fiction

Books

The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachel Simon

Spring books

These days it’s a rare novel that addresses disturbing social issues without flinching and treats religious faith as a force for good, without denying the complexity of either. That combination makes Rachel Simon’s book, newly available in paperback, a pleasure to read and a fine choice for book clubs.

Books

American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar

Spring books

This debut novel features ten-year-old Hayat Shah, a first-generation Pakistani American, who is attempting to find his identity as a Muslim.

Books

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie, the Edinburgh-based philosopher who edits the Journal of Applied Ethics, is not everyone's cup of tea. Her niece, Cat, is usually irritated with her. The former chair of her editorial board, Professor Lettuce, can't stand her. And quite a few fans of Alexander McCall Smith's No.

Books

The Submission, by Amy Waldman

Amy Waldman's debut novel asks us to take a long look at our post-9/11 selves and be disappointed.

Books

I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, by Steve Earle

At a book signing, Steve Earle was speaking when someone leaned on a light switch and the windowless room went dark. "Did I die?" Earle asked in a quiet voice.

Books

Reading with Deeper Eyes

One of the best things about William Willimon's new book is that he introduces us to serious, spiritually significant works of fiction and makes us want to read them. One of the worst is that we might be tempted to take Willimon's book as a shortcut, using his summaries of great novels as a substitute for reading them.

Books

A dark thread runs through it

More Matter: Essays and Criticism, by John Updike

Books

Gertrude and Claudius, by John Updike

John Updike's 19th novel, plotted as a "prequel" to Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a beautifully crafted, captivating story. Updike owes much of his thematic treatment to Shakespeare and to modern Shakespeare scholarship, but it is his own fertile imagination that generates the novel's compelling narrative. This is his best book since The Witches of Eastwick.

Books

Doña Inés vs. Oblivion, by Ana Teresa Torres, translated by Gregory Rabassa

Winner of the 1998 Pegasus Prize for Literature, this novel is both a family saga and a fictionalized account of the history of Venezuela, focusing on the relentless conflict between races and classes over land ownership. A long list of historical figures march through its pages, including Simón Bolívar and a series of military dictators.