Tag Archives: WSJ Books To Read

Reviews: Top Books To Read – November 2022

‘Indivisible’ Review: One and Inseparable

Indivisible|Joel Richard Paul

At a time of mutual hatred and bitter division, Daniel Webster argued for the primacy of a unifying political idea. Review by Fergus M. Bordewich

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Indivisible : Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism

by Joel Richard Paul

‘Arthur Miller’ Review: Only Truth for Sale

Arthur Miller|John Lahr

In plays like ‘Death of a Salesman’ and ‘The Crucible,’ Miller gave voice to the anxieties behind the optimism of mid-20th-century America. Review by Willard Spielgelman

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Arthur Miller : American Witness

by John Lahr

Fiction: ‘The Magic Kingdom’ by Russell Banks

The Magic Kingdom|Russell Banks

Plus ‘Toad’ by Katherine Dunn and ‘Now Is Not the Time to Panic’ by Kevin Wilson. Review by Sam Sacks

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The Magic Kingdom


by Russell Banks

Five Best: Books on Memory

Selected by Joshua Landy, the author of ‘The World According to Proust.’

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Books: The Top Ten Best Reviews Of October 2022


Abominations: Selected Essays From a Career of Courting Self-Destruction

By Lionel Shriver Harper

With a restless imagination and an instinct to take on progressive orthodoxies, the novelist and essayist Lionel Shriver brings her “smart, plain-spoken and unpredictable” style to subjects that many writers prefer to shy away from. Review by Meghan Cox Gurdon.

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Bruce Catton: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy

Edited by Gary W. Gallagher Library of America

In a trilogy of narratives that “broke the mold” in Civil War history, Bruce Catton told the story of the Eastern theater with an eye to the sacrifices and sufferings of the ordinary soldiers who fought and died on both sides. Review by Harold Holzer.

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The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World

By Jonathan Freedland Harper

Walter Rosenberg did not make it easy for the Nazi-allied regime in his native Slovakia to deport him—along with thousands of other Slovak Jews—to extermination camps like Auschwitz. But once he wound up there, he was determined to get out and spread the word of the ongoing genocide. Review by Diane Cole.

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The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man

By Paul Newman Knopf

A long-awaited, posthumously published memoir from the star of “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Verdict” and other classics reveals the inner world of a hard-working actor who “breathed in insecurity and exhaled doubt.” Review by Michael O’Donnell.

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The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series

By Tyler Kepner Doubleday

What was for many years the center of the American sports calendar has lost some of its grip on the collective imagination. But a journey through October Classics past proves that the magic of the World Series still has a potent charm. Review by David M. Shribman.

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Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

By Neil Baldwin Knopf

The pioneering figure of modern dance was a daring innovator, a technical perfectionist and a preternaturally gifted performer. While she transformed the way a generation of dancers thought about movement, she looked for ways to claim her art firmly as an American one. Review by Hamilton Cain.

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The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting

By Steve Hendricks Abrams Press

Fasting has a long history of use as a spiritual aid—a ritual of purification and turning away from indulgence—and as a tool for protest. But emerging science suggests that its positive effects on physical health can no longer be overlooked. Review by Matthew Rees.

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The Ray Bradbury Collection

Edited by Jonathan R. Eller Library of America

Ray Bradbury’s unique science fiction owed more to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s darkly symbolic stories than to H.G. Wells’s rationalist visions. On a Mars that held curious correspondences to the Midwestern country of Bradbury’s youth, fathers and sons negotiated the strange spaces between them. Review by Brad Leithauser.

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The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

By Stacy Schiff Little, Brown

The “stage manager” of the American Revolution has resisted attempts by historians to pin down the details of his life. Stacy Schiff finds a potential key to Samuel Adams’s enigmatic character in the financial tumult of his family’s business. Review by Mark G. Spencer.

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The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of Empire

By Joseph Sassoon Pantheon

The business empire of the Sassoon dynasty began in Bombay, where the family of Iraqi Jews had fled to escape persecution, and flourished in the opium trade with China. The “Rothschilds of Asia” kept a low profile—and when the tides of fortune turned against them, their once-global enterprise became a distant memory. Review by Norman Lebrecht.

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Reviews: The Top Fiction Books To Read (Fall 2022)

Act of Oblivion

By Robert Harris Harper

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act of 1660 singled out a small number of regicides for grisly punishment. Robert Harris’s novel imagines the manhunt through colonial New England for two participants in the decision to execute Charles I roughly a decade before.

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The Backstreets: A Novel From Xinjiang

By Perhat Tursun Columbia

“I don’t know anyone in this strange city, so it’s impossible for me to be friends or enemies with anyone.” The Kafkaesque story of a nameless Uyghur man in a Chinese metropolis renders the real-world crisis of an entire culture into a haunting parable of power and powerlessness, and the use of loneliness as a tool of oppression.

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The Betrothed

By Alessandro Manzoni Modern Library

The sweeping tale, now little remembered in America, of a pair of 17th-century Italian lovers, separated by the designs of a cruel aristocrat. Michael E. Moore offers the first English translation in more than 50 years of Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece, a work of foundational Italian literature on par with the Divine Comedy and the Decameron.

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Less Is Lost

By Andrew Sean Greer Little, Brown

The “innocent abroad” at the heart of Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less” (2017) endured adventures both comic and heartwarming. The novel garnered the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Now its good-natured writer-hero returns for another road trip in a rollicking sequel.

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By Ian McEwan Knopf

In novels like “Sweet Tooth” and “Atonement,” Ian McEwan has taught readers to be on their guard, ready for a twist or revelation that might put all that’s come before in doubt. In “Lessons,” Mr. McEwan has created something to confound such expectations, in the portrait of a lost, likable protagonist whose “shapeless existence” is at the center of an unpredictable, very human journey through his own traumas, failures and hopes.

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The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O’Farrell Knopf

At the tender age of 15, Lucrezia, the daughter of the Florentine ruler Cosimo de’ Medici, is wed in a marriage of diplomatic alliance to another powerful nobleman. She would survive less than a year—a timeframe brought into thrilling focus in an intense and vivid portrait from the author of “Hamnet.”

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My Phantoms

By Gwendoline Riley NYRB Classics

The gaps in understanding between two people can be an occasion for frustration—or a confrontation with the central enigma of consciousness. In the spare but powerful fiction of the English novelist Gwendoline Riley, the tangled streets of a city or the banalities of a conversation can stand in for the uncertain terrain of the mysterious and elusive self.

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Natural History: Stories

By Andrea Barrett Norton

In a unique set of linked stories, many of which take place in a small lakeside town in New York, the writer Andrea Barrett offers the interconnected histories of a set of characters deeply involved both with one another and the fragile, beautiful world around them. Here, the ecology of the heart and the wonders of nature flourish side by side.

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Nights of Plague

By Orhan Pamuk Knopf

The new novel from the Nobel Prize-winning author of “Snow” and “My Name Is Red” stages a turn-of-the-20th-century tale of intrigue on a Mediterranean island ruled by the Ottoman Empire. An outbreak of the Black Plague and the quarantines that follow set the stage for political strife: The assassination of a health official raises the stakes in a tale that combines mystery with a richly detailed portrait of a society in turmoil.

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Shrines of Gaiety

By Kate Atkinson Doubleday

In the nightclubs of 1920s London, frivolity and fun are the order of the day—and Nellie Coker reigns as monarch of the quasi-legal revels. In this novel from the celebrated author of “Life After Life,” the disappearance of a young girl brings both the police and a determined amateur sleuth into the demimonde that Nellie and her family rule.

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