The Florist's Daughter

I come from people who have always been polite enough to feel that nothing has ever happened to them. So wrote Patricia Hampl in her first memoir, A Romantic Education; that 1981 book is a telling exploration of family and inheritance, detailing her journey from her native Minnesota to pre-Velvet Revolution Prague in quest of her father's Czech heritage. Meditative, lyrical, generous, it remains of the most memorable coming-of-age tales published in the past quarter-century.

Her new book, which begins at her mother's deathbed and circles back through the author's St. Paul childhood, focuses with similarly fulfilling attention on the two people she comes from most directly, a dapper florist and a fierce, savvy Irishwoman. "These apparently ordinary people in our ordinary town, living faultlessly ordinary lives, ... why do I persist in thinking -- knowing -- they weren't ordinary at all?" Her answer to that question -- delivered in a voice by turns poetic, reflective, narrative, and incisive -- is an aptly dutiful, extraordinarily beautiful testament. -

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.