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. -

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

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
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

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).