I Saw a Man

The event that changed all of their lives happened on a Saturday afternoon in June, just minutes after Michael Turner–thinking the Nelsons’ house was empty–stepped through their back door.

-Owen Sheers, I Saw a Man: A Novel


Once in a Great City

In the fullness of the postwar fifties, with the rise of suburbs and two-car garages and urban freeways and the long-distance federal interstate system, millions of Americans paid homage to Detroit’s grand motor palace. For a time, the top five tourist attractions in the United States were Niagara Falls, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the Smithsonian Institution, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Ford Rotunda. The Rotunda drew more visitors than Yellowstone, Mount Vernon, the Statue of Liberty, or the Washington Monument. Or so the Ford publicists claimed. Chances are you have not heard of it.

-David Maraniss, Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story


Quicksand & More


“It suddenly seemed as if my life had shrunk. That January morning when I received my cancer diagnosis, I had the feeling that my life was dwindling away. Very few thoughts came into my head; my mind seemed to be a sort of desert-like landscape.” Here‘s Henning Mankell (Quicksand: What It Means to be a Human Being)

The relationship between Cassius Clay and Malcolm X signaled a new direction in American culture, one shaped by the forces of sports and entertainment, race and politics.” Here‘s Blood Brothers.

Says novelist Claire Vaye Watkins (Gold Fame Citrus): “In the American west, we’ve spent a lot of energy, and money, and resources, and cultural narrative creating the idea that actually, we are supposed to be here, it’s our divine right to be in this dry climate in whatever numbers we want, and living whichever way we want. And during the course of writing this book, the absurdity of that narrative really was illuminated. Here.

“Tin House editor Spillman, who spent his first eight years in West Berlin, recounts his 1990 return with his wife, the writer Elissa Schappell, seeking the heady air of East Berlin, where skinheads battle anarchists while talk of radical art and politics fills the seedy bars and underground raves.” Here‘s a review of All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Memoir.




The City at Three P.M.

I am wondering if books themselves have a life of their own or, more so, if every individual copy of a book sometimes does have an existence, and possibly a purpose, somehow separate from the text.

-Peter LaSalle, “The Other Life of Any Book: Three Copies of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano,” in The City at Three P.M.: Writing, Reading, and Traveling


The Guest Room

Richard Chapman presumed there would be a stripper at his brother Philip’s bachelor party.

-Chris Bohjalian, The Guest Room: A Novel


Coventry: November 14, 1940

There are not many historic cities, especially in northern Europe, whose early identity is defined by nudity. Coventry is one.

-Frederick Taylor, Coventry: November 14, 1940


Paris at War: 1939-1944

When the poet Paul Valery heard the news that France was at war, he reacted by mimicking the speaking clock: “At the fourth stroke it will be the end of the world precisely.”

-David Drake, Paris at War: 1939-1944


Paradise Now

The dream of utopia is eternal. We walk through this world imagining another, better existence. Sometimes that perfected life is thought to be waiting on the far side of death, or on a remote island, or in the green shade of prehistory. Sometimes we imagine a flawless society right here, just a few years hence. Occasionally, people set their vision in brick and mortar–they frame the buildings of utopia, write out its customs, furnish its rooms, and try to move in.

-Chris Jennings, Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism


Between the World and Me & More


“I would be the last one to spit in the soup, my heart’s desire to but praise that which should be praised, only disparaging that which should be disparaged. Still, I find myself in a distinct minority. My problem was that the book brings up ancient conceits and complaints. The prose is workaday, but the message been a given for decades. I am befuddled as to why there is such an overwhelming flood of encomiums for Coates.” Here‘s a review of Between the World and Me.

A flawless 1953 heist novel.” Here.

“The great thing about America is I always come back with more books and more tip-offs of who to read. It’s a country in love with crime fiction.” Here‘s Ian Rankin (Even Dogs in the Wild).

In Cold Blood at 50. “Its first sentence sits near ‘Call me Ishmael’ among American literature’s most famous opening lines: ‘The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.”‘” Here.

“You know you’re reading an exceptional book when, approximately two sentences into it, you start panicking at the thought of its ending.” Here‘s a review of The Narrow Door.


Splinter the Silence

Weekends were best. It was easy to avoid working then. So it was easier to watch the women he was interested in. Mostly they didn’t go to work then either, so he had a chance to observe their routines and work out the best way to kill them.

-Val McDermid, Splinter the Silence: A Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Novel