Articles in Fiction
In the latest chapter of S. M. Stirling’s “Emberverse” series, two courageous women embark on a quest for a supernatural sword
In Zen Cho’s exuberant debut, the magic of Napoleonic-era England is slowly dwindling, and it’s up to the Sorcerer Royal to figure out why
A mother grieving the loss of her own son investigates the 30-year-old disappearance of a powerful Southern family’s little boy in this haunting debut
Think romance novels aren’t worth taking seriously? The Romance Writers of America’s annual convention brings together thousands of smart, self-aware readers and writers ready and able to prove you wrong.
Anthony Powell’s name is synonymous with his twelve-volume behemoth “A Dance to the Music of Time.” But he had a long and varied writing career, and his early novel Venusberg, Levi Stahl contends, is well worth searching out in the shade of “Dance.”
In Stephen Akey’s personal essay, the sex and squalor of William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold appeals to the thirteen-year-old he was when he first encountered it – and prompts an adult reassessment.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — which form a sprawling epic about art, friendship, and power — are what Goethe called Weltliteratur: books that speak to the world, not just to a nation.
For the protagonist of Jim Shepard’s heartbreaking novel The Book of Aron it is terrible to be a poor Jew in anti-Semitic prewar Poland – but it is hardest of all to be a child, at the mercy of everyone else.
Game of Thrones is remarkably faithful to George R. R. Martin’s original epic series, except for one vital element: it transforms his subversive morality into conventional fantasy.
A mystery trio: Louise Penny’s 11th Gamache novel is a stellar addition to the series; Elsa Hart’s debut is a fine historical murder mystery set in 18th-century China; Bernhard Aichner’s first appearance in English is spine-chilling.
The critical consensus around reclusive Italian novelist Elena Ferrante is enough to make you suspect collusion – but to what end? and at what cost? Rohan Maitzen reviews the reviewers.
Is there more to romance fiction than perfect people meeting cute and living happily ever after? Sarah Wendell thinks so, but her arguments in defense of this most reviled of genres may themselves sell it short.
A debut adventure starring the smarter older brother of Sherlock Holmes
Michael Swanwick’s terrific new novel features a con artist and a genetically modified dog-man seeking riches and power in a post-post-apocalyptic China
The celebrated author of “The Yacoubian Building” returns with another panoramic look at life in modern Egypt during a pivotal era
In Adrienne Celt’s remarkably rich debut novel, an opera singer is worried that the birth of her daughter has robbed her of her singing voice
In the wake of professional betrayal and global catastrophe, the heroes of Linda Nagata’s “Red” Trilogy are confronted by a new threat as the series barrels on
Book critic Michael Dirda’s latest collection offers more personal musings on the subject he loves most
Bloomsbury publishes a lovely new English-language translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s great novel about the Lebanese Civil War
You wouldn’t bet on a little street in Edinburgh – or its eccentric inhabitants – surviving a series of world-battering catastrophes, but that’s both the starting and the ending point of Nick Holdstock’s fascinating first novel
In a dusty Vatican archive, an ancient manuscript is found that could change the world. Or whatever.
The woes of empire and the decline of the aristocracy form the backdrop for Jonathan Weisman’s smart and moving debut novel, set in Thatcher’s England.
In this funny and touching debut, a young man’s search for his missing mother leads to unexpected discoveries amid the lights of Las Vegas
In an alternate history in which an undefeated Nazi Germany controls vast portions of Africa, a cast of old friends and enemies come together amid rumors of a devastating new kind of bomb …
Ailing cultural critic Clive James turns in what may very well be his final collection of essays. Robert Minto reviews.
The hero of Linda Nagata’s nifty new series is hard-wired to his battle-armor … but is something else hiding in the connection?
A collection of profiles of eight pivotal American literary men of the 20th century – Robert Minto reviews
On the world of Paradise, the wars of dynasties are fought on battlefields by knights mounted on dinosaurs
Matthew Hawkwood, James McGee’s super-competent soldier-turned-spy, returns in another adventure, this time trapped in America during the War of 1812
In the latest Roman historical novel from old pro Simon Scarrow, two heroic legionaries are chasing an infamous local warlord in Britannia – and facing treachery from within their own ranks
In fan-favorite Ernest Cline’s new book, a young man raised on video games and cheesy sci-fi movies finds that they just might be the key to Earth’s salvation. But is the 80’s nostalgia of Armada self-defeating?
Robyn Cadwallader centers her debut novel on a young nun who volunteers to be walled away from all human contact for the rest of her life. Such women existed and, surprisingly, their lives were enormously full.
Eileen Chang would never have written her hot-button anticommunist masterpiece Naked Earth without US Government encouragement and support. What should contemporary readers make of this?
Was the duel at twenty paces a cancer on civil society or a gesture of defiance and an expression of individuality? Touche: The Duel in Literature looks to provide the reader satisfaction on that question.
Milan Kundera’s newest and possibly final novel returns to the ideas he’s pursued across his career, including his “categorical disagreement with being.” Y. Greyman reviews.
From the Perigord region of France to North Yorkshire, England to the Appalachian Trail – the locations of this trio of new mysteries by old hands might be far-flung, but for our mystery maven, crime is a universal language!
It is said that Thomas Hardy fell deeply in love with his wife, Emma, only after she died. Stephen Akey revisits the stunning, elegiac poetry he wrote in her memory.
A teenager in Kyoto tries to face the last months of his life as a samurai would – with a little help from his friends
The famous bloody encounter at the center of Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger is re-imagined from a new perspective in Kamel Daoud’s widely-praised debut
In the wake of Bangladesh’s bloody Liberation War, a hapless nonentity suddenly finds himself impersonating a beloved national leader
Federal contractor Jack Taylor takes an unprecedented high-altitude space jump – but when he breaks the sound barrier and makes his landing, he finds himself in a different reality
In Max Gladstone’s latest “Craft” sequence novel, what looks like a straightforward neighborhood gentrification suddenly threatens to unleash the wrath of the gods themselves
The latest monumental anthology from Gardner Dozois of the best the sci-fi genre has to offer
A distant planet crackling with “dark energy” holds mind-boggling secrets for the crew of humans sent to explore it
Years ago, two young girls were abducted and held for two months by a mysterious stranger; in the present, in Maggie Mitchell’s terrific debut novel, these women are now confronted with the suspicion that a part of their childhood ordeal is very much alive.
In the future, a vast corporation sends operatives back in time to loot the past, and those operatives have one rule above all others: bring nobody back with you. When one of those operatives breaks that rule, Wesley Chu’s novel takes off
When enigmatic aliens plunge down in the ocean off the coast of Nigeria, three very different humans encounter them – and watch as the world is changed forever
A decorated Roman soldier accompanies a dangerous mission into barbarian territory in 4th century Britain
The forgotten Midwestern town of Normandy Falls becomes the setting for an increasingly horrifying – and surreal – series of events in Kevin Keating’s outstanding new novel
In “Hostile Takeover,” Shane Kuhn provides a raucous follow-up to his popular novel “The Intern’s Handbook”
Two brothers – one simple-minded, the other quite possibly devious – are at the heart of Stuart Prebble’s new thriller
Three sisters and their various husbands and children gather at the family’s inviting old Cape Cod vacation home, where they face drama, revelation, heartache, and maybe personal re-invention.
A wealthy family in dazzling 1920s Newport, Rhode Island faces problems and revelations in both the material world of their huge estate – and also in the spirit world, where secrets will be revealed
In the early 1720s, the regent of France risked both his young king and his young daughter on high-stakes international gambles in the ongoing War of Succession; a sparkling new novel dramatizes the events
Biographer Zachary Leader takes his readers on a long, detailed tour of the first half of Saul Bellow’s life, and while those readers may be loving it, the critics have been complaining!
Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life emphasized the contingency of any single story. In contrast, her new novel focuses on one life lived to the full. But for better or for worse, Atkinson can’t resist the lure of metafiction…
Why do we read the same story over and over? In Virginia Woolf’s case, it’s to learn again how great art emerged from her strange life of privilege and grief.
A thousand years ago, a refined lady at the Japanese Court wrote the first and one of the greatest novels of all time, The Tale of Genji; Dennis Washburn does the latest translation of this immense work, with stunning results.
Sure, we all know Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man – but what about the also-rans? Who played the Captain and Tennille to the Avengers’ Sonny and Cher? Zach Rabiroff looks at the heroes who didn’t quite make the prime-time cut.
For decades, famed academic and critic Harold Bloom has been tilting against the windmills of cultural fads and forgettings. But in his latest (and last?) book, he strikes a different pose.
A trio of mysteries cum thrillers from Stephen King, Peter Lovesey, and Mike Lawson—each one in its own way stylish, suspenseful, and sharp.
In life there are no second chances, no do-overs. But what if we could keep trying until we got it right? Kate Atkinson explores the possibilities in a novel that just might win her a coveted literary prize or two.
The best of Anthony Lane’s many New Yorker reviews and essays were collected in Nobody’s Perfect, a big volume that amply displays this writer’s wit and subtlety.
Sybille Bedford’s great novel – now in a pretty reprint from the New York Review of Books – has the sweep of Edward Gibbon and the emotional vitality of Jane Austen. Robert Minto takes a new look at a classic.
Fifteen hundred years ago, the inhabitants of northeastern Canada encounter intruders from over the sea: Vikings
A rich investment swindler disappears on his boat – and with a great chunk of his ill-gotten gains – and the plot is afoot in the latest thriller from Mary Higgins Clark
Byron the poet was also Byron the prolific correspondent and diarist, as a generous and learned new collection amply demonstrates
In a generous new anthology, a group of talented authors tells stories set in the “Emberverse” of S. M. Stirling – an Earth where all technology has abruptly stopped working
In Iggulden’s ongoing series about the Wars of the Roses, England’s Queen Margaret struggles to hold onto her power – and her life – even as her husband the king slips in and out of sanity
A New Jersey town repeatedly struck by falling planes is the setting for Judy Blume’s new book
A former slave in a brutal empire is now wielding both political and magical power the second volume in Jon Sprunk’s hugely enjoyable “Book of the Black Earth” series
An ambitious debut novel explores the world that gave birth to the meteoric career of Charles Dickens and his lesser-known competitors
A woman dies in Versailles, and her death sets in motion a tangled plot connecting a small group of people in this 2010 novel by Pascal Garnier
The effort of an eccentric earl to re-introduce wolves to England draws a zoologist back to the home she left years before
The steely matriarch of a wealthy family is losing both her health and her control over her family in this sharp debut novel by Sophie McManus
Hausfrau is a grim addition to the array of contemporary novels exploring an old theme: women’s discontent. Rebecca Hussey reviews.
In Anna North’s new novel, many narrative voices attempt to tell the story of film director Sophie Stark – but can any number of perspectives reveal an essentially unknowable character? Katie Gemmill reviews.
Poet, dramatist, and author of the great Italian novel I promessi sposi, Alessandro Manzoni led a life as fascinating as his fiction. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story of the Father of Italian Prose.
The dark, crime-ridden world of Putin’s Kremlin and Victorian Scotland Yard aren’t as different as you might think – as two gripping new mysteries demonstrate.
Like an overheated love letter, André Aciman’s florid novel novel of obsession, Eight White Nights, is very easy to mock–but is it perhaps just as candid and emotionally powerful? Sam Sacks tests it against the truth of experience.
“The eye says ‘Here is Anna Karenina,’” wrote Virginia Woolf; “A voluptuous lady in black velvet wearing pearls comes before us. But the brain says ‘that is no more Anna Karenina than it is Queen Victoria.’” Joe Wright’s cinematic adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel avoids the pitfalls of such literalism.
Major Kolt “Racer” Raynor doesn’t salute the U.S. flag – it salutes him. He punches bad guys so hard their grandkids are born with bruises. He garrotted a terrorist using a string made from his own eyelashes. He stars in Dalton Fury’s action novel – and if you don’t read the book, he’ll know.
A young monk goes on a desperate quest in the 12th century – to a fable city called Venetia
A plucky, unlikely teen heroine and a brooding, idealistic teen hero form an unlikely relationship as they fight the oppression of their world in … well, every single YA novel ever written, including this one.
At the heart of this astounding work of fantasy broods a jungle called the Vorrh, a forest so unending that it warps time and steals souls.
An Indian driver and his enormous war-elephant experience the treacheries and triumphs of Alexander the Great’s Babylon campaign
In the new novel from James Cambias, a space pirate in the near future – and the enforcer hunting him – encounter something neither one expects
When a renegade mage steals a powerful book of sorcery, the world of Marc Turner’s fantasy debut is plunged into a disturbing new form of warfare
Charles Boxer and Mercy Danquah are both kidnap specialists who’ve solved many tough cases. But in their latest, the missing person is their own daughter – and she doesn’t want to be found
Two men meet by chance in a 1960s cafe – and remember a time twenty years earlier when they were captor and prisoner at Auschwitz
Is the artist painting heath landscapes in England during World War II a mild-mannered hero of military campaigns or a spy? Gerard Woodward’s spellbinding novel starts there and then travels over the whole of an improbable life story
The Tim Parks essays collected in this pretty volume range over the whole landscape of the book-world, from endangered copyright to foreign-lit chic to the inescapability of Jonathan Franzen
In the latest Star Wars novel, Darth Vader and his evil Emperor are trapped on a hostile world, being hunted by man and beast
If Richard Pryor had spent time in the ghettos of L.A. County and had any interest in writing a novel, he might have come up with a book like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout: a beautifully offensive meditation on riches and race.
Nothing shakes up the literary establishment like women writers — or women readers — who won’t stay quietly in their place.
Usually Kazuo Ishiguro’s narrators implicate us in their world, reminding us of all we have in common. But in his new novel we are strangers looking at an unrecognizable landscape.
Donna Leon’s 24th book starring the charismatic Commissario Guido Brunetti, Falling in Love, is every bit as spellbinding as we expect it to be. Martin Walker’s seventh featuring Bruno, Dordogne’s favorite chief of police, The Children Return, finds his small town shockingly targeted by a terrorist network.
Master of the mannered sneak-attack, Kazuo Ishiguro has enraptured readers for years – including Karen Vanuska, who walks us through Nocturnes, his collection of linked stories.
Book reviewers were split on whether Toni Morrison’s novel is a further triumph or a falling off. Or did these critics only found what they anticipated? We reviewed the reviews, then we reviewed the book.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s sparkling “Glamourist” fantasy series comes to a complex and intriguing conclusion
Jonathan Lethem’s latest book continues his project of combining the literary and the pulpy – Robert Minto reviews.
Giant eels, dragon-scammers, and of course Sasquatch himself feature in Chris Tarry’s delightfully gonzo debut short story collection
The passionate, unconventional life of novelist George Sand forms the backdrop for Elizabeth Berg’s new novel
In the dystopian future of Jeffrey Rotter’s fantastic novel, Copernican astronomy has been forgotten – but its secrets lie buried under what was once Florida
The main character of Adam Thirlwell’s new novel has no redeeming qualities whatsoever – and he’s sinfully easy to read about
Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have made their way to the stage on the expert handling of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Zach Rabiroff had front row center.
The incestuously-close relationship between a literary biographer and his subject lies at the heart of Hanif Kureishi’s new novel
In Michel Houellebecq’s uncannily timely new novel, the triumph of an Islamist government relieves the dreary banality that defines the secular France of the 21st century.
On its schematic blueprints, the latest book by noted literary polymath Alberto Manguel is “about” Dante’s Divine Comedy – but as Robert Minto discovers, this author is at his best when he’s digressing.
An Orwellian dystopia, a deposed humanity, and a cat passionately in love with a dog – Justin Hickey reviews Robert Repino’s fiendishly clever novel Mort(e).
Set in the precarious territory between fiction and history, Nicolas Rothwell’s beautiful, haunting Belomor explores the ways storytelling serves as an impetus for self-discovery.
The star translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (aided this time by Richard Nelson) translate Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, with predictably disruptive results. Jack Hanson reviews.
Two grand novels of crime and passion from a pair of stars in the field: The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr and Dennis Lehane’s World Gone By.
April 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of great Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope. In this essay from 2009, Open Letters‘s resident Victorianist Rohan Maitzen looks at how this author made the everyday epic.
The high school students in Tommy Wallach’s fantastic debut face more than graduation and an uncertain job market: they face an honest-to-gosh killer asteroid
A young boy and his gorgeous white elephant become apprenticed to the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire in this stunning new novel by the author of “The Bastard of Istanbul”
In the latest Princeton “Writers on Writers” installment, novelist Colm Toibin writes about poet Elizabeth Bishop
In N. K. Traver’s exciting debut, a young cyber-hacker finds his life steadily being commandeered – but his own reflection in the mirror.
In Dan Simmons’ latest fantastic novel, Henry James finds himself teamed up with fiction’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, in order to solve a very real – and very heartbreaking – mystery.
At the outbreak of the First World War, American writers flocked to Europe and headed for the Western Front in order to find their Muse – and to make some quick cash. A new book follows a handful of these earliest chroniclers
In the concluding volume of James Enge’s gripping fantasy trilogy, a band of unlikely heroes is caught between warring godlike beings in a world quickly tearing itself apart
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” Woody Allen famously quipped; “I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Robert Minto reviews a new book on what it takes to make it big in the literary afterlife
In a dystopian future, a plucky young woman from a poor village suddenly finds herself at the heart of the corrupt power system and the focal point of a rebellion in “The Hunger Ga-” um, in Victoria Aveyard’s “The Red Queen.”
For over a century, Oscar Wilde’s notebook on Thomas Chatterton has been regarded as a ‘smoking gun’ of Wilde’s plagiaristic tendencies. A new book radically re-examines the issue
Joanna Stafford – niece of an executed man and distant cousin to King Henry VIII – is called to court, where she immediately becomes the focal point of deadly intrigues
Three impressionable young 13th-century Franciscans embark on an improbably odyssey to bring a momentous manuscript to the Pope
In a world very much like our own, super-powered clandestine operatives vie with each other on missions to save or destroy humanity
Sabina, the wife of the enigmatic Roman emperor Hadrian, is beset by enemies in Rome – and safeguards a secret they’d all kill to know …
A businessman is on a trip to new-money Tunisia when the world’s economy goes into meltdown…
Can you improve on a classic? A new novel retells George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda — but much more is lost than gained in the attempt.
The great Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa claims he became a writer in order to annoy his father; his new novel takes up this age-old theme of the strife between fathers and sons.
As we should expect from someone whose previous work is both experimental and kinky, Miranda July has written a first novel that refuses to play by the rules.
Despite his iconic status today, in the 19th century Sherlock Holmes was neither the alpha nor the omega of crime fighters: a fascinating new book introduces us to his many contemporaries.
Ron Howard’s adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s bestselling In the Heart of the Sea will soon appear, but even the trailers raise rich questions: Why does this story still have the power to fascinate? A Moby-Dick fan ponders.
When we say of someone that they died too early, does this posit that there is a perfect time? How does the meaning of a life change the longer it’s lived. Jenny Erpenbeck’s new novel End of Days explores some answers.
Stalking the pages of Thomas Pierce’s debut story collection, where the surreal shares quarters with the ordinary, are dwarf mammoths, genetically modified guard dogs, baby Pippin monkeys, and a parakeet named Magnificent.
The Friendship of Criminals by Robert Glinski is a fresh, original and totally entertaining perspective on mob relationships; A Murder of Magpies is Judith Flanders deliciously wry take on murder and publishing.
Irma Heldman dives into a rollicking, bawdy yarn depicting an infamous, turn-of-the century caper masterminded by Professor Moriarty—Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy. Then she matches wits with a cheeky mini-tome refuting the great detective’s solution to his most illustrious case.
Free thinker, strong-minded woman, scholar, lover, novelist: George Eliot lived a courageous life that should be known and celebrated. But does Brenda Maddox’s biography do it justice?
Julio Cortázar and Gabriel Garcia Marquez brought Latin American fiction to the attention of the world. Now a young crop of writers are trying to move beyond magical realism–a new anthology charts the diverse approaches.
In this New York Times bestseller, a hapless woman spots a mysterious event from the window of her commuter train and is soon caught up in a police investigation.
Driven into hiding by the victorious forces of William the Conqueror, the heroic Hereward the Wake and his band of freedom fighters must struggle to survive
A strong-willed Bavarian princess captures the eye of the young Austro-Hungarian emperor in Allison Pataki’s opulent new historical novel. Steve Donoghue reviews.
In Jo Walton’s latest novel, the “just city” of Plato’s Republic is brought to life via Greek gods, robots, and a little discreet time travel
In Dewey Lambdin’s latest rousing Alan Lewrie adventure, our dashing hero sees action off the coast of a Spain imperiled by Napoleon
In V. E. Schwab’s new fantasy novel, a young man can travel between a string of alternate-reality Londons
In Matt Sumell’s debut, his main character manages to alienate every other person in the book, often by punching them.
For twenty-five years, the “Table Talk” feature of The Threepenny Review has offered occasional musings on a wide range of topics by some of the best freelance writers and critics in the business. A new hardcover collects a generous helping of highlights
When a 21st-century woman travels to the hometown of Emily Dickinson, she finds herself caught between a passionate present and a past far more human than she imagined
In the very engaging latest from Sharma Shields, one family has a very unusual encounter with the legendary Bigfoot
A small group of Americans visit a super-secret Chinese nature-park with a very unusual star attraction.
The author of “Dogwalker” returns with a new collection of interlinked short stories that revel in their own straight-faced absurdity
In this arresting debut, a young woman working in Paris is hiding from her past – and she worries that the old friends she betrayed are hunting her.
To shut down his internal censors, Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote My Struggle at the astounding rate of over a thousand pages a year. The result is fiction that is vibrantly alive.
Any new translation of a classic like Anna Kareninainevitably raises an awkward question: what was wrong with all the old translations? Debut writer Zach Rabiroff takes it line-by-line
Claudia Rankine articulates the truths of the black experience so poignantly in her celebrated collection Citizen by putting them, paradoxically, both plainly and artfully.
With so many versions of War and Peace to choose from, is there anything that translators can do to set themselves apart? Yes, says Steve Donoghue, they can make old mistakes.
97 years ago this month, the great, acerbic novelist Muriel Spark was born; we look back at Martin Stannard’s richly detailed biography from 2010
A slim picaresque novel that was a runaway bestseller in France gets a stylish English-language translation
A true believer in the tenets of Darwinism in the 19th Century goes on what amounts to a pilgrimage to that great Darwinian destination, the Galapagos Islands, in James Morrow’s glowing new novel
Only one man can possibly save a plague- and fire-stricken sub that’s burning and adrift at the top of the world …
When young Promise’s family is killed on their peaceful frontier planet, she signs up with the space-Marines – as one tends to do in such circumstances
The legendary fantasy author Michael Moorcock returns after a long absence to the genre he helped to create
Michael Mewshaw comes not to praise Gore Vidal but to bury him in this new memoir of a friendship that did not outlast Mr. Vidal’s funeral.
Horror fiction may not at first compare with more respectable genres, but look a bit closer. Horror is one of the oldest emotions known to man, and the artists who’ve evoked it have been some of our most brilliant and most strange …
It’s comforting to believe there are lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, or to treat it as a story about the triumph of the human spirit. Jona Oberski’s Childhood rightly refuses us these consolations.
The voice of poetry can often be the voice of lyric witness, turning our attention to moments in history that would have eluded us, or that might never have been felt as well as understood. These titles perform this function about as well as it can be done.
The contemporary American short story is a kind of stunt double for the novel. Monica McFawn’s Bright Shards of Someplace Else is one such collection, each of its eleven stories posturing like a dare accepted.
Historical novelist Andrew Levkoff stuffs the last installment of his “Bow of Heaven” trilogy with battles, love, loyalty betrayed, crucifixion, cross-purposes, loyalty regained, and deep reflections on what it all means.
Open Letters Monthly interviews the author of Blood of Eagles, book three of the Bow of Heaven series.
“We must compensate the man for the loss of his gun,” wrote Virginia Woolf. Roxana Robinson’s riveting novel challenges us to imagine how we can do that as we work for peace.
Book critic James Wood is a fascinating collection of contradictions: an apostate true believer, a champion of experimental fiction, an earnest searcher in empty temples. Sam Sacks reads one of our foremost readers.
Nora Webster may be Colm Tóibín’s slightest novel yet, but his later novels are born from and echo this wise and intimate investigation of the interior life.
Literature by post-Yugoslavian writers is often about identity in flux. That includes the books of David Albahari, one of the most widely read of contemporary Serbian authors and one of the most worth reading.
The author made immortal by the novel Dune also wrote a career’s worth of short stories. Robert Minto looks at the first-ever complete collection of those stories.
Norman Mailer was as fiery and mercurial a letter-writer as he was a novelist and journalist – and ten times as prolific. A big new volume collects the highlights of a lifetime in the post.
Now back in print: an English translation of iconic Polish writer (and compulsive re-inventor of himself) Marek Hlasko’s most powerful novel.
“Our belief in Literature has collapsed” Lars Iyer once wrote, but his new novel Wittgenstein Jr, the story of a passionate philosophy professor and his apathetic students, bristles with literary faith.
A veteran and a newcomer give us two gripping thrillers: The Big Finish by the critically acclaimed master of suspense, James W. Hall, and The Life We Bury, a mesmerizing debut by Allen Eskens.
Against a pervasive American sports culture, author Steve Allmond pits a devastating critique of the savage violence – and staggering toll in injuries and deaths – of football.
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer
Just in time for the November midterm elections, we do what doubters said couldn’t be done: we present you with a list of ten great political books that doesn’t include Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson returns to small-town Iowa in this new novel full of deceptive calms and clear mastery.
A reissue of James Agee’s letters to Father Flye give a picture of the writer’s naked ambition, excoriating self-hatred, and unrefined genius. But it also raises the question: Do we remember Agee more for what he wrote or what his addictions prevented him from writing?
Felix Francis continues to artfully follow in his late father’s footsteps with his newest thriller, Dick Francis’s Damage. The Button Man, Mark Pryor’s fourth Hugo Marston novel, is a prequel that adds a fascinating dimension to the highly charismatic protagonist of this splendid series.
John Updike once affably damned James Agee as a wasted talent who failed to cultivate his craft. Liza Birnbaum replies with a defense of the glories of Agee’s ragged, heartfelt work.
As Hollywood looks to science fiction and fantasy novels for the ‘source material’ of its newest CGI spectaculars, Justin Hickey picks ten sci-fi/fantasy books he hopes the studios never find and ruin …
In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.
The wide-ranging themes of this wrenching novel are unified by imagery that links its heroine to an unexpected community of the traumatized living dead.
Martin Amis’ new novel not only delves into the souls of a small group of characters involved in the running of concentration camp – it also interrogates the very nature of Holocaust fiction. Jack Hanson reads the latest from the author of Time’s Arrow.
James Ellroy begins a second L.A. Quartet with his new novel Perfidia. But does it harness the demonic madness and stylistic panache of the author’s earlier works of historical crime fiction?
A British historian’s richly-sourced accounting of Molotov-Ribbentrop offers fresh insights into this Nazi-Soviet pact of “non-aggression.”
With literary criticism disappearing as a popular artform, we increasingly look to the book reviewer to do the critic’s work. A new collection by John Domini offers an example of reviews that transcend their form to provide analysis alongside mere evaluation.
Sophie Hannah revives Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with panache in The Monogram Murders, and Joe Gannon’s debut thriller Night of the Jaguar is a tightly wound, gut-wrenching read.
In her debut collection of stories, Tiphanie Yanique attempts to capture in prose the complexities of modern-day life and racial identity in a Caribbean behind the tourism ads.
Can Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda heal Canada’s colonial relationship with its First Nations? Why should we expect literature to succeed where our leaders have failed?
A disaffected British colonial officer with a yearning for heroism is relegated to a doomed imperial outpost where he meets a native boy with a yearning for heroes – and from this unlikely pairing, Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman weaves its fantastic, moving story.
It’s been half a century since the appearance of Saul Bellow’s seminal novel Herzog – Jack Hanson revisits the work to see how Bellow’s various machinations have held up over time.
Christopher Beha’s new novel Arts and Entertainments aims to be that weirdest of all things: a serious, even elegant, book about … reality television. As our reviewer reports, the oddity is that it was even attempted, and the wonder is that it succeeds so well.
In the world of Julie Hayden’s stories, the contingency of all experience, let alone of literary creation and reputation, is inescapable.
A tightly drawn disturbing novel, The Frozen Dead is Bernard Minier’s auspicious debut. The Long Way Home is the tenth in Louise Penny’s celebrated Armand Gamache series.
A fascinating debut collection of short stories set in modern China
Ben Lerner has followed his breakout novel Leaving the Atocha Station with a metafictional tale of a second-time novelist trying to throw a book together. Is it more than a game?
If you think distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art are stuffy Victorian relics, our beleagured Stephen Akey says, you’re just not paying enough attention. So are you a highbrow? And should you be? And should everybody be?
Metaphor: a tool for poets and rhetoricians, but also, perhaps, the way that people connect to the world at large. Lianne Habinek reviews a gamesome new study by the great literary critic Denis Donoghue.
What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?
Cover art from Omni, the new-age science mag of yore, is now a coffee table book: Giger, Frazetta, and Grant Wood are all here, but something crucial has been left out.
A Colder War is the latest from Charles Cumming, one of the best at depicting the frail and brutal world of spydom. Neely Tucker’s The Ways of the Dead marks the debut of what promises to be a first-rate series.
Powerful South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin’s second novel to be translated into English tells a touchingly human tale set in a world which, for most of her Western readers, could scarcely be more alien.
Michael Cunningham’s beautiful new novel The Snow Queen follows the wisdom of fairy tales: its revelations occur at dusk, because the hour of despair is the most fertile of the day.
Over time, the books of our youth make way for titles better suited to the grown-up readers we have become. But not all of them: YA or not, some books — such as K. M. Peyton’s Pennington trilogy — deserve a lasting place on our shelves.
It’s summer at last, and you won’t find any relief from the heat in our editors’ round-up of the hottest books they know.
Daniel Wilson’s first book, Robopocalypse was a straightforward adventure story about robots rising up against their human makers. His new book takes that simple premise and expands on it in complex and timely ways.
The new Scribner “Hemingway Library” edition of The Sun Also Rises offers annotations, rough drafts, and alternate line-edits – but how much light does it shed on its “near-perfect work of fiction”?
Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, those supersmart, sophisticated sleuths, are back in The Late Scholar, a savvy new detective story by Jill Paton Walsh.
A ticking clock hangs ominously over every page of Craig DiLouie’s genuinely creepy new horror novel, filled with beings who aren’t quite zombies and not quite vampires. Our resident horror maven Deirdre Crimmins tells us all about it.
Middlemarch is all the rage now – as it should be! But what if you’ve already read not just George Eliot’s masterpiece but all of her novels? Do not despair: these eight books will bring you close to her in spirit.
Rusty Barnes’ debut novel Reckoning is both a hardbitten Appalachia noir and tender coming of age tale, both real art and real fun.
Rjurik Davidson’s stunning debut – an epic of espionage, magic, and beasts migrated out of mythology – isn’t the sixth in a series, or the tenth, or the fifteenth; it’s that rare thing in the genre: a stand-alone novel
For a little over two years, shortly before she died, short story master Katherine Mansfield wrote a weekly book review column. Those pieces not only shed light on Mansfield’s particular slant of genius, but have much to say about the embattled art of reviewing.
Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International
Our mystery columnist looks at a highly anticipated debut, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, as well as the second novel in Jonathan Holt’s brilliant Carnivia trilogy, The Abduction.
Is it really the immigrant writer’s job to represent third-world suffering for the sake of first-world catharsis? In All Our Names, Dinaw Mengestu resists the pressure to substitute autoethnography for art.
Characters never go wrong when their poor life choices make for fascinating reading. Kathleen Rooney supplies us with eight unmissable examples.
In Valeria Luiselli’s debut novel, a young Mexican woman imagines the real life of a long-dead man whose writings she has forged in the voice of a famous American poet. Then things get complicated.
As the world’s supply of writers outpaces the world’s demand for their books, the financial returns for writing have fallen to laughable levels. Then why keep doing it? Paul Griffin explores the problem of writing and money.
A troika of mysteries—one a gripping debut, Precious Thing by Colette McBeth, the others superb new novels from two very special authors: Peter Robinson returns with Children of the Revolution and Donna Leon is back with By Its Cover.
In his latest novel In Paradise Peter Matthiessen dramatizes a collision between the thoughtful philosophy of Zen and the worst of the 20th Century’s horrors.
William S. Burroughs’s notorious Cut-up Trilogy was his fiercest broadside against what he felt was the tyranny of linear thought. Steve Danziger delves into their Word Hoard.
“Your field is the mind, mine is the brain – will the twain ever meet?” Master novelist E. L. Doctorow’s latest deals with the traumas of duality.
The Cairo Affair is an elegant new espionage thriller from the highly accomplished Olen Steinhauer. And in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, Vaughn Entwistle teams Arthur Conan Doyle with Oscar Wilde – what could be better?
B. J. Novak, the gamine and unassuming star of the American version of The Office, has written a collection of short stories, and that collection, remarkably, got published. Justin Hickey decides to judge it on its merits.
Raintree County may be the greatest American novel nobody has ever read. When Michael Johnson pulled it off his shelf, he was instantly hooked: maybe it’s time for a revival.
A dazzling, kaleidescopic debut novel journeys through Kenya’s fraught post-colonial history while unpacking the tangled question of what it means to be a Kenyan.
A close reading of Elisabeth de Waal’s The Exiles Return reminds us that the dream of every returning exile is to savor not only a lost land but a lost time.
A veteran master of suspense, Gerald Seymour enhances his track record with The Dealer and the Dead. Scott O’Connor’s Half World is a chilling fictional take on a secret CIA mind control program activated in the middle of the last century.
We mourn the death of the great Canadian short story writer Mavis Gallant and are re-running Karen Vanuska’s moving appreciation from 2009 in tribute.
The books we reread say a lot about who we are or who we hope to be. They also shape us, as Rebecca Mead discovers in exploring her own long relationship with George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
Spike Jonze is the most mainstream of indie directors — or the most indie of mainstream directors — and his newest film Her is a triumph of quirky charm and visionary depth. Matt Sadler reviews.
February would be unremittingly bleak if it weren’t for the excuse it gives us to ponder the meaning of love, that many-splendored thing. Our editors offer up their favorite literary treatments.
Martha Grimes’ The Way of All Fish is a delectable satire set in the cutthroat world of New York publishing. Max Kinnings’ Baptism is a taut thriller of unbridled terror in the London subway.
One could argue, from the evidence of cable TV ratings, that we’ve entered the age of the anti-hero. But why are they so popular? Adam Sternbergh’s debut novel provides some unexpected answers.
To literary scholar Laura Frost, the great 20th century modernists created readerly pleasures not through familiar comforts but by transforming difficulty and strangeness into something exciting and new. Daniel Green tests the theory.
Romance, nostalgia and beguiling delusions are hallmarks of Lara Vapnyar’s novels, including her sinuous newest, The Scent of Pine
Two fine, first-rate thrillers usher in the New Year. One centers on a major drug bust in a cutting edge contemporary setting, the other tackles one of the most baffling and notorious crime sprees of the Victorian era.
Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.
The new Bridget Jones novel will make you laugh and cry — but it might also make you fret, as it continues the series’ ongoing celebration of incompetence. Is blue soup really the best we can hope for, or the most we should strive for?
John Ford’s story of star-crossed lovers is bloodier than Shakespeare’s and more heart-wrenching, too, for it’s a tragedy of childhood, of innocence lost.
Charles Blackstone, author of the novel Vintage Attraction and managing editor at Bookslut, speaks with Kevin Frazier about Chicago literature, online publishing, and being the spouse of a sommelier
A murder, a trip to the dump, and oh yah – September 11. That wacky Thomas Pynchon is at it again!
“The Moonstone will have its vengeance on you and yours!” Those fateful words propel us into one of the first and best of modern English detective novels — still sensational after all these years.
Led on by a “shared obsession,” a philosopher and a psycyhoanalyst have teamed up to offer their interpretation of Hamlet. With the ghosts of countless critics looming before them, how has this pair fared?
Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s expansive novel Americanah centers on a Nigerian woman’s immigration to the United States and eventual return to Nigeria. Orem Ochiel explores what her story says about complex, often traumatic experience of being black and African in the West.
Vintage records, black dogs, and lost souls fill Dead Set, a teen novel for readers (of all ages) who are sick of half-hearted Hunger Games clones.
A light mantle of frost settles over the crowded events of Jumpha Lahiri’s new novel, which is “about” loss in the way that Anna Karenina is “about” love
The splendid Tatiana is Martin Cruz Smith’s eighth Arkady Renko novel, while Sins of the Flesh is the fifth thriller to feature Colleen McCullough’s offbeat detective Carmine Delmonico.
Jonathan Franzen has translated and annotated a collection of essays by Karl Kraus, the Austrian polemicist known as the Great Hater and one of the signal curmudgeonly influences behind Franzen’s fiction.
How do you follow up on creating Tarzan of the Apes? You give the Ape-Man a son, stranding him in the jungle, and sending him out on hair-raising adventures of his own. And if you’re lucky, a legendary comic book artist will come along and draw it all.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s ambitious new novel imagines the life of a 19th-century woman botanist, as insightful as Darwin but lost to history. It’s an interesting project, and a worthy one, but does the novel live up to its premise?
Throughout its history, humankind has been both terrified by and obsessed with monsters – hence the booming ‘cryptid’ industry, traversing the globe in search of legendary beasts like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. A new book looks at the science and psychology behind our modern bogeymen.
The style of Clarice Lispector’s unconventional and uneasy fiction was driven by both social anxiety and physical pain. How did this transubstantiation take place?
Fearless reporter Renata Adler’s novel “Speedboat” has been stirring debate and controversy since it was published in 1976; now, in a new reprint from the New York Review of Books, it retains its power to shock, subvert, and just maybe seduce.
Never Go Back, Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher adventure, is a winner; plus, the second in a nifty new series, Mortal Bonds by Michael Sears, redefines “follow the money.”
To many the scriptural story of Joseph is ancient and arcane. But its exploration into divine and authorial omniscience make it seem powerfully contemporary.
Distance is complicated: it measures intimacy, but in unpredictable ways. Rebecca Solnit’s evocative new book explores the meaning of distance and closeness.
An aspiring young writer encounters the journals of legendary Canadian novelist Elizabeth Smart, whose virtuoso novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept gives no hint of her struggles with her own writing
Today George Orwell is a buzzword; what can his collected letters tell us about the man himself? G. Robert Ogilvy looks for the human being beneath the persona.
A newly translated selection of occasional prose by Robert Walser demonstrates the Swiss eccentric’s range of manic humor and Romantic melancholy
Two special thrillers, The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton and Alex by Pierre Lemaitre: They “star” a duo of sexual predators—each a particularly nasty piece of work that makes for heart stopping suspense.
A wild fever-dream of a book, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept careers between thrilling emotion and absurd histrionics.
Is David Rakoff’s novel-in-verse either worthy verse or a worthy novel? Does he pull off a high-wire act, as so many critics have concluded, or is it all a grand illusion?
The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.
In Caleb Crain’s debut novel, a young man puts his ordinary life on hold and goes to post-revolution Prague in search of all the usual things young people go searching for in Prague. But, as reviewer Yulia Greyman observes, “false selves are a part of love.”
A young man on a tentative law school track encounters the fiction of Philip Roth, and suddenly, his lostness acquires a commanding sense of purpose. An essay by Barrett Hathcock.
The Lord of the Rings draws on many medieval stories and myths. Oddly absent, however, are overt references to the one myth that ruled them all. A newly published poem fills that gap – but it may bemuseTolkein’s usual readers.
‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.
The stories of British writer H.H. Munro, known by his pen-name Saki, are devastating studies in torment and cruelty; they’re also exceptionally funny. A new collection offers a bracing reminder of that duality.
From the surfeit of Scandinavian thrillers comes one that stands out with the best: Bad Blood by Arne Dahl.
Shirley Jackson is best known – infamous, even – for her chilling story “The Lottery.” But it’s her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, where battle rages between evil within and without, that’s her masterpiece.
When Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1964, her moral authority was called into question. Now Margarethe von Trotta’s new film Hannah Arendt explores both who has the right and who has the responsibility to speak about the Holocaust.
In the famous jingle ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ Katherine Parr comes last – the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. But she was far more than that – scholar, regent, and passionate young woman – as a new Tudor historical novel attempts to portray
An auspicious debut, The Abomination is a riveting conspiracy thriller by Jonathan
Holt. Plus, Philip Kerr’s cheeky, charismatic Berlin cop Bernie Gunther is back in A Man Without Breath.
As the haze and heat of summer kick into full swing, the folk of Open Letters break out their annual Summer Reading recommendations!
Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!
Is close reading disappearing? And is that the most pressing problem facing universities? Terry Eagleton’s latest, How to Read Literature is a plea for a return to what made the humanities worth knowing.
Richard Ford likes complexity, and he filled his novel, The Sportswriter, with sonnet-like weights and counterweights of tangled and gorgeous intricacy. As Spencer Lenfield’s reading demonstrates, single sentences can contain worlds.
Olivia Manning: A Woman at War
By Deirdre David
Oxford University Press, 2013
When is a woman writer not a “woman writer”? What does it mean to claim or resist that identity — for a woman who writes, …
Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.
Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster is merely the newest Great Gatsby for film or television–four adaptations before it attempted to capture the dazzle and pathos of the classic. Matt Sadler us on a tour of West Egg across the decades.
Nice as it is to revisit old friends, readers of Jane Gardam’s latest may end up wondering if all the most interesting things happened somewhere else, at some other time.
John le Carré, the pre-eminent spy writer of the 20th century and beyond, dazzles us again with A Delicate Truth. Plus a debut addition to the ranks of the genre, Red Sparrow, might just earn the author Jason Matthews a pat on the back from the master.
In Andre Aciman’s latest novel, a man recalls his time as a graduate student at Harvard, revisiting the early days of a long-estranged friendship.
On Kate Zambreno’s Heroines and the crime of dismissive criticism in both Bookforum and The LA Review of Books
Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife was universally acclaimed by critics, but behind its beautiful writing lie some dangerously unexamined stereotypes about the Balkans. Pedja Jurisic digs beneath the mythology.
Mark Wallace’s novels won’t be found at a Barnes & Noble, and that may be a shame beyond words: both Dead Carnival and The Quarry and the Lot reveal haunting truths and wrestle language into terrifying attitudes.
In a new memoir packed with garbled madness, we get a funhouse-mirror autobiography of the legendary Richard Hell, who did more than anybody to invent punk rock and only haphazardly survived to tell the tale
Does love create an unbridgeable distance between two souls? Marco Roth’s searching memoir of his microbiologist father alternates between longing and numbness in its search for what, if anything, binds fathers and sons
Born of ancient Buddhist philosophy into the fragments of the modern world, Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge asks essential questions about what it means to be human.
Two seductive thrillers: one starring a fearless female cop, the other a boatload of washed-up MI5 spies.