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!

Do you love your father? How do you love him? Is your affection spontaneous, dutiful, rote, wry, overflowing, ambivalent or simply unexamined? When you consider these questions — or decline to do so, thank you very much — consider also Nina Bunjevac's drawing style.

'Whipping Boy' Is Part Memoir, Part Crime Thriller

Jan 20, 2015

Bullying has become a hot-button issue in recent years, a fact that Allen Kurzweil hasn't overlooked in Whipping Boy. It's his first volume of nonfiction, and the premise is as ripped-from-the-headlines as they come: Forty years after suffering the vicious abuse of a bully in school, Kurzweil has written an account of his decades-long search for Cesar Augustus Viana, the boy who tormented him.

In a previous collection of short stories, Boy in The Twilight, Yu Hua describes a simpleton (some might call him dim-witted) who cannot even remember his own name: His parents are dead, he has no wife and child — nor even the prospect of any — and at one point, he wonders who is going to bury him when he dies.

It's A Chump's Life In 'Amnesia'

Jan 18, 2015

"I worked as a journalist in a country where the flow of information was controlled by three corporations. Their ability to manipulate the truth made the right to vote largely meaningless, but I was a journalist ... I was overweight and out of breath but I was proud to be sued, reviled, scorned, to be called a loser by the rewriters of press releases."

A friend recently insisted I read her favorite book in the world: The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault. It's a gorgeous book, one that utterly immerses you in a worldview that's simultaneously alien and formative to so much of our modern life. I enjoyed it tremendously, and am doubly glad I read it since it gave me a fascinating window through which to view Jo Walton's The Just City: If Renault's project is immersive, Walton's is explosive, deliberately troubling and provocative as the gadfly-Socrates who appears in both.

In 2012 Sarah Gerard wrote a powerful essay for The New York Times about her experiences with bulimia, anorexia, and addiction. It's a harrowing read, but only half as much so as her debut novel, Binary Star. In it, Gerard's unnamed, semi-autobiographical protagonist takes a road trip with her boyfriend John. He's an alcoholic whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic; she's succumbing to an eating disorder that's wasting her away.

Cheryl Glickman has an unflattering wardrobe and a permanent lump in her throat. She is in love with Philip, who offers her only a reference to his color therapist and text message updates about his affair with a teenager ("What would be the emoticon for Carry me to your penthouse and tend to me as a husband?" Cheryl wonders).

In the midst of her orderly solitude, Cheryl is forced to take in her bosses' bullish, beautiful daughter, Clee, a self-described misogynist whose voluptuousness and "aggressively blank expression" captivate Cheryl.

Fact And Fiction Blur In Frustratingly Opaque 'Swarm'

Jan 14, 2015

It's easy enough to separate fiction from fact in the semi-autobiographical novel The Whispering Swarm. Fantasy grandmaster Michael Moorcock centers his latest dense, fevered story on Alsacia (also called the Sanctuary), a secret London enclave where historical figures mingle with literary ones.

"They are a perfect, golden couple," Rachel Watson thinks, regarding handsome Jason and his striking wife, Jess. "He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short." Rachel, the main narrator of Paula Hawkins' novel The Girl on the Train, is obsessed with the pair; they represent to her the perfect relationship that she once had, or seemed to, before it imploded spectacularly.

Rachel Cusk is better known in England than in America; her sharply satirical books about the tolls of family life play better across the Atlantic than here in our often puritanical culture, with its bias towards domesticity. In her controversially bitter memoirs, including A Life's Work and Aftermath, and in piercing — but always beautifully written — novels like The Lucky Ones, Cusk has examined the difficulties of self-definition in the context of marriage, motherhood and family.