NWPR Books

NWPR Books
9:09 am
Sun August 10, 2014

Albert Camus' Poker-Faced 'Stranger' Became A Much Needed Friend

I grew up on a mortgaged cattle ranch with a grandmother, who spoke in tongues, and a mother addicted to prescription pills: Percodan, Valium, Vicodin, you name it. My father was killed when I was just an infant (pickup, train tracks), and my grandfather was an oil pipeline worker in the Middle East. He had a Kurdish bodyguard named Abdul who once killed a man with a knife.

At the age of 14, I stumbled across The Stranger, Albert Camus' famous novel of absurdity and detachment. It was hard not to relate.

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NWPR Books
8:57 am
Sun August 10, 2014

'Blackboard' Chalks A Nostalgic Portrait Of School Days

Nostalgia is a hard-hitting drug, its alchemical powers well known, but can it turn a child's entire school experience into sentimental gold? Some kids love school, and many, in retrospect, realize that what seemed like misery at the time was actually relative joy compared to what came after. But to find a silver lining in even the most embarrassing, most angst-filled moments of your school years? Such a thing seemed impossible for even the most wistful of people, until I read Lewis Buzbee's Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom.

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NWPR Books
4:03 pm
Sat August 9, 2014

A Beautiful Book, Whether Or Not It Makes You 'Happy'

Lies! Deceit and rank mendacity! Eleanor Davis promises what current pop music insists is perfectly possible — that you can be happy — and then she doesn't deliver. Instead she draws comics full of hilarious surrealism, gut-tugging tropes and eloquent despair. How dare she?

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NWPR Books
6:59 am
Fri August 8, 2014

'Joss Whedon': Biography Of A 'Shiny' Geek King

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 1:04 pm

Published in Britain as Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe and in the U.S. less cheekily as Joss Whedon: The Biography, Amy Pascale's portrait of pop culture's man of just about any recent hour may not make her title subject any new converts, but it is hero-worshipping enough to make devoted Whedonites feel they're being inducted into the Scooby Gang.

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NWPR Books
9:42 am
Thu August 7, 2014

'The Kills' Sustains Suspense Across A Massive Structure

Richard House's thriller The Kills, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, weighs in at 1,024 pages. It's a long read, and worth every minute.

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NWPR Books
9:34 am
Thu August 7, 2014

'Seeders' Imagines A Pulpy Planet Of The Plants

In A.J. Colucci's 2012 debut, the sci-fi thriller The Colony, she describes a world where ants rise up to challenge the tyranny of pesticide-wielding humans. Instead of Planet of the Apes, it's Planet of the Ants — and with her second novel, Seeders, she's written a veritable Planet of the Plants. Unfortunately, the result isn't nearly as thrilling as it ought to be.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Wed August 6, 2014

An Heir To E.M. Forster's Vision In 'Every Stone'

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 4:38 pm

Every literate nation should have the epics it deserves. The Indian subcontinent already has Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (among a few others), and now we can add to that illuminating company Kamila Shamsie's new novel, A God in Every Stone. Stretching from the ancient Persian Empire to the waning days of the British Empire, the novel has an enormous wingspan that catches a wonderful storyteller's wind.

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NWPR Books
3:44 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

With Magic And Fables, 'Angel Of Losses' Breathes Life Into History

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 6:47 am

At the heart of Stephanie Feldman's debut, The Angel of Losses, is a deceptively straightforward story. The heroine, Marjorie, is a Ph.D. student living and studying in New York. Her subject is the "Wandering Jew" — the mapping and reclamation of an ancient legend. She spends her days in the library, reading and researching, the evenings redrafting and honing her thesis. She is a woman with "a weakness for stories," but one who is often selfish and cold. When we meet her, she seems well on the way to walling herself into an ivory tower.

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NWPR Books
7:21 am
Tue August 5, 2014

The 'Bridge' From Watergate To Reagan, Masterfully Drawn

News becomes history in a second. That's one of the reasons history stays alive — people will always discuss the past as long as there's something to disagree about, and there's always something to disagree about. "A fog of crosscutting motives and narratives," writes Rick Perlstein, "a complexity that defies storybook simplicity: that is usually the way history happens." Beyond the names and dates, history never offers any easy answers. It doesn't even offer easy questions.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Tue August 5, 2014

It's 2 A.M.: Do You Know Where Your Fifth-Grader Is?

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas
iStockphoto

By 7 a.m., the sun still hasn't come to Philadelphia. But the snowflakes have — a dusting that seems, in the opening lines of Marie-Helene Bertino's debut, to touch every crevice of the city. It's the kind of magic you might expect of a Disney film. For a tender moment, it appears we're in for a love letter to Philly, the kind of novel that elevates a place to the status of hero. And kindly, Philly even offers a reply of its own.

"Good morning, the city says. [F- - -] you."

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