7 Best-Reviewed Books in November 2019

  • December 5, 2019

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 November 2019

Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel by Bernardine Evaristo (Black Cat). Reviewed by Robert Allen Papinchak. “Superlatives pale in the shadow of the monumental achievement of Girl, Woman, Other. Few adjectives suffice. It’s hard not to overpraise this brilliant novel. Evaristo’s verbal acrobatics do things language shouldn’t be able to do. It’s a Cirque du Soleil of fiction. Readers should put down whatever book they’re reading and immerse themselves in this one. Bernardine Evaristo is the writer of the year. Girl, Woman, Other is the book of the decade.”

Lampedusa: A Novel by Steven Price (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by David O. Stewart. “Lampedusa the novel succeeds on many levels, despite the inevitable comparisons with Lampedusa’s brilliant elegy on a Sicilian nobleman’s way of life. Not the least of the new novel’s achievements will be to inspire readers to open Lampedusa’s novel, even for a second time.”

The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire by William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Ellen L. Frost. “But the company’s governors planned and carried out campaigns of conquest and killing every bit as aggressive as those of the Marathas, the Afghans, the Persians, and various Mughal factions fighting for territory and power. Whenever possible, company employees carted off huge amounts of loot (a Hindustani word meaning plunder), particularly gold and gems. By 1803, when the company captured Delhi, it maintained a force of nearly 200,000 men — twice the size of the British army. And it did all that not in a Churchillian ‘fit of absent-mindedness,’ but with the full knowledge and support of the British Parliament.”

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation by Steve Vogel (Custom House). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “And this is the parallel story arc in Vogel’s tale. He turns Blake’s CV into an extended narrative framing the affair in Berlin, then pushes far beyond the event to detail Blake’s subsequent favors for his Soviet spymasters. This makes Betrayal in Berlin a hefty read indeed. The book’s sheer length and detail may put off some readers, but for those intrigued by the clandestine probes and countermeasures at the flashpoints of Cold War contention, it will captivate and inform.”

Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “These stories are all over the map, but in the very best sense: in geography and time, in form and voice, in tone and approach. They demand that you pay attention, and it’s best to meet each one on its own terms, without preconceived notions of what may be lurking there.”

My Penguin Year: Life Among the Emperors by Lindsay McCrae (William Morrow). Reviewed by Chris Rutledge. "It’s hard to recreate the visual splendor of a nature documentary on the page, but McCrae does an admirable job of it. Early on, he recalls a scene when the penguins return to the icy sea, describing them as 'black shimmering specks,' and the air around him as 'diamond dust.' Such vivid depictions exist throughout the book."

Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives — and Save Theirs by Richard Louv (Algonquin Books). Reviewed by Christine Baleshta. “Louv’s mission is for readers to realize the positive impact animals have on us, focusing on what humans can learn from animals and how a connection can be developed to make the world a better place. He describes the many roles animals play in our lives — companion, service animal, food — recounting a number of moving stories depicting the deep bond between people and their pets or the transformative experience brought by a chance meeting with an animal in the wild.”

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