The Plain Language of Love and Loss: A Quaker Memoir

Taylor, a college professor, builds up to the story of her teenage brother's suicide, and from there unfolds language so subtle and precise as to create a heart-wrenching, incisive story. Probing family dynamics and the burden of Quaker expectations alongside a generational hatred of conformity and unnecessary deaths, Taylor applies an academic's rigor to her quest for clarity. She's interviewed friends and family and explored psychological texts to help elucidate her family's central tragedy and its spinoff sorrows. Impressively, the commentary on Taylor's 12-year-old self seems just as believable as the analysis she offers from her present perspective as mother, wife, teacher and writer. Though unafraid to investigate depression, breakups and alcoholism, none of Taylor's writing whiffs of a tell-all for the sake of it. On the contrary, the author is humble and analytical in her reflections on what has been endured. Most striking of all is the way acceptance is treated in Taylor's memoir. Far from a trite "this is how things are" approach to acceptance, the author investigates the way in which her brother's death has permeated her life with a very beautiful mixture of anger, confusion and understanding. And from there, she accepts enough to be able to produce a poignant story out of what has been lived during a turbulent time in American history.

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…

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.