Salon recommends

What we're reading, what we're liking

Published May 22, 2000 6:28PM (EDT)

House of Leaves by Mark Danielowski (Random House)
This current cult hit with the young bohemian literary crowd is part "The Blair Witch Project," part connect-the-dots Borges. What makes it hard to put down is the "Blair Witch" element, and what made me reluctant to pick it up to begin with is its "postmodern" presentation, a daunting, higgledy-piggledy mess of various typefaces (some upside down, others backwards) and nested footnotes. Turns out the scrapbook style is unnecessary, but far from a deal-breaker, and the delicious creepiness -- the book is set in a house where vast, mysterious corridors appear in the living room walls -- doesn't let up.

------------Laura Miller

The Gravity of Sunlight by Rosa Shand (Soho)
I got completely sucked in by this dreamy novel about white people in Africa, set during the time of Idi Amin's rise to power. The heroine, Agnes, is married to John, a humorless Lutheran deacon, but she's stopped loving him. The plot revolves around an affair Agnes has with one of John's colleagues, but there's really not much of a sense of forward motion and no real closure at the end. The pleasures of this book are in Shand's economical evocation of an atmosphere of political and social unrest, her keen insight into the differences -- and similarities -- between Africans, Americans and Europeans, and her descriptions of the Ugandan setting as it hovers between lushness and menace.

------------Maria Russo

In the Gloaming: Stories by Alice Elliott Dark (Simon & Schuster)
Beneath the decorous prose of these decorous stories, mainly about upper-middle-class club women in suburban Pennsylvania, lie startlingly ugly impulses and furiously repressed bad manners. The title story, about a mother who finally gets to know her son as she is watching him die of AIDS, is quiet and lovely. Others are quiet and lethal.
--Craig Seligman

------------Craig Seligman

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

"American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century" by Christine Stansell
Tuning in, turning on and dropping out -- in the 1890s.
By Virginia Heffernan [05/19/00]

"Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America" by Robert I. Friedman
A superb introduction to the new face of organized crime is rife with tales of amputation, castration and blood-sprayed trophy blonds.
By Mark Schone [05/18/00]

"Stern Men" by Elizabeth Gilbert
In a terrific first novel, a restless 18-year-old feminist idles away a summer on an island of irascible Maine lobstermen.
By Jonathan Miles [05/16/00]

"The Fundamentals of Play" by Caitlin Macy
The rich have rules but they won't explain them, according to a smart novel about life after the Ivy League.
By Dan Cryer [05/12/00]

"American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley -- His Battle for Chicago and the Nation" by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
A big biography tells the full story of the legendary politician, with a sharp focus on his battle to keep the Windy City segregated.
By Andrew O'Hehir [05/11/00]

"Hunts in Dreams" by Tom Drury
A gorgeous, inexplicably sad and funny novel about screw-ups trying to do better.
By Craig Seligman [05/03/00]

"White Teeth" by Zadie Smith
In this remarkable debut novel, London is a merry capital of mismatched lovers.
By Maria Russo [04/28/00]

"The Question of Bruno" by Aleksandar Hemon
This debut collection by a Nabokovian immigrant from Bosnia brilliantly mingles grand history and personal story, espionage and exile.
By George Packer [04/27/00]

"Pastoralia" by George Saunders
In this savage, soulful satire, ordinary people face real crises in a disturbingly artificial America-turned-theme park.
By Chris Lehmann [04/26/00]

By the Salon Books Editors

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