fiction

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.

Books

Something evolving

City of God, by E.L. Doctorow

Books

Church victims

Altar Music, by Christin Lore Weber

I try to follow the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but the blurbs on the back of this first novel by former nun Christin Lore Weber put me on guard. Mary Gordon, Karen Armstrong and Sheri Reynolds--concerned about how Christianity stifles women, especially when it comes to sexuality--offer their praise.