A Review of Jabari Asim’s We Can’t Breathe

We all have that friend. You know the one. He says he doesn’t understand what people are so upset about, that slavery’s been abolished for like 150 years, that everyone’s got the same rights and opportunities in this country as long as they work hard and behave properly. That all lives matter. If you’ve ever...

A Review of Erica Trabold’s Five Plots

“I assume I have always been attracted to the mysterious…” begins the first essay in Erica Trabold’s Five Plots. She is standing in a cave in New Mexico. The cave is dark, and its depths announce an intention for the book. We are going to look into the unknown, to adventure somewhere foreign. What comes...

A Review of Kelly J. Beard’s An Imperfect Rapture

“My mother saw demons,” begins Kelly J. Beard’s stunning debut memoir. Though I feared the narrator would show me the cruelty and violence of her parents’ chosen faith, she does so with such a commitment to understanding the sources of her family’s suffering that I had to follow her narrative. Religious fundamentalism and poverty, the...

A Review of Mike Faloon’s The Other Night at Quinn’s

Mike Faloon’s The Other Night at Quinn’s isn’t really about music, and I prefer it that way. I moved to New York when I was twenty-two and recall two formative experiences. Barreling over the Manhattan Bridge on a D-train – squished in a seat facing the rear, knees tucked against a man in a trench...

A Review of Sandra Gail Lambert’s A Certain Loneliness

At three years old, Sandra Gail Lambert lay in a windowless room, in a plaster cast that covered her from chest to knees, healing from polio surgeries. Her mother would see her only one hour a day. The rest of the time, Lambert did nothing but listen to ambient noises and try to identify their...

A Review of Sydney Lea and Fleda Brown’s Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives

If you’re lucky, you’ve had someone to talk with about things—someone to answer, “That’s right, that’s right,” to what you’re trying to get at. The pleasure of reading these letters/essays between Sydney Lea and Fleda Brown is being able to answer, “That’s right,” as we follow their takes on books, food, music, sex, politics, and...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Watch our book review section for regular updates on the best in new nonfiction. We publish our reviews year-round. Grab your reading glasses.

A Review of Jenny Boully’s Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life

Jenny Boully’s collection of essays on the writing life, Betwixt-and-Between, is indeed betwixt-and-between. It’s certainly a collection of essays, but it’s also something of a craft book, and it’s also wonderfully something … else. It’s the same way I have felt – as a woman but really more of a person, a person but really...

A Review of Sarah Viren’s Mine

When my son was born a year and a half ago, I was suddenly a different version of myself, and as he has moved into toddlerhood, I’ve had dueling emotions. On one side there’s a feeling of overwhelming completeness. I’ve finally found the thing that is closest to me—possession in its truest sense. There’s a...

A Review of John McNally’s The Promise of Failure

When my niece was about eighteen months old and starting to learn to do things on her own, her mother, my sister, began framing their everyday outings as adventures. A trip to Target was an adventure, as was a visit to a friend’s house or a short walk to the neighborhood park to play on...

A Review of Natalie Goldberg’s Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home

I discovered Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones at a bookstore when I was thirteen years old. I already considered myself a writer. As a child, I filled countless notebooks with stories of princesses and talking kittens. But by middle school, I found those stories meaningless. I didn’t yet have the words for the...

A Review of Steven Church’s I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part

We wish to never find ourselves realizing how far we’ve fallen, how messed up or off-course our lives have somehow come to be, but at one point or another it seems that this moment of sudden awareness inevitably comes. Steven Church confesses to such in the very first sentence of his latest essay collection, I’m...

A Review of Karen Auvinen’s Rough Beauty

Winter on Overland Mountain––some 3,000 feet above Boulder, Colorado––could be exhausting, writes Karen Auvinen. Snow fell “a foot at a time” and temperatures could plummet to twenty-five-degrees-below zero. Winds “howled and clawed at the cabin, rattling the gass panes like a live thing.” Surviving winter, however, was by no means her greatest challenge. Auvinen’s intimate...

A Review of Amy E. Wallen’s When We Were Ghouls

In 1992, my husband and I, grabbed the opportunity to live in southern Germany for two years. To prepare, we hired a Berlitz instructor, who laughed at our feeble attempts to make the German “r” sound—a scratchy, back-of-the-throat growl. She shook her head and said, “It doesn’t matter. All Germans speak English.” Unfortunately, we discovered...

A Review of Steven Church’s One With the Tiger

I am sitting on the starboard aft of a Carnival Cruise Ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a cool summer night in 2011, and the ocean breeze carves goosebumps into my skin. My arm is draped over the thick metal railing on the side of the ship, and I am staring...

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...