7 Best-Reviewed Books in December 2019

  • January 3, 2020

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


A Bitter Feast: A Novel by Deborah Crombie (William Morrow). Reviewed by Drew Gallagher. “No watches appear in A Bitter Feast, but with much of the action taking place in and around a country pub, there are plot thickeners and soup thickeners. The place provides an idyllic, innocent setting far removed from the competitive London restaurant scene and its cutthroat drive for Michelin ratings. Still, as one of Gemma’s police friends notes, ‘Trust you to run smack into one, if not two, possible murders.’ Even on holiday, Kincaid and James end up in a sticky wicket (to use the British vernacular that abounds in these pages), and Crombie fans old and new will rejoice.”

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Reviewed by Robert Allen Papinchak. “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me is incandescent. It is Adrienne Brodeur’s scintillating, irresistible memoir that often reads more like compulsive fiction than an autobiographical account of more than 40 years.”

The Capital of Basketball: A History of DC Area High School Hoops by John McNamara, with Andrea Chamblee and David Elfin (Georgetown University Press). Reviewed by Christine Brennan. “John’s book is wonderfully reported and researched, as thorough a history of DC boys’ basketball as you’ll ever read. Many know that the game was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, MA, in 1891, with two peach baskets nailed 10 feet above the floor at opposite ends of the court. But who knew that Naismith’s game was played with nine-man teams? It was in Washington that basketball evolved into a game of five players per side, John reports. Fast breaks started in DC, too, as did strong defense. ‘Basketball may have been born in Springfield, but it was adopted and raised in Washington.’”

Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America by Debbie Cenziper (Hachette Books). Reviewed by Philip K. Jason. “Passionate, provocative, and artfully constructed, this fully engaging work of deeply humanized scholarship is a fine addition to the literature of the Holocaust and its aftermath. It could very well bring Debbie Cenziper her second Pulitzer.”

Labyrinth: A Novel by Burhan Sönmez; translated by Űmit Hussein (Other Press). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “But the reader is under no illusion that Boratin’s story is meant to be true to life. Labyrinth, like many fictional works written in reaction to political oppression, is an allegory that explores the fractured nature of the individual in a society suspended between a rich, complicated past and an uncertain future.”

Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin (FSG Originals). Reviewed by Fatima Taha. “In Wake, Siren, women rupture this imposed silence, barreling out from the shadows, unapologetic and irreverent. The author splashes the pages with Callisto’s sense of betrayal: her terror as Jupiter rapes her, then her horror when both her beloved mentor and rapist’s wife blame her. Even after Juno cruelly changes her into a constellation, Callisto voices her fury, establishing solidarity with other victims: ‘I am not invisible…[t]here are so many other stars, all of us burning.’”

All That’s Bright and Gone: A Novel by Eliza Nellums (Crooked Lane Books). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Overall, for all its YA allusiveness, Aoife’s nightlong quest is a suspenseful and inspiring sequence in its own right, a testament to the girl’s innocent faith and her assumption of the warrior’s mantle, exemplified by her patron saint, Joan of Arc. All this could become homiletic, as in Aoife’s Illustrated Volume of the Saints, but Nellums handles this emerging strain of magical realism with a deft touch.”

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