The Book Review

The Book Review

The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at nytimes.com/audioapp

Episodes

May 17, 2024 43 mins

The year 1986 was notable for two big disasters, both of them attributable to human error and bureaucratic negligence at competing super powers: the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in the United States.

The journalist Adam Higginbotham wrote about Chernobyl in his 2019 book, “Midnight in Chernobyl.” Now he’s back, with a look at the American side of the ledger, in his ...

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In the world of fantasy fiction, Leigh Bardugo is royalty: Her Grishaverse novels are mainstays on the young adult best-seller list, her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy has been adapted for a Netflix series and her adult novels “Ninth House” and “Hell Bent” established her as a force to reckon with in the subgenre known as dark academia.

Now Bardugo is back with a new fantasy novel, “The Familiar,” and it’s also her first work of historic...

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Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel “Brooklyn” told the story of a meek young Irishwoman, Eilis Lacey, who emigrates to New York in the 1950s out of a sense of familial obligation and slowly, diligently begins building a new life for herself. A New York Times best seller, the book was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Saoirse Ronan — and now, 15 years after its publication, Tóibín has surprised himself by writing a sequel.

“L...

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How to explain the British writer Dolly Alderton to an American audience? It might be best to let her work speak for itself — it certainly does! — but Alderton is such a cultural phenomenon in her native England that some context is probably helpful: “Like Nora Ephron, With a British Twist” is the way The New York Times Book Review put it when we reviewed her latest novel, “Good Material,” earlier this year.

“Good Material” tells th...

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April 12, 2024 31 mins

Simon & Schuster is not growing old quietly.

The venerable publishing house — one of the industry’s so-called Big 5 — is celebrating its 100th birthday this month after a period of tumult that saw it put up for sale by its previous owner, pursued by its rival Penguin Random House in an acquisition bid that fell apart after the Justice Department won an antitrust suit, then bought for $1.62 billion last fall by the private equity fir...

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie.” In the decades since, King has experimented with length, genre and style, but has always maintained his position as one of America’s most famous writers.

On this week’s episode, host Gilbert Cruz talks to the novelist Grady Hendrix, who read and re-read many of King’s books over several years, writing an essay on each as well as King su...

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March 29, 2024 30 mins

Earlier this month, the Book Review’s staff critics — Dwight Garner, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai — released a list of 22 novels they have found reliably funny since Joseph Heller’s landmark comic novel “Catch-22” came out in 1961. On this week’s episode, they tell Gilbert Cruz why “Catch-22” was their starting point, and explain a bit about their process: how they think about humor, how they made their choices, what books ...

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If you're familiar with Tana French, it's likely for her Dublin Murder Squad series of crime novels that kicked off in 2007 with "In the Woods." But her new book, "The Hunter," a sequel to 2020's "The Searcher," takes place outside of that series.

In this episode of the podcast, speaking to Sarah Lyall about her shift to new characters, French said, "I wasn't comfortable with sticking to the detective's perspective anymore. I think ...

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March 15, 2024 39 mins

Frank Herbert’s epic novel “Dune” and its successors have been entrenched in the science fiction and fantasy canon for almost six decades, a rite of passage for proudly nerdy readers across the generations. But “Dune” is experiencing a broader cultural resurgence at the moment thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s recent film adaptations starring Timothée Chalamet. (Part 2 is in theaters now.)

This week on the podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks to ...

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It’s not often that the Academy Awards give the publishing world any gristle to chew on. But at this year’s Oscars ceremony — taking place on Sunday evening — one of the Best Picture contenders is all about book publishing: Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” is adapted from the 2001 novel “Erasure,” by Percival Everett, and it amounts to a scathing, satirical indictment of publishers, readers and the insidious biases that the mark...

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Tommy Orange’s acclaimed debut novel, “There There” — one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018 — centered on a group of characters who all converge on an Indigenous powwow in modern-day Oakland, Calif. His follow-up, “Wandering Stars,” is both a prequel and a sequel to that book, focusing specifically on the character Orvil Red Feather and tracing several generations of his family through the decades before and after the even...

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February 23, 2024 36 mins

Tricia Romano’s new book, “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” is an oral history of New York’s late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as the nightlife columnist. Our critic Dwight Garner reviewed the book recently — he loved it — and he visits the podcast this week to chat with Gilbert Cruz about oral histories in general and the gritty glamour of The Village Voice in particular.

“Yo...

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February 17, 2024 42 mins

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “Demon Copperhead,” a riff on “David Copperfield” that moves Charles Dickens’s story to contemporary Appalachia and grapples engagingly with topics from poverty to ambition to opioid addiction, was one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2022. And — unlike an actual copperhead — “Demon Copperhead” has legs: Many readers have told us it was their favorite book in 2023 as well.

In this week’s spoiler-fille...

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February 9, 2024 34 mins

The early part of a year can mean new books to read, or it can mean catching up on older ones we haven’t gotten to yet. This week, Gilbert Cruz chats with the Book Review’s Sarah Lyall and Sadie Stein about titles from both categories that have held their interest lately, including a 2022 biography of John Donne, a book about female artists who nurtured an interest in the supernatural, and the history of a Jim Crow-era mental asylu...

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Former New York Times film critic A.O. Scott joins to talk both David Grann's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which continues to sit near the top of the bestseller list, and Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated film adaptation. 

Spoilers abound for both versions. (Also, for history.)

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Molly Roden Winter and her husband, Stewart, have been married for 24 years. But since 2008, by mutual agreement, they have also dated other people — an arrangement that Winter details in her new memoir, “More: A Memoir of Open Marriage.”

In this week’s episode, The Times’s Sarah Lyall chats with Winter about her book, her marriage and why she decided to go public.

“I didn’t see any representations of either people who were still suc...

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January 20, 2024 25 mins

It's gonna be a busy spring! On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz talks with Tina Jordan and Joumana Khatib about some of the upcoming books they’re anticipating most keenly over the next several months.

Books discussed in this week’s episode:

“Knife,” by Salman Rushdie

“James,” by Percival Everett

“The Book of Love,” by Kelly Link

“Martyr,” by Kaveh Akbar

“The Demon of Unrest,” by Erik Larson

“The Hunter,” by Tana French

“Wandering Stars,...

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January 12, 2024 42 mins

Every January on his website Extension765.com, the prolific director Steven Soderbergh looks back at the previous year and posts a day-by-day account of every movie and TV series watched, every play attended and every book read. In 2023, Soderbergh tackled more than 80 (!) books, and on this week's episode, he and the host Gilbert Cruz talk about some of his highlights. 

Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode:

"How to Li...

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James McBride’s novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” was one of the most celebrated books of 2023 — a critical darling and a New York Times best seller. In their piece for the Book Review, Danez Smith called it “a murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel” and praised its “precision, magnitude and necessary messiness.”

On this week’s episode, the Book Review editors MJ Franklin, Joumana Khatib and Elisabeth Egan conven...

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December 16, 2023 41 mins

John Vaillant’s book “Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World” takes readers to the petroleum boomtown of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in May 2016, when a wildfire that started in the surrounding boreal forest grew faster than expected and tore through the city, destroying entire neighborhoods in a rampage that lasted for days.

On this week’s episode, Vaillant (whose book was one of our 10 Best for 2023) calls it a “bell...

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