Salon recommends

What we're reading, what we're liking.

By Salon Staff

Published June 23, 2000 8:10PM (EDT)

The Rainbow Stories by William Vollman
I'm brushing up on my Vollman in anticipation of the publication in August of his latest novel, "The Royal Family." I've loved Vollman's "Seven Dreams" series of novels about the colonizing of America, but I've avoided his tales of skid row life under the impression that they'd be a retread of Charles Bukowski's grandiose romance with the gutter. To my surprise, I'm spellbound by both the immediacy of his portraits of skinheads, drunks, bag ladies, emergency room denizens and fetishists and by the multicolored pattern emerging, pentimento-style, beneath it all.
--Laura Miller

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
Edmund Crispin's 1946 mystery pastiche, featuring his detective Oxford literature professor Gervase Fen, is something you could imagine Bertie Wooster settling down to spend an evening with. Every convention is so consciously in place it's like the locked-room mystery redone as sophisticated music-hall turn.
--Charles Taylor

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Richard Ford's intriguing essay on "Revolutionary Road" in the New York Times Book Review sent me looking for Richard Yates' acclaimed 1961 novel, and I was just as taken with it as Ford promised. It's the story of Frank and April Wheeler, an affluent young couple who seem to have everything and can't figure out why contentment is always just beyond their reach -- the kind of book you could call a "scathing indictment of suburbia," except that Yates is too smart and subtle to suggest any simple explanation for the problems that afflict the Wheelers and their friends. He's on to something deep and troubling about the American character that rings as true today as it did in the Eisenhower era. Yates' perfectly modulated prose is a delight to read -- and as a special bonus, Richard Ford's essay serves as the introduction to the new edition from Vintage.
--Maria Russo

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
Reviewed by Virginia Heffernan

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.
Reviewed by Mark Schone

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.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles

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.
Reviewed by Dan Cryer

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.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir

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