Salon recommends

Ursula Le Guin's witches take charge, new fiction picks and other recent books we've loved.


Salon Staff
December 11, 2001 2:38AM (UTC)

What we're reading, what we're liking

The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin
It's interesting to see how Le Guin's focus has changed over the years: The first three books in this series appeared in the '70s, and were about an all-male cast of Mages and Wizards who drew their magical powers from, aside from ancient lore, celibacy. In her 1993 book "Tehanu" -- Part 4 in what had been know as the Earthsea Trilogy -- Le Guin introduces female characters (witches, priestesses) who are in some ways equal to the great Mages, but not really in the same league. "The Other Wind," published earlier this year and true to its title, is a whole different story. Faced with a great evil, the men, kings and wizards alike take a back seat to women of extraordinary powers. And while taking matters into their own hands, these women find the time to deconstruct the behavior of their male companions. Two-thirds of the way into the book, after we've traveled far and wide through Earthsea with the characters, it seems obvious who is going to save the world this time, but it's an exciting and rewarding journey nonetheless.

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-- Ewald Christians

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

Salon's Sept. 11 book list
Our updated selection of recommended reading for those hungry to learn more about the crisis facing the U.S.
By Salon's staff
[11/05/01]

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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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
An English village struck by the plague heroically quarantines itself and braces for the worst.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[12/06/2001]

He Sleeps by Reginald McKnight
A black American researcher in Africa is tormented by mysterious, erotic dreams about another man's wife.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[12/06/2001]

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
Restless girls and adulterous wives contemplate the bargains they've made with life in these masterly stories by a modern-day Chekhov.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[12/06/2001]

Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi
Growing up is hard to do when you're the ambisexual son of a pair of washed-up bohemian rock 'n' rollers in contemporary London.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[12/06/2001]

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Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
A man steps into a deserted room in a railway station and suddenly confronts the riddle of his own past.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[12/06/2001]

A Woman Soldier's Own Story by Xie Bingying
An autobiography of a rebellious Chinese girl who kicked off her footbindings and an arranged marriage to join the army is available in English for the first time.
Reviewed by Janelle Brown
[12/03/01]

Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens by Patricia Lynne Duffy
For people with synesthesia, letters, words and numbers have their own colors, and you can smell the shape of milk.
Reviewed by Alison Motluk
[11/27/01]

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Holy War, Inc. by Peter Bergen
The most entertaining of current books on Osama bin Laden paints him as a devout, charismatic CEO of worldwide terror.
Reviewed by Laura Miller [11/21/01]

Trials of the Monkey by Matthew Chapman
Charles Darwin's boozy, girl-crazy great-great-grandson goes to Tennessee to sneer at the Bible-quoting locals -- and stays to learn a lesson in faith.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[11/20/01]

Look at Me by Jennifer Egan
In this novel about the modern tyranny of image over substance, a fashion model's face is destroyed, then remade.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[11/14/01]

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Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
In these dazzling, uncanny stories, myth becomes part of everyday life and Nancy Drew visits the underworld in search of her long-lost mother.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[11/08/01]

Political Fictions by Joan Didion
This cool, devastating look at America's empty political spectacles takes apart everything from Reagan's delusions to Clinton's impeachment.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[10/24/01]

Our Monica, Ourselves by Lauren Berlant and Lisa Duggan, editors
Eggheads probe some seldom-explored aspects of Clinton's impeachment -- class-hatred, anti-Semitism, fake prudery -- with insightful results.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[10/08/01]

"The Other Wind" and "Tales From Earthsea" by Ursula LeGuin
At 72, Ursula Le Guin returns to Earthsea to mend the wounds that have long divided her fantasy world.
Reviewed by Donna Minkowitz
[10/04/01]

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Dancing With Demons by Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham
She drank, took drugs and walloped her (female) lover with a skillet, but Dusty Springfield was the pure, true voice of British R&B.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[10/03/01]

The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan by Artyom Borovik
Like Vietnam chronicler Michael Herr, Russian journalist Artyom Borovik captured the hallucinatory hell of war -- but these days it's Borovik's account of Afghanistan that seems the most relevant.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[09/25/01]

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford
She bedded countless men (and women) and became the most celebrated woman of her day. She wasn't a rock star -- she was poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[09/06/01]

The Forgetting by David Shenk
A brilliant and quirky new book on Alzheimer's offers food for thought on the unthinkable and a new, deeper understanding of the coming epidemic.
Reviewed by Pam Rosenthal
[08/30/01]

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Beauty and the Beasts by Carole Jahme
Women primatologists braved death threats, rapist orangutans and the twisted mentoring of Louis Leakey to bring us the truth about apes.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[08/23/01]

Rock 'Til You Drop by John Strausbaugh
A baby boomer rock critic condemns his generation's insistence on lionizing the burned-out bands of their long-lost youth.
Reviewed by Paul McLeary
[08/22/01]

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes
From Wales to the South Pacific, we're all descended from seven prehistoric women, according to revolutionary new genetic discoveries.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[08/06/01]

Human Trials: Scientists, Investors and Patients in the Quest for a Cure by Susan Quinn
When people put their bodies on the line in medical trials, can they be sure that scientists aren't cutting corners or preoccupied with stock prices?
Reviewed by Ivan Oransky
[08/02/01]

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The Sappho Companion by Margaret Reynolds
Genius? Pervert? Seducer and murderer? Homely bluestocking? Nymphomaniac? Every age has its own version of the woman whose 2,600-year-old verses invented the poetry of love.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[08/01/01]

Searching for John Ford by Joseph McBride
New biographies tell of the director who loved Katharine Hepburn, drove John Wayne to tears and made Stalin applaud.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[07/31/01]

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
An Angry Guy morphs into a do-gooder in the latest from the author of "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy."
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[07/25/01]

A Cold Case by Philip Gourevitch
From the author of "We Wish to Inform You" comes the true story of a detective who, almost 30 years later, hunted down a murderer the police never caught.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[07/18/01]

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Summer Reading
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By Salon's critics
[07/16/01]

The Fourth Hand by John Irving
In the novelist's latest, a studly newscaster loses a limb but gains a deeper understanding of sex.
Reviewed by Emily Jenkins
[07/13/01]

"Supreme Injustice" and "The Vote"
Two new books make it clear that the Supreme Court's notorious Bush vs. Gore ruling wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time. It was worse.
Reviewed by Gary Kamiya
[07/04/01]

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
A cultural cottage industry has sprung up around depression, the most isolating of illnesses.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[06/27/01]

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I Only Say This Because I Love You by Deborah Tannen
The author of "You Just Don't Understand" turns her eagle eye on the stinging, maddening, sneaky ways that family members communicate.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[06/26/01]

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
A hard-boiled fantasia by the author of "The Sandman" sends a cast of burned-out mythological deities on a cross-country attempt at a comeback tour.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/22/01]

Thinks by David Lodge
The author of "Changing Places" offers another delightful novel of manners about academia, adultery and human consciousness.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[06/22/01]

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Fifty-seven men -- and one extraordinary woman -- are held hostage by guerrillas in the latest novel by the author of "The Magician's Assistant."
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/22/01]

Doghouse Roses by Steve Earle
An acclaimed country music songwriter makes his fiction debut in a collection of stories straight from the bar at the Tip Top Lounge. Reviewed by King Kaufman
[06/22/01]

In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer
The early days of the AIDS epidemic, seen through the eyes of a beautiful, enigmatic hero who's not gay, not straight, not bisexual.
Reviewed by Peter Kurth
[06/22/01]

All the Finest Girls by Alexandra Styron
The daughter of two egotistical white artists faces some ugly truths when she seeks out the kin of the Caribbean housekeeper who raised her.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[06/22/01]

The Collected Stories of Richard Yates The bard of disintegrating marriages and deluded artists is enjoying a posthumous boom with a masterly story collection.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[06/19/01]

The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy
With his latest tale of epic conspiracy and evil, Ellroy takes crime fiction as far as it can go -- and maybe even farther.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[06/13/01]

Not in Front of the Children by Marjorie Heins
Our hysterical attempts to shield kids from images of sex and violence are stunting young lives -- and trapping us all in a Big Lie.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[06/11/01]

Hooked by Lonny Shavelson
A powerful new book on the drug war's trenches argues that treatment is the answer -- but our current system dooms more addicts than it helps.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/07/01]

Ghosts of Manila by Mark Kram
A devastating book overturns the boxer's saintly image and redeems one victim of his racial stereotyping -- Joe Frazier.
Reviewed by Larry Platt
[06/06/01]

Fraud by David Rakoff
An archly funny essayist studies Tibetan Buddhism with Steven Seagal, searches for the Loch Ness monster and plays Sigmund Freud in a department store window.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[06/01/01]

Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright
Before movies and rock 'n' roll, comics invented youth culture. A new book asks whether they can survive.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[05/18/01]

"Killing Pablo" by Mark Bowden and "Shooting the Moon" by David Harris
Two new books detail America's deadly pursuit of Manuel Noriega and Pablo Escobar.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/24/01]

Passage by Connie Willis
Two scientists who study near-death experiences are pulled into their own research in a brainy, eerie, genre-defying suspense novel.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/21/01]

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
In the latest from the author of "Mohawk" and Nobody's Fool," the residents of a small Maine town survive on simmering feuds, dirty backroom deals and plenty of comic relief.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[05/21/01]

Glue by Irvine Welsh
From the author of "Trainspotting," another high-octane tale of Edinburgh toughs who live for gitting their hole and leathering laddies.
Reviewed by Amy Benfer
[05/21/01]

Endangered Species by Louis Bayard
A gay government worker hit with the urge to reproduce braves personal ads, surrogate moms and a showdown with the male biological imperative.
Reviewed by Kerry Lauerman
[05/21/01]

My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox
The touching memoir of a 100-year-old woman -- forged by a young media commentator at the end of his rope.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[05/21/01]

Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin
In the author's latest novel, a wealthy, aging entrepreneur tries to correct a lifetime's mistakes.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[05/21/01]

In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menindez
A mesmerizing portrait of Miami's Cuban exiles, haunted by memories of endless blue skies, elegant homes and round-hipped women.
Reviewed by Ruth Henrich
[05/21/01]

Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler
A mysterious black woman is running the show in a comic novel of strivers, do-gooders and racial fear in Gilded Age San Francisco.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/21/01]

American Son by Brian Ascalon Roley
In a searing look at the immigrant experience, two half-Filipino brothers navigate a California of small-time thieves, Mexican gangsters and attack dogs trained using Nazi techniques.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/21/01]

Strange Fire by Melvin Jules Bukiet
An Israeli speechwriter blinded by torturers smells his way through a wise and satisfying novel of international intrigue.
Reviewed by Amy Benfer
[05/21/01]


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