A Review of Jennifer Sinor’s Letters Like the Day

The other day, I came across a stack of letters, written in 1974, by my high school boyfriend. When I left for college, he stayed home. We couldn’t afford to talk by phone, so we wrote. Reading the first letter, I hear this sweet boy’s voice, almost as if he were next to me. How...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Watch our book review section for regular updates on the best in new nonfiction. We publish our reviews year-round, not only when new issues arrive. Grab your reading glasses.

A Review of Eric LeMay’s Essays On The Essay And Other Essays

Eric LeMay’s new interactive collection Essays On The Essay And Other Essays asks readers to click, scroll, select, and “drive” through the first collection of its kind. “LeMay is the future of the essay,” says Ned Stuckey-French, “but fortunately he’s here now.” In this interview, Sarah Minor writes to LeMay about the tensions between the tradition of...

A Review of Jennifer Sinor’s Ordinary Trauma: A Memoir

At a writing conference I recently attended, a panelist fielded a question from an attendee about what makes a good memoir. I’m intimately fascinated by this question since I devour memoirs and am writing my own. The panelist told this story: a creative writing professor he knows was asked by a student why she received...

A Review of Jennifer Latson’s The Boy Who Loved Too Much

Gayle D’Angelo was worried about her son. While his classmates in daycare were learning to walk and talk, Eli would simply coo and smile, then hold out his arms for a hug. “He catapulted himself into the arms of a schoolmate’s mother one day and climbed into the lap of a burly man at a...

A Review of Dani Shapiro’s Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Dani Shapiro’s new memoir Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is an investigation into what happens when two people promise to abandon their individual paths in life and go down the same one together. It asks what we lose and gain in making the choice to link our life to another’s. It looks, too, at the selves that fall away...

A Review of Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas’ Don’t Come Back

Let’s start with the almost-crash. When Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas writes about the time her sister is actually hit by a car in Bogota and the time she is almost hit by a car as a child, it reminds me of what happened in Tibet. I was on my way to karaoke with friends and...

A Review of Melissa Febos’ Abandon Me

Living as a blend of Native American, Puerto Rican, gay, and European, Melissa Febos knows that the chance to tell her story is a hard-won privilege. The identity she deconstructs in her latest memoir is built on proximity, history, and the behaviors residing in her blood. By holding her patchwork nature in focus, Febos honors...

A Review of Katherine McCord’s Run Scream Unbury Save

Katherine McCord’s book Run Scream Unbury Save, winner of the 2016 Autumn House nonfiction prize chosen by Michael Martone, is a whetstone of a fragmented and poetic memoir in bursts and paragraphs. You will emerge from each page emboldened to capture the exact this-ness of your day as a shadowbox-diorama with that exact plastic dinosaur...

A Review of Jericho Parms’ Lost Wax

In “To Capture the Castle,” an essay in her collection Lost Wax, Jericho Parms recounts an arduous climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick. The essay weaves its way upward, over the landscape of Ireland, tracing the outlines of other individuals on the pilgrimage, and winds its way through memory. “I can understand pilgrimage as...

A Review of Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This

Kristen Radtke’s graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This is a book about abandonment. Through Radtke’s beautiful and bruising images, we consider the ways we leave places and people, and the ways they leave us. We feel these departures deeply because of Radtke’s painstaking drawings, which allow us to experience the story for ourselves with an...

A Review of B.J. Hollars’ Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds

A “spark bird,” I learned from B.J. Hollars’ Flock Together: A Love Affair With Extinct Birds, is the bird that gets one interested in birding. Presumably, it takes you beyond casual observation and into impassioned enthusiasm. In Hollars’ case, his spark bird leads him into an exploration of extinct birds, which leads him to investigating the...

A Review of Phillip Lopate’s A Mother’s Tale

In the fall of 2005, my thirteen-year-old son tried to hang himself by using a leather belt that held up the pants of his Easter suit. By some miracle, the belt ripped in two, throwing my son to the floor, leaving him breathless but alive. Since then, I’ve come to see death and life separated...

A Review of Sonya Huber’s Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System

This is a book about pain. Chronic, searing, never-ending pain—a pain that’s shaped Sonya Huber’s life for years. It’s also a book about the language of pain, the discourse of pain, and her gradual movement toward being able to talk and write about her experience with this mysterious thing that dominates her life. As someone...

Review of Lisa Knopp’s Bread: A Memoir of Hunger

Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, with its yeast-bubble cover art, screams anorexia memoir from all surfaces. In fact, when I found myself carrying it around one evening with a to-go slice of chocolate cake in my other hand, I realized I might have looked a bit troubled, or, oppositely, totally recovered and beyond reproach. This...

A Review of Ariel Leve’s An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir

When my brother and I acted out as children, my mother threatened us with exile. If we fought, she said she’d drop us on our father’s doorstep. And if we were really bad, say, if we refused to eat our cheeseburger-flavored Hamburger Helper, she’d leave us with our maternal grandmother, Barb. She said she loved...

A Review of J. Drew Lanham’s The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature

“There are still priceless places,” J. Drew Lanham says, “where nature hangs on by tooth, talon, and tendril.” And there remain rare breeds of humans who fall in love with a land darkened by the blood and sweat of ancestors purchased to work it. Google a list of nature writers and a band of such...

A Review of Mary Cappello’s Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack

All my life I have been a browser of dictionaries, a Sunday-afternoon flipper of phone books, a belly-on-the-carpet peruser of atlases and anthologies. I’ve been a geek for information since I picked up my first children’s illustrated encyclopedia. But I also love a good story, which is probably why I read essays. Who can resist...