Reviewers of Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son (ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7, 561 pages, $27.99) have compared his epic story of the West to books as varied as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Blood Meridian, and Lonesome Dove. His account of Texas from its founding as a republic to the late twentieth century does have elements of all three books — Marquez’s blend of fantasy and realism, the violence and sometimes stark prose of Cormac MacCarthy, the sweep and spread of Larry McMurtry’s writing — but these comparisons may confuse as much as elucidate the reader. Meyer is very much his own man in this fine book.
In The Bridge (ISBN 978-1-4516-4701-3, $19.99), Karen Kingsbury treats readers to a tale of romance and tribulation centered on a bookstore in Franklin, Tenn. Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly meet at Nashville’s Belmont University, where they become best friends.
Here are the true stories of some young people, all of them still under the age of 35. For the sake of anonymity, we will call the young people Lisa and Mike, Kevin and Laura, Patrick and Emily, and Michael (unmarried).
In The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your Inner Child (ISBN 0-465-05486-2), renowned neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall turns a jaundiced eye to the world of self-help books.
Here they are, books yammering for review: a hillock of books on the floor by the desk; more books stacked on the desk itself, squeezed between a basket of spectacles and a coffee cup filled with pens and pencils, the cup itself bearing Jefferson’s remark, “I cannot live without books;” two more books for review keeping company in the trunk of my car; a lone rider of a book on the arm of the sofa by the porch door.
“Bookshops are magic.”
This quotation, buried in the middle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book (ISBN 978-1-250-01063-6, $24.99), could serve as the banner for this wonderful account of a used bookstore and the community in which it came to life.
Most booklovers have suffered that “Oh, no” moment when a friend, with nothing but the best of intentions, presses an unfamiliar book into their hands with the words, “Read this — you’ll love it.” We receive the book with a smile on our lips but black foreboding in our hearts. We may love this gift, we may hate it — the odds, from my own experience, favor the latter five to one — but either way we are compelled to read it.
We Americans sometimes forget how new we are to the history of the world.
Here in Western North Carolina, for example, we live like other Americans. We drive cars on expressways, live in towns and cities, buy or build homes and apartments equipped with electricity and running water, erect schools, churches, and fast-food restaurants, build shopping malls, buy meat, vegetables and milk from large grocery stores, vacation at the coast or overseas, gather local information from papers like The Smoky Mountain News, and commune with the world via the internet and television.
Since the Second World War, Americans have lived by the old dictum that only the dead have seen the end of war. For almost 70 years we have served as the world’s policeman, opposing the Soviet Union in a cold war, communism in Korea and Vietnam in hot wars, and a variety of fanatics, terrorists, and dictators in wars hot and cold. We fought to a stalemate in Korea, lost in Vietnam, won the Cold War, and won — at least militarily — the battles of the Middle East. Our armed services remain the most battle-tested in the world, and we spend far more on these services than any other country. (A good part of this spending, incidentally, is for veterans’ entitlements).
William Manchester, author of a number of best-selling books, including The Death of A President, American Caesar, and Goodbye, Darkness, spent nearly 30 years writing a three-volume biography of Winston Churchill. Still a young man when I read the first volume, The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, in 1984, I was entranced by his account not only of Churchill but also of the Victorian Age into which he had been born and the Edwardian Era in which he won his first real measure of fame. Manchester gave me and thousands of other readers more than the man: he recreated the world in which Winston Churchill had so exuberantly lived.