Former Times Book Critic Asks: What Happened to Truth?

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When Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic Michiko Kakutani left her post as the chief book critic for The New York Times after 38 years, Vanity Fair declared, “The novelists of the world will sleep a little easier tonight.” It was the end of an era. Readers who had grown up with Kakutani’s book coverage — and whose tastes had evolved under the guidance of her insightful, impassioned (and sometimes brutal) reviews — wondered what she’d do next.

The answer? Write her own book, of course. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Bring the Right Thing for Every Occasion

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Raise your hand if, despite your intention to show up with just the right token of love or appreciation, these scenarios feel familiar:

  • Your mama taught you never to arrive at a social function empty-handed, but you usually run out of time to choose a host gift and end up grabbing a questionable bottle of wine from your fridge at the last minute.
  • You want to make a thoughtful gesture when a friend experiences a loss, but you don’t have a clue what to say.
  • You realized (too late) you gave your nephew the same birthday present three years in a row. Oops.

Ready for some fresh ideas? Hit the bookstore to find go-to gifts for life’s common occasions:
Read the rest of this entry »

A Dozen Magnificent Books for Young Readers (Plus a Scavenger Hunt for Waldo Fans)

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What to do on a rainy summer day? Read! What about when it’s too hot to play outside? Read! During rest time at camp? On road trips? At grandma’s house? Read, read, read!  Read the rest of this entry »

Beach Bag Refill: 18 Books We Love Right Now

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Amazing how much you can read during the summer, isn’t it? Lucky for readers everywhere, fantastic new books are coming out every week. If you’re looking for your next great read, consider these titles our own staffers are enjoying most these days: Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Don Hall

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In today’s post, Ann Patchett remembers Donald Hall, the memoirist, essayist, and former US Poet Laureate. His work was honored more times and in more ways than we have room to list here, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement, the Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, the LL WInship/PEN New England Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, the Caldecott Medal, and the National Medal of Arts — plus several nominations for the National Book Award. Hall passed away at home in New Hampshire on June 23, 2018.

In 1985, when I was a graduate student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, my best friend Lucy and I would become obsessed by what we read. We belted out Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” for a full semester. We tried to memorize the first chapter of García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. We fell in love with many short stories. I was there to learn how to write short stories so there was a whole raft of them I obsessed over, but none were as close to me as “The Ideal Bakery” by Donald Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Believers: An Excerpt from Rebecca Makkai’s New Must-Read Novel

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The following excerpt comes from the opening pages of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. This engaging and heartbreaking novel alternates between two storylines — one centered around a group of friends in Chicago during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and one set in 2015 Paris as a woman searches for her adult daughter. The novel is already a staff favorite at Parnassus, and you can get your copy here. 

Twenty miles from here, twenty miles north, the funeral mass was starting. Yale checked his watch as they walked up Belden. He said to Charlie, “How empty do you think that church is?”

Charlie said, “Let’s not care.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Work He Was Born to Do: Jim Ridley’s Legacy Lives on in New Book

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Maria Browning contributes this review of People Only Die of Love in Movies: Film Writing by Jim Ridley, a new book of Ridley’s film reviews, edited by Steve Haruch. This piece also runs at Chapter16.org.

“Beloved” is not a word usually associated with critics, but Jim Ridley, who spent 20 years as a film critic at the alt-weekly Nashville Scene and another seven as its editor, was absolutely beloved. When he died in 2016 after collapsing in his Scene office, the wave of sorrow rippled far beyond his personal circle. Many people who knew him only through his writing felt as if they’d lost a brilliant friend. A new collection of his work, People Only Die of Love in Movies, confirms that, in a very real sense, they had. Ridley’s voice was dazzling, honest, joyful, and a consistent force for good in the cultural life of the city he loved. Read the rest of this entry »