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: December 3, 2016

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Betsy Burton reviews The Various Haunts of Men (Overlook Press) by Susan Hill this week.  It’s a British mystery, the first of a series, and Betsy says it’s “heart-stopping.”

Books & Beats: November 19, 2016

Nov 18, 2016
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Charles Ellis Johnson and the Erotic Mormon Image (University of Chicago Press) by Mary Campbell chronicles the Mormon Church’s turn-of-the-century efforts to enter the American religious mainstream.  Johnson photographed famous Mormon leaders, and he also sold mail-order erotica.  In her review, Betsy Burton says “Campbell takes us on an unforgettable journey through a faith and social history we thought we understood in a witty, visually intriguing analysis of the transformative power of image.

Books & Beats: November 12, 2016

Nov 11, 2016
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The Gustav Sonata (Norton) by Rose Tremain is the story of best friends Anton Zweibel and Gustav Pearle.  Anton is a musical prodigy.  Gustav must take care of his widowed mother.  Betsy Burton calls the novel a “wise and beautiful masterpiece.”

Books & Beats: November 5, 2016

Nov 4, 2016
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The Girl from Venice (Simon & Schuster) is the latest thriller from Martin Cruz Smith.  The story blends together two of Shakespeare’s plays: “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “The Taming of the Shrew.”  In her review, Betsy Burton says the book is “a finely honed, often funny, and utterly romantic tale of Italy at the end of World War II.”

Books & Beats: October 29, 2016

Oct 28, 2016
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News of the World (Morrow) is Paulette Jiles’s new novel.  It’s about a Civil War vet and the young girl he’s been hired to take back to her own people after four years in captivity.  Betsy Burton says “this is a rip-snorting Western novel, full of action, while at the same time a touching tale of two people, one 70, one 10, learning to care.

Books & Beats: October 22, 2016

Oct 21, 2016
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In Lying Awake (Vintage) by Mark Salzman, a Carmelite nun living in Los Angeles is suddenly struck with numinous visions.  But are they just the result of a medical condition?  Betsy Burton says “Salzman has again distilled a deeply felt passion to its purest essence, a state in which things don’t make sense but simply are—or are not.”

Books & Beats: October 15, 2016

Oct 14, 2016
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Hag-Seed (Hogarth) is Margaret Atwood’s retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Betsy Burton says this is a “novel of revenge unlike any you’ve ever encountered.”

Then, Austen Diamond clarifies what “indie” music actually is.  His concert picks this week include Grouplove.  They’ll be at The Complex on Monday, October 17th.

Books & Beats: October 8, 2016

Oct 7, 2016
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In Nutshell (Nan A. Talese), Ian McEwan’s latest novel, a very special fetus overhears a murder plot.  Yes, it’s a story straight out of the womb.  And, as Betsy Burton says, “Who but Ian McEwan could make us believe in this preternaturally sentient, highly literate, and astutely philosophical […] baby enough to hang on his every word?”

Books & Beats: October 1, 2016

Sep 30, 2016
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Mercury (Harper Collins) by Margot Livesey is a story about obsession and horses.  Betsy Burton says Livesey has crafted a novel “that tells us something new about midlife’s fragility, about the dangers lurking there—and about the possibility for unforetold drama in all our lives.

Books & Beats: September 24, 2016

Sep 23, 2016
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In A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking) by Amor Towles, a young aristocrat’s poem saves him from catching a Bolshevik bullet.  He ends up under house arrest in a grand hotel.  Betsy Burton says the book is “utterly and perfectly enjoyable, romantic in the old style, full of adventure, love, [and] derring-do.”

Books & Beats: Sept. 17, 2016

Sep 16, 2016
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Mischling (Lee Boudreaux Books) by Affinity Konar is the story of twin sisters Pearl and Stasha trying to survive Auschwitz and the Nazi physician Josef Mengele.  In her review, Betsy Burton says Konar’s “narrative genius, her power to turn the unimaginable into vivid, harrowing reality, the leavening quality of her humor and compassion do more than transport us—they make us see.”

Books & Beats: September 10, 2016

Sep 9, 2016
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Where Rivers Change Direction (Riverhead) chronicles author Mark Spragg’s experiences growing up on a dude ranch.  In her review, Betsy Burton says it’s “a clear-eyed look at what’s wild and what’s nurturing—in nature, in animals, and in humanity.”

Books & Beats: September 3, 2016

Sep 1, 2016
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Colson Whitehead’s new novel is called Underground Railroad (Doubleday).  It’s a fictional take on one of the most important, and least visible, resistance movements in our country’s history.  In her review, Betsy Burton says, “This is a heart-stopping tale brimming with history.”

Books & Beats: August 27, 2016

Aug 26, 2016
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The Story of Land and Sea (Harper Perennial) by Katy Simpson Smith explores slavery during the American Revolution.  Betsy Burton says it’s “a nuanced, unsettling, and wondrous novel.”

Then, Austen Diamond’s got a fresh round of late-summer concert previews.

Wilco performs at Red Butte Garden on Tuesday, August 30th

Books & Beats: August 13, 2016

Aug 12, 2016
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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        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
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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
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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.”

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