A Review of Barbara Hurd’s Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies

About half-way through Barbara Hurd’s latest essay collection, Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies, I find myself splayed across a granite boulder in the middle of the small river that runs through my backyard in rural Vermont. Obviously, I am listening for crayfish. An avid river watcher, I confess that until reading...

A Review of Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock: A Diary

I came across some of my deceased father’s clothing while getting ready to move last month: a Hawaiian shirt I bought him when I visited Oahu and some old military fatigues. When I was going through his house after he died, about a decade ago, these clothes seemed the perfect objects to hold onto. I...

A Review of Luke Dittrich’s Patient H.M.

Luke Dittrich has a stark inheritance. His grandfather, William Scoville, was the second most accomplished lobotomist in the history of medicine. This prominent neurosurgeon at Hartford Hospital had a career that ran parallel with one of the most scientifically fruitful and morally dubious periods of our medical advancement: the early and mid-century era of American...

A Review of Michelle Tea’s Black Wave

Over the past month I’ve been on a binge of queer nonfiction, devouring Eileen Myles’ Cool for You and Inferno and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, annotating the latter until ink from my pen took up more space per page than printer ink. The attraction isn’t just the quality of the writing—though stunning—or the presence of...

A Review of Christine Hale’s A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice

A few Friday nights ago, I drove to a Burbank-area urgent care center after a week long crying jag left me reeling and in search of help. Call it what you will—emotional break, anxiety attack—but I found myself filling out my patient intake forms and thinking, of all things, of Christine Hale’s new memoir, A...
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.

A Review of Angela Palm’s Riverine

I grew up a river rat, near the banks of the Cahaba. Dad took me down to the river, an eight-year-old made of bones, where I paddled my first Dagger boat. The only rule was that I had to keep my head above the chicken water, what with all the waste dumping. You didn’t want...

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...

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...