Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Patience and Fortitude

This is a book about a world-class library that lost its way in the digital age.

-Scott Sherman, Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save A Public Library


Base Nation

Although the United States has long had some bases in foreign lands, this massive global deployment of military force was unknown in U.S. history before World War II. Now, seventy years after that war, there are still, according to the Pentagon, 174 U.S. bases in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. There are hundreds more dotting the planet in Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, to name just a few. Worldwide, we have bases in more than seventy countries. Although few U.S. citizens realize it, we probably have more bases in other people’s lands than any other people, nation, or empire in world history.

-David Vine, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (American Empire Project)


Ingredients & More


“Photographer Dwight Eschliman and writer Steve Ettlinger (whose scores of books include Twinkie, Deconstructed) conspire to demystify common ingredients and products ranging from Kraft Singles to Red Bull.” Here‘s a review of Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products.

“Sometimes you find something new and you just say Wow.Here‘s Knopf’s Sonny Mehta.

“Many people have read the novel now and there’s a consensus that the photos don’t detract from the fiction. Seeing the man Amory’s in love with or the house she lives in actually makes the novel seem more real. And that fits into this bigger plan I realize I’ve been working on throughout my writing life, which is to make fiction seem so real you forget it’s fiction, to push the bounds of fiction into the real world, the world of history and journalism and reportage. I never had this plan, but I can look back at the work and see, yes, this is something I consistently tried to do: to make people’s suspension of disbelief absolute.” Here‘s novelist William Boyd (Sweet Caress).

Literary knishes. Here.

A Strangeness in My Mind

This is the story of the life and daydreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of boza and yogurt.

-Orhan Pamuk, A Strangeness in My Mind: A Novel


A Little Life & More


“Tweets about A Little Life describe copious tears, heartbreak, and awe at the novel’s mastery. I’m not about to join in. A Little Life ultimately left me dazed and dry-eyed, still trying to put together the pieces of a lurid tale that confounds expectations.” Here‘s a review of Hanya Yanagihara’s Booker-longlisted novel.

“In the wake of the 60th anniversary of [Emmett] Till’s murder, it’s startling to realize that for decades his story was largely untold, particularly in the Mississippi Delta, where African-Americans discussed the affair only in whispers out of fear of retribution.” Here‘s a review of Devery S. Anderson’s Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement.

“In Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story author and journalist David Maraniss turns back the clock to paint the picture of an American metropolis in its prime, however, one where the seeds of the city’s future fall were already starting to take root.” Here.

I try to go after them through a side door or a window that nobody had peered into,” says Wil Haygood (Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America). Here.


Bitter Bronx

For a long time I couldn’t go back to the Bronx. It felt like a shriek inside my skull, or a wound that had been stitched over by some insane surgeon, and I didn’t dare undo any of the stitches. It was the land of deprivation, a world without books or libraries and museums, where fathers trundled home from some cheese counter or shoe factory where they worked, with a monumental sadness sitting on their shoulders, where mothers counted every nickel at the butcher shop, bargaining with such deep scorn on their faces that their mouths were like ribbons of raw blood, while their children, girls and boys, were instruments of disorder, stealing, biting, bullying whoever they could and whimpering when they had the least little scratch.

-Jerome Charyn, “Author’s Note,” in Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories


Girl at War

The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes.

-Sara Novic, Girl at War: A Novel


Lovers on All Saints’ Day

This is what happened when Madame Michaud got out of prison.

-Juan Gabriel Vasquez, “The Return,” in Lovers on All Saints’ Day



Negroland & More


“’Sometimes I almost forget I’m a Negro,’” [Margot] Jefferson recalls her well-to-do mother, Irma, confessing.” Here‘s Negroland: A Memoir.

“When I was 17 years old, I lived with my agoraphobic grandmother in a senior citizen trailer park,” says [novelist Jonathan] Evison. “I was going to community college. I did her grocery shopping, cleaned up after her, basically was her caregiver. I loved the hell out of her — she drank 12 beers a day, smoked like a chimney, we sat and watched ‘Rockford Files’ and got along great. But the interesting thing — I was the only person under 65 in this whole community.” Here‘s This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

As for spectacle, Trump is one of the defining showmen of our new Gilded Age, whether we like that fact or not. Grandiosity, ostentation, and at least a touch of vulgarity have been his hallmarks from the beginning, the beginning being his 1980 reopening of the old and dowdy Commodore Hotel at Grand Central as a Grand Hyatt, bathed in marble, mirrors, chrome, and glass—’classy,’ to be sure, albeit in a Great Neck catering hall kind of way.” Here‘s a review of Donald Trump’s Time to Get Tough.

“’Fat City’ is old slang for prosperity and advantage—the good life. If you’re in Fat City, you’re in luck. But the phrase is wry irony as the title of a novel that has stunned and mesmerized successive generations of readers since its publication in 1969.” Here.


Falling in Love

The woman knelt over her lover, her face, her entire body, stiff with terror, staring at the blood on her hand.

-Donna Leon, Falling in Love: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery