'The Fires of Spring': A Pittsburgh RAND scholar's vital 'Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East'

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"The Fires of Spring: A Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East" by Shelby Culbertson (St. Martin's Press, $29.99)

"The Fires of Spring: A Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East" by Shelby Culbertson is an important book.

The so-called Arab Spring started five years ago, in Tunisia, where a ...Read more

North to Alaska in Dave Eggers' new 'Heroes of the Frontier'

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"Heroes of the Frontier" by Dave Eggers; Knopf (400 pages, $28.95)

Among his best-selling literary fiction peers, Dave Eggers alone is engaged in a sustained effort to write about contemporary America. He's been going at it so regularly and so swiftly that he's keeping pace with the times, if not getting a half-step ahead. Perhaps he knows what...Read more

'Never a Dull Moment': Why 1971 was the 'Year That Rock Exploded'

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"Never a Dull Moment: 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded" by David Hepworth; Henry Holt and Company (320 pages, $30)

The cover photo of "Never a Dull Moment: 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded" by British music journalist David Hepworth shows great promise -- Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones seated on the floor playing guitar, with girlfriend...Read more

Review: 'The Three-Martini Lunch' by Suzanne Rindell

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"Three-Martini Lunch" by Suzanne Rindell; Putnam (512 pages, $27)

"Nobody ever became a writer by just wanting to be one." This terse advice by F. Scott Fitzgerald sets the scene for a compelling exploration of New York City's Greenwich Village scene in the late 1950s, when beatniks, berets and big ideas gravitated to jazz clubs, and women and ...Read more

Review: 'The Doll-Master” by Joyce Carol Oates

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"The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror" by Joyce Carol Oates; Mysterious Press (336 pages, $24)

When not writing fat, complicated novels that are some of the finest of our time, the ever-prolific Joyce Carol Oates churns out mysteries, often in the form of short stories or novellas. Sometimes those lesser works read like careless ...Read more

'Life of the Party': The forgotten woman behind the Tupperware Party craze

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"Life of the Party: The Remarkable Story of How Brownie Wise Built, and Lost, a Tupperware Party" by Bob Kealing; Crown Archetype (320 pages, $26)

She's been to all your parties, knows what's in your refrigerator and is not afraid to demonstrate a loud burp. Now you really get to know Brownie Wise.

Long before Martha Stewart, Mary Kay and ...Read more

Zambra's engaging 'Multiple Choice' turns testing into narrative tool

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"Multiple Choice" by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell; Penguin Books (128 pages, $15)

Alejandro Zambra's "Multiple Choice" made me laugh repeatedly, often ruefully. Zambra refashions the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test, a precollege exam like our SAT, into an instrument for fiction, simultaneously mocking standardized testing and ...Read more

Theodore Roosevelt whipped up a frenzy of populism in 1912. We're still living with the consequences.

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"Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary" by Geoffrey Cowan; W.W. Norton (424 pages, $27.95)

In the name of presidential ambition, is anything off-limits? If the recent primary season is any indication, the answer is a disheartening no.

Both entertainment and embarrassment, the tweets, accusations, ...Read more

Review: 'The Voyeur's Motel' by Gay Talese

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"The Voyeur's Motel" by Gay Talese; Grove (233 pages, $25)

What do we call those who watch the voyeur?

Gay Talese's new book of nonfiction, "The Voyeur's Motel," recounts the years that a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos, spent secretly observing his paying guests through special vents installed in the ceilings of some of his rooms. Foos was ...Read more

Review: 'The Invoice' by Jonas Karlsson

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"The Invoice" by Jonas Karlsson, translated from Swedish by Neil Smith; Hogarth Press (204 pages, $24)

The narrator of Jonas Karlsson's "The Invoice" is a nice, mild guy. He works part-time in a video store, rides his bike everywhere, enjoys watching movies, gets along fine. He's not very ambitious, but he's pretty happy -- which is his ...Read more

Review: 'The Light of Paris' by Eleanor Brown

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"The Light of Paris" by Eleanor Brown; G.P. Putnam's Sons (320 pages, $26)

Macalester alumna Eleanor Brown's second novel (her first was the delightful best-seller "The Weird Sisters") recapitulates an old and sometimes hackneyed plot -- the transformation of an American woman in Paris -- in a fresh, endearing way. It is two stories in one -- ...Read more

Review: 'Trials of the Earth' by Mary Mann Hamilton

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"Trials of the Earth" by Mary Mann Hamilton; Little, Brown (318 pages, $27)

Mary Mann Hamilton's story is a memoir, but it's unlike most any you've read -- because it is just that: memories, laid down straight and true, of her life as a pioneer of the Mississippi Delta in the late 1800s. It's like a history book, except it utterly lacks any ...Read more

'The Big Book of Science Fiction' a portal to endless reading pleasure

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"The Big Book of Science Fiction," edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer; Vintage (1,216 pages, $25)

Surprisingly, the literary spirit that haunts Ann and Jeff Vandermeer's massive new anthology, "The Big Book of Science Fiction," isn't Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov or even H.G. Wells.

It's Jorge Luis Borges, the creator of miniature fables of ...Read more

Heroine packs a comic punch

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"Someone Please Have Sex With Me" by Gina Wynbrandt; 2dcloud Comics & Graphic Novels (140 pages, $17.95)

A girl and her Justin Bieber crush don't exactly sound like the sort of material that darkly funny comics are made of. But Gina Wynbrandt's first book takes seemingly innocuous girl culture and transforms it into something humorously abject....Read more

Review: 'Jonathan Unleashed' by Meg Rosoff

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"Jonathan Unleashed" by Meg Rosoff; Viking (275 pages, $25)

You know that feeling when you meet your dog's eyes and it seems like he knows what you're thinking? (Cat lovers, bear with me.) In Meg Rosoff's new novel, "Jonathan Unleashed," Jonathan Trefoil's future is in the paws of his border collie and his cocker spaniel, and that's a good ...Read more

Review: 'Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube' by Blair Braverman

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"Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube" by Blair Braverman; Ecco (274 pages, $25.99)

How free is a young American woman to pursue her wildest, dearest dreams?

Ideally, the answer would be, as free as she wants, if she's willing to work hard -- go for it, girl.

In reality, dream-chasing requires grit and stubbornness, patience and persistence. And ...Read more

Review: 'Little Girl Gone' by Gerry Schmitt

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"Little Girl Gone" by Gerry Schmitt; Berkley Books (325 pages, $26)

Out of a swirling Minnesota snowstorm, a new hero trudges triumphantly off the pages of Gerry Schmitt's new thriller -- a radical departure from the best-selling "cozy" mysteries Schmitt pens under her pseudonym, Laura Childs.

Unlike Schmitt's (or Childs') characters in her ...Read more

'Hamilton: The Revolution': How a hip-hop Broadway musical became an American obsession

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"Hamilton: The Revolution" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter; Grand Central Publishing (288 pages, $40)

The revolution started with the idea that a hip-hop-Broadway marriage was the perfect vehicle for the story of Alexander Hamilton, the $10 Founding Father who created America's monetary system. The genius who came up with the idea and...Read more

Can you bear the ugly side of paradise?

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"Here Comes the Sun" by Nicole Dennis-Benn; Liveright (336 pages, $26.95)

Nicole Dennis-Benn's striking first novel bears a vivid cover and a jaunty title, but its subject matter is anything but superficial. Set in Jamaica in 1994, during a crippling drought and the creeping encroachment of high-end hotels along the shores of Montego Bay, "Here...Read more

Review: 'Dinner With Edward' by Isabel Vincent

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"Dinner With Edward" by Isabel Vincent; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (213 pages, $23.95)

Isabel Vincent's marriage was on the verge of ending when a friend introduced her to Edward, a man whose wife had just died. The attraction was immediate. What followed was not a romance -- Isabel was in her 40s, Edward in his 90s -- but a close ...Read more


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