A Review of Peter Selgin’s The Inventors

I’m a sucker for literature that pursues an unanswerable question, all the better if that pursuit takes some idiosyncratic course, as with Peter Selgin’s new memoir, The Inventors. Recently published by Hawthorne Books, and a finalist for the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Graywolf Press Prize for Nonfiction, and the AWP Award Series for Creative...

A Review of Patrick Madden’s Sublime Physick

A 352-word essay took me two years to write. It started with a prompt at a low-residency workshop, then expanded into a long essay (per a professor’s suggestion), then written into a nonfiction manuscript, then removed from said manuscript, and finally rewritten at another low-residency workshop with another prompt, two years after the first. Instead...

A Review of Blair Braverman’s Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

At 19, I moved to Las Vegas with my boyfriend Scott. Things were fine before the move, but after arriving in Nevada—1,300 miles from home—something seemed off. While Scott and I waited for a cab, other men glanced at me, and Scott locked his eyes on my body to signal ownership. He didn’t like my...

Review of Amye Archer’s Fat Girl, Skinny

I’m working on a memoir about mental illness, and, at times, the process feels like a long, combative, and slightly schizophrenic therapy session. One part of me lies on the couch, reluctant to divulge details. The other part of me sits in the chair, pen poised, grilling my prone self: What did you mean by...

A Review of Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land

Growing up in the spreading shadows of the Rocky Mountains, I saw Terry Tempest Williams as a literary godmother. My fingers traced over her quote on a sun-bleached sign in Mesa Verde National Park, and I sat on the floor of a crowded ballroom to hear her read. When my grandmother developed breast cancer, I...

A Review of B.J. Hollars’ This Is Only a Test

It’s the first real day of spring, all sunshine and budding tulips, ideal for reviewing a book of essays on disaster. I’ve finally settled in the coffee shop sofa, blocked out the grinding soundscape of Frappucino production and “Africa” by Toto, when two men sit behind me—one younger, one older. The younger man talks. The...

A Review of Bernadette Murphy’s Harley and Me

Ostensibly, Bernadette Murphy and I have little in common. A mother of three, the author of Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life, is a tattooed associate professor who took up motorcycling in midlife. As for tattoos and children, I have neither. I’m thirty-two and check the box beside...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Watch our book review section for regular updates on the best new nonfiction titles. We now publish reviews year-round, not only when new issues arrive.

Review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

On my fifth day in Italy, I accuse an Italian man of stealing my clothes. His basket, overflowing with clothing, is blocking the dryer into which I placed my clothes, and none of the garments are visible through the glass window. Scusi! I say, and that’s it—the extent of my Italian. I am all out...

A Review of Harrison Candelaria Fletcher’s Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher’s second memoir follows Descanso For My Father: Fragments Of A Life, which won the Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and International Book Award for Best New Nonfiction. Turning now to his mother’s story, Fletcher opens Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams with a trip back to Albuquerque after nearly a decade away...

A Review of Maggie Messitt’s The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa

Sometimes a writer can be loudest by being the most quiet, an effect brilliantly achieved by Maggie Messitt in her first book, The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa. Unlike Messitt, I never could stay quiet or porch sit long enough to listen. Messitt was twenty-four and on an indefinite leave from...

A Review of Patrice Vecchione’s Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life

Patrice Vecchione has experience prompting writers, whether university students, community members, or elementary school students. Over the years, though, she has noticed a shifting relationship among them to the imagination. Individuals who used to respond to going outside to look at the clouds with descriptions of “elephants parading, a dragon biting its own tail, a...

A Review of M.J. Fièvre’s A Sky the Color of Chaos

On April 9, 1968, Kansas City high schoolers, dressed in white shirts, ankle socks, and saddle oxfords, peacefully marched in front of City Hall out of dismay that their city wouldn’t close public schools for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. Next thing, police threw tear gas. Then the city exploded with firebombs, gun battles, and...

A Review of Amy Ferris’s Shades of Blue

Shades of Blue is a book about depression, the blues, and suicide, yet it manages not to be depressing because of its humor, hope, and courage. This anthology of thirty-four personal stories, edited by Amy Ferris, concerns what’s locked up inside us. Ferris is open about her own struggles, her young girl attempt to kill...

A Review of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, An American Lyric

Sometimes a book comes along and I take it in like breath, filling my lungs, then letting it go, slowly, dispersing and touching every cell in my body. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own was one of those books, as was Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son....

A Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

On July 3 of this year, “dream” held an array of rich connotations for me. From open imagination to the urgent longing toward social justice, the word was evocative, engaging, comfortably owned. On July 4, I read the excerpt in the Atlantic of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and through his beautiful...

A Review of Joey Franklin’s My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married

As I type this review on the Sunday before Christmas, I realize it’s probably unlikely that it will be published on The Brevity Blog before Friday. That’s too bad—Joey Franklin’s My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married would make a perfect gift for just about any literate person on your Christmas list. In...

A Review of Joni Tevis’ The World is On Fire

Maybe it’s coincidence that apocalypse keeps surfacing in so much of the recent work I’ve read as a grad student, begging me to reconsider how the word might apply to much more than typical end-of-days visions. Several of the books stacked around my apartment tap into apocalypses far more real and immediate, something more like...