Archive: Fiction

A chance encounter -- and a literary delight

By Dennis Drabelle Here's why bookstores will always be important to me. Last week, on a visit to Philadelphia, I stopped in at the Book Trader, a roomy secondhand store on Second Street, looking for something to read, wanting to be surprised. While browsing the fiction shelves, I noticed "Chad...

By Steven E. Levingston | November 19, 2009; 05:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

What Richard Holbrooke Is Reading

In July, New Yorker writer George Packer traveled with special representative Richard Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the flight over, Holbrooke and his staff were discussing some of the problems Pakistan faces, including riots the previous week over a lack of electricity. From Packer's profile of Holbrooke, which ran...

By Rachel Hartigan Shea | September 29, 2009; 12:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

An Exact Duplicate of "Atmospheric Disturbances"

Tuesday night a group of readers, "fit but few," gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C. to meet Rivka Galchen, the author of last year's twilight-zone debut Atmospheric Disturbances. It's about a psychiatrist who suddenly becomes convinced that his wife has been replaced by an exact duplicate. Looking...

By Ron Charles | May 20, 2009; 06:28 AM ET | Comments (2)

Mainers Have Good Taste

My favorite book of 2008 -- Roxana Robinson's "Cost" -- has just been chosen as the best novel by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. As we all should, Robinson has a summer place on Mount Desert Island, ME. If you haven't read this fantastic novel, I can't recommend it...

By Ron Charles | March 14, 2009; 08:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Barbara Parker

Attorney-turned-mystery-writer Barbara Parker, best known for her "Suspicion" series, died this weekend in Boca Raton. The Sun Sentinel ran this tribute. Two years ago, our contributing editor Dennis Drabelle raved about her novel "The Perfect Fake": "There's a lot going on in Barbara Parker's The Perfect Fake. Several people die...

By Ron Charles | March 9, 2009; 03:49 PM ET | Comments (0)

Five Novels Up for the NBCC Award

The National Book Critics Circle will announce its awards at a ceremony in New York next Thursday night, and I've been eying their great shortlist of fiction finalists, trying to figure the odds. Compared to the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, the NBCC has far and away the largest...

By Ron Charles | March 4, 2009; 05:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gifts of Fiction for the Scientist

Until a candid math professor in college advised me to "consider possible talents in other areas," I had every intention of becoming an engineer. (Fortunately, I knew how to type.) Maybe you know someone who straddles the arts/sciences border, someone who would enjoy a literary novel that involves scientists or...

By Ron Charles | December 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Five Novels That Serve Up Thanksgiving Dinners

Thanksgiving Night, by Richard Bausch. It's fall, 1999, in a small Virginia town. In his signature sensitive way, Bausch winds together the stories of an enormous cast of characters, some tragic, some comically eccentric. A Patchwork Planet, by Anne Tyler. Several Tyler novels would fit on this list -- she...

By Ron Charles | November 27, 2008; 07:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Literary Halloween Tour of Terror

For travelers as crazy about Halloween as I am, I've prepared this Literary Halloween Tour of Terror: The original man of mystery, Edgar Allen Poe. (AP) We'll start close by with a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia. Access is somewhat limited now as the Park Service...

By Ron Charles | October 29, 2008; 07:13 AM ET | Comments (7)

Happy Goosebumps

Today is the birthday of R.L. Stine, master of children's horror literature. Since he started scaring kids out of their wits more than 20 years ago, he's written 300 books (300 million copies in print!). Reached by phone at his apartment in New York, he told me that he's now...

By Ron Charles | October 8, 2008; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (1)

Heating Up the Stacks

Recently, my 17-year-old daughter and her friends went out to dinner and then over to Barnes & Noble. They bought a Harlequin romance novel by Jill Shalvis called Flashback and spent the rest of the night in our basement reading it aloud, laughing their heads off and eating ice cream....

By Ron Charles | October 1, 2008; 07:18 AM ET | Comments (2)

Five Novels That Treat People With Special Needs With Respect

My older daughter has cerebral palsy, and living with her over the past 19 years has given me a sensitive gag reflex for the way people with special needs are portrayed in Hollywood movies. Novelists -- not surprisingly -- handle these characters with considerably more depth and complexity. Here's a...

By Ron Charles | September 25, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Five Great Unfinished Novels

With publication of Vladimir Nabokov's last, unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, being talked about, it seems a good time to look at other incomplete works, many of which were shaping up to be masterpieces when something happened: Inspiration flagged, or time ran out on the aging author, or the...

By Christian Pelusi | August 21, 2008; 07:58 AM ET | Comments (7)

Five Favorite Graphic Novels

Let me emphasize that word "favorite": I wouldn't necessarily claim that the following are the best graphic novels ever created, just ones that particularly please me. As you'll see with the last item, I'm not above cheating. But graphic storytelling is such a raffish art form that I don't feel...

By Christian Pelusi | July 17, 2008; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (14)

Five Literary Fiascos by Great American Writers

From time to time a successful author decides he should take a chance, go for broke, write a revolutionary book. Whereupon said writer promptly lays an egg. Here are five literary fiascos, all by Americans: Cases of good writers gone shockingly bad. 1. Pierre, or The Ambiguities, by Herman Melville...

By Christian Pelusi | June 19, 2008; 06:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Books to Climb Into

I was a fanciful child, desperate for the romance and adventure that seemed far away from the suburban sprawl of Reno, Nevada, where I grew up. So when I read books, I read them hungrily, eating up the details of places and times distant from my own. If I loved...

By Christian Pelusi | April 24, 2008; 06:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Novels Resolved in 24 Hours or Less

About 2,000 years before federal agent Jack Bauer began saving the free world on "24," Aristotle described the classic drama as taking place during a single revolution of the sun. Novels generally don't abide by that "unity of time," of course, but some of the most striking and curious ones...

By Christian Pelusi | April 3, 2008; 06:27 AM ET | Comments (10)

Great -- and Way Too Often Overlooked -- Novels by Famous Authors

Here are five stepchildren -- terrific novels overshadowed by their creators' more famous or better-selling works: 1. No Name (1862), by Wilkie Collins. Collins's The Woman in White and The Moonstone are giants of sensationalist fiction, but No Name, a dizzying spiral of impersonation and revenge, is just as good....

By Christian Pelusi | February 28, 2008; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (12)

Where Is Our Best 9/11 Fiction?

Four bestselling authors were having dinner at Gerard's Place, a quiet Washington restaurant. At one end of the table was George Packer ("Assassins' Gate"). At the other was Rajiv Chandrasekaran ("Imperial Life in the Emerald City," now being made into a movie starring Matt Damon). In the middle were Steve...

By Christian Pelusi | February 15, 2008; 07:24 AM ET | Comments (19)

Novels to Read While the Housing Market Plummets

Tired of watching my retirement savings go up in smoke, I decided to see how the value of my house has been holding up. Big mistake. According to the addictive, ulcer-inducing Web site zillow.com, my little Cape Cod in Bethesda declined by $46,000. In the last 30 days. That's more...

By Christian Pelusi | January 31, 2008; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (39)

Serious Novels for People Who'd Rather Be Reading Romance Fiction

So why do book review pages so often ignore romance fiction? Some of the best writing these days, according to Book World critics, is being done in genre novels: mysteries, SF and thrillers. Can the same be said for romance? Truth be told, I've been reading love stories since I...

By Christian Pelusi | January 17, 2008; 08:02 AM ET | Comments (86)

Skip the Book, See the Movie

Because I suffer (happily, actually) from bibliophilia, I am almost invariably (and inevitably) critical of any movie based on a book I've loved. In fact, seeing a movie made from one of my favorite books is akin to listening to an abridged audiobook: I'm infuriated by both its sins of...

By Christian Pelusi | January 10, 2008; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Great Sci Fi for People Who Think They Don't Like Sci Fi

Funny, how I used to love science fiction as a kid. But something happened at about age 15 -- maybe it was the demands of school, or maybe it was the fact that I came of age in the late '60s, when every day was so "out there" that life...

By Christian Pelusi | December 13, 2007; 11:16 AM ET | Comments (236)

On How the West Was Won

As the sole Westerner on the Book World staff, I feel geographically obligated to highlight some of my favorite novels about the settling of the West. These aren't triumphalist, manifest-destiny books, but fiction that grapples with what it feels like to go out into a fierce, unfamiliar land. Are there...

By Rachel Hartigan Shea | October 18, 2007; 07:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

To Scare the Bejesus Out of You

In the spirit of Halloween, I offer up these thoroughly terrifying books. I can vividly recall where I was when I read almost all of them. Feel free to weigh in on these and tell us what books have left you sleepless on a dark and stormy night. Pleasant dreams....

By Christian Pelusi | October 11, 2007; 06:59 AM ET | Comments (20)

If Your Marriage Is on the Rocks

We kick off our blog with a short list of five books that might be tonics to marital troubles. If only because they'll make you feel better! Tell us what books you'd gently press on a friend. And feel free to weigh in on these. 1. Anna Karenina, by Leo...

By Christian Pelusi | October 5, 2007; 07:26 PM ET | Comments (21)

 

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