Book Review

Journalist and book reviewer Suzanne Tobias reviews the latest books and such for KMUW on air and right here. Discover new reviews on alternate Mondays. You can also listen to KMUW book reviews through iTunes. Listen or subscribe here


“Heart of Junk,” a new novel by Luke Geddes, opens with uptight Margaret watching two vendors unpack their wares at the Heart of America Antique Mall – a large but struggling operation in Wichita, Kansas.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your reading life is to revisit the kinds of books that made you fall in love with reading in the first place – the early chapter books or middle-grade novels that illustrate the power of great storytelling. That’s the reason I picked up “To Night Owl From Dogfish,” a collaboration by authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolizter that had me feeling like a tween again.

If you’re a parent, you know the feeling: You’re with your child in a grocery store, or restaurant, or theater, or airplane, and they pitch a fit so sudden and volcanic, you worry they might spontaneously combust, right there on the spot. You imagine them aflame, fueled only by rage, destroying everything in their path – the epic meltdown.


An epigraph at the start of Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir quotes author Zora Neale Hurston: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”


On New Year’s Day 2013, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Weingarten carried an old green fedora into a restaurant in Washington, D.C., and asked three strangers to pluck a day, a month and a year out of the hat. They picked December 28, 1986.

Early in Ann Patchett’s new novel, “The Dutch House,” the narrator, Danny, poses a question to his sister, Maeve:

“Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?”

For people around the world – and particularly in Kansas – Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka is a symbol of extremism and hate.

In her debut novel, “The Dearly Beloved,” author Cara Wall tells the story of two couples over decades of love and friendship — all of it centered on the exploration of faith and the struggle to find meaning in life.

Since her groundbreaking autobiography, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Jacqueline Woodson has used spare prose to tell rich, multilayered stories in a fraction of the space other writers require.

“Even in death the boys were trouble.”

From its opening line, Colson Whitehead’s new novel, “The Nickel Boys,” vividly tells the story of a spot in the Florida panhandle where construction crews unearthed a brutal history. 

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