“The Course of Love” by Alain de Botton

By the time 31-year-old Rabih Khan leaves London to work for an urban-design firm in Edinburgh, he has yet to find what proponents of Romanticism would call “a comprehensive answer to the unspoken questions of existence”: the so-called perfect mate. But Khan, an architect and atheist of Muslim descent, thinks he has found her when he meets Kirsten McClelland, an Inverness native who is the client contact on a construction project. Their relationship is the basis for The Course of Love, philosopher Alain de Botton’s first novel since 1993’s Essays in Love. Continue reading ““The Course of Love” by Alain de Botton”

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“American War” by Omar El Akkad

In 2074, America is as divided as ever. Some details differ from our time: The Southwest has turned to embers, and rising waters have submerged the coasts. Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, begins in the early 22nd century, with narration by an old man who has devoted his life to studying “this country’s bloody war with itself,” but not the one readers might expect. His focus is the Second American Civil War, which began in 2074. Continue reading ““American War” by Omar El Akkad”

“What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah

The opening story of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut collection of short fiction, sets the tone for the revelatory experience that awaits readers. “The Future Looks Good,” a chilling tale about a pair of Nigerian sisters and the abusive husband the older one is married to, packs into eight short pages a father who hot-wired cars in his youth, the 1967-1970 Nigerian War, and childhood memories that torment the now-adult younger sister. Continue reading ““What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah”

“A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” by John Gregory Brown

Hurricane Katrina ruined thousands of lives in 2005, but for Henry Garrett, a 41-year-old New Orleans native and former high school English teacher, “he had already managed, before the hurricane, to lose everything.” When he leaves the city before the levees break, he doesn’t yet know that tragedy will shatter his hometown. The only disaster he knows is the life he’s escaping. “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” the new novel by John Gregory Brown, is a quiet examination of the mistakes Henry has made, the family curses he can’t control, and the challenges of dealing with grief and personal failings. Continue reading ““A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” by John Gregory Brown”

“A Separation” by Katie Kitamura

There’s more than one way to feel like a stranger in a foreign land. The pleasant way is to travel to a vacation spot, but a more unnerving sense of dislocation comes when one is a party to a faltering marriage. Katie Kitamura explores this theme in her new novel, A Separation, a quietly devastating story of a childless, London-based couple on the verge of divorce. Continue reading ““A Separation” by Katie Kitamura”

My Favorite Books from 2016

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing more than 50 books this year and reading many others in my spare time. That’s a nice way to occupy one’s days, but it doesn’t leave much time for keeping one’s blog up to date. I thought I’d take a moment, however, to share with you my favorite books of the year—a hard choice, given that so many excellent works were published in 2016. These 11 books, listed alphabetically by title, are my choices for the best of the year. Links take you to my reviews. Continue reading “My Favorite Books from 2016”

My Favorite Books from 2015

The brother of the man that Meursault killed in Albert Camus’s The Stranger; a hunter who wins a contest to kill a lion that is attacking women in a small village in Mozambique; a celebrated painter whose hobby is thievery; and a computer programmer who has written an algorithm that can summon dead people: these are some of the characters from my favorite books published in 2015. Continue reading “My Favorite Books from 2015”