RaveThe AV ClubPoetic and razor sharp ... Idaho shifts to his perspective, as well as the perspective of his first wife, Jenny, who we meet serving a 30-year prison sentence. Each point of view is imbued with a strikingly different perspective on the events that connect them. Each is powerfully psychological, as Ruskovich gingerly peels back their respective psyches, regrets, and dreams and each character’s undeniable urge to gaze backward ... Idaho is sad, but not despairingly so. Ruskovich’s prose is lyrical but keen, a poem that never gets lost in its own rhythm. Even as the plot can be seen to loosely hang over the murder, most of the chapters are more concerned with a Marilynne Robinson-like emphasis on the private, painfully human contemplation going on inside the characters’ brains. The result is writing as bruisingly beautiful as the Idaho landscape in which the story takes place.
Sex with ShakespeareJillian Keenan
RaveThe A.V. ClubFor all that this book can, and probably will be, broadly painted as about 'a woman with a spanking fetish,' there’s nothing so strange about a story of a woman coming to terms with her sexuality and her identity. Keenan’s excellent writing and humor make this a book enjoyable for fetishists and vanillas alike—especially if you like Shakespeare.
The Mother of All QuestionsRebecca Solnit
MixedThe AV ClubThe first essay, the title of which is given to the book, addresses that exhausted, timeless question of motherhood. If that feels like a subject that’s been written about to death in the feminist blogosphere, don’t be fooled: Solnit’s brief essay is more thoughtful, probing, and powerful than the majority of content on the subject ... Solnit feels crucial in a way most other writers don’t. Feminism and the patriarchy are complex and mutating beasts, and it takes a steady hand and deep heart to get to the bottom of things. There are writers who struggle to express their bold ideas. Then there are writers whose ways with words aren’t matched by their storytelling. Solnit occupies the rare category of writer who presents her powerful, searing ideas in dazzlingly graceful language. The Mother Of All Questions is a joy of both form and function. It’s difficult to think of an equal.
PositiveThe AV ClubThe rare alchemy of achingly powerful words that also induce fevered page riffling is in abundance in Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst’s sumptuously written, eminently compelling novel about a family and its desperation. Readers will be torn between a desire to pause to admire a golden paragraph and the compulsion to hasten on to find out what happens next.
Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)David Sedaris
PositiveThe AV Club...like much of Sedaris’ deceivingly simple prose, the enjoyment in Theft By Finding comes not from its very basic conceit but its sharp observations and bone-dry humor ... By book’s end, Sedaris’ entries read like mini essays. They’re often as enjoyable as anything in Holidays On Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day ... Diary entries shouldn’t be this good, but considering Sedaris’ output, it’s not surprising that this collection is a worthy addition to his name.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White NorthBlair Braverman
PositiveThe AV ClubBraverman avoids the common pitfalls of the 'finding yourself' genre by refusing to treat nature as a cure-all to what ails her, opting instead for ongoing growth and reconciliation, and never quite coming to firm conclusions, even by book’s end ... the understated writing making room for big events to pack a more powerful punch ... At times this narrative structure is confusing, especially in the opening chapters, before the reader is acquainted with Braverman’s history ... a strange, remarkable memoir.
The Girl with the Lower Back TattooAmy Schumer
PositiveThe AV Club...signature Schumer through and through—a hilarious, brutal, and graphic read. Coming in book form is both a strength and weakness; writing lets Schumer be a little more intimate with her audience, going into asides and longer, more thematic material than works for stand-up and sketch comedy. But those are also where Schumer is strongest, and it occasionally feels like some of the material would be better suited to TV, in front of a live audience.
Lincoln in the BardoGeorge Saunders
RaveThe AV ClubLincoln In The Bardo is a postmodern masterpiece ... Saunders’ genius in Lincoln In The Bardo is the culminating effect of the disparate parcels of information that, taken together, create a spellbinding story of love and loss ... Saunders is best known for his satirical bite, but Lincoln In The Bardo is a deeper examination of life, explored through the dead, unable to move on for various reasons. He’s never written anything quite so poignant and moving as this story about death.
The Book of Dust: La Belle SauvagePhilip Pullman
RaveThe AV ClubIn this case it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters, and Pullman crafts a singularly thrilling adventure for his young hero to embark on. Malcolm and a compellingly complex adversary-turned-ally flee an evil man with a ghoulish dæmon while trying to understand the unknowable forces acting around (and sometimes upon) them. Theirs is a classic coming-of-age story set in the world Pullman brought lavishly to life in His Dark Materials ... The result is a story smaller in scope than anything in His Dark Materials, and presents an even more mysterious version of our world. It’s like the great flood sends Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, in and out of multiple overlapping worlds, creating a fertile, enigmatic landscape to explore ... Even without the deep well of context of those other books of Dust, La Belle Sauvage stands on its own as a singularly beguiling work of fantasy. It’s sure to be devoured by readers young and old alike.