Two-dimensional characters and corny dialogue plague Roth's new novel about a 1944 polio epidemic in Newark, N.J. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author pulls off a gorgeous finale, but his latest work doesn't meet the high bar he set with American Pastoral.
By Heller McAlpin/ NPR
Nemesis By Philip Roth Hardcover, 282 pages Houghton Mifflin Harcourt List Price: $26
The humorist, who made his name with personal essays and other nonfiction, tells Steve Inskeep that his return to fiction kept taking him to surprising places. But the unhappy endings? Those he could have predicted.
By Morning Edition/NPR
David Sedaris isn't out to teach anybody any life lessons. So sure, his latest collection, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, uses self-aggrandizing mice and gullible storks to explore some very human foibles and failings.
Fall of Giants is the latest doorstop from author Ken Follett. The massive tome is the first in a three-part series that follows five families through the tumultuous events of the 20th century.
By All Things Considered/NPR
The author who has dominated epic storytelling for three decades is back with another ambitious saga. Ken Follett's new novel is called Fall of Giants, and as the 985-page first installment of a trilogy covering the 20th century, it certainly qualifies as epic.
Readers know Roald Dahl through his books, specifically his children's stories. But Donald Sturrock's 'Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl' delves much deeper into the life of the famed author.
In her new memoir, NPR's All Things Considered co-host uncovers some painful family secrets -- the "things left unsaid" by her African-American relatives as they tried to shield the younger generation from memories that haunted the past.
Kevin Huizenga's alter-ego Glenn Ganges returns in his latest collection of spiky, intellectually adventurous stories -- drawn in friendly, stylized art. The Wild Kingdom is like entries from the Encyclopedia Britannica of an alternate, funnier universe.
The titular event happens just a few pages into Paul Murray's novel; the rest of the story is an extended flashback, following the doomed Skippy, his geeky roommate and their cadre of bored, irreverent friends as they tease girls, dodge bullies and attend Catholic school in a rundown Dublin neighborhood.
Real archaeologists are nothing like Indiana Jones, but that doesn't mean their world isn't dramatic and dangerous. Author Craig Childs sheds a light on pot hunters and relic diggers in his new book, Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession.
Real archaeologists are nothing like Indiana Jones, but that doesn't mean the job isn't dangerous or dramatic.
In a powerful memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey surveys the storm-battered landscape of the place she once called home. Beyond Katrina is a powerful meditation on things long gone that will never come back.
There's been plenty of buzz about Jonathan Franzen's much-anticipated fourth novel ever since President Obama accepted an advance readers copy for his vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Critic Heller McAlpin says inflated expectations aside, she found Freedom to be a surprisingly moving and hopeful epic.
The Daily Beast editor chats with Renee Montagne about the best things she's been reading lately. Brown's focus this month: surviving and thriving in adversity, from the challenges of rescuing a major corporation to the difficulties of readjusting to life after wartime.
It's not unusual to get in a cab and find a paperback novel on the seat next to the driver. What makes Jack Clark's cab different is that he's both the driver and the author.
By Fresh Air/NPR
Jack Clark is a Chicago cab driver who's been driving for 30 years and written three books. The Washington Post called his mystery novel Nobody's Angel a "gem that doesn't contain a wasted word or a false note."
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a complex, historical novel set on a Dutch trading post in late 18th century Japan. Author David Mitchell explains the extensive research that went into re-creating a bygone era.
If many types of paper-based books are headed for extinction, what will take their place? "E-readers" are a big part of the present and future -- but not the whole story. Video games and multi-narrator online stories will have their places too.
By Linton Weeks/NPR
The premise of Lane Smith's new work for children, It's a Book, is simple: Books are under siege.
On the first page a donkey asks a monkey, "What do you have there?" The monkey replies: "It's a book."
The writer once said about his fellow Americans, "It is astonishing that in a country so devoted to the individual, so many people should be afraid to speak." Baldwin was African-American and openly gay -- but he was not afraid to speak, and his writings challenged black and white readers alike.
A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
By Morning Edition/NPR
Ada Copeland, an African-American woman born in Georgia just months before that state seceded from the Union, moved to New York City in the mid-1880s. There, she met a man named James Todd. He was light-skinned, handsome, had a good job for an African-American man in that time ? a Pullman porter.
Book reviews can be pretty liberal about comparing authors to Jane Austen, but here's a writer who actually lives up to that association.
By Morning Edition
Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector has much of what Jane Austen is most loved for: admirable and lovable heroines, ridiculous and foolish characters, and love stories that must overcome the impediments both society and fortune place in their path. And there's also food.
It can be tough to read on hot, humid mornings in Kansas City in the summertime ? and then the sun also rises. Always persevering, KCUR's Maria Carter welcomed back the Book Doctors to offer ideas for your summer reading. In the first half of the program, they offer up what they've been reading and invite listeners to pitch in with their current favorites. In the second half, we wish Ernest Hemingway a happy 111th birthday and celebrate some his classic works and their impact on the rest of literature and culture.
The Kansas Notable Book List, a project of the Kansas Center for the Book (KCFB) at the State Library of Kansas, is an annual selection of 15 titles written by Kansans or about Kansas published in the previous year.
By Sara Jane Crane
The 2010 Kansas Notable Books are (alphabetical by title and brief synopsis):