The Steep Approach to Garbadale

It's almost impossible to quickly catalog the delights of this novel from the mischievous imagination that produced The Wasp Factor and The Crow Road. There's the large and eccentric clan of the Wopulds, the decaying stewards of a British board-game dynasty that culminated in the classic Empire! There's Alban, sensitive and alienated young scion of the aforementioned tribe, living the life of a couch-surfing slacker to avoid the family ghosts that haunt him; and Alban's smart and cynical foil Fielding, now in charge of much of the family business. There's the complex, equally cynical merger deal with a big-bucks American firm (the occasion for a delicious comic deconstruction of a PowerPoint presentation). And there are a host of wonderful secondary characters: Alban's voluble and profane roommate Tango, the fading but still powerful Wopuld matriarch, Grandma Win, and the American schemers Feaguing and Fromax, just to name a few. It's ultimately Alban's story that emerges from this noisy hurlyburly, as a surprisingly warm and engaging melody. When he reenters his family's world, he inadvertently opens doors to the past through which a new vista can been seen, casting all of this novel's pleasurable distractions into a different light. As Banks leads the reader to the final revelation of his rich tale, laughter and grief equally enter the glorious view. --

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).