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You’ve probably heard that the supply-chain crisis has been particularly hard on bookstores. These next few weeks, the most sought-after titles could be frustratingly sought after, even after you’ve stopped soughting on Christmas Eve. Santa is facing ships stuck outside ports, nonexistent warehouse space and manufacturing stoppages. Laying a finger aside of his nose, while laying another ...

When I look over this list of the best books of 2021, I see what’s not there, what didn’t make the final cut and deserved the hosannas. Rebecca Solnit’s discursive biography “Orwell’s Roses.” Clint Smith’s sobering travelogue “How the Word is Passed.” Matt Bell’s climate-change epic “Appleseed.” Even Seth Rogan’s “Yearbook,” a consistently thoughtful collection of essays on the strangeness of ...

In the 2020 book "Molly, Mushrooms & Mayhem: Stories from Inside the Music Festival Medical Tent," Jim Bollenbacher recounts the first time he witnessed the effects of psychedelic mushrooms. He was working as a paramedic at an electronic dance music festival when he was called by security to check on a young man crawling on the floor, picking imaginary things off the ground and out of the air. ...

I’ve been reading the diaries of teenagers. Or rather, not diaries, but autobiographies, most of which were written anonymously, scribbling into notebooks that had been locked away for decades. Some of these stories were long, some were short, some exuberant and some anxious. Of the six recounted in “When I Grow Up” (Bloomsbury, $28), most of their authors died soon after writing. They were ...

I’ve been reading a couple of books about the 1960s. But it’s not the ‘60s you know, it’s not the highlight reel you see in your head whenever someone just mentions the ‘60s. It’s not Stones and Dylan, astronauts and MLK Jr. It’s the other ‘60s, those less dramatic but jus as influential reels we rarely see. It’s why, after I finished “The Shattering” (Norton, $32), Kevin Boyle’s eagerly ...

I’ve been reading the Best American series. To be exact, I’ve been reading it for 35 years, since high school, when I found a copy of the “Best American Short Stories” 1986 (edited by Raymond Carver) for a quarter at a yard sale. I don’t know why I bought it; that copy was years old, and even in 1988, who needed the best writing from two years earlier? Still, it was cheap and full of the kinds ...

This new book by Jonathan Franzen, sigh, is terrific. In fact, “Crossroads” is one of his best, overflowing with family crisis, morality, mundanity — a nearly 19th century potboiler of ordinariness, across 600 pages, set in suburban Chicago. It is the first of a trilogy saddled with a weighty title: “The Key to All Mythologies,” itself a nod to “Middlemarch.” It is, in other words, that most ...

FICTION: In this dark but witty satire, Percival Everett explores racism, vengeance and the horrors of lynching. "The Trees" by Percival Everett; Graywolf Press (308 pages, $16) ——— Trees, when left unmolested, typically enjoy a long life span. Imagine if trees in the United States, particularly in the South, could speak. Many might tell us of something sinister they got roped into — literally ...

A decade ago the playwright Sarah Ruhl gave birth to twins and lost her smile, all at once. She was still in the maternity ward when her expression stuck, then wouldn’t unstick. “My smile walked off my face,” that’s how she puts it in her new memoir, “Smile: The Story of a Face” (Simon & Schuster, $27), easily one of the best things I’ve read this year. She developed Bell’s palsy, which ...

"Voices From the Pandemic: Americans Tell Their Stories of Crisis, Courage and Resilience" by Eli Saslow; Doubleday (240 pages, $27) ——— "Voices From the Pandemic" is an eerie reading experience: It seems both painfully immediate and an account of a past we’ve already started to forget. The book’s 27 interviews with a wide range of Americans were conducted during the first year of the ...

CHICAGO — Samira Ahmed once owned a golden ball. It was actually rubber with gold-colored flecks, but for the sake of storytelling, picture a gold ball, magic, one of a kind. Certainly, she liked to believe this. Her parents planted a grove of lilac trees in their backyard in Batavia and Samira would roll her golden orb between the trunks, opening a portal into strange worlds. Think Narnia, “A ...

FICTION: Religious idealism confronts a fractured family in Jonathan Franzen's sprawling new novel. "Crossroads" by Jonathan Franzen; Farrar, Straus & Giroux (592 pages, $28) ——— Even with God on their side, the Hildebrandt family at the center of Jonathan Franzen's intermittently powerful new novel are far from redeemed. They live in the Chicago suburb of New Prospect, which despite its name ...

CHICAGO — I told my editor I wanted to start a weekly column about reading and that I wanted to begin with Ray Bradbury and Gene Wolfe. Not because they’re science fiction legends and I’m a committed sci-fi reader — more like an enthusiastic toe-dipper. Not because they are sons of Illinois — Bradbury’s from Waukegan and Wolfe’s from Peoria. Not even because handsome new editions of their ...

CHICAGO — Sandra Cisneros, at 66, firmly ensconced on Chicago’s literary Mount Rushmore, hasn’t lived in Chicago in ages. Not since she made a young, bold splash. If that doesn’t make you feel old, consider: “The House on Mango Street,” her signature, so routinely assigned to students now it’s practically a middle-school textbook, marks its 40th anniversary in a few years. What had once read ...

Poet Amanda Gorman had her sights set on the White House long before it tapped her to help inaugurate President Joe Biden. Her own presidential aspirations started when she was just a hair into her second decade. “I remember being around 11 years old, and I was in class talking very passionately as I do about things I wanted to change in the world,” the nation’s first youth poet laureate, 23, ...

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