Bound for a Crash
1929 by Frederick Turner
A novel doesn’t quite capture the life of Bix Beiderbecke.
America’s Magic Mountain by Curtis White
Cultural malaise relocates to the heartland.
Welcome to Yop City
Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (translated from the French by Helge Dascher)
A graphic novel explores 1970s Côte d’Ivoire.
Maybe a Map Would Be Good
Baghdad Without a Map by Tony Horwitz
Horwitz gives good story but without much insight.
Not a True War Story
Band of Brothers (television miniseries)
For all its glitz and cinematic power, Band of Brothers doesn’t tell the truth.
Buddha-Obsessed in Bangkok
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
Detective Jitplecheep seeks revenge and his father.
Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
Detective novel throws too many cross-cultural spitballs.
An Unlikely Feminist
Beyond Illusions by Duong Thu Huong
Like the dissident author, Linh does things her way.
The Boys’ Crusade by Paul Fussell
Paul Fussell casts an unflinching eye on the war in Europe.
Freaking Out in Earnest
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Beard’s essays are sincere, funny, and self-mocking.
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Beard makes wonderful use of the present tense.
The Trouble with Pussy
Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe
Pat McCabe’s Pussy Braden slips into the absurd.
Breakfast Served Any Time All Day by Donald Hall
A cantankerous poet vents brilliantly about his art.
Chute, as in Chickadee
Underestimate Carolyn Chute at your own risk.
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace is charming but too self-aware.
Appeasing the Spirits
The Conversion by Aharon Appelfeld
Becoming a Christian doesn’t save an Austrian Jew.
The March of Continuing Rot
Denison, Iowa: Searching for the Soul of America Through the Secrets of a Midwest Town by Dale Maharidge, photographs by Michael Williamson
A bad writer goes looking for the soul of America.
Bringing His Shitheels to Maine
Profile | Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Russo’s working class novels find a new home.
Small Town Freedom
Ernie’s Ark: Stories by Monica Wood
No one really knows anyone else in Abbott Falls.
Romance and Suicide Bombs
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
Graphic novel deftly traces a stuttering romance in Tel Aviv.
Getting Cozy with Gangs
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
A sociologist infiltrates a gang, violence ensues.
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy
Water is a constant presence in this gorgeous debut novel.
The Ranting Spirit
How Early America Sounded by Richard Rath
A scholar studies life before images took over.
Whom to Believe?
Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader by Michael Breen; North Korea: Another Country by Bruce Cumings
Two writers offer vastly different takes on the Hermit Kingdom.
Louder Than the Bombs
Memories of a Pure Spring by Duong Thu Huong
Novel provides a devastating glimpse of postwar Vietnam.
Pulled into Nazareth …
Music from Big Pink by John Niven
A novel about The Band’s classic album indulges in some “classic cliché shit.”
This Life Is for the Kurds
My Father’s Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan by Hiner Saleem
Give him 99 pages, he’ll give you his childhood and the plight of the Iraqi Kurds.
My Pilgrim’s Progress: Media Studies 1950-1998 by George W. S. Trow
For the patient, Trow will connect all the dots of the last half century.
The ‘Game’ Is Afoot
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Volumes I & II by Arthur Conan Doyle; Leslie S. Klinger, editor
Sherlockian “scholars” pay tribute to the sleuth by pretending he actually lived.
Huong, You Dissident Slut
No Man’s Land by Duong Thu Huong
Vietnam’s most famous dissident publishes her fifth novel in English.
The Lunatic Display
(Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions by Steve Almond
An essayist delivers a stinky belch of Schadenfreude.
Odd, Exhausting, and Beautiful
The Pen Friend by Ciaran Carson
An Irish poet writes a sort-of thriller.
What He Did for a Gig
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Animator Guy Delisle visits the heart of the Hermit Kingdom.
Dirty Old Mann
The Real Tadzio by Gilbert Adair
Author tracks down the real boy at the center of Death in Venice.
The Real Heroes?
Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina, edited by Horst Faas and Tim Page
Photographs are a grim reminder of what price comes attached to the knowledge of war.
Lighting Up the Dark Ages
The Rise of Western Christendom, Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200–1000 by Peter Brown
Noted scholar produces a magisterial history of a forgotten and misunderstood era.
What a Coincidence
Shamrock Tea by Ciaran Carson; Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald; The Horned Man by James Lasdun
Three novels answer Holmes’ call to infer Niagara Falls from a drop of water.
Profile | The Smallest Color by Bill Roorbach
Debut novel remembers the cultural upheaval of the 1960s.
An Elliptical Life
The Story of a Life by Aharon Appelfeld
The great Jewish novelist struggles, beautifully, to write a memoir.
Lost in Translation
The Story of a Life and A Table for One: Under the Light of Jerusalem by Aharon Appelfeld; No Man’s Land by Duong Thu Huong; My Father’s Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan by Hiner Saleem; and Three Generations by Yom Sang-seop
How are you supposed to know if a translation is any good?
Summering with the Dostoevskys
Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin
A novel confronts Dostoevsky’s anti-Semitism.
History and Yu
War Trash by Ha Jin
A Chinese soldier is taken prisoner in Korea.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Watchmen (Absolute Editions) by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins
Watchmen is everything, even boring.
Not Quite Never Again
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch; The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgivenessby Wole Soyinka
How is the world supposed to respond to the African killing fields?
The Whore’s Child by Richard Russo
A novelist constructs the perfect postmodern story.
Finding His Inner Redneck
Profile | The Wooden Nickel by William Carpenter
Maine author looks at life on the other side.
Fat, Brainy, and Jewish
A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941–1945, edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova
Russian novelist Vasily Grossman earns his humanity on the front lines.
Dare to Be Dowdy!
Yesterday’s Weather by Anne Enright
Short stories offer up both slit throats and dirty acrylic jumpers.
Portraits: Aharon Appelfeld (Getty), Jo Ann Beard (Jennifer May Lores), Duong Thu Huong (Mark Kessler)