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White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I’m getting caught up on the books everyone is recommending and I’m finding this one immensely entertaining. Zadie Smith creates an incredibly vivid group of lovable yet unlikable characters. She’s a real, fresh new talent, a youthful voice that at the same time isn’t self-consciously youthful. Most young writers usually seem to be saying, “I’m hip and young writing about young people,” but Smith can write about all kinds of people, as well, and her novel has a classic feel to it.

– Janelle Brown

The Last Days of Disco by Whit Stillman
Anyone who has seen Whit Stillman’s witty, idiosyncratic films (“Metropolitan”) about the young, WASP-y and self-conscious in Manhattan might suspect that most of his characters have monologues running incessantly in their heads, even when the filmmaker doesn’t allow us to eavesdrop on them via voice-over. “The Last Days of Disco,” a novel based on Stillman’s movie of the same title, confirms it. The novel begins with narrator Jimmy Steinway (“The Dancing Adman”) explaining that “all of us, except Charlotte, loved the movie — not entirely surprising, since so did all good film critics the world over (i.e., not David Denby) … Des later said that the Denby piece read as if some sort of sexual jealousy were involved.” Stillman’s conceit is that Steinway — who, like his friends, is 27, struggling to get by at his first job and dancing the nights away in early ’80s Manhattan — has been hired to write a novelization of the film. The result is an airy blend of Thurber and Nancy Mitford, sophisticated without making a fuss about it, and lots of fun.

– Laura Miller

Recent books praised by Salon’s critics

What to read in August: From an icy thriller to a humid Southern novel, late-summer fiction that knocked our flip-flops off.
Reviewed by Salon’s critics
[08/23/00]



NYPD: A City and Its Police by James Lardner and Thomas Repetto
Behind the “blue wall of silence” of America’s biggest and oldest police force, two authors find equal parts heroism and corruption.
Reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir
[08/24/00]

The Secret Parts of Fortune by Ron Rosenbaum
The author of “Explaining Hitler” shares his adventures and passions, from getting caught in a pissing match with Oliver Stone to tracking down the inventor of canned laughter.
Reviewed by Mark Schapiro
[08/23/00]

The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch
In this moving, nourishing novel the Native American writer probes the culture shock of an Oglala Sioux abandoned in France by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles
[08/15/00]

The Making of Intelligence by Ken Richardson
A new attempt to answer a stubborn old question: If humans are such an intelligent species, why can’t we figure out what IQ tests measure?
Reviewed by Christine Kenneally
[08/09/00]

Writing on Drugs by Sadie Plant
The author embarks on a stimulating trip into literature’s strangest, smokiest den.
Reviewed by Gary Kamiya
[08/04/00]

The Dragon Syndicates by Martin Booth
The blood-soaked history of the Chinese secret societies that started the heroin trade and invented the “death by myriad swords.”
Reviewed by Greg Villepique
[08/02/00]

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
A collection of stories that look frankly at the lives of transsexuals, adulterers, cancer survivors and angry teenagers.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Macklin
[08/01/00]

Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick
A great critic takes on a great novelist, finding agony, homoeroticism and, ultimately, mystery.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[07/26/00]

Assassination by Miles Hudson
A historian coolly assesses whether killing a leader is a useful political tactic.
Reviewed by Matthew DeBord
[07/25/00]

What to read: The best of July’s fiction
Novels of love and evil, from lesbian Victoriana to deft, Vonnegut-style humor and gritty Indian realism.
Reviewed by Salon’s critics
[07/24/00]

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
The author of “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” creates a heroine with violent dreams, a passion for numbers and some problems with sex.
Reviewed by Mike Albo
[07/20/00]

Little Saint: The Hours of Saint Foy by Hannah Green
On the trail of a French martyr beheaded by her father for embracing Christianity instead of the goddess Diana.
Reviewed by Laura Morgan Green
[07/18/00]

Collapse: When Buildings Fall Down by Phillip Wearne
Read the hair-raising details of how and why man-made structures come tumbling to earth!
Reviewed by Greg Villepique
[07/13/00]

The Language War by Robin Tolmach Lakoff
From hate speech laws to the battle over Native American sports team names, a linguist shows why we’re so worked up about the power of words.
Reviewed by Virginia Vitzthum
[07/11/00]

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
The plot deepens as the fourth Harry Potter book takes Rowling’s young hero to his darkest adventure yet.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[07/10/00]

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
A strangely powerful first novel about spelling, mysticism and finding God in the details.
Reviewed by Gavin McNett
[07/05/00]

The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott
A fact-crammed history of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” show and its gleefully prankish creators.
Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Williams
[06/30/00]

Gig edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe and Sabin Streeter
In an update of Studs Terkel’s “Working,” Americans tell all about the jobs they hate and love.
Reviewed by Ann Marlowe
[06/28/00]

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald
The tale of a strange quest, haunted by the ghost of Kafka, from one of the oddest great writers around.
Reviewed by Brigitte Frase
[06/26/00]

Living to Tell by Antonya Nelson
From the author of “Nobody’s Girl,” a dazzling novel about a lovably screwed-up family reunited under one roof.
Reviewed by Patricia Kean
[06/20/00]

Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch
The popular literary undertaker takes on some tough life issues: Divorce, abortion and putting a hated cat to sleep.
Reviewed by Lorin Stein
[06/15/00]

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
In another sidesplitting collection, the author writes about his foulmouthed brother, his hopeless French and his brief career as a speed-freak performance artist.
Reviewed by Greg Villepique
[06/09/00]

The Angel on the Roof by Russell Banks
In stories from nearly four decades, the writer demonstrates an astonishing range, a wonderful eye and a finely tuned talent for breaking hearts.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles
[06/08/00]

Stork Club by Ralph Blumenthal
A history of the club where Jack and Jackie and Joltin’ Joe and Marilyn and Grace and Rainier and J. Edgar all rubbed shoulders.
Reviewed by George Rafael
[06/02/00]

Experience: A Memoir by Martin Amis
The renowned novelist opens up on the subject of his famously vile father, Sir Kingsley, and the $30,000 fortune he spent repairing his own famously vile teeth.
Reviewed by Andy Roe
[05/26/00]

Of Two Minds: The Growing Disorder in American Psychiatry by T.M. Luhrmann
A subtle study of the conflict between talk-oriented and drug-oriented psychotherapy — and a frightening demonstration of how medical budget cutters are betraying the mentally ill and putting the rest of us at risk.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/25/00]

Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers
A riveting novel conjures up the bygone days of virtual reality and the promise of the unreal world that might have been.
Reviewed by Pam Rosenthal
[05/24/00]

Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss
A daring first novel probes the psychological — and sexual — lives of the celebrated Siamese twins.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles
[05/22/00]

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