Fiction Books

About a Boy

Rating:  About a Boy, by Nick Hornby. Riverhead Books (1998), 307 pages. This cover is the worst, most misleading disgrace of any book I’ve read in the last five years. The googly eyes are actually raised from the page! They stick up! Everything about this...

The Blue Orchard

Rating:  The Blue Orchard, by Jackson Taylor. Touchstone (2010), 416 pages. Taylor’s novel about abortion in America, from the Depression to the early 1950s, is based on events in his grandmother’s life and on interviews with many of the central figures...

The Shadow of the Wind

(This review first appeared in January 2006) Rating:  The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Penguin Books (2005), 487 pages. This is a book for people who love books. Not just the language of books, but the very essence of bookness—the feel and sight...

Little Bee

Rating:  Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. Simon  Schuster (2009), 288 pages. Little Bee is a fourteen-year-old girl from Nigeria who is living in England in a detention center for illegal immigrants. She shares the narration of this novel with a woman named...

What Was She Thinking?

(This review first appeared in August 2007) Rating:  What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller. Henry Holt and Co (2003), 272 pages. Barbara Covett, the narrator of Heller’s novel, appears to be an opinionated but harmless, even kindly,...

The Book Thief

(This review first appeared in February 2007) Rating:   The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Knopf (2006), 552 pages. This is the story of a German girl living in a foster family in a working-class town in Germany during World War II. Such a setting encompasses,...

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

(This review first appeared in March 2007) Rating:   The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,by Kate DiCamillo.Candlewick Press (2006), 198 pages. This is the rare children’s book that works just as well for adults as it does for children. It is also...

The Darkest Child

(This review first appeared in November 2006) Rating:  The Darkest Child, by Delores Phillips. Soho Press (2004), 387 pages. This is a very well-written and disturbing (in a good way) novel that does not deserve its ugly cover. The boring stock photo of a...

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

(This review first appeared in July 2008) Rating:  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.  Ecco (2008), 576 pages. I heard about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle long before it was published, due to early rave reviews billing it as “An American...

The Glass of Time

Rating:  The Glass of Time: The Secret Life of Miss Esperanza Gorst, Narrated by Herself, by Michael Cox. W.W. Norton & Company (2008), 575 pages. In Victorian England, young Esperanza Gorst, a twenty-year-old orphan, applies for a position as personal...