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Here are the best reviewed books of the week.

Book Marks

October 30, 2020, 11:31am

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Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions, Bryan Washington’s Memorial, Martin Amis’ Inside Story, and Evan Osnos’ Joe Biden all feature among the best reviewed books of the week.

Brought to you by Book Marks, Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes for books.”

 

Fiction

The Cold Millions_Jess Walter

1. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
(Harper)

10 Rave • 1 Positive • 1 Mixed

Read an excerpt from The Cold Millions here

“There’s an election next week that will mark the climax of an exhausting, dramatic year, but if you have the time and head space to read new-release fiction, it would be well spent on The Cold Millions… It’s a tremendous work, a vivid, propulsive, historical novel with a politically explosive backdrop that reverberates through our own… Walter is a Spokane native, and he captures both the depth and breadth of this moment in his hometown’s history … gives us the grand tour, with a bounty of crime and intrigue and adventure anchored by an unforgettable ensemble cast … About half of the novel is narrated in the third person from Rye’s point of view, but Walter brings in a multitude of first-person voices to bring the world roaring to life.”

–Steph Cha (USA Today)

 

Memorial Bryan Washington

2. Memoria lby Bryan Washington
(Riverhead)

9 Rave • 3 Positive

… if you thought Lot was good, Washington’s first novel is a ground-busting masterpiece … From this superficial summary, it’s tempting to think (incorrectly) that Memorial is some kind of slightly headier rom-com. But what takes this novel well beyond just a simplistic story of two lovers who eventually learn how to come together by spending time apart is Washington’s decision to reveal the course of their journey—and the depth of both their problems and love for each other—from each of the characters’ perspectives … We also find out Benson is HIV-positive. (To Washington’s credit, his nuanced portrayal of Benson’s matter-of-fact attitude toward his status is the most accurate I’ve seen in modern literature) … With a book so layered and, frankly, one that succeeds on so many fronts, it can be difficult to pinpoint the one overarching magical quality that sets it apart. In Memorial, Washington’s descriptions of food and cooking, particularly Japanese delicacies such as abura-age, konbu maki, kamaboko and spinach udon, and okonomiyaki, are to be slurped and savored … The myriad screaming matches and sex scenes are compelling too … As a secondary character, Mitsuko is sharp-witted and no-nonsense—and therefore thrilling company. (Her one-liners are priceless) … But what truly makes Memorial extraordinary—especially the final section—is Washington’s uncanny ability to capture the elusive essence of love on nearly every page… if there’s one book you should go out of your way to read in 2020, it should be this one.”

–Alexis Burling (The San Francisco Chronicle)

 

Inside Story_Martin Amis

3. Inside Story by Martin Amis
(Knopf)

1 Rave • 9 Positive • 10 Mixed • 1 Pan

Read an excerpt from Inside Story here

“The book is a ‘novelized autobiography’—an unstable and charismatic compound of fact and fiction. Amis revisits stories he told in his memoir Experience. Some other passages have been grafted from his essays and speeches. He reproduces a New Yorker article in its entirety … Amis feels a bit like a beloved vice these days. You read him through your fingers. As a critic, he remains strong and original. His memoir is a model of the form … Inside Story is rife with dreams, sex fantasies and maundering meditations on Jewishness, a longstanding obsession. The book feels built to baffle. It is an orgy of inconsistencies and inexplicable technical choices … Most maddening of all, Inside Story also includes some of Amis’s best writing to date.

–Parul Sehgal (The New York Times)

 

Fortune Favors the Dead_Stephen Spotswood

4. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
(Doubleday)

3 Rave • 2 Positive • 1 Mixed

“Written with witty prose, Fortune Favors the Deadis and often humorous and fun—nowhere near the stuffy analytical voice of Dr. Watson. Instead, with its cast of suspects (all conveniently listed at the start of the book to help readers keep track), it has the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie mystery, and there’s a delightful dose of noir thrown in for the more hardcore pulp fiction crowd, too … It’s as mysterious and fun a caper as you will ever read, with plenty of misdirection and intrigue to keep you guessing. You don’t need a clairvoyant to realize this duo will be around for years to come.

–G. Robert Frazier(BookPage)

 

The Tower of Fools_Andrzej Sapkowski

5. The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski
(Orbit)

2 Rave • 3 Positive

“While the sheer amounts of characters, historical names, and untranslated Latin may daunt some readers, Sapkowski’s energetic and satirical prose as well as the unconventional setting makes this a highly enjoyable historical fantasy. Recommended for Sapkowksi’s many existing fans and for fans of historical fantasy in general.”

–Nell Keep (Booklist)

**

Nonfiction

Red Comet_Sylvia Plath

1. Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark
(Knopf)

10 Rave • 2 Positive • 2 Mixed

Read an excerpt fromRed Comet here

“… [an] incandescent, richly researched biography … Red Comet takes us on a literary picaresque, drawing on untapped archives, Plath’s complete correspondence, interviews with surviving members of the couple’s social and professional circles, and, most crucially, on Hughes’ journals and letters. From both perspectives Clark evokes how their common purpose rose and later diverged, invaluable reportage missing from other books … Clark delves deeper than biographers who have gone before: We see the poet as if peering through the Hubble Telescope for the first time, blurred galaxies and nebulas bursting into crystalline detail. Yet this gold standard of a biography does something more: Red Comet is a page-turner, particularly when Clark shifts to Plath’s final two years in England … By centering Plath’s evolving command of craft—by focusing on her peerless lyrical ear—Clark peels away clichéd interpretations much as the poet shed her false selves … A bravura performance, Red Comet is the one we’ve waited for.

–Hamilton Cain (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

 

Kindred_Rebecca Wragg Sykes

2. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes
(Bloomsbury 
Sigma)

7 Rave • 3 Positive

“If your ancestry traces back to populations outside sub-Saharan Africa, there’s a good chance that your genome includes contributions from Neanderthals. In Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, archaeologist and science writer Rebecca Wragg Sykes explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration … What Wragg Sykes has produced in Kindred, after eight years of labor, is masterful. Synthesizing over a century and a half of research, she gives us a vivid feel for a past in which we weren’t the only smart, feeling bipedal primate alive. That feel comes across sometimes in startlingly fresh ways.”

–Barbara King (NPR)

 

Joe Biden_Evan Osnos

3. Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos
(Scribner)

5 Positive • 2 Mixed

“Osnos’s concise biography treads back along the trail of horrendous tragedies, dashed hopes and dramatic implosions that preceded Biden’s improbable third run at the presidency, and gives at least some clues to the kind of leader he will become if he wins … It is impossible to come away from the Osnos’s biography without a sense of awe at what Biden has overcome to arrive at this point, so late in life and so close to achieving a prize he had assumed was lost … Osnos has written a fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son … This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention.”

–Julian Borger (The Guardian)

 

Tecumseh and the Prophet_Peter Cozzens

4. Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation by Peter Cozzens
(Knopf)

2 Rave • 2 Positive

[An] enthralling, deeply researched dual biography… Cozzens’s cinematic narrative is steeped in Native American culture and laced with vivid battle scenes and character sketches. American history buffs will gain a new appreciation for what these resistance leaders accomplished.”

–Publishers Weekly

 

I'll Be Seeing You: A Memoir_Elizabeth Berg

5. I’ll Be Seeing You: A Memoir by Elizabeth Berg
(Random House)

1 Rave • 3 Positive • 1 Mixed

“…her prologue speaks bluntly, but don’t be deterred. Though this book does bear witness to the inevitability of aging and loss, it is nonetheless a small gem shining with Berg’s signature largesse—generous gifts of poetic insight, close observance, vulnerability, honesty, humor and grace… Readers familiar with Berg’s novels know that her stories wonderfully encompass the comforts of beauty and wry humor, but they never sugarcoat life’s hard truths.”

–Alison Hood (BookPage)

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