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!

Even for the most talented artists, the trompe l'oeil is one of the most difficult techniques to master. The painter has to create three dimensions out of two, constructing an illusion, tricking the eye of the viewer. If it works, the results can be stunning; if it doesn't, the artwork looks forced and confusing.

Orson Welles thought he was ruined after the 1938 broadcast of his adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. The 23-year-old actor-director's star was just beginning to rise, but the panic caused by the radio show sparked an immediate backlash. Major newspapers reported on cases of mass hysteria across America. Because of The War of the Worlds, they alleged, hundreds of thousands of unassuming citizens were convinced that a real Martian invasion was taking place, starting at ground zero: The small town of Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

In his famous essay, "The Simple Art of Murder," Raymond Chandler put down the classic British mystery, making fun of its arcane killings and hokey air of gentility. He preferred the tough American style and praised Dashiell Hammett for, as he put it, taking murder out of the vicar's rose garden and dropping it in the alley where it belonged.

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is, on one level, a memoir about Nelson's pregnancy with her first child, Iggy, and her partner Harry's concurrent female-to-male "transition." (The quotation marks are borrowed from Nelson, who at one point wonders "how to explain ... that for some, 'transitioning' may mean leaving one gender entirely behind, while for others — like Harry, who is happy to identify as a butch on T [testosterone] — it doesn't?")

One of my earliest experiences of how astonishing a tool is Twitter came several years ago, when, seeing Californians tweeting about an earthquake, I texted my best friend in canyon country to ask if she'd felt the earthquake where she was. She said no — and then freaked out as the tremors reached her a few minutes later. The internet was literally faster than the quake.

In 'Subprimes,' Swiftian Satire Hits Close To Home

May 6, 2015

In his new novel, The Subprimes, Karl Taro Greenfeld charges in where most of us would fear to tread. Carol Burnett could have warned him. "It's almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington," she once said, but Greenfeld tries his darnedest. He wants to skewer a certain political mindset, and he goes at it with anger, wicked humor and verve.

The moment in Kate Atkinson's A God In Ruins when protagonist Teddy Todd lies to his granddaughter about an old photograph isn't a grand climax. It happens in passing, in half a sentence: She asks about the stain on an image of Teddy and his long-dead wife Nancy. It's actually the blood of one of his World War II air crew, who died in his arms after their plane was shot down. But Teddy claims it's tea, "not because she wouldn't have been interested but because it was a private thing."

Before Brian Catling's debut novel, The Vorrh, was published in his native England in 2012, he'd already racked up an impressive list of credentials — just not as a fiction writer. His poetry, sculpture, paintings and performance-art pieces have been getting international acclaim for decades.

"My mother and father named me Aron, but my father said they should have named me What Have You Done, and my uncle told everyone they should have called me What Were You Thinking." These are the first words of Jim Shepard's Holocaust-themed novel The Book of Aron, the reader's first introduction to the book's chronically depressed and likely doomed protagonist. Aron Różycki is a young boy when the story begins; by the end, after the Germans have occupied Warsaw and forced the city's Jews into a ghetto, he's older in ways that time can't measure.

Are some people "constitutionally unsuited" to marriage? That's the question the free-spirited narrator of Eliza Kennedy's saucy first novel, I Take You, keeps asking herself between drinks, seductions and a mess of complications during the frenetic week leading up to her Key West wedding.