Reviews

Half a Life

How many times have you been distracted while driving and seen a cyclist jut into the road or a child chasing a ball, or even a scampering beagle? You brake and think, thank God. But for Darin Strauss, newly eighteen, setting out with friends for a game of Putt Putt on a warm spring day at the tail end of his senior year, things did not go that smoothly. A cyclist suddenly veered across a lane and a half--and as he braked all he saw was a yellow spoke reflector catch the light and a head crash into his windshield. For him, the worst had happened. The police cleared him, said it was not his fault. The local paper reported this, but Strauss has had to life the rest of his life with the guilt and pain of this accident.

Unpublished

Pulitzer Prizes 2011

ImageThe 2011 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week and include awards for letters.

Fiction
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

History
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

Biography or Autobiography
Washington : A Life by Ron Chernow

Poetry
The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan

General Nonfiction
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

New Poetry Books

National Poetry MonthIt's April and National Poetry Month is in full swing. It's easy to see why a large group of poets, librarians, and publishers chose April to promote this wonderful art, for as e.e.cummings said, "in Just-/ spring when the world is mud-lucious... and puddle-wonderful." Here are several contemporary books that I found compelling.

Road to Perdition

I saw the film based on the graphic novel by Max Collins long before reading the book. I liked the movie ok, but I loved the graphic novel Road to Perdition. Set in the early 1930's the story takes place in the midwest told from the perspective of a now-grown Michael O'Sullivan Jr. Not knowing what his father does for a living Michael Jr. stows away in his car one night to see for himself. Unfortunately his father is the "Angel of Death" for the local mob boss, John Looney. Michael Jr. witnesses a murder committed by Looney's son and is discovered.

No More Dirty Looks

No More Dirty LooksHave you ever read the back of your shampoo bottle and wondered what all those ingredients actually are? Then No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt is for you. The beauty product industry is both huge and powerful and generally don't want consumers to know that most of their products contain thousands of chemicals that can readily be absorbed through our skin. Many of these chemicals are known irritants, and some are possible carcinogens.

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

If you only read one book about science this year, let this be the one. Richard Holmes has somehow managed to meld a compendium of 18th and 19th century scientific biographies into a compelling narrative that is part travelogue, part scientific exploration, and all magical. He begins with the story of Joseph Banks who travelled the South Seas with Captain Cook as the expedition's botanist, a position he paid for and equipped with many new instruments and two great mastiffs. Banks was one of the earliest westerners to visit Tahiti. He soon learned the language and basically abandoned his botanical studies to become an anthropologist in Paradise.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Who says suburban living has to be dull and unimaginative? Welcome Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, which takes traditional suburban ideal living and turns it on it's head. This book is bursting with imagination as it tells 15 short, illustrated short stories filled with wonder, loss, peace, hope and redemption. Not to make it sound all like butterflies and flowers, there is a slight bizarre and surreal edge to these tales that will leave the reader both wondering and and inspired.

Cleopatra: A Life

Forget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history.

Unpublished

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