Books & Beats

Book reviews and concert previews brought to you by Betsy Burton, co-owner of The King's English Bookshop, and Austen Diamond, producer of 13% Salt. Books & Beats airs Saturdays at 7:35 a.m. and 9:35 a.m. during NPR's Weekend Edition.

Books & Beats: February 6, 2016

Feb 5, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In When Breath Becomes Air (Random House), a memoir by Paul Kalanithi, the young author—a brilliant surgeon—is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Betsy Burton says the book “is a world-changing look at life and death.”

Books & Beats: January 30, 2016

Jan 29, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Drifter (Putnam), the debut thriller by Nicholas Petrie, a veteran still struggling with his time in Iraq and Afghanistan helps a fallen comrade’s wife get rid of vicious dog.  But things get complicated when he finds a suitcase full of money and explosives under her porch.  Betsy Burton says Petrie “is good with words and his narrative has a hard-driving thrust that keeps the pages turning and nerves jangling.”

Books & Beats: January 23, 2016

Jan 22, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain (Doubleday) is the latest book from famed humorist Bill Bryson, in which he travels the farthest possible distance between two points in Britain—going by car, bus, train, and on foot.  In her review, Betsy Burton says reading Bryson is “not just a pleasure but a learning experience of the highest order[.]”

Books & Beats: January 16, 2016

Jan 15, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In Your Heart is a muscle the Size of a Fist (Lee Boudreau Books), the debut novel by Sunil Yapa, Victor, who’s been roaming the globe since he was sixteen and hasn’t seen his parents in years, is living under an overpass in Seattle in 1999.  From there, he sees an historic protest.  Betsy Burton says Yapa’s book “brims with compassion for the worst of its characters and also asks the unanswerable questions at the heart of our existence, then and now.”

Books & Beats: January 2, 2016

Dec 31, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

With a wink to one of the late rapper Biggie Smalls’s several monikers, The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Dey Street Books), a biography co-written by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, chronicles the life of the second woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court from her childhood to the present.  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “The notorious and determined RBG has become my version of a superhero, saving the fate of man—and woman—kind.

Books & Beats: December 26, 2015

Dec 24, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Pulitzer-prize winning author Anthony Doerr’s first novel was About Grace (Penguin Books).  In it, protagonist David Winkler is troubled by dreams of his daughter’s death; he leaves his family to keep her safe.  The book’s been selected by the Indie Backlist Revisit and Rediscover Program.

Books & Beats: December 19, 2015

Dec 18, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Home is Burning (Flatiron Books) is Dan Marshall’s memoir of coming of age in Utah in the 1980s.  In her review, Betsy Burton says the book “will resonate in ways that might make you flinch or cry but will also make you laugh,” especially if you grew up non-Mormon in Salt Lake City.

Then, Austen Diamond couldn’t fit nearly all of his favorite albums from 2015 in the time allotted.  So he narrowed it down to these three:

Books & Beats: December 12, 2015

Dec 11, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

When is a newspaper reporting the news, and when is it inventing the news?  That’s the question posed by Umberto Eco’s new thriller Numero Zero (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “Eco’s short but excellent book is more cautionary tale than suspense novel and satire is at its center.”

Books & Beats: December 5, 2015

Dec 4, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Little Brown), author Stacy Schiff re-examines the infamous Salem Witch Trials, stripped of the ideas brought to us by writers like Arthur Miller (“The Crucible”) and, as Betsy Burton says, “historians with axes to grind. […] Schiff places the events of that year squarely in the context of history, giving us the facts and also the social and political backdrop so that we come to understand the universe her characters inhabit.”

Books & Beats: November 28, 2015

Nov 24, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Betsy Burton brings us two books this week: Grizzly: The Bears of Greater Yellowstone (Rizzoli) by Tom Mangelsen and Todd Wilkinson, and Painters of Grand Tetons National Park (Gibbs Smith) by Donna and James Poulton.  The Poultons will be at The King’s English on Thursday, December 3rd, from 5 – 7pm, for a signing.  Tom Mangelsen and Todd Wilkinson will be at Rowland Hall Larimer Auditorium on Wednesday, December 9th, a

Books & Beats: November 21, 2015

Nov 20, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Local poet Melanie Rae Thon is a creative writing professor at the University of Utah.  Silence and Song (University of Alabama Press) and The 7th Man (New Michigan Press) are her newest works.  In her review of both, Betsy Burton says, “Thon, like no one else alive, captures the pain and the ecstasy of our existence, its harrowing, often brutal nature, and the transcendent joy of soil and of souls, making sense of the urge to hurt and the will to rescue, unbearable loneliness and the solace that

Books & Beats: November 14, 2015

Nov 13, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Sarah Vowell blends laugh-out-loud comedy with credible history.  Her latest, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (Riverhead Books), explains how the Marquis de Lafayette won over some very cranky tax protestors.  In her review, Betsy Burton says Vowell’s “weaving of preset-day politics, the personal and the past, might annoy some, but for me she lights up that past until it illuminates the present.”

Books & Beats: November 7th, 2015

Nov 5, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

The title story from The Tsar of Love and Techno (Hogarth) by Anthony Marra doesn’t appear until mid-way through this book of stories.  But Betsy Burton says that, when you get to it, “you realize what you’re reading is more novel than collection, a sweeping tale of Russian history’s cruel ironies and the incandescence of memory.”

Books & Beats: October 31, 2015

Oct 30, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

A Banquet of Consequences (Viking) is Elizabeth George’s latest Inspector Lynley mystery.  It finds Lynley’s partner Detective Barbara Havers on the trail of a prominent feminist speaker’s killer.  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “Few people depict character with deeper—or more diabolical—understanding than Elizabeth George when she’s on her game, and she’s at the top of her game [here].”

Books & Beats: October 24, 2015

Oct 23, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In And West is West (Algonquin Books) by Ron Childress, a drone pilot in Nevada finds herself thrown out of the Air Force after obeying a morally dubious order.  Betsy Burton says “the story expands, explodes, pulling us into intersecting lives and into the web of technologies the impact of which we’re just beginning to understand.”

Books & Beats: October 17, 2015

Oct 16, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

The Heart Goes Last (Nan A. Talese) is Margaret Atwood’s latest piece of apocalyptic fiction.  It finds a married couple living out of their car and fending off roving gangs as humanity’s final days unfold.  In her review, Betsy Burton says “there is no tonic more bracing than [Atwood’s] smart and slyly funny cynicism, no stratagem more effective in warding off disaster than staring it in the face—and laughing at it.”

Books & Beats: October 10, 2015

Oct 9, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Author Stieg Larsson died in 2004, but his most famous creation, genius hacker Lisbeth Salander, lives on in the pages of a new novel—The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Knopf Publishing Group) by David Lagercrantz.  In her review, Betsy Burton says that “Lagercrantz is Larsson’s equal in concocting complex, layered conspiracies, hard to follow but fun to track and intriguing as the pieces begin to fit together.”

Books & Beats: October 3, 2015

Oct 2, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Double Life of Liliane (Atlantic Monthly Press), a memoir by Lily Tuck, we follow the author as a young woman backwards and forwards through time.  Betsy Burton says, “The panoply of lives and loves that [Tuck] describes and illustrates is more entrancing and inventive than most novels, and as accomplished a literary work as one might expect—whether it be fiction or non—from one of the most interesting writers of our age.”

Books & Beats: September 26, 2015

Sep 25, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Sweet Caress (Bloomsbury) by William Boyd is a novel disguised as a memoir.  In it, photojournalist Amory Clay records decades of society, war, and fashion.  Betsy Burton says that “Boyd artfully and engagingly captures the historical currents of the ages he portrays, the wars that beset us, and the ceaseless, mysterious need that is in the heart of each of us.”

Books & Beats: September 19, 2015

Sep 21, 2015
Florin Gorgan, via Flickr Creative Commons

This week on Books & Beats, Betsy Burton brings you everything you need to know about the Utah Humanities Book Festival, running September 21st to October 31st.  Austen Diamond returns next week with new concert previews.  

Books & Beats: September 12, 2015

Sep 11, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Did You Ever Have a Family (Gallery/Scout Press) by Bill Clegg, a family is devastated by a house fire.  June, the only survivor, grieves on the road.  Betsy Burton says Clegg “has a raw talent for shining light on the workings of people’s hearts and heads.”

Books & Beats: September 5, 2015

Sep 4, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Ways to the West: How Getting out of Our Cars is Reclaiming America’s Frontier (Utah State University Press), urban planner Tim Sullivan crisscrosses the American West, testing the idea that car-based development has disconnected us from each other.  Betsy Burton says that Sullivan “combines the personal with the factual with the theoretical, turning what might have been a dry and technical account into a series of fascinating

Books & Beats: August 29, 2015

Aug 27, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Best Boy (Liveright Publishing Corporation) by Eli Gottlieb, autistic protagonist Todd Aaron grows suspicious of the new faces at his assisted living center—a new staff member and a roommate with a brain injury.  Betsy Burton says “Todd’s literal mind and exact reporting make for the wryest of commentary, and some scenes are howlingly funny.”

Books & Beats: August 22, 2015

Aug 21, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Robert Goddard’s Into the Blue (Delta), a bartender’s past chases him from London to Greece and back again.  Betsy Burton says, “Complex and elegantly plotted, well-written and compulsively readable, even better, Into the Blue is but one of a dozen such by an author who flies under the radar but shouldn’t.  Robert Goddard, one of many fecund and literary authors, [is] ideal for readers who have exhausted the best-selling writers of the mystery genre or are jaded by those who write badly.”

Books & Beats: August 15, 2015

Aug 14, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Ivan Doig’s final novel Last Bus to Wisdom (Riverside) finds a young boy on the lam with an illegal German immigrant in post-World War II America.  Betsy Burton says, “Chockfull of rollicking humor, blissfully good storytelling and characters so alive on the page they live on in the reader’s mind, Doig’s last book is a paean to this country as it existed half a century ago.”  A celebration of Doig’s life and work will be

Books & Beats: August 8, 2015

Aug 7, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Barefoot to Avalon (Atlantic Monthly Press) is the latest work from novelist David Payne.  This time he’s written a memoir about coming to terms with the death of his bipolar brother.  In her review, Betsy Burton says Payne “has done something astonishing here—has written a memoir so willfully intent on drilling to the core of who he is and what has motivated his behavior, not to mention his family’s, that it is utterly devoid of the sentimental and is painfully revelatory.”

Books & Beats: July 25, 2015

Jul 24, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Red Collar (Europa) by Jean-Christophe Rufin, a military investigator tries to get to the bottom of a prisoner’s strange behavior.  In her review, Betsy Burton says the novel “has surprising narrative tension, an atmosphere that is at once breathless and brooding, and the resonance of fine poetry.”

Books & Beats: July 18, 2015

Jul 17, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Betsy couldn’t pick just one book this week.  Instead, she introduces us to the mystery novels of Michael Robotham, including his latest, "Life or Death" (Mulholland Books).  She says his books are “well-written, intricately plotted, chockfull of well-conceived people for whom the reader bleeds, and they’re beyond suspenseful.”

Books & Beats: July 11, 2015

Jul 10, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Among the Ten Thousand Things (Random House), the debut novel of familial strife by Julia Pierpont, children and teenagers cope with the complexities of the adult world.  Betsy Burton says Pierpont “portrays her characters with an ocean of compassion and an insistent honesty that is both convincing and a little scary.”

Books & Beats: July 4, 2015

Jul 3, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

This week, Betsy Burton reviews The Oregon Trail: An American Journey (Simon & Schuster) by Rinker Buck.  Betsy says it’s an adventure “replete with raging rivers, runaway wagons, and a love story with mules.”