A Review of Ana Maria Spagna’s Uplake

In my twenties, I spent summers in a Thoreau-like lakeside cabin in the woods, not far from Walden Pond. Even now, when it rains here in Los Angeles, and especially at night, even happily married as I am, I imagine I’m there in my cabin bed listening to the patter-ping of raindrops on Long Pond....

A Review of Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River

On a soccer field I met my childhood best friend. Our elementary school was mostly white, and we were the only Spanish kids standing on the field that day. We were the last two picked. As a kid I never realized this fact: the two of us were oddities, a brown Puerto Rican and a...

A Review of David Lazar’s I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays & Aphorisms

David Lazar’s new collection of essays and aphorisms, I’ll Be Your Mirror is, in fact, all about mirroring. Mirroring each other. Mirroring parents. Mirroring loved ones. Mirroring readers. Mirroring writers. Mirroring ourselves. It has a kind of Lacanian mirror-stage complex, this book, concerned as it is with how we find our identity in the eyes...

A Review of Lisa Romeo’s Starting with Goodbye

I read Lisa Romeo’s Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss while I taught Hamlet and could not stop comparing these texts, which share a few striking similarities, including father loss, a fatherly spirit who converses with the living, and head-on interruptions of cultural silences imposed on the bereaved. The first rule broken,...

A Review of Susan Harlan’s Luggage

After a long day of air travel from North Carolina to Sacramento, I arrived at the baggage carousel to collect my big, black suitcase. I’d packed for the summer and my life for the next two months was all there: eye wear, books, clothes, toiletries. As I watched the carousel go round and round without...

A Review of Julija Šukys’ Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning

Julija Šukys’ Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) is a book both about storytelling and about the inability, sometimes, to tell stories. Šukys attempts, in this book, to reconstruct the lives of her Lithuanian grandfather and grandmother, but in so doing, she discovers family and political secrets that...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

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A Review of Will Dowd’s Areas of Fog

Here in New England, we had four nor’easters in March: Riley, Quinn, Skylar, and most recently Toby. My friend’s business trip to Boston coincided with Quinn. While I’d classify her as a   conscientious, cautious, and well-planned traveler, she decided this time not to pack snow boots. They didn’t match her outfits. They were too big...

Review of Sophfronia Scott’s Love’s Long Line

Sophfronia Scott’s collection of essays Love’s Long Line reminds us that a life lived with hope is a life full of possibility. While walking in New York City’s Central Park or visiting her emotionally absent mother in Ohio, Scott shows us what it means to find faith. In “Opening to Love,” Scott writes, “I am...

A Review of Allison Coffelt’s Maps Are Lines We Draw

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like to travel. I know, because I am one, and when new acquaintances discover this about me, they often look as if I’ve pushed aside my bangs to reveal a third ear. But even though I don’t enjoy travel, I have immense curiosity about the world outside my living...

A Review of Lee Martin’s Telling Stories

Popular Mechanics was the only magazine my father ever read. In it were clever plans, such as turning a metal lunchbox into a radio, a VW Beetle into a travel trailer, and a coffee can into an electric doghouse heater. Actually, Dad made the latter, complete with a switch for turning the heater on and...

A Review of Scott Freeman’s Saving Tarboo Creek

When Scott and Susan Freeman purchased an eighteen-acre parcel of land in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 2004, they could see that decades of logging and unsuccessful farming had taken their toll. The landscape was riddled with noxious, invasive plants––thorny stands of Himalayan and Eurasian blackberry, mats of reed canary grass, and tall swaths of horsetail...

A Review of Peter Gajdics’ The Inheritance of Shame

Near the end of the fall semester, I facilitated a campus discussion on shame, vulnerability, and storytelling. To begin, I introduced community college students to the work of Brené Brown, who has called shame our “most powerful master emotion.” Brown maintains a two-part antidote for disrupting shame’s ability to silence and inflict harm: We must...

A Review of Bill Hayes’ Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

One mid-winter day, as I am walking around a frozen lake with my husband, a lifelong insomniac, we spot a muskrat. The small mammal is glassy-eyed and shuddering in deep snow with his pathetic hairless tail looped over bare toes. He should be sleeping in a cozy burrow, but like some misguided groundhog he’s awake,...

A Review of Natalie Singer’s California Calling

When I volunteered to write a review of Natalie Singer’s debut book, California Calling: A Self-Interrogation, I had one fear. What if I feel like the sad local girl California dumped in favor of this smarter, prettier, Canadian import? I wanted to be bigger than this. Sure, I did, but I still marked my territory by...

A Review of Brian Doyle’s Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

There are moments in my small rural life that make everything else fall away. These moments make for a good life—sitting around the dining room table with my children and friends, drinking wine or cider, telling stories about Edward Abbey or anarchy or the dissent of the western environmental activist, all while the fire burns...

A Review of Girl Behind the Door: A Memoir of Delirium and Dementia

Ideally, a memoir’s title suggests the author’s tone as well as his or her overall vision for the work. Stephanie Dickinson’s Girl Behind the Door: A Memoir of Delirium and Dementia brings to mind Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. As with Stein, who isn’t Toklas, Dickinson isn’t Girl. But whereas Stein actively...

A Review of Lia Purpura’s Scream: or Never Minding

In the midst of the recent #MeToo campaign, I turned to Facebook to ask the women in my life a question that burns in my bones every time another story of power abuse or systemic injustice violence bursts open on social media: what do you do with unfettered rage? I was soon inundated with a...