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

“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. 


I’m not enrolled in any classes this fall, but all those pencils, notebooks and forced-smile back-to-school photos in my Facebook feed have me thinking about one of my favorite literary genres: the campus novel.

Mary Beth Keane’s novel, “Ask Again, Yes,” opens on a New York City street in 1973. Rookie cops Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope respond to an armed robbery in progress, and while Francis checks a victim’s pulse, he considers larger issues:

For eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo traveled the country and embedded herself with ordinary women in an attempt to explore a topic few people talk about – female desire.

As first sentences go, Helen Phillips’s new novel, “The Need,” packs a dramatic punch:

“She crouched in front of the mirror in the dark, clinging to them. The baby in her right arm, the child in her left. There were footsteps in the other room. . . .”


In interviews about her new novel, “City of Girls,” author Elizabeth Gilbert said she wanted to write “a sort of fizzy, joyful, sex-positive book” – one that would go down like a champagne cocktail. And this one is crisp and fun, even as it explores serious topics of female desire, friendship and the consequences of the choices we make.


Samanta Schweblin’s new collection of short stories, “Mouthful of Birds,” draws you in with its stunning cover – dozens of jewel-toned butterflies piled atop one another in a kaleidoscopic tumble of color. It’s a fitting image for the stories inside, which attack the senses in powerful bursts of language.


The most disturbing thing about “The Farm,” by Joanne Ramos, is that its premise seems completely plausible.

It’s Memorial Day, and you know what that means: the official start of summer reading season.

For me, there are four categories of summertime books, and I like to draw a few from each when I compile my reading list.


If you haven’t yet heard of Sally Rooney, you probably will soon. The Irish writer seems to be the literary phenom of the moment, after her 2017 debut novel, “Conversations With Friends,” won widespread critical and commercial acclaim.

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