Book Reviews

Alan's haunting novel of the AIDS epidemic, As If Death Summoned, was released on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2020, and has won the Foreword INDIES LGBT Book of the Year Award. Watch the book trailer here. Read the reviews here.

Frederik Logevall

Random House


The survival of democracy depended on having an informed and active citizenry, committed to reasoned discourse and accepting of good-faith bargaining between the parties…Neither then nor later was Kennedy above bare-knuckle politics or partisan sparring, but he grasped already in this first race that compromise is necessary to a well-functioning democracy, and that civility in the public realm prevents dehumanization and helps us see political opponents as adversaries, not enemies.

                from JFK


Barry Lopez

Vintage Books


I read daily about the many threats to human life—chemical, political, biological, and economic. Much of this trouble, I believe, has been caused by the determination of some to define a human cultural world apart from the nonhuman world…It is here, with these attempts to separate the fate of the human world from that of the nonhuman world that we come face-to-face with a biological reality that halts us in our tracks: nature will be fine without us.

                from Horizon


Paul Beatty

Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux


 Five white kids, their backpacks filled with books, rape whistles, and mace, hopped off a rented school bus and attempted to reintegrate Chaff Middle School, where Assistant Principal Charisma Molina stood in the doorway, barring entrance to her quasi-segregated institution…Shoulders hunched and arms held up protectively in front of their faces, the Dickens Five, as the quintet would come to be known, braced themselves for the pillory of rocks and bottles as they ran the gauntlet and into history. But unlike Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 3, 1957, the city of Dickens didn’t spit in their faces and hurl racial epithets; rather, it begged them for autographs, asked if they already had dates for the junior prom… 

                     from The Sellout


Galway Kinnell 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



Don’t know where to start? Here are some suggestions:

Oregon poet William Stafford, or Billy Collins and Dorothy Parker for poetry seasoned with wry humor, Amanda Gorman, who wowed us at the inauguration, Bob Pyle’s Tidewater Reach, Gwendolyn Brooks (“We real cool.”) Edna St. Vincent Millay (she who burnt her candle at both ends), Adrienne Rich, current US poet laureate Joy Harjo, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s classic Coney Island of the Mind, Mary Oliver, and (fill in the blank yourself.) Or try a smorgasbord of poets: Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, or the Columbia Anthology of American Poetry.




Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Del Rey


His hands were steady on her wrists now.
“Do you think I’m mad like those hatters?” she asked…
“Dear God, no. I think you’re sane and clever. Much too clever, perhaps. Why won’t you listen to me? Really listen. Leave today. Leave right this instant. This is no place for you.”
“What do you know that you aren’t telling me?”
(Francis) stared at her, his hands still gripping her own. “Noemí, just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted…”

     from Mexican Gothic


Lily King

Grove Press

Nearly every guy I’ve dated believed they should already be famous, believed that greatness was their destiny and they were already behind schedule. An early moment of intimacy often involved a confession of this sort: a childhood vision, teacher’s prophesy, a genius IQ. At first, with my boyfriend in college, I believed it, too. Later, I thought I was just choosing delusional men. Now I understand it’s how boys are raised to think, how they are lured into adulthood. I’ve met ambitious women, driven women, but no woman has ever told me that greatness was her destiny.

     from Writers & Lovers


Eric Weiner

Avid Reader Press



We think we want information and knowledge. We do not. We want wisdom. There’s a difference. Information is a jumble of facts, knowledge a more organized jumble. Wisdom untangles the facts, makes sense of them, and crucially, suggests how best to use them. As the British musician Miles Kington said: “Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

     from The Socrates Express


James Raven, editor

Oxford University Press



Cultural conservatives of the late eighteenth century imagined a wide range of contemporary ills  that they blamed on the malign influence of untutored reading: a wave of suicides, set off by the reading of Werther and the writings of the philosophes; an epidemic of masturbation, spread through the solitary reading of erotic literature … and, most ominously, a growing incapacity of women afflicted with ‘reading addiction’ to distinguish adequately between fact and fiction and to attend responsibly to their daily chores.

     from The Oxford Illustrated History 
                of the Book


Maggie O’Farrell

Alfred A. Knopf



Mary inhales, shutting her eyes for a moment, as if mustering the final shreds of her patience. “Agnes,” she says, opening her eyes and fixing them on her son, “is with child. Says it’s yours.”

He gives a nod and a shrug, all at the same time, eyeing the broad back of his father, who looms behind his mother, still facing the street…

“Is it?” his mother says, her face white, stretched.

“Is it what?” …


“Is what mine?” …

Mary presses her lips together. “Did you put it there?”

“Did I put what where?”


                               from Hamnet


Megha Majumdar

Alfred A. Knopf



I learned English, the language of progress. I couldn’t get anywhere if I didn’t speak English, even I knew that. But I dreaded being asked to stand up and read from the textbook…The other girls, from middle-class homes where they read English newspapers and watched Hollywood films, disdained me. But in the slum, I was the only one with an English textbook, and who cared whether I was good or not? It was a place where most could not read a word—Bengali or English—and what I had was a great skill.

                         from A Burning