American Chestnut

You could fill a library with paeans to the American elm, but far less has been written about the American chestnut, which dominated forests from Georgia to Maine until a virulent fungus brought it to near-extinction in the early 20th century. Few humans bore witness to the decimation of the chestnut: now this absorbing book gives the majestic tree its due, combining science, history, and environmental polemic to explain both the tree's demise and the surprisingly touching efforts of a devoted band of scientists to bring it back to life. The blight gained entry on chestnuts imported from Asia, wiping out billions of trees in a single generation. The disappearance of the chestnut was a blow to animals and people alike: its nuts sustained an abundance of wildlife, and its timber and bark formed the backbone of the Appalachian economy. Devotees of the tree employ various methods to battle the blight, including controversial bioengineering technology, with little success to date; still, they slog on. "I am continually moved by the patience and undying optimism of the chestnut scientists I've met," author Susan Freinkel writes. "In their own way, they are as resolute as the tree itself." -

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.