7 Most-Favorable Reviews in May 2020

  • June 2, 2020

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

7 Most-Favorable Reviews in May 2020

Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui (Algonquin Books). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “I love swimming precisely for the solitary nature of it. It’s not that different from reading, in that the mind becomes immersed in another reality. But not everybody is attracted to swimming for its solitary nature, as I discovered while reading Bonnie Tsui’s closely researched and entertaining Why We Swim. From swim teams to swim lessons to swim clubs, the fine art of self-locomotion through water brings people together, breaking down cultural barriers, racial differences, and socioeconomic disparities.”

Shakespeare for Squirrels: A Novel by Christopher Moore (William Morrow). Reviewed by Drew Gallagher. “Just as they are about to give up hope, they spy land and are deposited on the beaches of Greece. Though Shakespeare did not employ a dehydrated monkey or a Drool in his original Quarto, Moore does stay true to the absurd geography that the Bard seemed to randomly pick out of his quill drawer in setting his play in Athens. (Most scholars agree that little is Athenian about the setting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)”

Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America by David Kamp (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Chris Rutledge. “In Sunny Days, Kamp examines the shows that remade American children’s television, including ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ ‘The Electric Company,’ and, yes, even ‘Zoom.’ It is almost impossible not to feel a warm blanket of nostalgia draped over you as you read; Kamp delivers a sense of comfort and familiarity on every page.”

Miss Austen: A Novel by Gill Hornby (Flatiron Books). Reviewed by Sarah Shoemaker. “Based in large part on a multitude of letters between the two sisters and their friends and family, as well as other contemporary accounts, Gill Hornby’s novel is a warm and fascinating story that reads as though it could be a Jane Austen work itself.”

Verge: Stories by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead Books). Reviewed by Antoaneta Tileva. “Yuknavitch’s writing is visceral and unsettling, the metaphors eloquent and moving. ‘Who amongst us can see a self,’ she asks, and responds with singular characters sketched in stark detail, their burdens strange yet familiar. Her descriptions are terse, as though built on picked-clean skeletons, but the flesh emerges from the pages, raw and refusing to be contained.”

Known By Heart: Collected Stories by Ellen Prentiss Campbell (Apprentice House). Reviewed by Julia Tagliere. “Just like that, the things we know by heart are irrevocably changed. This is, I think, the message Campbell intended with her sharp choice of a title: a reminder — and a timely one, at that — of how easy it is to be lulled into thinking these matters of the heart are somehow unique to each of us, so universal as to seem ordinary, when, in fact, they are the extraordinary things we all share, and the only ones that really matter in the end.”

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor (Penguin Books). Reviewed by Terry Zobeck. “The pair were best friends during the last two decades of Roth’s life; their connection ‘was as plotless as friendship ought to be.’ Although they first met in 1995, they did not become close until 2001, when they began their frequent lunches and dinners together. Taylor spent many days at Roth’s Connecticut and New York homes, and he lovingly recalls these times, along with his and Roth’s rambling discussions. Their relationship was one of deep intimacy in which they could, and often did, discuss anything, including literature, family, anxieties, gossip, and sex.”

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