Staff Picks

March 26, 2013

Staff Pick: Terry Tempest Williams’s When Women Were Birds 1


When Terry Tempest Williams’s mother was dying, she told her daughter that she was leaving her journals to her, with one condition — that Williams wait until after her death to read them. Williams honored her mother’s wish and when she finally opened the journals she was shocked to find that every one of them was blank. When Women Were Birds is a memoir that explores this extraordinary gesture.

March 8, 2013

Staff Picks: Tell Me A Riddle 3


“I Stand Here Ironing” is a story about a working mother, but to call it that — even to call it the best story ever written about a working mother — feels reductive. Work-life balance may now be the stuff of Atlantic cover stories and Lean In, but in 1961, exploring it in fiction was a downright radical act.

February 28, 2013

What We Talk about When We Talk about Crying: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars 11


When we talk about The Fault in Our Stars, we go straight to the unspeakable sadness, out of all the emotions evoked, because we want to convey the incredible emotional resonance of the book. What we’re trying to say is: this book mattered deeply to me, I think it could matter deeply to you too.

February 27, 2013

Love in the Bottom Rung: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and He Hanged Himself 0


The characters have nothing to hope for but love, the one resource that can’t be rationed. The most depressing love affairs — emotionless, unrequited, exploitative — shine with promise in these settings.

November 29, 2012

A Younger, Stranger America: On Harry Houdini’s The Right Way to Do Wrong 0


The collection functions as a glimpse into a fascinating world of low-rent, high-risk stunt performing that’s largely faded away.

October 29, 2012

Staff Pick: The New Jim Crow 4


Thanks in large part to the drug war, more than 2 million people, disproportionate numbers of them black and Hispanic, are locked up in America’s prisons, giving us an incarceration rate of 750 per 100,000 people, higher than in Russia, China or Iran.

October 18, 2012

Back in the USSR: On Maurice DeKobra’s The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars 0


This is the kind of book that gets described as “a delightful romp” in press materials, and that’s not an inaccurate description of a book that functions beautifully as both send-up of high society and globe-spanning adventure story, but the novel has a deathly serious core.

October 4, 2012

Susanna Moore, Cheryl Strayed, and the Place Where the Writers Work 8


What matters is good writing, what matters is that there are people who love books enough to press them into your hands in far-off cities. We are here for the books, but I think it’s easy to get distracted by our longing for success and forget this.

August 20, 2012

A Book for the Dog Days of Summer 2


As Murphy and Wasik stress again and again, this is a horrible disease; its grotesque symptoms, its uncurable-ness, its unpredictable incubation time, and its ideal vector–the dog–give it a unique place in the human psyche.

July 31, 2012

Staff Pick: Saul Bellow’s The Bellarosa Connection 2


Do the ones who save us owe us anything? The Bellarosa Connection is fascinating as a study of memory and regret.