NWPR Books

Northwest Public Radio loves to read! Below, you will find our editorial reviews and personal recommendations for literary works we think you, our listeners, would love.

We are also receive station support from many Northwest Independent Booksellers, who provide their own recommendations here.

And, if you have any great reads you would like to share with us, please let us know, by emailing your review to NWPR@wsu.edu!

You probably don't need me to enumerate the pains of navigating bureaucracies. Lines and forms and hold times are the stuff of daily routine — and it's just as routine to complain about them.

It's All Charm and Wolves In 'The Turnip Princess'

Feb 26, 2015

Long ago in far Bavaria, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth went hunting for fairy tales. However, the collection disappeared, and his work was thought lost forever. Then in 2009, cultural curator Erika Eichenseer discovered five hundred of them in what one assumes must have been the deepest, darkest, most perilous basement of a municipal archive, and all those stories came to life again.

One of the most compelling things about V.E. Schwab's second adult novel, A Darker Shade Of Magic, is how long it takes to develop a plot. Once the main arc finally slips fully out of the shadows, it turns out to be fairly standard for a fantasy novel: Evil scheming magicians, cursed and forbidden item, dark magic ready to consume everything it touches.

The 1970s, Warts (And More Warts) In 'Inner City Romance'

Feb 25, 2015

Leave it to good ol' Hunter S. Thompson to be one of the first people to put his finger on the swan-songy feeling that would dominate the 1970s. As usual, his language defied the malaise he described: "We are all wired into a survival trip now," he wrote in 1971's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. "A generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody — or at least some force — is tending that Light at the end of the tunnel."

A handful of purist holdouts aside, most readers these days realize that "genre fiction" and "literary fiction" aren't mutually exclusive. That's not to say that every paperback on the supermarket shelf is high art, but the list of respected literary genre writers — Poe, Verne, Chandler, Le Guin, to name just a few — is a long one, and it's growing every year.

A climb "to the top of a greasy pole" are the immortal words coined by 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to describe his rise to political power. Disraeli was two-time prime minister under Queen Victoria, as well as a novelist and famous wit whose way with a catchy phrase was rivaled in the 19th century only by his younger admirer, Oscar Wilde. But when he entered politics in the 1830s, Disraeli was burdened by debt and, even more seriously, by his Jewish parentage.

Five years before the opening of Elizabeth Collison's debut novel Some Other Town, Margaret Lydia Benning comes to a small, unnamed Midwestern town to study art. She has talent in spades: grim visions that manifest in surreal paintings — "A woman in pink diaphanous tulle, wild boars where her legs should be. Bloated bodies in rivers. Eyeless white heads. Severed hearts wet and still beating." — that excite her mentors and draw acclaim within her community. Then, just like that, the visions disappear. Her work slows down, then stops altogether.

A Lot Of Sound And Fury In 'The Infernal'

Feb 21, 2015

I feel that it would be appropriate here to discuss Mark Doten's novel, The Infernal, in fragments, incomplete sentences, blocks of text walled off by line breaks, and nonsense. I want to do this because that's what he did in the writing of it — a trick that (maybe) looks clever at first glance, but isn't.

Creepy, Brilliant 'Touch' Will Possess You

Feb 19, 2015

There are at least two reasons why I should hate this book.

One: I have a horror of impersonation narratives. The idea of someone looking like me but running around being a jerk to my friends and family is so profoundly unsettling that I still haven't watched more than the pilot of Orphan Black.

Two: I hate stories about memory loss.

'Tales Of The Marvellous' Is Indeed Very Strange

Feb 18, 2015

"I have come in search of a gazelle with white feet or a man in a shirt."