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 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...

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...

A Review of Lisa Romeo’s Starting with Goodbye

I read Lisa Romeo’s Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss while I taught Hamlet and could not stop comparing these texts, which share a few striking similarities, including father loss, a fatherly spirit who converses with the living, and head-on interruptions of cultural silences imposed on the bereaved. The first rule broken,...

A Review of Susan Harlan’s Luggage

After a long day of air travel from North Carolina to Sacramento, I arrived at the baggage carousel to collect my big, black suitcase. I’d packed for the summer and my life for the next two months was all there: eye wear, books, clothes, toiletries. As I watched the carousel go round and round without...

A Review of Julija Šukys’ Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning

Julija Šukys’ Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) is a book both about storytelling and about the inability, sometimes, to tell stories. Šukys attempts, in this book, to reconstruct the lives of her Lithuanian grandfather and grandmother, but in so doing, she discovers family and political secrets that...

A Review of Will Dowd’s Areas of Fog

Here in New England, we had four nor’easters in March: Riley, Quinn, Skylar, and most recently Toby. My friend’s business trip to Boston coincided with Quinn. While I’d classify her as a   conscientious, cautious, and well-planned traveler, she decided this time not to pack snow boots. They didn’t match her outfits. They were too big...

Review of Sophfronia Scott’s Love’s Long Line

Sophfronia Scott’s collection of essays Love’s Long Line reminds us that a life lived with hope is a life full of possibility. While walking in New York City’s Central Park or visiting her emotionally absent mother in Ohio, Scott shows us what it means to find faith. In “Opening to Love,” Scott writes, “I am...