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Insight and Books


Herman: Here are my can’t-miss predictions for 2017

Happy 2,017, the year I finally muster up the courage to take a stand and push back against the nonsensical decision, made in late 999, not to put commas in years. I hope you will join me in what I believe will be the crusade of a lifetime. Prior to getting into my can’t-miss predictions for the new year, let’s take a look at how I did with my can’t-miss predictions for the year...
The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

This week in “Texas Titles,” we revisit the Armadillo World Headquarters, rediscover a Houston philanthropist, look into a Texas governor’s impeachment, dip into a historical novel and find out about a Texas progressive coalition that beat Jim Crow and Juan Crow. “Armadillo World Headquarters” by Eddie Wilson with Jesse Sublett (TSSI Publishing/UT Press) One wag called...
Magical novel makes readers think about struggles of refugees

Magical novel makes readers think about struggles of refugees

Recommended reading “Exit West: A Novel” by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books). The author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” goes full-on magical realist in this exceptional novel, as two young lovers, Saeed and Nadia, meet in an unnamed city. They text, they hang out, they start building a life. But they must flee as war...
Benjamin Alire Sáenz dives back into the rich lives of teens

Benjamin Alire Sáenz dives back into the rich lives of teens

Three college-bound Latino teens navigate their ways through senior year in El Paso in the “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (for ages 14-17). Born to white parents, Salvador was adopted at the age of 3 by a gay, Mexican-American man and embraced by his extended family. His closest friends are Sam, an extroverted girl with a drama-filled life, and Fito...
Can women have work-life balance and have a career? Lisen Stromberg discusses in new book

Can women have work-life balance and have a career? Lisen Stromberg discusses in new book

Lisen Stromberg wrote “Work Pause Thrive.” Lisen Stromberg was at South by Southwest Sunday signing her book “Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career.
Get a peek inside writer Joan Didion’s mind

Get a peek inside writer Joan Didion’s mind

Recommended reading “South and West: From a Notebook” by Joan Didion (Knopf). Well, this was unexpected. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and “The White Album,” Didion’s game-changing collections about the ’60s and ’70s, remain touchstones for those wishing to write about America. In “South and West,” we get to look at two excerpts from...
Commentary: Why white Austinites need to be talking about racism

Commentary: Why white Austinites need to be talking about racism

If you’re black, you don’t need to learn about The Talk because you’ve probably already had it. In February, the Statesman launched a series about the conversation that black families have with their children about how to interact with police officers to minimize the chance that they’ll end up in handcuffs — or worse. Let’s face it: It’s too easy for white...
A thriller set on Jupiter, plus a look back before Bill Nye’s in Austin

A thriller set on Jupiter, plus a look back before Bill Nye’s in Austin

An expedition to one of Jupiter’s moons leads to contact with an alien species that may be plotting a takeover of Earth in Lance Erlick’s sci-fi novel, “Xenogeneic: First Contact.” Dr. Elena Sweetwater Pyetrov is excited to continue her father Alexander’s work on Europa, where his ship disappeared nearly two decades earlier. But when her shuttle inexplicably passes by...
Best book to read? Try the best-sellers list

Best book to read? Try the best-sellers list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo,’ George Saunders 2. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 3. ‘Aftermath: Empire’s End,’ Chuck Wendig 4. ‘Echoes in Death,’ J.D. Robb 5. ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Jonathan Kellerman 6. ‘A Conjuring of Light,’ V.E. Schwab 7. ‘A Piece of the World,’ Christina Baker...
When Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel

When Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel

Do you think they’ll shoot an episode of “The Crown” in Austin? If so, they absolutely must use the Four Seasons Hotel Austin as a location. Why so? Because Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II stayed there in 1991. The staff lined up for her arrival and the women curtsied. Executive assistant Missy Kreisle remembers that when she checked in, the British equivalent of the Secret Service...
‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ explores afterlife in the old, weird America

‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ explores afterlife in the old, weird America

We, the people, are never, ever going to get over Abraham Lincoln. Not that we should, mind you — we are, on some level, all here because of him. We just need to be aware that the getting-over is never going to happen. Lincoln will be animating this country’s imagination for as long as this country is around. He is a go-to allegory/historical figure/national spiritual vector of the first...
Welsh lady detectives charm in ‘The Case of the Curious Cook’

Welsh lady detectives charm in ‘The Case of the Curious Cook’

An all-female Welsh detective agency takes on a case of reverse robbery in “The Case of the Curious Cook” by Cathy Ace. A pound’s worth of plumbing equipment would have saved some priceless books from water damage in the library of Henry Devereaux Twyst, the 18th Duke of Chellingworth, and spared Twyst a spot of bother, too. He has to call in Bryn Jenkins, a local bookseller in Hay-on-Wye...
The man in the picture. That is my daddy!

The man in the picture. That is my daddy!

After a photo taken in 1958 on East Sixth Street by Hans Beacham ran in newspaper on Feb. 5, we received two calls. Geneva Campbell Perius and Bill Campbell, both in their 70s, separately identified the man in a hat — turning and putting his right hand into his back pocket — as their father, the late Heber Campbell. Previously, reader Doug Dawson had quipped: “That fella looks like...
Get a look at President George W. Bush’s painting skills

Get a look at President George W. Bush’s painting skills

Recommended reading “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” by George W. Bush (Crown). When history reflects upon the early 21st century and makes a definitive list of “Well, Nobody Saw That One Coming,” the revelation that former president and devout Texan George W. Bush was a serious hobbyist painter in oils has got to be way...
George Saunders, Neil Gaiman, J.D. Robb on best-seller lists this week

George Saunders, Neil Gaiman, J.D. Robb on best-seller lists this week

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo,’ George Saunders 2. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 3. ‘Aftermath: Empire’s End,’ Chuck Wendig 4. ‘Echoes in Death,’ J.D. Robb 5. ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Jonathan Kellerman 6. ‘A Conjuring of Light,’ V.E. Schwab 7. ‘A Piece of the World,’ Christina Baker...
With a bag of pasta in the pantry, dinner is just minutes away

With a bag of pasta in the pantry, dinner is just minutes away

Dried pasta isn’t very sexy, unless it’s 5:30 p.m. and you’re running on empty. Colu Henry, the author of a new book called “Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly,” grew up in an Italian-American household where pasta was the go-to meal many nights a week.
‘My Favorite Thing is Monsters’ is already a highlight of 2017

‘My Favorite Thing is Monsters’ is already a highlight of 2017

Suggested reading “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics). Great books, records, TV and movies make me want to jump around the room and tell people about them. Perhaps because they are still a bit underknown to the masses who buy books and records regularly and watch TV and movies, great comics make me want to run around the room in ever faster laps and turn me into...
‘Hidden Figures’ hits paperback best-sellers list

‘Hidden Figures’ hits paperback best-sellers list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 2. ‘Echoes in Death,’ J.D. Robb 3. ‘Never Never,’ James Patterson and Candice Fox 4. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 5. ‘Right Behind You,’ Lisa Gardner 6. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 7. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 8. ‘The Girl...
Mystery of the unknown Austin football game solved?

Mystery of the unknown Austin football game solved?

One of our favorite Facebook pages is titled “Austin As It Used To Be.” Public members — who number 2,655 — post mostly old pictures of our city along with memories, questions and answers. Jolene Haney posted an image — linked to a Portal to Texas History page — described as “Photograph of football players sitting on the sidelines at an Austin football game...
Killing time this weekend? Here’s how to make your own Lärabars

Killing time this weekend? Here’s how to make your own Lärabars

Lisa Leake is the North Carolina-based blogger whose quest to forgo any kind of processed food for 100 days turned into a cookbook writing career.
P.J. Hoover is back with ‘Tut’ sequel and at BookPeople next month

P.J. Hoover is back with ‘Tut’ sequel and at BookPeople next month

Writing the sequel to a successful novel can be even more challenging than penning the original. An author must revisit the elements that made the first book a hit while steering clear of retreads. The plot must be kept fresh enough to satisfy stalwart fans, yet still win over new ones who might not be familiar with the backstory. Back in 2015, Austin author P.J. Hoover tapped into the mythology-hungry...
Want to teach your tot Spanish? MamaLingua app can help

Want to teach your tot Spanish? MamaLingua app can help

MamaLingua app helps parents and their young children learn Spanish or English. It’s from the minds of Austin moms Aileen Passariello-McAleer and Christia Madacsi Hoffman.
1934-2017: Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright dies at age 82

1934-2017: Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright dies at age 82

Hard-living, boundary-pushing magazine writer Gary Cartwright, 82, died Wednesday morning at Seton Medical Center Austin after complications from a fall in his home. Originally a newspaperman, Cartwright spent much of his career at Texas Monthly magazine, where he was among the first writers hired in the 1970s. He remained among its most durable contributors until his retirement as senior editor in...

Viewpoints: Improving police rapport with blacks starts with The Talk

This year, as in recent years, Austin topped a key national list for the best place to live in the country. But if you are African-American, the Austin experience has another foreboding side that requires black parents to provide special training for their children. They do that through The Talk. Not properly preparing children – and especially black boys – for police encounters can have...
‘Universal Harvester’ uses horror tropes to get to deeper truths

‘Universal Harvester’ uses horror tropes to get to deeper truths

Unless you are a really old-school fan of singer-songwriter John Darnielle’s brilliant semi-acoustic rock outfit the Mountain Goats, it is entirely possible you don’t know that he is a grade-A horror nerd. The very first MG cassette was called “Taboo VI: The Homecoming,” a title about as horror-nerd as it gets. Had you read his terrific first novel “Wolf in White Van...
‘Black Edge’ gives fun look at a distasteful industry

‘Black Edge’ gives fun look at a distasteful industry

Recommended reading “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street” by Sheelah Kolhatkar (Random House). This nonfiction, thriller-esque tale is that of one Steven A. Cohen, one of the most brutal (and possibly brutally unpleasant) hedge fund investors of all time, and the U.S. government’s attempts to bring him to heel...
2 new books explore the complicated worlds of parents and family

2 new books explore the complicated worlds of parents and family

A young surrogate mother changes her mind and goes AWOL in “The Nearness of You” ($27, Random House) by Austin author Amanda Eyre Ward. Suzette and Hyland Kendall, she a workaholic heart surgeon, he an unhappy architect, agreed early on not to have children. As the child of a severely mentally ill mother — her early memories include being rescued by a firefighter from a burning house...
Passionate pages: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these books about love

Passionate pages: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these books about love

We’ve been feeling the love as readers shared some of their favorite books with us via email and social media. There were many fans of such romantic classics as “Pride and Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre.” But in reading your responses, we also found some new books to add to our reading lists. We hope you’ll find something to love here, too. Karey Bresenhan: “Gone...
Neil Gaiman puts his touch on the stories of Odin, Thor and more

Neil Gaiman puts his touch on the stories of Odin, Thor and more

Recommended reading “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman (W. W. Norton & Company). As author of the wildly influential 1990s comic book series “Sandman” and the novel “American Gods,” the TV version of which will screen at South By Southwest, Neil Gaiman is no stranger to creating his own mythologies. Here, he takes on the Norse pantheon, less well-known (except as...
Find out what everyone’s reading right now

Find out what everyone’s reading right now

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Never Never,’ James Patterson and Candice Fox 2. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 3. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 4. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 5. ‘The Girl Before,’ JP Delaney 6. ‘The Mistress,’ Danielle Steel 7. ‘The Chemist,’ Stephenie Meyer 8. ‘Small...
The secrets behind two old train stations on Springdale Road

The secrets behind two old train stations on Springdale Road

Driving by the 900 block of Springdale Road, one could easily miss them: Two old train stations, set far back behind a large parking lot. One is now called Springdale Station, the other Pine Street Station. They sit on an industrial spur next to a beehive of activity in the transformed Frostex Foods plant, which now includes two breweries, a rock climbing facility and an art gallery. Moya McIntyre...
Austin veteran from World War II remains a witness to Nazi atrocities

Austin veteran from World War II remains a witness to Nazi atrocities

The silence was almost as overpowering as the stench of death. It was April 12, 1945, and soldiers with the 9th Infantry Division had happened upon the Nordhausen slave labor camp, hidden in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Prisoners at the camp had been worked to exhaustion and rarely saw daylight as they were chained to workbenches in the mountain’s tunnels. Those who were no longer fit to assemble...
For Homesick Texan’s next book, you’re gonna need tortilla chips

For Homesick Texan’s next book, you’re gonna need tortilla chips

Queso is about to go big. Lisa Fain, the New York-based blogger behind the popular blog, Homesick Texan, announced this week that her next book, coming this fall, will be all about what is arguably Texas’ most beloved foods.
Theater through text: Katherine Catmull story plays out on your phone

Theater through text: Katherine Catmull story plays out on your phone

Although some people grouse that text messaging is an impersonal way of talking to others, esteemed local playwright Steve Moore thinks the truth is a little more nuanced. “Oddly, I think we talk less but communicate more — more frequently but also more complexly,” he tells me via text. “I think most people get to be funnier, smarter and more sincere over text than they can...
Austin, this is not our first rodeo

Austin, this is not our first rodeo

Round ‘em up. Move ‘em out. Rodeo Austin’s big show returns March 11-25 to the Travis County Expo Center. There was a time when the rodeo was as central to Austin’s social life as, say, South by Southwest or the Austin City Limits Music Festival are today. Only the University of Texas Longhorns games — and perhaps, for a while, Austin Aqua Festival — outranked this...
Mammoth novel is a tale of four Archies

Mammoth novel is a tale of four Archies

Suggested reading “4321” by Paul Auster (Macmillan). The newest from this complicated author with a (once?) substantial cult following is largely unlike what he has written before. The tight, weird pith that animated his earlier, shorter work has been replaced by this mammoth (880 pages; the audio book clocks in at 36 hours) tome. On March 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., four “identical...
Homer Thornberry: Austin’s congressman, judge and Supreme Court nominee

Homer Thornberry: Austin’s congressman, judge and Supreme Court nominee

With all the talk about current and future openings on the highest court in the land, did you know that exactly one native Austinite was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? And not that long ago, historically speaking. In 1968, during a time of enormous social friction, President Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted to promote Associate Justice Abe Fortas, a Tennessean, to replace Earl Warren...
Tell us: What’s your favorite book about love?

Tell us: What’s your favorite book about love?

We love books. You do, too. So, what’s your favorite book about love? AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014 Oh, “Wuthering Heights.
Grim, gritty ‘Homesick For Another World’ still finds humor

Grim, gritty ‘Homesick For Another World’ still finds humor

Ottessa Moshfegh’s excellent short story collection “Homesick for Another World” contains a darkness that feels almost cancerous in spots. Author of the breakout 2015 novel “Eileen” (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and picked up a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award), Moshfegh chronicles folks who aren’t sure what rock bottom looks like because they might...
Family, the Cold War and more come together in novel

Family, the Cold War and more come together in novel

Recommended reading “The Patriots: A Novel” by Sana Krasikov (Spiegel & Grau). It seemed, to the idealistic Florence Fein, like a good idea at the time: Abandon the United States, which had plunged into the Great Depression, for a gig in Moscow. Except she ends up there for far longer than anticipated. Decades later, her son Julian heads back to the capitalist West, a Soviet Jew allowed...
Got cookbooks you don’t want? One week left to donate them

Got cookbooks you don’t want? One week left to donate them

Earlier this month, we announced that we’d be accepting cookbook donations for a little informal cookbook drive I’ve always dreamed of doing.
New book by Austin author encourages kids to “Dream Big”

New book by Austin author encourages kids to “Dream Big”

“Dream Big by Kat Kronenberg Austinite Kat Kronenberg’s new children’s book “Dream Big” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $15.
Oh no! Middle School! A frazzled girl’s journey

Oh no! Middle School! A frazzled girl’s journey

As a middle-schooler, Booki Vivat stressed over what her “thing” was: What was the thing that made her special? Now, the 20-something is mining that territory in a book that is resonating with tweens. Her debut book, “Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom,” chronicles the life of sixth-grader Abbie Wu. Vivat, an associate publicist at Harper Collins Children&rsquo...
What are you doing in February? Check out our family calendar for Austin

What are you doing in February? Check out our family calendar for Austin

Bryce Hohertz, 7, of Dripping Springs, and his brother Cole, 5, look through spectroscopes to observe the spectrum of light at WeatherFest at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
UT associate professor examines slaves as commodities in new book

UT associate professor examines slaves as commodities in new book

What was the assigned value, the price tag, placed on the bodies of the enslaved? In “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave in the Building of a Nation” — a sharp, affecting study — Daina Ramey Berry (associate professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas) reminds us of the cold calculus...
Woman at center of Emmett Till case speaks, but reveals little

Woman at center of Emmett Till case speaks, but reveals little

Carolyn Bryant Donham has finally ended her silence about the Emmett Till murder in 1955, and that’s reason enough for “The Blood of Emmett Till,” the new book about the case from Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson. But there’s a problem: The former Money, Miss., grocery store keeper who was dubbed a crossroads Marilyn Monroe hasn’t completely come clean, if Tyson&rsquo...

‘The Mistress’ tops fiction best-seller list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Mistress,’ Danielle Steel 2. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 3. ‘Below the Belt,’ Stuart Woods 4. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 5. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 6. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 7. ‘No Man’s Land,’ David Baldacci 8. ‘Small Great...
Historian examines price of slavery

Historian examines price of slavery

Recommended reading “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation” by Daina Ramey Berry (Beacon Press). In “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh,” professor Daina Berry, the George W. Littlefield Fellow in American History at the University of Texas, explores American slavery from a powerful angle:...
Get kids inspired with tales of civil rights, being different

Get kids inspired with tales of civil rights, being different

Today, marchers are gathering in Austin, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the nation. If Audrey were here, she’d no doubt be marching right along with them. Audrey Faye Hendricks got her start in peaceful protest at age 9, when she was one of more than 3,000 elementary-schoolers and teens arrested in the 1963 Children’s March to support civil rights for all Americans. “Audrey...
What to read right now? Try a best seller

What to read right now? Try a best seller

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 2. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo,’ George Saunders 3. ‘Banana Cream Pie Murder,’ Joanne Fluke 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘Echoes in Death,’ J.D. Robb 6. ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Jonathan Kellerman 7. ‘Humans, Bow Down,’ James Patterson...
Book goes behind the scenes in the making of ‘High Noon’

Book goes behind the scenes in the making of ‘High Noon’

Courage under the gun, in both art and life, is the theme of Glenn Frankel’s “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.” In this history, Pulitzer Prize winner Frankel (“The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend”) tells the story of the well-known 1952 Western that became virtually an allegory of its own making. “High Noon,&rdquo...
Looking for a good book? Try this week’s best-sellers

Looking for a good book? Try this week’s best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Right Behind You,’ Lisa Gardner 2. ‘Never Never,’ James Patterson and Candice Fox 3. ‘The Girl Before,’ J P Delaney 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 6. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 7. ‘Small Great Things,’ Jodi Picoult 8. &lsquo...
‘Let the People Rule’ author will speak at BookPeople

‘Let the People Rule’ author will speak at BookPeople

Geoffrey Cowan explores the history of the 1912 battle among Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Robert La Follette for the presidency of the United States, which gave birth to the first presidential primary, in “Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary,” which is now being released in paperback. Cowan brings to life the wheeler-dealers...
Looking for a good book? Be inspired by best-sellers

Looking for a good book? Be inspired by best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Never Never,’ James Patterson and Candice Fox 2. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 3. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 4. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 5. ‘The Mistress,’ Danielle Steel 6. ‘Feversong,’ Karen Marie Moning 7. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 8. ‘Small...
Detached woman tell riveting tales in Mary Miller’s ‘Always Happy Hour’

Detached woman tell riveting tales in Mary Miller’s ‘Always Happy Hour’

A sense of detachment permeates the lives of the women in the short story collection “Always Happy Hour” by Mary Miller, yet readers will find themselves riveted. They drink too much, keep company with the wrong men (or perhaps the men are right and they are wrong), and moon around their lives like bored teens with nothing to do but find trouble on a sultry summer day. Some have money...
Need a good book? Check the best-seller list

Need a good book? Check the best-seller list

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Mistress,’ Danielle Steel 2. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 3. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 4. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 5. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 6. ‘Below the Belt,’ Stuart Woods 7. ‘Small Great Things,’ Jodi Picoult 8. ‘The Chemist,&rsquo...
Meet two promising writers coming to BookPeople

Meet two promising writers coming to BookPeople

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead” by Chanelle Benz is a wide-ranging debut collection that spans time, genre and place. It isn’t often that readers open a book of literary short stories and find themselves launched from the very first page into a Western, complete with a brothel, saloon, bank robbery and a narrator who says things like, “Alone, jest us two, in what I had...
Carrie Fisher tops best-sellers with ‘The Princess Diarist’

Carrie Fisher tops best-sellers with ‘The Princess Diarist’

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 2. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 3. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘No Man’s Land,’ David Baldacci 6. ‘Small Great Things,’ Jodi Picoult 7. ‘The Chemist,’ Stephenie Meyer 8. ‘Night School...
Relive your youthful obsessions with ‘Searching for John Hughes’

Relive your youthful obsessions with ‘Searching for John Hughes’

Recommended reading “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond (HarperCollins). As chronicled in this memoir, New York writer Jason Diamond grew up in suburban Chicago, the same place that visionary 1980s director John Hughes set his teen-angsty classics such as “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” So he was already ripe for serious...
Clinton Kelly tells all — or some — in ‘I Hate Everyone, Except You’

Clinton Kelly tells all — or some — in ‘I Hate Everyone, Except You’

Clinton Kelly wanted to write the great American novel. The star of the daytime talk show “The Chew” on ABC who spent 10 years as the co-host of “What Not to Wear” on TLC also dreamed of writing a collection of personal essays. After graduating from Boston College he realized that he was “scared to death” to become a writer. “I didn’t want to be broke...
Emily Ruskovich delivers provocative first novel in ‘Idaho’

Emily Ruskovich delivers provocative first novel in ‘Idaho’

Emily Ruskovich’s debut, “Idaho” ($27, Penguin Random House), opens to the strains of a literary thriller but transforms into a lyrical meditation on memory, loss and grief in the American West. Ann, a young music teacher, falls in love with Wade Mitchell, the father of two girls in her school, over piano lessons. That summer, Wade’s family is ripped apart by a tragedy that...
New year, new reading list: Some recommendations

New year, new reading list: Some recommendations

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 2. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 3. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘No Man’s Land,’ David Baldacci 6. ‘Small Great Things,’ Jodi Picoult 7. ‘Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance,’ Mark Greaney...
Bestselling author Zadie Smith tells a tale of two friends

Bestselling author Zadie Smith tells a tale of two friends

Recommended reading “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith (Penguin). In her latest novel, two young ladies — the unnamed narrator and a girl named Tracey — become best friends in dance class, the only “brown girls” in the group. Tracey is the talented one with the complicated home life; the narrator comes from a more stable background. Over the next few decades, we follow...
Need a book recommendation? Start with this week’s best sellers

Need a book recommendation? Start with this week’s best sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 2. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 3. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 4. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 5. ‘Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance,’ Mark Greaney 6. ‘No Man’s Land,’ David Baldacci 7. ‘Small Great Things,’ Jodi Picoult...
Science fiction, in short

Science fiction, in short

Recommended reading “Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi” by John Scalzi (Subterranean). Science-fiction often works better the shorter the piece. “The Twilight Zone” was never as good at an hour as it was at 30 minutes and not for nothing is the short story considered by many to be the ultimate sci-fi format. Writer John Scalzi knows this. Adept at all sorts...
Don’t leave these books behind in 2016

Don’t leave these books behind in 2016

These three books are on a list called “12 of the most criminally overlooked books from 2016” from Kirkus Reviews. Read about the others at kirkusreviews.com. ‘LaRose’ by Louise Erdich: After accidentally shooting his friend and neighbor’s young son, a man on a Native American reservation subscribes to “an old form of justice” by giving his own son, LaRose...
11 great history books to end the year

11 great history books to end the year

I love history and worry we pay far too little attention to it, so here are 11 of my favorite history books of the year. (I say “favorite” and not “best” because I don’t claim to have read everything. And I’m excluding books by people I know well.) There are my three favorites, and eight more that deserve honorable mention as truly excellent. All are in alphabetical...
Need reading suggestions? Check out this week’s best-sellers

Need reading suggestions? Check out this week’s best-sellers

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Whistler,’ John Grisham 2. ‘Cross the Line,’ James Patterson 3. ‘Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance,’ Mark Greaney 4. ‘Two by Two,’ Nicholas Sparks 5. ‘No Man’s Land,’ David Baldacci 6. ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead 7. ‘Night Social,’ Lee Child 8....
Book suggestions: Meet ‘Mrs. Sharma’ and some enterprising Brits

Book suggestions: Meet ‘Mrs. Sharma’ and some enterprising Brits

In contradictory modern India, an urban woman’s private confession becomes a portrait, and perhaps an indictment, of 21st-century globalism in Ratika Kapur’s “The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma” ($16, Bloomsbury). The novel opens with 37-year-old Renuka Sharma describing her first encounter with a stylish man at a Delhi metro station. His name is Vineet Sehgal, he is 30 years...
Comics to get you in the Christmas spirit

Comics to get you in the Christmas spirit

Recommended reading “Klaus” and “Klaus and The Witch of Winter” by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora (Boom! Studio). Merry Christmas! To those who do not celebrate, happy streaming TV and movie services and Chinese food day! In keeping with the season, we turn now to Santa Claus, a character that exists all over the world. There are many great books about Santa, from “A Visit...
Keep kids reading this winter break with these new books

Keep kids reading this winter break with these new books

The holidays are nearly here … and so is the vast post-celebration zone. Keep your young reader’s mind primed during school break with these picks while underscoring the value of reading for pleasure instead of a grade. (Parenting win!) For the picture-book set, seek out “Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness” (Lee & Low, $19.95), a biography of...
Glasgow, the Holy Land are settings for two new crime dramas

Glasgow, the Holy Land are settings for two new crime dramas

The murder of a prominent Scottish lawyer reopens an old case and new wounds in “Lies of the Land: A Maddy Shannon Mystery” by Chris Dolan ($25, Dufour). When a hung-over Maddalena di Rio Shannon, deputy Procurator Fiscal, wakes up next to a strange man, at least they’re both fully clothed. And she knows who he is: Doug Mason, a defense attorney with the Glasgow law firm JCG Miller...
A little-known history, in words and music

A little-known history, in words and music

Suggested reading “Washington Phillips and His Manzarene Dreams,” music by Washington Phillips, book by Michael Corcoran (Dust-t0-Digital). Back in 2001, when former American-Statesman pop critic Michael Corcoran was at the paper, he became a bit of a gospel music obsessive and became fascinated by a mysterious Texas gospel musician named Washington Phillips, creator of gorgeous odes to...
Christmas and George Lucas get their due in two new books

Christmas and George Lucas get their due in two new books

Ghosts, fairies, self-revelation and friendly seasonal recipes give “Christmas Days: 12 Stories And 12 Feasts For 12 Days” a potentially wide-ranging appeal for readers as well as gift shoppers ($24, Grove Press). Versatile British writer Jeanette Winterson (“The Gap of Time”) has gathered 12 Yule-themed stories in a book laced with bits of autobiography both in the introduction...
Former Austinite writes tough, immaculate stories about veterans

Former Austinite writes tough, immaculate stories about veterans

In a tiny house off of South Sixth Street, writing at a desk in a converted laundry room between a washer and a dryer, Odie Lindsey spent hour after hour trying to figure out sentences. “I’m a slow learner, but doggedly determined,” says the author of “We Come to Our Senses,” a book of 15 tough yet immaculately crafted short stories. “It was here I realized that...
Thirsting for a good read? Put these 4 drinks books on your wish list

Thirsting for a good read? Put these 4 drinks books on your wish list

After a fun but often chaotic holiday season, whiling away an afternoon with a good book — transporting you to a new world, perhaps, or revealing something new about your current one — can work wonders for the soul. Here are four books you might consider adding to your Christmas wish list if you want to learn more about the beer, wine, spirits and cocktails that will no doubt contribute...
Give the gift of literature to young readers this holiday

Give the gift of literature to young readers this holiday

Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday shopping season has officially begun for even the most reluctant of shoppers. Knock it out with this literary gift guide that runs the gamut from picture book to young adult: It’s full of real-life heroes, magic and mystery. (See our sidebar for choices themed specifically to the season.) Tons of picture books explore being scared of the dark. Astronaut...
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