Archives of "The BookBrowse Review": Reviews, previews, back-stories, news

January 19, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover multiple books that offer insight into the culture and sociopolitical situation in China in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Wedding Party by Liu Xinwu is a novel set in Beijing in 1982, revolving around a large cast of characters preparing for a wedding. Our Beyond the Book article further explores this particular time period, when the Cultural Revolution was over and the country was in an era of change.

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows is the memoir of talented and provocative artist Ai Weiwei, who grew up in exile after his father was branded a "rightist" by Mao and was later imprisoned himself as a result of his controversial art. In the accompanying Beyond the Book, we delve deeper into the artist's life and work, and how he came to be championed internationally as a symbol of free expression.

Newly released in paperback, we review journalist Amelia Pang's Made in China, an exposé on Chinese labor camps, and Malinda Lo's Last Night at the Telegraph Club. The latter is set in the United States in 1954 and tells the story of a family living in San Francisco's Chinatown, focusing in particular on a teenage girl who is contending with both racism and homophobia. Our Beyond the Book article for this review covers anti-Chinese sentiment in America, historically and in the present.

Along with these and many more reviews, we also have almost 50 previews of new releases publishing in the next two weeks and a new Wordplay.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse; we very much appreciate your support.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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January 05, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Happy New Year! We hope you're ready to read some fantastic new books in 2022. In this issue, we cover two new releases set in Korea at different times. Our First Impressions readers were impressed with Juhea Kim's debut novel, Beasts of a Little Land, a work of historical fiction with a cast of vividly drawn characters and resonant themes which spans 50 years of 20th century Korean history from the time of the Japanese occupation.

Love in the Big City, San Young Park's debut is one of a number of recent Korean novels translated into English. Its four interconnected stories center around a gay man named Park Young living in Seoul and coming of age through a series of relationships. As humorous as it is poignant, the novel and its protagonist are not soon forgotten.

We also review A Net for Small Fishes, set at court in Jacobean England and perfect for fans of historical fiction with strong female characters; also, Ken Follett's electric thriller Never, about a looming nuclear war between China and the United States.

In addition to these and many other reviews, we have an interview with the founders of two cookbook book clubs, as well as a new blog post about books entering the public domain in 2022.

There is a strong crop of new books publishing in January, and in this issue we preview about 40 of the most notable releasing in the first half of the month. You can browse new releases anytime on the BookBrowse website by clicking on "Publishing This Month" under the "What's New" menu.

As always, thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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December 08, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

This is the last issue of The BookBrowse Review in 2021, and that means it's time to reveal this year's Award Winners, as chosen by our subscribers.

The BookBrowse Award for Best Fiction goes to The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Towles also made the Top 20 in 2016 for his novel A Gentleman in Moscow, which was named book clubs' all-time favorite book in our survey last year.

The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson's illuminating biography of Jennifer Doudna — awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020 for her work on gene editing — is the worthy winner of our Nonfiction Award."

Emily Spurr wins Best Debut for A Million Things, which is the only paperback original on the list, as you'll see when you scroll through the reviews in the left-hand menu.

Lastly, Best Young Adult Novel goes to Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley, which happens to also be a debut.

We profile all Top 20 books of the year in this issue, including the four award winners. The list features books from some well-known favorites, like Kazuo Ishiguro, Colm Tóibín and Richard Powers. Other authors might be new to you, such as Honoree Fannone Jeffers, who made the list for her sweeping debut novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, and journalist and novelist Dawn Turner, author of the poignant memoir Three Girls from Bronzeville, which explores how fate, personal choices and systemic racism combine to shape the life of a person of color.

We also have reviews of our top recommendations for book clubs in 2022, featuring books by Marie Benedict, Maggie Shipstead, Kristin Harmel and more. You'll find a collection of some of our favorite author interviews from 2021 as well.

Of course, along with each review, there are insightful Beyond the Book articles; and we've also included previews of notable books coming out in the first week of the new year.

Plus, we have our annual Big Holiday Wordplay, which is now in its 20th year and has become something of a holiday tradition for many to solve by themselves or in conjunction with friends or family.

Thank you for being a BookBrowse member, and thanks especially to everyone who voted for this year's Best of the Year.

Davina Morgan-Witts,
BookBrowse Publisher

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November 17, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

We have some great Beyond the Book articles for book lovers in this issue. In Tenderness, Alison MacLeod fictionalizes the story of the writing and publication of the controversial novel Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence in 1928. In our accompanying article, we explore the tempestuous history of the book, which was censored for obscenity in both the U.S. and Britain until the second half of the 20th century.

Alongside our review of The Book of Mother, the debut novel of French author Violaine Huisman, we examine the elusive genre of autofiction in all its forms.

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu is a coming-of-age novel about a young, biracial woman working as a nanny for a wealthy white family in New York City. The protagonist, Willa Chen, feels a fracture in her identity related to her race and her parents' divorce and second marriages. In our Beyond the Book article, we discuss her namesake, Willa Cather, who wrote about characters feeling a similar sense of alienation. (Win Me Something is one of two paperback originals in this issue, the other is People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami.)

The next issue of The BookBrowse Review will be published in three weeks and will feature reviews of the 20 books voted Best of the Year by BookBrowse members.

As always, thank you for reading.

Davina Morgan-Witts,
BookBrowse Publisher

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November 03, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

What is fate? Do bad circumstances guarantee a bad outcome?

These are the questions asked in Dawn Turner's memoir Three Girls from Bronzeville, about a trio of women who grew up together in a historically Black Chicago neighborhood. They share a similar background, but come to have radically different experiences. Each woman makes choices that determine the trajectory of her life, but what about the situations where there was no choice to be made, or no good choice? In the Beyond the Book article accompanying our review, we explore the psychological aspects of the choice to forgive someone, even when they have done the seemingly unforgivable.

In the latest novel from Louise Erdrich, The Sentence, the ghost of a former customer haunts a Minneapolis bookstore, disturbing the protagonist bookseller, Tookie. Tookie believes that the customer died as a result of reading a particular phrase in a book and seeks to avoid a similar fate. Set in 2020, Erdrich incorporates current events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd into the narrative to investigate the pernicious effects of institutional racism, which haunts the novel with questions about the fate of people of color in a society that disregards and discards them. In the Beyond the Book article, we introduce you to Birchbark Books, the real-life book store from The Sentence, opened in 2001 by Louise Erdrich and specializing in books and other resources by and about Native Americans.

We also review The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams, and many more new releases. Plus, we have a new Wordplay and an interview with the leader of a California book club about how his group has been faring during the pandemic.

Thanks for reading.

Davina Morgan-Witts,
BookBrowse Publisher

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October 20, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we highlight three powerful debuts, each of which offers a blistering take on racism. Assembly by Natasha Brown is a quietly incendiary novel about a British Jamaican woman living in London whose daily experience with microaggressions and outright racial hostility contributes to a decline in both her physical and mental health.

In the titular novella featured in Jocelyn Nicole Johnson's debut collection My Monticello, civil unrest provoked by a violent group of white supremacists drives a mixed-race group of neighbors to take shelter at Thomas Jefferson's plantation, now preserved as a museum. The story's narrator is a descendant of Jefferson and the enslaved woman Sally Hemings, creating an intersection of past and present and an intelligent discussion of how racism is ingrained in the foundation of America.

Chasing Me to My Grave is the posthumous memoir of Black artist Winfred Rembert, whose early life in the Jim Crow South included a childhood on a cotton plantation and a stint on a prison chain gang. The book, like his art, showcases racial trauma, but it also features powerful moments of hope and grace.

In addition to these debuts, we review Harrow, Joy Williams' first novel in 20 years, Jonathan Franzen's Crossroads, and more.

If you're a member of a book club, or thinking of starting one in the new year, make sure to check out our blog post on the Best Books for Book Clubs in 2022 for some inspiration. We also have a particularly strong batch of upcoming release previews in this issue to round out the end of the fall publishing season.

As always, thank you for supporting BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts,
BookBrowse Publisher

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October 06, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review some highly anticipated new releases by very popular authors, all of which feature a historical angle along with some exceptionally memorable characters. Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land spans millennia, from the Fall of Constantinople to the 22nd century, the disparate threads linked together by an ancient Greek tome that might be the key to a better world.

Pat Barker returns with the second book in her planned trilogy imagining the inner lives of Greek mythological heroines. In The Women of Troy, the reader follows Briseis as she grapples with the destruction of her city in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Our "beyond the book" article explores the legendary life of the woman who will be the focus of the third book in this trilogy, the prophetess Cassandra of Troy.

We also look at Colm Tóibín's The Magician, a fictionalized biography of Thomas Mann, which juxtaposes the German author's internal struggle with his sexuality with the external turbulence of the second World War. In the accompanying "beyond the book," our reviewer compares Mann's brilliant novella Death in Venice to the 1971 film adaptation by Italian director Luchino Visconti.

This issue also features a new Wordplay and a Giveaway, so make sure to enter for your chance to win a copy of Suzanne Feldman's World War I historical novel Sisters of the Great War.

As always, thank you for being a part of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts,
BookBrowse Publisher

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BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.