7 Most Favorable Reviews in October 2021

  • November 5, 2021

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


How to Survive a Human Attack: A Guide for Werewolves, Mummies, Cyborgs, Ghosts, Nuclear Mutants, and Other Movie Monsters by K.E. Flann (Running Press). Reviewed by Drew Gallagher. “The questions that arise from How to Survive a Human Attack are both troubling and hysterical. And as much as we assume it’s mankind that suffers from monsters’ existence — such as by enduring the occasional middle-of-the-night anal probe in a cornfield — it’s monsterkind that truly bears the burden. Ask yourself: How often do movie monsters help humans off-camera and then go about their merry way with nary a drop of blood spilled? Don’t know? Exactly.”

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King by Daniel de Visé (Grove Press). Reviewed by Terry Zobeck. “Daniel de Visé has produced here a biography befitting B.B. King’s status as the premier blues guitarist of all time. He tells the story in straightforward prose, is sympathetic but not uncritical of his subject, and focuses on what is important: the music. You could search fruitlessly to find a better way to while away a few hours than to read King of the Blues while listening to some B.B. King.”

The Mother Next Door: A Novel by Tara Laskowski (Graydon House). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “Adding to the chilly vibes are the frequent creepy yet eloquent observations of an anonymous ‘avenger’ in small chapter breaks that speak truth to the lies of these perfect people living on a perfect street in a perfect town. But this fall, things will cease to be perfect. A smart thriller that is, dare I say it, perfect for Halloween, The Mother Next Door delivers surprising twists with effortless pacing that keeps the reader turning pages long past bedtime.”

Crossroads: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Michael McCarthy. “Franzen’s fictional family, the Hildebrandts, has so many issues (neuroses, sexual hang-ups, religious quirks, drug addictions), the author has said it will take more than one book to cover everything. Crossroads, therefore, is the first of a trilogy. Get ready for a massive national comeuppance as Franzen holds a mirror to the Great American Dysfunction of the past five decades. It’s not pretty, but it’s one hell of an interesting and telling ride.”

The Body Scout: A Novel by Lincoln Michel (Orbit). Reviewed by Josh Denslow. “Raymond Chandler walks into a bar. A robot dressed as a 1920s flapper informs him the place has an anti-comm field, so he’s going to have to stay sharp. He meets Isaac Asimov at a table, and they begin to concoct a story. A real humdinger of a mystery. Suddenly, Max Barry arrives to lighten the mood. And he’s brought along George Saunders. Within an hour, they have the whole book mapped out beginning to end. Then they smoke a round of eraser cigarettes and get so mellow that nobody ends up writing it. Good thing Lincoln Michel comes along to take it over.”

The Dog of Tithwal: Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto; translated by Khalid Hasan and Aatish Taseer (Archipelago). Reviewed by Ananya Bhattacharyya. “The author, an alcoholic, died in 1955 at age 42. But despite passing away so young, he produced 22 story collections. This shocking feat must have been the result of fast writing, and you can feel his restlessness on the page. Some of these stories end abruptly or seem rushed, and the prose can be utilitarian (though that could be because the original lyricism was lost in translation). And the stories can’t be accused of possessing excessive psychological insight, either. But despite these flaws, the tales in this volume are addictive, excellent portraits of a place and a time.”

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Antoaneta Tileva. “Still Mad is rich and carefully and creatively curated; it is madly in love with words, which remain some of the best tools we have for dismantling the master’s house. The way Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar wield them as weapons of personal and political redemption and healing will leave readers speechless.”

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