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!

A hundred years after his birth, French writer-philosopher Albert Camus is perhaps best-remembered for novels like The Stranger and The Plague, and for his philosophy of absurdism.

But it's another aspect of his intellectual body of work that's under scrutiny as France marks the Camus centennial: his views about his native Algeria.

A Tree Grows in LA: 'Urban' Meets Pastoral In 366 Short Poems

Nov 6, 2013

The pastoral is one of literature's oldest forms; it's safe to say our ideas about nature, however, have changed rapidly and radically in the modern age. Poet Harryette Mullen makes a beautiful marriage between those new ideas and a classic poetic form in her first collection in over a decade, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes From a Tanka Diary.

Many couples who struggle with infertility say they would go to the ends of the earth to have a child. Some use surrogate mothers in the United States, but the high cost and legal complications keep that option out of reach for many families. So some Americans are going global --to countries like India– to make it happen.

Why would someone write a sentimental ballad about a bathroom? For the same reason someone would write a rousing song about tractors: So the song could be used in what's called an industrial musical.

These musicals were like Broadway shows, but they were written and performed for corporate sales meetings and conventions from the 1950s to the 1980s. The lyrics were all about the products being sold and how to sell them. Some of them were lavish and costly, even though they'd be performed only once.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

There's a difference between ruminating and rambling, and Roger Rosenblatt crosses the line in The Boy Detective, his dilatory, meandering new memoir about his New York boyhood. I was a big fan of Kayak Morning, Rosenblatt's meditation on the tenaciousness of grief published in early 2012, four years after the sudden death of his 38-year-old daughter, a pediatrician and mother of three small children. But his latest, while less melancholic, more playful, and occasionally endearingly quirky, ambles at a pace that makes rush hour traffic down Second Avenue seem speedy.

Roy Choi ushered in a food truck "new wave" in Los Angeles, making street fare edgier, tastier. Five years ago, he and a partner launched Kogi — Korean for meat — with a small fleet of trucks offering up a Korean-Mexican fusion that inspired food entrepreneurs in cities across America where the trend caught fire. His signature creation? The short rib taco: warm tortillas, Korean barbecue beef, cilantro-onion-and lime, topped with a spicy-soy slaw.

Food porn or art? That's for you decide.

But one thing is for certain: The jumbo-sized images in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine are truly awesome.

In one, a ham and cheese sandwich levitates in midair. Then, a Weber grill gets sliced in half lengthwise to expose a pink burger cooking on another page. And blueberries and peas balloon to the size of dinner plates and melons.

Catherine Chung went from mathematics to writing, though she says words were always her first love. She was named one of Granta's New Voices in 2010, and her first novel, Forgotten Country, received honorable mention for a PEN/Hemingway Award last year.

In Forgotten Country, Chung writes of a family with a curse that stretches back generations — from their time in Korea to their life in America. Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, each generation of the family has lost a daughter.

Amy Tan was 200 pages into a new novel when she attended a large exhibition on Shanghai life in the early 1900s. While there, she bought a book she thought might help her as she researched details on life in the Old City. She stopped turning pages when she came upon a group portrait.