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. --

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.