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: May 21, 2016

May 20, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist

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
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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
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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.

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.”