Book Reviews—Themes by Month

bookstackEvery month we seek out books that work together thematically. You'll find a variety of themes—some fun, some serious, but all of them thoughtful.

The books are listed in the order of:
A Lighter Touch ... Wonderfully Written ...
and Great works.

 2015 BookReviews — Themes . . . and the Books
June '15 — The Sibs
Brothers and sisters make for some of our most intimate life relationships. Undergirding the rivalries, jealousies and suspicions, is a shared history and often deep, abiding love.
A Reunion of Ghosts
Early Warning
The Children's Crusade
Apr '15 — Stranger Than Fiction
Real-life events and personalities in this month's nonfiction works are far stranger than can be found in most novels. When it comes to the incredible, history trumps fiction...easily.
Dead Wake
Little Demon in the City of Light
A Spy Among Friends
Mar '15 — The Western, 21st-century style
The Westerns of yore—cowboys, Indians, and stagecoach robbers— have given way to far more nuanced stories. The vast spaces and endless skies are the same, but characters struggle with complex issues of love, memory, and redemption
Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Black River
• All the Pretty Horses (coming soon)
Feb '15 — We Are All Looking for Ourselves
Three wonderful books with characters in search of themselves—arguably literature's most enudring theme..
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are Not Ourselves
We Are Pirates
Jan '15 — Stuck
It's easy to get stuck—in a dull job, untenable relationship, or humdrum life. But this month we follow three men, often with hilarity, who find themselves stuck in unimaginable situations.
The Global War on Morris
The Martian
2014 Book Reviews — Themes . . . and the Books
Dec '14 — Women Unboxed
This month's books look at three women who defy convention and tackle careers traditionally reserved for those with the Y chromosome. These are women who think—and live—outside the box.
The Signature of All Things
The Spy Who Loved: Christine Granville
Nov '14 — End times
Three remarkable books offer glimpses into end times: one imagines the end of civilization; another examines medicine and the end of life; and a third considers ... well, it's hard to say.
Station Eleven
Being Mortal: ...What Matters in the End
Oct '14 — Strangers in Their Own Land
This month's book take a look those who through racism, misogyny, or maltreatment are excluded from the full rights and comforts of their own culture. They're aliens in their own land.
Mountaintop School for Dogs
Hidden Girls of Kabul
Invisible Man
Sept '14 — Hell's a Kitchen
Conditions are brutal in restaurant kitchens. So what keeps chefs and cooks standing for 12-hour stretches, non-stop, in 110-degree heat? Find out.
Sous Chef
Kitchen Confidential
Aug '14 — Grumpy Old Men
Three books in which older men have reached the age where more of life lies behind them then ahead. Still, maybe it's not too late to start living large.
A Man Called Ove
The Unlikley Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the
June / July '14 — The Bawdy Politic
A double standard has long existed when it comes to the feminine body. The daring heroines of this month's books fight that standard in ways that even today we find troublesome. But what's a girl to do?
The Wife, the Mistress, and the Maid
Belle Cora
Moll Flanders
May '14 — Women and the Bomb
This month's theme was inspired by two recent books on women and the Manhattan Project—fiction and history. Then we added a 2005 biography on Madame Curie, who helped usher in the nuclear age.
The Los Alamos Wives
Girls of Atomic City
Obsessive Genius: Marie Curie
Mar '14 — War Lines: at the front and behind
Extraordinary books continue to be written about the Mideast wars, and despite the lack of media coverage, we believe they're essential. They cover those on the front lines and those behind the lines.
Thank Your For Your Service
Duty: Robert M. Gates
Feb '14 — Marriage: For better or for . . .
For worse? If Gone Girl gave you a thrill, these books centered on spooky marriages will too. The fun is in not knowing who's nuts—is it he or she?
Before I Met You
Before I Go to Sleep
Jan '14 — The Cinder-Fella Complex
Young boys, bereft of parents, struggle to find love, belief in themselves, and maturity—in a hard-knock world that works against them.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Goldfinch
David Copperfield
2013 Book Reviews — Themes . . . and the Books
Nov '13 — LOL Books
Yes, we're laughing out loud. Sometimes it feels good to take a break from all the heavy lifiting. Each of this month's books is a humorous take on a particular slice of life.
The Rosie Project
Truth in Advertising
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Oct '13 — The JFK Assassination: 50 years
Three books on the death of the president: one, a portrait of Kennedy and Oswald; one fiction, and one challenging the lone gunman theory.
Killing Kennedy
Sept '13 — D.C. Dysfunction...was it always so?
Given the state of the nation's capital, this month's books take a good look at the ins and outs of life as it is—and was—in the District of Columbia.
This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral
Gore Vidal's Lincoln and/or Team of Rivals
Advise and Consent
Aug '13 — Scott & Zelda, Beautiful & Damned
America's first Jazz-Age couple. Fitzgerald's famous Flapper girl stories, inspired by Zelda; a fictional bio of Zelda; and The Great Gatsby, a love story paralleling Scott's deep attachment to his wife.
The Gatsby Girls: Stories
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
June '13 — The Power of Perfume
Three books explore the age-long hold that exotic scent has over the human imagination—it's power to evoke memory, elicit passion, and inspire crime. Two works of fiction and one nonfiction.
The Perfume Collector
The Book of Lost Fragrances
The Emperor of Scent
May '13 — Class Conscious / Class Conscience
We like to think of ourselves as a "classless" society. But as this month's books show, socio-economic divisions are part of our history and still with us today.
Seating Arrangements
The Accursed
The House of Mirth
Apr '13 — The Process of Becoming
Young women who withstand hardship, in both body and soul, as they struggle to become the person they know they're meant to be.
With or Without You
An Unquenchable Thirst
Jane Eyre
Feb '13 — Mystery Meet
What makes people fall in and out of love, hurt those closest to them, even commit murder? And how is justice best served? Questions our three mystery books ponder.
Gone Girl
Faithful Place
And Then There Were None
Jan '13 — Family Matters
What makes a family? This month we consider three books with different ideas of what constitutes family.
The Death of Bees
Little Women
2012 Book Reviews — Themes . . . and the Books
Dec '12 — War
Three books about the brutality, randomness, and absurdity of war—and the impossibility for civilians to ever comprehend combat.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
The Yellow Birds
Nov '12 — The Age of Edith
We've been through "The Age of Jane"; now it's Edith's turn. We feature a fictionalized biography of Edith Wharton, a re-make of her  masterpiece, and the masterpiece itself.
The Age of Desire
The Age of Innocence
Oct '12 — Quests: Personal & Epic
This month's books are about quests—one to find love, one to answer to a desperate question, and one to rid the world of evil. Ultimately, though, all quests are about the search for Self.
Coral Glynn
A Partial History of Lost Causes
The Lord of the Rings
Sept '12 — The Ways of Grief
Grief—the most painful and universal of emotions but experienced in profoundly different ways. Two recent novels and Shakespere's greatest drama explore how those left behind cope with loss.
The After Wife
The World Without You
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
August '12 — Hollywood, vanity of vanities
We take aim at the self-consuming, self-important world of Hollywood. Yet all three books remind us it's our wider culture that drives Hollywood's vanity.
The Next Best Thing
Beautiful Ruins
The Last Tycoon
June '12 — River Journeys
Authors often use rivers to represent life's passage —and journeys on rivers to explore mysteries of the human soul.
Once Upon a River
State of Wonder
Heart of Darkness
May '12 — Good Books, Tough Subjects
Some books tackle difficult, painful subjects but do so with exceptional prose, wit and, most of all, compassion. They make for compelling reading.
The Fault in Our Stars
The Orphan Master's Son

Mar '12 —Pride & Prejudice, Murder & Mayhem
Pure fun. Start with Austen's original...then turn to either P.D. James's mystery...or Graham-Smith's zombie send-up. Have fun comparing the homage to the "homagee." Oh! 'Tis too much joy.
Death Comes to Pemberley
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
Pride & Prejudice

Feb '12 — Baseball, the Art of Perfection
In the eyes of literature, baseball is life—the heroic individual standing against forces both within and out. Three books pit players' drive for perfection against their own human frailties.
The Batboy
The Art of Fielding
The Natural

Jan '12 — The Past Is Never Past
As Faulkner put: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This month's characters are haunted by events of their childhoods. To move on, each must achieve understanding and let go.
The Language of Flowers
The Cat's Table
Death of a Salesman

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