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 Paul Crenshaw’s This One Will Hurt You

A melancholic thread runs through Paul Crenshaw’s collection of narrative essays, This One Will Hurt You, set in the Ozarks, specifically northwest Arkansas, where the writer grew up. He opens with “After the Ice,” remembering his eighteen-month-old nephew who cried in the arms of his “stepfather, who looked frustrated or angry or even lost,” but...

A Review of Randon Billings Noble’s Be with Me Always

After I miscarried my first pregnancy, I dreamed of former loves, all the ones who came before the one I love now. Night after night, these lost loves returned to me. They were handsome and young. Clothed and naked. Hands shimmered out of darkness. One pushed an empty baby stroller. Nothing I did could stop...

A Review of James M. Chesbro’s A Lion in the Snow

I escaped the mayhem of the birthday party with a slice of cake, sinking with a sigh into the woven fabric of the front sitting-room couch. I was there to support my friend—mother of the birthday boy—but none of the screeching children belonged to me. A ten-year-old girl sat near the window, knees pulled into...

A Review of David Shields’ The Trouble with Men

David Shields’ The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power is a wide-ranging and sometimes chaotic look at masculinity in our culture, as well as an exploration of his own personal and idiosyncratic experiences as a man. I have to admit that this is not an easy book to read, not because...

A Review of Lacy Johnson’s The Reckonings

Early in her newest essay collection, The Reckonings, Lacy Johnson describes what has become a common occurrence: At the end of a reading, someone, usually a woman, asks Johnson what she wants to happen to the man who kidnapped, raped, and tried to kill her. Does Johnson want him to die? To suffer? The questioner...

A Review of Porochista Khakpour’s Sick

Porochista Khakpour spoke on the first panel I attended at the 2018 Association of Writers and Writing Program’s Annual Conference. The panel titled, “The Body’s Story: On Writing Narratives of Illness,” also included Sandra Beasley (moderator), Sonya Huber, Suleika Jaouad, and Esmé Weijun Wang. This was my first AWP after a Lyme disease diagnosis, traveling...

A Review of Fleur Jaeggy’s These Possible Lives

I volunteered to write this book review of Fleur Jaeggy’s These Possible Lives, translated by Minna Zallman Proctor, over a year ago. It was a foolish thing to do given my schedule, but I had just read and reviewed Minna Zallman Proctor’s essay collection Landslide, and I was smitten. Also, like most graduate students, I was...

A Review of Catharine H. Murray’s Now You See the Sky

In the summer of 2012, I attended the Tin House Summer Workshop where Ann Hood read from, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, her memoir about her daughter’s sudden death at age five. It was a hot summer night and people fidgeted endlessly to get comfortable. Hood’s words, so full of sadness but a testimony to love and...

A Review of Tanya Marquardt’s Stray: Memoir of a Runaway

It was my last year in high school when my father and I had the granddaddy of all fights. He referred to my boyfriend by a racial slur, then the room exploded. Fists flew, clothes ripped, hair pulled. Once exhausted, we stumbled to our feet, wiped blood off our lips, and stared at one another....

A Review of Karen Babine’s All the Wild Hungers

When my mother-in-law was dying, I cooked. We brought her home from the hospital, the doctors having said there was nothing more they could do, and set her in her chair by the fire. Her husband of 45 years drifted through the house, his too-large belt cinched tight; her daughters seemed to fade into faint...

A Review of Sam Chiarelli’s Dig: A Personal Prehistoric Journey

My mother was the one who screamed when the tyrannosaur rex devoured the sniveling lawyer from Jurassic Park, but my brother and I, eight and eleven, just watched on in big-eyed wonder. By 1993, my brother was already obsessed, but after the film, I, too, became unknowingly affected by dinophilia, which Sam Chiarelli describes, in...

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...