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!

Write brilliantly and readers will follow you anywhere — even into a swarm of hoverflies. That's one takeaway from The Fly Trap, a charming, off-the-beaten track, humorously self-deprecating memoir by Fredrik Sjöberg, a biologist who muses and amuses about his baffling passion for hoverflies. "No sensible person is interested in flies, or anyway, no woman," he writes. His book may change that: It is a paean to some of the tiniest wonders of the natural world, but even more to the benefits of intense focus.

'The Water Knife' Cuts Deep

May 28, 2015

In The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi's best-selling, Hugo- and Nebula-winning debut, the author imagines a 23rd century in which the forces of commerce have run amok over the basic, biological building blocks of life. In his equally powerful sophomore novel, The Water Knife, he takes a similar approach to an inorganic substance without which human life wouldn't exist: H2O. But where The Windup Girl takes place hundreds of years from now in Southeast Asia, The Water Knife hits closer to home for U.S. readers.

Fat Is Not A Four-Letter Word In 'Dietland'

May 27, 2015

Editor's note: A Dietland quote in this review contains language some may find offensive.

In fiction, there are the Good Fats (Clara Peggotty, Mrs. Weasley and various other pillowy matrons) and the Bad Fats (Ursula, Augustus Gloop, assorted despicable characters whose fatness is shorthand for moral decay). Oh, and the Funny Fats. Don't forget the Funny Fats (Falstaff and his schlubby ilk). But complicated, dangerous, compelling Fats? These are rare.

Warren Duffy is having a bad year. The comic book store he opened in Cardiff, Wales, has shut down, leaving him in debt to his angry ex-wife. He habris come home to Philadelphia to claim the inheritance left to him by his late father — a roofless, possibly haunted mansion that's only inhabitable in the most technical sense of the word. And he's basically broke, forced to make pocket money by drawing pictures at a comic book convention, where, because he's biracial, he's shunted into the "urban" section.

The Fireworks Of 'Illusionarium' Never Quite Feel Real

May 26, 2015

Reading Heather Dixon's Illusionarium feels like riding a particularly rough roller coaster, and the first few hills are doozies. Dixon barely establishes the book's fantasy world — a hastily sketched British-derived steampunk setting, with the requisite airships and an alternate version of London called Arthurise — before she upends it.

I've read a staggering number of excellent books recently, and it has done things to my head. I'm not sure the human brain was meant to read so many brilliant books in such short order — even less sure that swinging my reading-pendulum from Hannu Rajaniemi's collected science fiction stories to Naomi Novik's sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel is at all wise. By all rights I should have tumbled into Uprooted feeling disoriented and confused, dissonant and harsh in my criticism — but no. Uprooted has leapt forward to claim the title of Best Book I've Read Yet This Year.

"The moon blew up with no warning and with no apparent reason."

That's the beginning of Neal Stephenson's newest epic, Seveneves. And in terms of opening hooks, it's up there. I mean, he isn't destroying LA or merely reducing some single nation to slag. No, Stephenson goes old-school mad scientist — straight for the pulp main vein and buried Saturday morning memories of Thundarr the Barbarian still ticking along in the heads of his audience, and blows up the moon.

Kirsty Logan is no stranger to secrets. The Glasgow-based author's award-winning short-story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, beautifully brought together myth, magic, and the muted fantasy of the everyday. It also dealt with curious topics like circuses and worldwide floods — two things that resurface in her captivating debut novel, The Gracekeepers.

The Science Of 'Collected Fiction' Is Pure Magic

May 20, 2015

I have just finished Hannu Rajaniemi's Collected Fiction and I am still recovering.

My mind feels constellated. I am keenly, weirdly, expansively aware of explosions still taking place inside my head. The world has shifted while I read, and the quartz in the necklace I wear is full of super computers breathing sentience against my skin. There are eyes threaded through scarves over the windowsill. I want to learn everything.

When Edna O'Brien's first novel, The Country Girls, was published in 1960, her family and neighbors in the small Irish village where she was born tossed copies into a bonfire expressly set for that horrifying purpose. Nearly 60 years later, the country girl herself has long since moved to London, but her fiction still blazes (if only in metaphor). That's what I found while reading my way through The Love Object, a newly published selection of more than 30 of O'Brien's short stories.