novel

Books

The Childhood of Jesus, by J. M. Coetzee

J. M. Coetzee reportedly wanted readers to discover the title of The Childhood of Jesus after reading it. I thought of this often as I read it.

Books

Dust, by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Owuor's novel wrestles with Kenya's bitter remnants of colonialism. Yet it suggests that the future can be shaped by people who are willing to incorporate the past with honesty and integrity.

Books

Paul: A Novel, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

The uneasy genre of biblical fiction often includes what Flannery O’Connor called the “shoddy religious novel,” filled with shallow characters and plot structures as clichéd and melodramatic as 1950s biblical films.

Books

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

The title of Nathaniel Philbrick’s slim new meditation foregrounds the questions at the heart of every assignment made by every English teacher: Why read this book? Or that book? For that matter, why do we assign reading in the first place?

Books

Back to nature

Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
A Friend of the Earth, by T.C. Boyle

Books

Ben, in the World, by Doris Lessing

In her new novel, Doris Les­sing gives a fresh twist to an old idea: What would our world seem like to an alien who found himself among us, and how would we react to such a being? But Ben Lovat is not a creature from another planet; he is from our own distant past--a throwback to a species near the beginning of human evolution.

Books

Free for what?

Franzen has turned his considerable novelistic talents to a kind of inquisito­rial examination of the American ideal of freedom. He shows how freedom is negatively construed—focused on what we are free from and not on what freedom might be for, what worthy ends it might be used to pursue.