7 Most Favorable Reviews in November 2022

  • December 2, 2022

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 November 2022

Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Story of Australian Mammals by Jack Ashby (University of Chicago Press). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “Given our seemingly unwavering commitment to destruction via global warming and environmental predation, Jack Ashby has his work cut out for him in making us care about the natural world’s most unusual inhabitants. Still, his efforts, like those of everyone pushing back against what feels like an unstoppable tide, are crucial to building a coalition that understands the platypus — like the planet sustaining it and us — matters.”

Nights of Plague: A Novel by Orhan Pamuk; translated by Ekin Oklap (Knopf). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “In these heady first days of the Mingherian republic, there is jubilation and a feeling of triumph, almost as though everyone believes a mere change in government will counteract the pathogen. Over time, however, the citizens realize that only stringent quarantine measures and a return to disinfecting the dead with lime can curtail the spread of the contagion, and they acquiesce — some willingly, others under duress.”

Listen, World! How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman by Julia Scheeres and Allison Gilbert (Seal Press). “On almost every page of this engaging biography, the authors weave in bits of Elsie’s writings, putting her opinions and insights into italics so the reader knows exactly what was on her mind. They don’t have to speculate about how Elsie felt living in the same house with her snooty in-laws; they have her diaries, interviews, letters, and newspaper columns to tell them. Yet even with such a cornucopia of information, the authors still insert ‘might have felt,’ ‘surely thought,’ and ‘was likely oblivious’ here and there, sprinkling ‘perhaps’ and ‘presumably’ throughout their presentation of this fascinating woman who survived every obstacle she ever met.”

Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women by Kris Waldherr (Muse Publications). Reviewed by Samantha Silva. “Abandonment and loss are everywhere in Kris Waldherr’s Unnatural Creatures, a gripping historical novel that vividly imagines the untold stories of the ‘Frankenstein women’ — Victor Frankenstein’s mother, Caroline Beaufort; his fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza; and Justine Moritz, a young girl cruelly rejected by her own mother who becomes a beloved maidservant to the Frankenstein family and nanny to young William Frankenstein.”

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad by Matthew F. Delmont (Viking). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “When it comes to the conflagration that was World War II, the struggle over its memory — why it was fought, who fought it, and the lessons it taught later generations about the meaning of freedom — continues today on behalf of the Black Americans who had to ‘fight for the right to fight.’ In Half American, Guggenheim Fellow and Dartmouth professor of history Matthew F. Delmont provides a much-needed corrective to the glut of rosy ‘Greatest Generation’ tomes with the first-ever comprehensive history of the Second World War as experienced by Black Americans.”

American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, DC by Shahan Mufti (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Paul D. Pearlstein. “To provide background for his immersive tale, author Shahan Mufti describes the development and increasing militancy of Islam in the Black community. The independent culture of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam was initially a positive force, but it quickly began to splinter amid dissent. Second-in-command Malcolm X parted company with Elijah and criticized the Nation. After he was assassinated by Elijah’s followers, relations between the Nation of Islam and its brethren in the Hanafi Movement — a DC-based African American Muslim group — festered.”

The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern: A Novel by Rita Zoey Chin (Melville House). Reviewed by Mike Maggio. “Rarely does a novel come along that charms the reader from its very first page. Even rarer is the story that maintains its allure throughout and transports you to places you’ve never been. The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is one of those rarities, a book as magical as the characters it depicts. From a carnival in Alabama to a coven of witches (think Glinda) that travels from place to place, and even to points in an expansive Wiccan spiral, Rita Zoey Chin’s debut novel takes readers on an enchanting emotional journey that will leave you captivated to the very end.”

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