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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily


A Book A Week: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

What a refreshing change Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge is from the contemporary fiction I've been reading recently. Instead of a book about self-absorbed whiny people where hardly anything happens, this book is a sprawling saga of World War II in Hungary, with a cast of thousands, a huge variety of locations, war, deprivation, joy, anxiety, relief, love, hate, birth, death, and not a shred of self-pity. I loved it! >More
 Wayne Pacelle's The Bond explores human-animal kinship

One fascinating thing about Wayne Pacelle's new book on the connection between people and animals is that, the more you read, the better its title gets. At first I thought The Bond seemed a bit sentimental, perhaps insubstantial. I cracked open the covers thinking it would tug at my heart more than appeal to my intellect. But in chapter after chapter Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, establishes multiple contexts -- genetic, societal, historical, ethical and even economic -- for his book's central conceit. >More
 A Book A Week: A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Here's a useful new term: Tartan Noir. It describes a form of Scottish crime fiction characterized by troubled protagonists and plots that deal with questions of redemption. >More
 A Book A Week: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I hate it when a character does something that is ...out of character. Not just unpredictable, but something you just feel like that character wouldn't do. When you know a character as well as you know your own sister (for example) and then she does something you just know she would not do, it's like a blast of cold air that interrupts and ultimately diminishes the whole reading experience. This was the experience I had with Her Fearful Symmetry. >More
 A Book A Week: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction. Many people a lot smarter than I am have analyzed this book in depth, so I'm not going to do that. Any book about self-hating Jews and anti-Semitism is bound to generate a lot of discussion, and I am certain I have nothing new to add. >More
 A Book A Week: The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum won a Pulitzer Prize for science journalism and is a professor at the University of Wisconsin. One of her former students recommended The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, and I'd also heard from several mystery readers that it was a really fun book, if you don't mind a little chemistry with your drama. >More
 A Book A Week: Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith

In Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, Michael Chabon argues for blurring the lines between genre fiction and mainstream literary fiction when we talk about writing. Stalin's Ghost is a perfect book to further Chabon's argument that some of the best modern writing is happening in genre fiction (mystery, science fiction, fantasy) rather than in traditional literary fiction. >More
 A Book A Week: The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmanns of Westport was the January selection at my book club. I enjoyed it, though not everyone else did. Elana thought there was too much "tell" and not enough "show," and I think Phyllis thought it was a bit lightweight, though she was too polite to say so. I, however, was happily entertained by it, though I don't think either Elana or Phyllis are incorrect in their analyses. >More
 A Book A Week: Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End got a lot of good press and won some awards, including the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award. It's the story of a group of people who work together in a Chicago advertising agency. >More
 A Book A Week: Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar

Sometimes people ask me how I choose books. I usually answer something like "Oh, I have a lot of writers whose work I like, so just keeping up with their new books can fill my time." Or I"ll tell them that I regularly read the newspaper book review pages and make my choices based on that advice. >More
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