new books

What Doomsday Looks Like in Annie Jacobsen’s ‘Nuclear War’

Lee Polevoi

How do you imagine the unimaginable? How do you write about it? That’s the task investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen sets for herself in Nuclear War: A Scenario, her hypothetical account of nuclear warfare and the end of the world as we know it.

The Story of a Country’s Descent Into Dictatorship in Paul Lynch’s ‘Prophet Song’

Lee Polevoi

For many readers, the story of a democratic country's descent into dictatorship requires no great leap of imagination. Lynch makes no reference to how this situation came to pass, but the novel’s premise seems altogether plausible.

Irish Life is Bleak and Treacherous in ‘The End of The World is a Cul de Sac’

Lee Polevoi

Louise Kennedy (author of an acclaimed novel, Trespasses) writes beautifully about the Irish and their tumultuous inner lives. In the story, “Hunter-Gatherers,” Siobhán’s fascination with a hare in her backyard turns sour when her lover Sid abruptly puts an end to the wild creature’s life. “In Silhouette” traces a line from the present-day Irish countryside to the Troubles of the 1980s.

New Book Offers Humorous Take on Younger Generation’s Views on Wealth

Glenn R. Miller

On the tree-lined stretch of stately condos and apartment buildings, the structure that had technically been in my possession since 7:37 p.m. two weeks ago Tuesday—the determined hour and minute my father suffered his heart attack—announced itself like Dad invariably did when entering into any setting: loudly, with exuberance, and flashing money.

How a 1920 Wall Street Bombing Tanked the Career of a Famous Detective

Jeffrey D. Simon

As is often true when there are multiple witnesses to a crime, there were varying accounts of the explosion. A sample of 21 witnesses did, however, reveal some points of agreement. Most of them said that a horse-drawn wagon was parked in front of or near the U.S. Assay Office, which was located on Wall Street at the time, and that it was old and dilapidated, its paint worn off.

Traveling Through Space at Lightning Speed in Samantha Harvey’s ‘Orbital’

Lee Polevoi

At times crew members engage in philosophical discussions, where fundamental questions are asked. What does it mean for our planet to be—presumably—the only one to sustain life in this galaxy and galaxies beyond? What does it mean if we’re not the only such life-form? Harvey also brilliantly captures the air of camaraderie these men and women depend upon to survive.

Finding Nature in a Half-Acre of Ground in ‘The Comfort of Crows’

Lee Polevoi

At the same time, the author is keenly aware of our dire political and climate conditions. She strives mightily to resist the bad feelings these situations engender: “Too often I feel I am living in a country I no longer recognize, a country determined to imperil every principle I hold dear and many of the people I love, too. Immersing myself in the natural world of my own backyard … is the way I cope with whatever I think I cannot bear.”

Burkhard Bilger’s Discovery of a War Criminal in the Family in ‘Fatherland’

Lee Polevoi

Soon after the liberation of France, Karl Gönner (called “Karl” throughout the book) was charged with ordering the execution of a villager aligned with the Resistance. A series of investigations followed, leading—many years later—to Karl’s official exoneration (though even that label was later rescinded by a German investigative committee.

Uncontacted Tribe Lives Far off the Grid in ‘The Last Island’

Lee Polevoi

Those of us in the hyper-connected world—that is, just about all other beings around the world—have, it seems, a perverse fascination with tribes who repudiate all contact with the outside world or are justifiably fearful of external contamination. It’s almost impossible to imagine a life devoid (or blessedly relieved) of modern “conveniences.”

A Diamond Heist Goes Awry in ‘The Stolen Coast’

Lee Polevoi

As with any novel steeped in noir, the narrator’s voice is everything. Does Jack’s voice, as shown here sounding somewhat detached from his surroundings, persuade us of the authenticity of his story? Yes, some of the time, while at other moments he comes across as much too naïve for this crooked line of work.

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