By Washington Post book critic Ron Charles
Here are a few of my favorite novels this fall, and one biography that everybody is talking about.
James McBride is familiar to millions of readers who’ve enjoyed his memoir “The Color of Water,” and his exuberant novels have established him as one of the most exciting writers in America.
His latest, “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” (Riverhead), is a Depression-era story about a Jewish woman who tries to protect a deaf Black boy from the town’s busybody racists who want to put him in a horrific institution.
This novel offers a collection of eccentric, larger-than-life characters and outrageous scenes of spliced tragedy and comedy, all told in a voice of raw elegance that’s dazzling.
Read an excerpt: “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride
“The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a big, tragic comedy about the unraveling of a prosperous family in Ireland. Dicky Barnes runs a car dealership. His wife is a legendary beauty. But the pretty façade of their life is cracking and a host of secrets is breaking through. The parents are so caught up in their own troubles, they don’t even realize that their teenage daughter and twelve-year-old son are haunted by their own toxic anxieties.
This is a harrowing, sometimes hilarious vision of how ferociously we polish the rusty surface of our lives until it’s too late.
Read an excerpt: “The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray
In the 1860s, a butcher with a shadowy past claimed that he was actually Sir Roger Tickborn, the heir of a vast fortune. A pair of trials related to his claim became a sensation in England. And now, that bizarre real-life scandal is at the heart of a historical novel by Zadie Smith called “The Fraud” (Penguin Press).
The story focuses on Eliza, who’s the cousin of a popular but terrible novelist. While following the trials of the butcher and trying to encourage her cousin, Eliza becomes obsessed with the slipperiness of truth and the impossibility of figuring out who’s telling it.
Read an excerpt: “The Fraud” by Zadie Smith
One of the greatest biographers in America has written a massive book about the richest man in the world. I’m talking, of course, about Walter Isaacson’s “Elon Musk” (Simon & Schuster).
Musk is the billionaire founder of SpaceX, the motor behind Tesla, and one of the most polarizing figures of the modern age.
This fast-paced biography, based on more than a hundred interviews, traces Musk’s extraordinary life, from his troubled upbringing in South Africa to his controversial role as the owner of what used to be called Twitter.
It’s a head-spinning tale about a vain, brilliant, sometimes cruel figure whose ambitions are actively shaping the future of human life.
Read an excerpt:
For more suggestions on what to read, contact your librarian or local bookseller.
That’s it for the Book Report. I’m Ron Charles. Until next time, read on!
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For more reading recommendations, check out these previous Book Report features from Ron Charles:
Produced by Robin Sanders and Roman Feeser.