murder became international news when his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open casket at the boy’s funeral, inviting the world to see her mutilated son. People fainted, the press raged—and yet the two white men accused of his murder were soon acquitted by an all-white jury. Not that the men worried about their fate; during their trial, they were allowed to leave their jail cells for supper with their families, carrying guns. Four months later, Look magazine published “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi” by William Bradford Huie, which featured an exclusive interview with Till’s acquitted killers, Roy Bryant and his half brother, J.W. Milam. Milam admitted that they shot Till, tied a gin fan around his neck and rolled him into the river. Their confession earned them $4,000 and had no significant consequences.
Several investigations by the FBI and Department of Justice ensued, hindered by possibly racist politics and questionable sources. In 2017, Timothy Tyson published a bestselling book that contained a quotation from Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who claimed that Till had accosted her at the grocery store, motivating her husband and brother-in-law to pursue and eventually murder Till. In the quote, Donham recanted part of her original story. Or did she? As the Mississippi district attorney worked to confirm the quote in Tyson’s book, evidence of the author’s conversation with Donham vanished—if it ever existed.
Parker, with the help of his co-author, Christopher Benson, takes a hard look at everything that has transpired since 1955, including Parker’s own feelings of guilt. He was there the night Bryant and Milam came for Till, but he survived and went on to become a barber, minister and major force behind the family’s effort to achieve justice and right the record. His is a vivid chronicle of racism in America, an intense read that may make some readers uncomfortable. Perhaps that is the point.
Anti-lynching bills struggled through Congress for years after Till’s murder. Finally, in March of 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, making lynching a federal hate crime. As Benson writes in an afterword, “the work to achieve justice has just begun.”
A Flag for Juneteenth
- by Alice Cary
When you gaze at the quilted cover of A Flag for Juneteenth , you will want to reach out and touch it. The artwork depicts a girl wearing a fuchsia dress and kerchief standing proudly in front of a flag, the bright colors of her outfit vibrant against the flag’s soft yellows and greens. The girl’s brown face has no features—nor do the faces of any of the book’s characters—because author-illustrator Kim Taylor wants readers to be able to imagine themselves in this story.
Then you open A Flag for Juneteenth and discover that Taylor quilted all of the illustrations in her debut picture book, and you realize that her textile art perfectly complements her evocative prose, creating an excellent portrayal of Huldah, a Black girl living with her enslaved family on a Texas plantation in 1865.
As the book opens, it’s the morning of Huldah’s 10th birthday. Taylor’s embroidering transforms mottled brown fabrics into textured tea cakes, a special treat baked by Huldah’s mother for her daughter’s birthday. “The scent of nutmeg and vanilla floated through our cabin,” Taylor writes, and her stitched text forms a winding ribbon of words that waft up from the plate as Huldah breathes in the sweet smell.
Soon, Huldah hears the “loud clip-clippity-clop of heavy horses’ hooves” as soldiers ride onto the plantation. She witnesses their historic announcement: President Abraham Lincoln has freed all enslaved people! Taylor emphasizes the importance of this declaration by placing a lone soldier onto a white quilted background. She embroiders the proclamation that he reads “in a booming voice,” forming four lines of text that radiate from his figure.
Elation follows, and Huldah hears shouting and singing. Images of celebration feature the outlines of surprised, ecstatic people jumping and raising their hands in the air for joy. Taylor sets their multicolor silhouettes against gentle yellow-orange ombre fabric that’s quilted with sunburst lines, as though the people have been caught up in rays of light.
Huldah watches as a group of women begins to sew freedom flags. Children gather branches to use as flagpoles, but Huldah goes one step further. She climbs her favorite tree and captures a sunbeam in a glass jar, preserving this extraordinary moment in time forever.
Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, and A Flag for Juneteenth exquisitely conveys the day’s spirit of jubilation and freedom.
Read our Q&A with ‘A Flag for Juneteenth’ author-illustrator Kim Taylor.
- Biography , Literature , Nonfiction
A Mystery of Mysteries
- by Deborah Hopkinson
It’s no accident that Mark Twain scholar Mark Dawidziak begins A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe with Poe’s mysterious death in 1849 at the age of 40. As Dawidziak reminds us throughout his ambitious, well-researched book, the circumstances of Poe’s death remain a topic of debate and conjecture, as much a part of the Poe mystique as his short, stormy life. “It is,” Dawidziak notes, “one of the great literary stage exits of all time,” and its notoriety has done much to keep Poe’s reputation alive, making him one of the most famous American authors of all time, with a pop culture following as well as a solid place in middle school and high school literary curricula.
Dawidziak adopts a clever—and appropriate—organizational approach, alternating chapters set in the last months of Poe’s life with chapters exploring his early family life, career and influences. Readers who know little of Poe’s origins may be surprised to learn that this quintessential American author spent part of his formative years abroad. Poe’s mother was a talented actor who died at the age of 24, leaving three children behind. Poe became the foster child of John and Fanny Allan (thus his middle name), who, during the War of 1812, moved to England, where Poe spent five years soaking up impressions of old houses and graveyards that fed his literary imagination.
Throughout the book, Dawidziak draws readers into the mystery of Poe’s death, which occurred shortly after he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, delirious and disheveled. Dawidziak, of course, has a favorite theory about the likely cause, gleaned from the various opinions of medical experts, Poe scholars, historians, horror specialists and others—but it would spoil the mystery to reveal it here. Nonetheless, his argument demonstrates one of the pleasures of Dawidziak’s excellent book: his ability to weave quotations from Poe together with first-person observations from Poe’s 19th-century contemporaries and commentary by modern experts. In this way, Dawidziak’s biography reaches beyond the myth of Poe to reveal the actual man and writer, all while painting a vivid picture of the era in which he lived. A Mystery of Mysteries makes possible a deeper appreciation of a complicated, often troubled author whose success after death surpassed anything he knew in life.
- Fiction , Literary Fiction
A Spell of Good Things
- by Arlene McKanic
Some of the most fascinating novels explore the tensions between traditional ways of life and the lure of more modern ways of being. This is what roils the plot in Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s second novel, A Spell of Good Things . For at least two of its main characters, teenager Ẹniọlá and fledgling doctor Wuraọlá, the tension is all but intolerable.
The story begins in a southwestern state in present-day Nigeria, nearly a year before an election that will usher a corrupt (or even criminal) politician into the governorship. Schools are lousy; students, including Ẹniọlá and his sister, are flogged if their parents don’t pay their school fees. Hospitals are even worse; more than one patient dies in the hospital where Wuraọlá works because of a lack of simple antivirals. There is no safety net, and inequality is atrocious. Ẹniọlá, his mother and sister must beg in the street. The children’s father, fired from his job, is in such a state of despair that he won’t get out of bed. On the other hand, Wuraọlá’s family is well-off enough to pay for her education and throw a lavish party to celebrate her mother’s birthday.
Yet both impoverished Ẹniọlá and financially comfortable Wuraọlá feel hogtied by the traditions of the somewhat matriarchal society in which they were raised. Deference to elders and those in authority is so absolute that Ẹniọlá’s parents don’t even consider going to the school and insisting that the teachers stop beating their kids. Wuraọlá’s profession as a doctor isn’t what warms the cockles of her family’s hearts the most; it’s that she’s getting married before she’s 30.
Ẹniọlá and Wuraọlá are destined to meet, and they do so in the most innocent and pedestrian of ways. But after that first encounter, the events that follow reveal the profound irony of the novel’s title.
Adébáyọ̀ ( Stay With Me ) has a sprightly writing style that’s pleasurably at odds with the devastating story she tells. She captures the almost musical speech patterns of her characters and doesn’t trouble to translate snatches of Nigeria’s many languages. The novel’s cast is large, but each character is distinct; you won’t confuse Ẹniọlá’s mother with Wuraọlá’s, even though they’re quite alike. Both suffer, and so do their families.
A Spell of Good Things is a wonderfully written, tragic book.
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C19 Index draws on the strength of established indexes such as the Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (NSTC), The Wellesley Index, Poole's Index, Periodicals Index Online and the Cumulative Index to Niles' Register 18111849 to create integrated bibliographic coverage of over 1.7 million books and official publications, 70,000 archival collections and 20.9 million articles published in over 2,500 journals, magazines and newspapers. C19 Index now provides integrated access to 13 bibliographic indexes, including more than three million records from British Periodicals Collections I and II, together with the expanded online edition of the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (DNCJ).
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