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How to Build a Girl

Moran is so lively, dazzlingly insightful and fun that “How to Build a Girl” transcends any age restrictions.

Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love

The 1993 biography of Larkin by the poet Andrew Motion is more incisive, stylish and skillfully narrated.

The Moor's Account: A Novel

A bold and exhilarating bid to give a real-life figure muzzled by history the chance to have his say in fiction.

The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light

“The Universal Tone” probably won’t rearrange your molecular structure, but, for all its 500-plus pages of specifics, it’ll prove quite universal for everyone who wonders what their favorite virtuosos are feeling when they’re soloing and seemingly lost in flight.


The events that fill “Skylight” — adultery, incest, physical, sexual and emotional abuse — are shocking on reflection but within the pages emerge so clearly out of the characters’ loneliness, frustration, longing and misery as to seem inevitable.

The May Bride: A Novel

For all its faults, The May Bride is still an entertaining novel.

The Strange Library

The Strange Library’s tremendous presentation almost makes up for the fiction’s failings.

The Silvered

While this is a stand-alone, I’m looking forward to reading more work from Tanya Huff.

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

After reading Solnit I feel smarter. I will come away with a fact, an idea, or a way of thinking that I hadn’t come to before. For that reason alone, I highly recommend The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness to anyone.

Ugly Girls

Hunter’s language is conversational and spare, dressed up by the occasional metaphor—a style that suits her novel about teenagers.

How to be both: A novel

In How To Be Both, Smith manages the rare feat of conjuring up opaqueness and clarity.

Odysseus: The Oath

If the author had given us some possible avenues of thought on the part of his protagonist, we might have moved past the two-dimensional view of the hero that is presented in the second half of the novel.

The Laughing Monsters
Slate : Down and Out (November 04, 2014)

His books rarely have page-turning plots, but they all have momentum. The Laughing Monsters plods, however, and Nair’s isn’t a full-enough consciousness to make up for it. You should still read this book; Johnson remains capable of tiny life-giving descriptions.

The Stone Wife (Peter Diamond #14)

If all the detective work in The Stone Wife that turns out not to have any bearing whatsoever on solving the crime were removed, we’d be left with a not-very-compelling short story.

Yes Please

Poehler writes and delivers jokes beautifully for the screen — with energy and sharp wit. And as a master of improvisation, you know that if she told you these stories woman-to-woman over some beers, she’d have you in stitches. On the page, however, the words lack the sparkle you expect.

There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family

Her theme is what it means to suffer and survive through lives in kitchens and drawing rooms, schoolyards and government offices. Here, she writes between the lines on every page. Here you are, sad by your sink. Here you are, wretched in your day to day. Here you are, unseen and unheard, until now, by me.

Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love
Slate : Pretending to Be Me (November 05, 2014)

James Booth does his best to present a warmer, kinder, more admirable Larkin, seeking in particular to defuse the kind of language Larkin used in his correspondence later in his life. The attempts are, unsurprisingly, unpersuasive, and, coming as they do in 2014, freshly disappointing.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life
Slate : The Lady Vanished (November 06, 2014)

The primary result of Lee’s structural conceit is a lightly uncanny doubling of Fitzgerald’s life and her work, lending the biography some of the dramatic irony of a novel.

Slate : Man Down (December 01, 2014)

Kipnis paints all this male anxiety in the face of women’s growing power as both humorous and poignant.

Neverhome: A Novel

His grand, bleak drama of a woman's and a nation's defining ordeal is nonetheless exhilarating for the beauty of its prose and the depths of its unsentimental compassion.