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: August 13, 2016

Aug 12, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Mr. Eternity (Bloomsbury) is Aaron Thier’s new comic novel.  It stars 18th-century English author Daniel Defoe (he wrote Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders), traveling through time in search of his lost love and buried treasure.  In her review, Betsy Burton says “Thier has reinvented the comic novel, reimagined the picaresque, written the Don Quixote for our time—one that features not a mad idealist but a cynical wit, appropriate for this century and the ones (if any) to follow.”

Books & Beats: August 6, 2016

Aug 5, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Marcella Hazan didn’t quite finish her latest book before her death.  So her husband took it in hand and had Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market (Scribner) published.  This isn’t a cookbook, though; it’s about ingredients, and the best ways to use them.  Betsy Burton says it’s “a lovely little book, every entry illustrated with a fine line drawing in green ink and each one chockfull of information not just for the neophyte but for the gourmand.”

Books & Beats: July 30, 2016

Jul 29, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Maggie O’Farrell packs a lot into her new book.  This Must Be the Place (Knopf) is a coming of age novel, a tale about family, a love story, and a look at what it means to be human.  Betsy Burton says This Must Be the Place does all that, “bringing life into crystalline focus, making sense of it, making us feel with and for the characters, and understand them.”

Books & Beats: July 23, 2016

Jul 22, 2016
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Hiking the Appalachian Trail changed Robert Moor’s life.  In his book On Trails: An Exploration (Simon & Schuster), he examines trails in all their forms—from paths cut by insects, by animals, and finally by people.  Books & Beats contributor Betsy Burton says Moor’s “hard science is detailed, his social science intriguing—and his philosophical conclusions about humankind’s place in the natural world deeply thoughtful, carving a trail for the reader out of the chaos of the unknown.”

Books & Beats: July 16, 2016

Jul 15, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

The author Kent Haruf died in 2014.  All of his novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.  On Books & Beats this week, Betsy Burton looks back at one of his greatest books—Plainsong (Vintage).  She says it’s “a plainly told tale that packs such punch with its simple syntax and laconic dialogue that it will shimmer in your memory forever.”

Then Austen Diamond’s looking forward to this summer’s Twilight Concert Series in Salt Lake City’s downtown Pioneer Park.

Books & Beats: July 9, 2016

Jul 8, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Betsy Burton says, “Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing (Knopf) was a publishing sensation before it even came out last month, vied for by ten publishers … and the recipient of rave reviews.”  Following two sisters and their descendants, the book charts black history in West Africa and the U.S.

Then, Austen Diamond thinks it’s high time we all escape the hot weather and head into the mountains for a few outdoor concerts.

Books & Beats: July 2, 2016

Jul 1, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Manon Bradshaw is the star of Susie Steiner’s new mystery Missing, Presumed (Random House).  She’s a lonely detective who’s tried internet dating, and she’s getting close to despair.  Then a woman disappears, and Bradshaw throws herself into the case.  Betsy Burton says “the potential for a series is here, given the characters, the setting, Steiner’s agility with plot, her ability to create characters, and the pulsing tension that courses through the book.”

Books & Beats: June 25, 2016

Jun 24, 2016
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Betsy Burton says, “For anyone who grew up [in Utah]—or who wants to understand what it means to be a child of the fifties, Western, female, and Mormon—The Latter Days by Judith Freeman is, well, revelatory.”  It’s a memoir, a coming of age story, about growing up in a peculiar time, in a peculiar place.

Books & Beats: June 18, 2016

Jun 17, 2016
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Annie Proulx’s hefty new novel Barkskins (Scribner) tells the story of forests and timber in America, following two families for centuries—starting in 1693.  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “This isn’t a novel to keep you up at night, but one to remind you who you are and how you came to be—and of where you are, and are not, going.”

Books & Beats: May 28, 2016

May 27, 2016
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Everybody’s Fool (Random House) is Richard Russo’s latest novel.  It’s a sequel to his 1993 book Nobody’s Fool.  Betsy Burton says “everyone you loved and hated and loved to hate in the first novel is still spinning out his or her days in the small, burdened town of North Bath, NY.”

Books & Beats: May 21, 2016

May 20, 2016
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In LaRose (Harper), Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, two families and five generations float in and out of each other’s lives.  Betsy Burton says, “Knitting together ken, community, boarding schools and nursing homes, lacing humor, mythology, and love into a wondrous whole, [Erdrich] has woven another unique, dazzling masterpiece into the tapestry of her brilliantly imagined world.”

Then, Austen Diamond has a few concerts picked out at one of Salt Lake City’s premier music venues: The Depot.

Books & Beats: May 14, 2016

May 13, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Simon & Schuster), the new novel by Chris Cleave, Mary North wants to help fight World War II.  She winds up in an abandoned school, teaching the few children in London who haven’t been evacuated.  Betsy Burton says, “The writing is superb, the action nonstop, but it’s the people, their tangled relationships, the way they try and fail and succeed, try again and fail again, that involves us so totally[.]”

Books & Beats: May 7, 2016

May 6, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Far & Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-five Years (Scribner), by Andrew Solomon, collects the author’s essays from countries in dramatic states of change—Afghanistan, Russia, Myanmar, and beyond.  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “As empathetic as [Solomon] is knowledgeable, his proclivity for the overview ever tempered by the personal, he gives us a startling and insightful view of change-in-the-making over the years, while ever reminding us of our common humanity.”

Books & Beats: April 30, 2016

Apr 29, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

        Fool Me Once (Dutton Books) is the latest Harlan Coban thriller: Maya, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is mourning her murdered husband.  Thing is, her sister was also killed while she was away.  And the investigating detective suspects Maya.  Betsy Burton recommends keeping away from this mystery at bedtime—“unless, of course, you have a need to stay up all night.”

Books & Beats: April 23, 2016

Apr 22, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Tuesday Nights in 1980 (Scout Press) is Molly Prentiss’s debut novel.  It’s about two orphans, art, and bohemian life in 1970s and 80s New York.  In her review, Betsy Burton says you’ll be “torn between racing from page to page, breathless, or stopping to re-read this iridescent, garish paragraph, the expression on that character’s face—his tone, her gesture.”

Books & Beats: April 16, 2016

Apr 15, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Katharine Coles teaches in the English Department at The University of Utah, and she’s a former Poet Laureate of Utah.  She just published her sixth collection.  It’s called Flight (Red Hen Press).  Betsy Burton says, “The zest for life so marked in her last collection […] is here in full measure along with the playfulness, the wonderful ability Coles has to shed light on who we are and how we live and love and die.”

Books & Beats: April 9, 2016

Apr 8, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster), journalist Richard Engel offers his account of reporting from Tunisa, Egypt, Syria, and other countries in the region.  Betsy Burton says Engel tracks “swelling tides of intolerance and terror in a book that is as horrifying as it is enlightening.

Books & Beats: April 2, 2016

Apr 1, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

Poet and novelist Jim Harrison died recently.  Three novellas are brought together in his final book The Ancient Minstrel.  In her review, Betsy Burton says it’s “signature Harrison, gutsy, funny, dead-honest, as full of contrary currents and of beauty as the rivers he so loved to write about.”

Books & Beats: March 26, 2016

Mar 25, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

The Summer Before the War (Random House) is Helen Simonson’s latest novel.  It’s set in Rye, East Sussex, just before World War I.  The death of Beatrice’s father leaves her in straitened circumstances.  But she’s determined to make her own way.  In her review, Betsy Burton says Simonson “has crafted a most deliciously readable, romantic, satiric—and insightful—book.”

Then, Austen Diamond’s picked out a few weeknight concerts—well worth attending, he says, if you don’t mind staying out late.

Books & Beats: March 19, 2016

Mar 18, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Waters of Eternal Youth (Atlantic Monthly Press) by Donna Leon, Commissario Guido Brunetti suspects foul play in an accident that left a young girl brain damaged many years ago.  Betsy Burton says, “For those who love mysteries of the classic style, no one writes them better than Leon and [this] is one her best.”

Books & Beats: March 12, 2016

Mar 11, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In Innocents and Others (Scribner) by Dana Spiotta, a young woman pushes her documentary filmmaking as far as she can.  Betsy Burton says, “In one sense ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman,’ Innocents and Others is a discerning evocation of the reality of being young and female—one all women should read.”

Then, Austen Diamond’s lined up a few choice concerts—all at The State Room, all with talented string musicians.

Books & Beats: March 5, 2016

Mar 4, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

This week on Books & Beats, Betsy Burton revisits an older favorite of hers—The Transit of Venus (Penguin) by Shirley Hazzard.  It’s a post-World War II story about love and ideas, and two sisters.  In her review, Betsy says the novel is “every bit as mesmerizing and as brilliant as I’d remembered it to be.”

Books & Beats: February 27, 2016

Feb 26, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In Be Frank with Me (William Morrow & Company), one boy’s honesty is shocking to the woman who’s been sent to help his mother—a famous novelist—finish her second book.  Betsy Burton says, “A great read that tells home truths about family, about love, about pluck and talent, Be Frank with Me might, in the end, have too many tidied up strands and tied up pieces, but taken together they make for a thoroughly enjoyable package, frank, funny, and fetching.”

Books & Beats: February 13, 2016

Feb 12, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Relic Master (Simon & Schuster), satirist Christopher Buckley turns his gaze to the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century and the sale of religious relics.  Betsy Burton says the book “brilliantly satirizes the practice of manipulating the masses.”

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.

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