Rating:About a Boy, by Nick Hornby. Riverhead Books (1998), 307 pages.
This cover is the worst, most misleading disgrace of any book I’ve read in the last five years. The googly eyes are actually raised from the page! They stick up! Everything about this cover screams Don’t take me seriously,
Rating:The Blue Orchard, by Jackson Taylor. Touchstone (2010), 416 pages.
Taylor’s novel about abortion in America, from the Depression to the early 1950s, is based on events in his grandmother’s life and on interviews with many of the central figures involved.
(This review first appeared in January 2006)
Rating:The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Penguin Books (2005), 487 pages.
This is a book for people who love books. Not just the language of books, but the very essence of bookness—the feel and sight and smell of books, and the fact that the very good ones are actually alive:
Rating:Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. Simon Schuster (2009), 288 pages.
Little Bee is a fourteen-year-old girl from Nigeria who is living in England in a detention center for illegal immigrants. She shares the narration of this novel with a woman named Sarah who she met several years ago when Sarah was visiting Africa with her husband.
Rating:What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller. Henry Holt and Co (2003), 272 pages.
Barbara Covett, the narrator of Heller’s novel, appears to be an opinionated but harmless, even kindly, older woman who has taken an interest in the naiive struggling new teacher Sheba.
Rating:The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Knopf (2006), 552 pages.
This is the story of a German girl living in a foster family in a working-class town in Germany during World War II. Such a setting encompasses, of course, all of the grand drama you would expect: tragedy, devastation, Nazis, death camps,
Rating:The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,by Kate DiCamillo.Candlewick Press (2006), 198 pages.
This is the rare children’s book that works just as well for adults as it does for children. It is also beautifully designed, with pencil and full-color illustrations that are simply delightful and are sure to contribute to this book becoming a classic.
Rating:The Darkest Child, by Delores Phillips. Soho Press (2004), 387 pages.
This is a very well-written and disturbing (in a good way) novel that does not deserve its ugly cover. The boring stock photo of a stern young girl, along with the incongruous sunny colors, doesn’t complement the writing or the plot,
Rating:The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski. Ecco (2008), 576 pages.
I heard about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle long before it was published, due to early rave reviews billing it as “An American Masterpiece.” I was excited about this as the plot sounded unbeatable:
Rating:The Glass of Time: The Secret Life of Miss Esperanza Gorst, Narrated by Herself, by Michael Cox. W.W. Norton & Company (2008), 575 pages.
In Victorian England, young Esperanza Gorst, a twenty-year-old orphan, applies for a position as personal servant to the 26th Baroness Tansor, a widowed woman with two grown sons who owns a large estate outside of London.