7 Best-Reviewed Books in August 2018

  • September 5, 2018

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony this past month.

7 Best-Reviewed Books in August 2018

Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by James Tate Hill. “That Lee accomplished so much in such a brief life recalls Alfred Kazin’s assessment of Jack London, another icon of masculinity who died very young: ‘The greatest story Jack London ever wrote was the one he lived.’ Reading Matthew Polly’s Bruce Lee, one finds a life far richer and more fascinating than his movies could convey.”

A Terrible Country: A Novel by Keith Gessen (Viking). Reviewed by Nathan Chadwick. “A Terrible Country has been years in the making. Gessen’s first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, was published a decade ago. In the meantime, he has become a leading literary voice in the United States, helping to create a connection between his birth country, Russia, and his home country, the United States. With its humor, empathic characterization, and great timing, this book is a hell of an important read.”

The Banker’s Wife: A Novel by Cristina Alger (G.P. Putnam's Sons). Reviewed by Marvin McIntyre. “Just the idea of the clandestine works of the Swiss banking system is enough to generate intrigue. When you add in a billionaire financier who has no political experience, not to mention a suspect past, running for president of the United States — Sorry, Ms. Alger, but who would believe that? — then you have the necessary elements of a good story.”

The New Inheritors: A Novel by Kent Wascom (Grove Press). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “Gradually, we’re introduced to the Woolsacks, who spend summers on their own island just across the sound from Isaac’s family. We met Joseph and Marina as troubled children in Secessia, and here they are as adults with three troubled children of their own: Angel, the carefully closeted eldest, named for his notorious grandfather; Kemper, the girl, named for her grandfather’s adopted brother; and George, apparently named for no one, described as a ‘puny boy with blood-red hair,’ nicknamed Red, who spends his life attempting to live up to his grandfather’s unhappy example.”

The Sea Queen: A Novel by Linnea Hartsuyker (Harper). Reviewed by Carrie Callaghan. “This could make for dry reading, if Hartsuyker weren’t so damn good. Instead, her Ragnvald, Svanhild, Solvi, and other characters have set their grappling hooks into the reader’s heart. As with The Half-Drowned King, Hartsuyker gives us flawed yet sympathetic characters who each have a reason to earn our affection, and whose interests are pitted against one another. Someone will suffer.”

Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World by Joel Berger (University of Chicago Press). Reviewed by Emily Strelow. “A good portion of the book is spent in the Third Pole — the mountainous, glaciated Himalayan region that provides biological resources for as many as 3 billion people in downriver basins. There he studies yaks in China and saiga in Mongolia, the latter of which’s populations plummeted by 95 percent in the decade after 1991 as their horns were marketed for medicinal purposes. That year was also when Mongolia transitioned from socialism to a free-market economy. Capitalism, and the way it bears down on wildlife populations, is a recurring theme.”

Ahab’s Return: or, The Last Voyage by Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow). Reviewed by David Raney. “But Ahab’s Return isn’t so much a rewrite of Moby-Dick as a kind of alternate history, posing the question: What if Ahab didn’t go down with the ship (or the fish), caught in a harpoon line and dragged to his death? What if Ishmael, writing for the 1853 equivalent of a supermarket tabloid, made that up? And what happens when Ahab comes to town looking for revenge, the truth, and his wife and son?”

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