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!

'Find Me' Gets Lost Along The Way

Feb 17, 2015

America's recent tussle with Ebola — and the current resurgence of measles — has made pandemics a major issue, and a major fear. Not that you'd know it from Laura Van Den Berg's Find Me. In it, a haunted young woman named Joy winds up in a hospital in rural Kansas, following the onset of a mysterious, fatal disease, one that erases people's memories.

There's a small subgenre of young-adult novels that treat suicide as a mystery left behind for the survivors. From John Green's 2006 debut Looking For Alaska and Jay Asher's 2007 bestseller Thirteen Reasons Why to more recent titles like Michelle Falkoff's Playlist For The Dead, survivors try to unravel the causes and meaning of a purposeful death, through clues the victim left behind.

I love arguing about books. Tell me Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is the best modern American novel ever written and I'll fight you. Tell me it wasn't and I'll fight you, too. I'm just scrappy that way.

This year, Black History Month carries a special significance, because America is marking not just the 150th anniversary of Emancipation, but also the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. It was propelled into reality through the heroic witness of non-violent demonstrations in Selma, Alabama and across the nation.

Music Is Troublesome Magic In 'Signal To Noise'

Feb 12, 2015

"Magic will break your heart," warns Mama Dolores, the grandmother of Mercedes "Meche" Vega, the protagonist of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal to Noise. When it comes to magic, Mama Dolores is not speaking metaphorically: Meche, a 15-year-old girl living in Mexico City, has discovered how to practice magic, actual spells that can do actual good and actual harm.

'Displacement' Floats Too Close To The Surface

Feb 11, 2015

Is buoyancy boring? It's certainly an underrated quality in the literary world. We value tragic ranters and ironic brooders, people who put on a show and really make the pages fly by. Sturdy resilience, on the other hand, always seems to be asking for a fall.

Fantasy's turn toward the grim has not lessened lately, nor should it. The success of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire not only justifies all that brooding darkness, it's opened the doors for many other excellent and similarly grim books. Randy Henderson, however, has something else in mind entirely with his debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy. Strictly speaking, it's an urban fantasy, one that takes place in and around present-day Seattle.

As a writer Kelly Link is possessed of many magical powers, but to me what's most notable about her new collection, Get in Trouble, is its astonishing freedom. It's one thing to put demon lovers and ghost boyfriends and spaceships in your stories, but it's something else to allow yourself to explore broad and unusual territory without worrying whether the reader will follow you closely. Link's fiction may be strange, but so, it seems, are all of us, each with our own highly particular inner lives.

"Does this obituary make me look fat?"

You don't read Anne Tyler to have your worldview expanded, or to be kept awake at night anxiously turning pages. You read, instead, for the cozy mildness, the comfort of sinking into each new warmhearted, gently wry book.