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.

Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit/Hachette Book Group


The current rate of extinctions compared to the ecological norm is now several thousandfold faster, making this the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s history, and thus the start of the Anthropocene in its clearest demarcation, which is to say, we are in a biosphere catastrophe that will be obvious in the fossil record for as long as the Earth lasts…Evolution itself will of course eventually refill all these emptied ecological niches with new species. The pre-existing plenitude of speciation will be restored in less than twenty million years.

 from The Ministry for the Future


  

Matt Haig

Viking

 


It is so easy, while trapped in just the one life, to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure or fear are a result of that particular existence. That it is a by-product of living a certain way, rather than simply living. I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunize you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other.

                from The Midnight Library


  

Nathan Harris

Little, Brown and Co.


Prentiss retreated into himself. He knew how to live in his head. He’d made a similar journey every day in the fields, wandering in his mind’s eye to a place he’d never been, a place that was equal parts destination and idea. Elsewhere was the only name it carried. The barn beside George’s cabin was elsewhere; a patch of free ground up north was elsewhere; his mother was elsewhere; salvation was elsewhere […] and a fate, any fate, other than the one that lay before him would be a perfectly fine road to elsewhere. The map, with all its many variations, was in his head, yet he knew quite well he would never make the journey.

                from The Sweetness of Water


  

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