Salon recommends

Neil Gaiman's creepy new kids book and more of our favorite new titles.

Topics: Books,

What we’re reading, what we’re liking

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “chapter” books (written for kids aged 8 and up) that adults like to read, too. In fact, adult novelists are now turning their hands to this sort of work — there’s Michael Chabon’s forthcoming “Summerland” and the award-winning children’s books of Paula Fox. Add to that this new dark fantasy novel by the author of last year’s bestseller “American Gods.” It’s the story of a young girl who finds an old door in her family’s rambling house, steps through it and winds up in an alternate version of her own home, presided over by a creepy figure called “the other mother.” (She looks like Coraline’s real mother, only with black buttons sewn on her face where her eyes ought to be.) The book is pristine and spooky, and the need to keep it so has helped filter out the genre wheeze that occasionally afflicts Gaiman’s adult books.

— Laura Miller

Recent books praised by Salon’s critics

Unless by Carol Shields
In the last novel by the Pulitzer-winner, a daughter drops out to live on the street, forcing her mother to reassess her “happy” life.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/23/02]

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue
From the author of “Slammerkin,” historically inspired stories of strange births, drugged bridegrooms and the intimate lives of famous thinkers.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/23/02]

The City of Your Final Destination by Peter Cameron
A naive young grad student travels to a crumbling mansion in Uruguay seeking authorization to write the biography of a suicidal novelist.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/23/02]

Lucky in the Corner by Carol Anshaw
Responsible, 21-year-old Fern tries to keep family life on track, despite her mother’s wayward lesbian love affairs, an abandoned baby and a transvestite uncle.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/23/02]



Jihad by Gilles Kepel
Sept. 11 may have been the last gasp of militant Islam — but while it’s dying, it could strike again and again.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/13/02]

Mutiny on the Globe by Thomas Farel Heffernan
The true story of a whaling ship taken over by a homicidal maniac intent on ruling his own island kingdom proves that history is gorier than the movies.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[05/09/02]

Drake’s Fortune by Richard Rayner
Two great American con men bilked their fellow citizens of millions by peddling goat gonad cures for impotence and shares in the estate of Sir Francis Drake.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[05/06/02]

The Bullet Meant for Me by Jan Reid
A boxing fan gets shot in the gut and winds up making a bedridden reassessment of machismo, Texas style.
Reviewed by Dan Oko
[05/02/02]

The Fasting Girl by Michelle Stacey
Victorian America’s foremost anorexic became hugely famous for surviving for 12 years on a few spoonfuls of milk and a banana.
Reviewed by Kate Bolick
[05/01/02]

The Long Recessional by David Gilmour
A biography of the writer who possibly had the greatest influence on the 20th century argues that Rudyard Kipling was no mere racist, warlike champion of empire.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[04/30/02]

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
In hilariously mangled English, a Ukrainian boy describes his efforts to help a young American Jew find the village his grandfather fled in World War II.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer
A young woman must choose between her suddenly quadriplegic fiancé and a brand new life in the big city.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[04/26/02]

The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
Stories set in other universes and in outer space explore the intimate dilemmas of religion, sex, gender and family.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[04/26/02]

The Horned Man by James Lasdun
A professor on the sexual harassment committee becomes convinced a philandering homicidal derelict is hiding in his office.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
A mixed-race boy who can pass as Indian or British makes an epic, Dickensian journey through the subcontinent, Oxford and furthest Africa.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

This Dark World by Carolyn S. Briggs
A woman describes her ecstatic conversion to Christian fundamentalism and her slow, difficult journey out again.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[04/16/02]

Gaudm by Gijs van Hensbergen
The man who created the world’s most sexy, emotionally charged and theatrical buildings lived a life of fasting and fanatical celibacy.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[04/11/02]

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
Medical errors kill more people each year than auto accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. Can automating medicine prevent tragedies like the Andrea Yates case?
Reviewed by Ivan Oransky, M.D.
[04/09/02]

Stud by Kevin Conley
A New Yorker editor offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of elite horse-breeding, where one roll in the hay is worth $500,000.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[04/04/02]

Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman by Phyllis Chesler
A pioneering feminist dares to talk about the ways women — including famous feminists — stab each other in the back.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/29/02

Indira by Katherine Frank
Indira Gandhi led the most populous democracy in the world, but finally, ruthless and paranoid, she couldn't resist the temptation of tyranny.
Reviewed by Paul Festa
[03/26/02]

The Disappearing Body by David Grand
A nifty update on the classic noir plumbs an urban underworld of dames, dope rings, double-crossing heavies and poor saps set up to take a fall.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[03/21/ 2002]

The Translator by John Crowley
A young woman’s doomed affair with an exiled Russian poet takes on mystical undertones during the ominous days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/21/ 2002]

Violence, Nudity, Adult Content by Vince Passaro
In a satire of paranoid post-Giuliani New York, a lawyer contends with a murderous client, a bisexual stalker and a wife who inexplicably hates him.
Reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir
[03/21/ 2002]

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Two real-life nannies paint a wickedly funny portrait of their pampered charges — and the kids’ even more spoiled and demanding parents.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[03/21/ 2002]

In the Forest by Edna O’Brien
In a primal tale based on a true story, the great Irish novelist describes how an innocent, sensual woman falls into the hands of a pathological killer.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[03/21/ 2002]

Atonement by Ian McEwan
The author of “Amsterdam” explores the devastating consequences of a young girl’s lie.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/21/2002]

Jerusalem Calling by Joel Schalit
A disillusioned young Israeli living in the U.S. warns the American left that it’s too reluctant to criticize religious fundamentalists — including George Bush.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[03/20/02]

The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez by Jimmy Breslin
A great newspaperman returns to form with this true story of a young illegal immigrant and his horrible death on a construction site in New York.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[03/14/02]

The Last Opium Den by Nick Tosches
A tough-guy writer elegantly mourns the vanishing of a decadent icon. But I know from my own blissful experience that the opium den lives on.
Reviewed by Michelle Goldberg
[03/07/02]

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
A novelist imagines 700 years of history in which the plague has wiped out the West and China and Islam rule the globe.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/06/02]

The Sweetest Dream by Doris Lessing
One of our greatest novelists delivers a family saga that’s also a scathing indictment of the selfishness of the ’60s-era left and its Third World idols.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[02/21/2002]

Boonville by Robert Mailer Anderson
In this rambunctious novel dedicated to skewering old hippies and the dizzy residents of a small Northern California town, a truant yuppie falls for a restless artist.
Reviewed by Anthony York
[02/21/2002]

On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks
A wife drifts into adultery amid the smoky jazz joints and swank diplomatic parties of Kennedy-era Washington.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[02/21/2002]

Hotel World by Ali Smith
Five women, including the ghost of a teenage chambermaid, find freedom in the anonymity of a luxury hotel.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[02/21/2002]

Gone by Martin Roper
A young couple’s life falls apart when the children in their new neighborhood subject them to a mysterious campaign of harassment.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[02/21/2002]

The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe
The 1970s are anything but smiley faces and bell-bottoms for a family facing adultery, racial turmoil and identity crises in post-imperial England.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[02/21/2002]

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig
A down-and-out actor searches for the truth about his artist mother’s suicide in the ravishing but dark children’s books she left behind.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[02/21/2002]

Radiance by Carter Scholz
In this Pynchonesque tale of technocracy in the Clinton years, two rival physicists working in a weapons lab play footsie with the apocalypse.
Reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir
[02/21/2002]

Homo Zapiens by Victor Pelevin
A cynical Russian copywriter channels advertising advice from the ghost of Che Guevara in this savage satire of the post-Soviet corporate underworld.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[02/21/2002]

Lincoln’s Virtues by William Lee Miller
A new biography removes Abraham Lincoln’s halo, revealing a man whose sheer human goodness remains mysterious.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[02/12/02]

Rebels on the Air by Jesse Walker
Before it became a cash machine for station owners, radio was briefly the province of madmen who made it the liveliest medium in America.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[02/11/02]

Can Love Last? by Stephen Mitchell
A philosophically inclined psychoanalyst’s daring final work explains that the ecstasy of romantic love doesn’t fade away over time — we kill it.
Reviewed by JoAnn Gutin
[02/08/02]

Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
In the Florida crime writer’s latest hilarious outing, a burnt-out reporter on the obit beat gets mixed up with a Courtney Love-style rock widow.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[02/05/02]

My Country Versus Me by Wen Ho Lee & Helen Zia
Lee speaks out about his ordeal at the hands of the FBI and a witch-hunting press. To many Arab men today, his story will sound all too familiar.
Reviewed by Eric Boehlert
[01/28/02]

Roscoe by William Kennedy
The author of “Ironweed” returns with the grandly entertaining tale of a Falstaffian political boss amid the crooks and strivers and demented rich of Albany.
Reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir
[01/24/02]

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
In an alternate 1985, intrepid literary detective Thursday Next battles an archvillain who’s kidnapping characters from classic literature.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[01/24/02]

Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin
A mild-mannered New Yorker becomes a connoisseur of parking spots and winds up the center of a media circus and the target of a Giuliani-esque mayor.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[01/24/02]

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
In this novel about a real-life female Renaissance painter, a thin veneer of feminism covers a juicy heart of blushing, throbbing melodrama.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[01/24/02]

Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett
Victorian and modern scientists grapple with the philosophical challenge of evolution and the clash between curiosity and love in this collection of linked stories.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[01/24/02]

Nigger: The Strange Case of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy
From Mark Twain to Chris Rock, it provokes book banning and nervous giggles. A black scholar asks if it’s ever OK to say “nigger.”
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[01/22/02]

The Dark Side by Mark Schreiber
A study of crime — from kidnapping and cannibalism to mass murder — in the land of the Rising Sun challenges the stereotype of a safe, orderly society.
Reviewed by Jennifer Hanawald
[01/16/02]

Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson
A writer takes a full-tilt trip into the world of Muslim fanatics, skinheads, survivalists and paranoid critics of the shadowy Bilderberg Group.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[01/10/02]

Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks recalls his childhood romance with chemistry in a book so delightful that even the scientifically illiterate will fall for it, too.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[12/18/01]

Shrinking the Cat by Sue Hubbell
Even before humanity knew about genes, we were fiddling around with genetic engineering. So why get bent out of shape about it now?
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[12/11/01]

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
In an epic of malignant machismo, the Peruvian novelist presents the Dominican dictator Trujillo as the chief cocksman of state.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[12/07/2001]

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey
Two spirits guide a motherless girl through her life. Are they a blessing or a curse?
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[12/07/2001]

The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer
A white South African woman finds unexpected fulfillment living in her Muslim husband’s homeland.
Reviewed by Anthony York
[12/06/2001]

Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul
The Nobel Prize-winner delivers a sharply observed story of the hypocrisies of sex, class and race in England and beyond.
Reviewed by Chris Colin
[12/06/2001]

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