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: 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.”

Books & Beats: June 27, 2015

Jun 26, 2015
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Milan Kundera has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature more than once.  In his latest novel, The Festival of Insignificance (Harper), the host of a party hides the truth about his cancer from the guests, and Joseph Stalin’s life is adapted to Marionette theater.  Betsy Burton says, “The party and its aftermath, past memories of women, not to mention Stalin and his stooges, summon up the banality of evil and yet enchan

Books & Beats: June 20, 2015

Jun 18, 2015
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In I Saw a Man (Nan A. Talese) by Owen Sheers, what starts as a mundane chore becomes a deep meditation on a man’s past.  Betsy Burton says “it’s a novel that tells truth about life and about relationships. Who could ask for more?”

The Utah Arts Festival is coming right up, and Austen Diamond has the celebration’s live music covered.

Books & Beats: June 13, 2015

Jun 12, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In The Sunken Cathedral (Scribner), the latest novel from Kate Walbert, two World War 2 survivors take a painting class together. Reviewer Betsy Burton says the book gets at “the ways our interior lives assimilate and hold, at least in memory, our hurts, our hopes, our satisfactions, our terrors, our loves. Pure Walbert, purely stunning—as always.”

Books & Beats: June 6, 2015

Jun 4, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In Jonathan Galassi’s novel Muse (Knopf), booklover Paul Dukach is caught up in the rivalry between two men—each lions of the publishing industry—and the famous poet they both love. In her review, Betsy Burton says the book’s “deepest pleasure is its paean to books—and to those who write them, those who bring them to the marketplace, those who sell them.”

Books & Beats: May 30, 2015

May 28, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Author Kent Haruf died last November.  His final novel Our Souls at Night (Knopf) finds him reflecting on old age. Louis, a long-time widower, gets a knock on his door one night. It’s a widow who was once friends with his late wife. And she has a proposal for him.

Books & Beats: May 23, 2015

May 22, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

Jim Shepard’s new novel The Book of Aron (Knopf) takes us back to the Warsaw Ghetto, where Jews are being rounded up by the invading Nazis.  We follow young Aron, as he and other children scavenge and barter for food to give their families.  In her review, Betsy Burton says that “this novel, which is by turns incandescent and chilling, funny, morally repellant, and compassionate, is a book you’ll never forget.”

Books & Beats: May 16, 2015

May 15, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist

In God Help the Child (Knopf), the latest offering from Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison, the life of a lovesick fashion icon is intertwined with another woman's release from prison. Reviewer Betsy Burton says "The story line, eviscerating at times, can take us by surprise... The imagery is cinematic, the writing fluid, evocative, yet more pared down than in Morrison's previous work."

Books & Beats: May 9, 2015

May 7, 2015
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In The Sympathizer (Grove Press), the debut novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a nameless double agent juggles genuine loyalties to friends on both sides of the Vietnam War. Betsy Burton says "this portrayal of a man who sees and understands far more than one perspective is eye-opening--at first cynically amusing, and in the end an indictment not just of war but of the world and the mad, bad way it endlessly turns."

Books & Beats: May 2, 2015

May 1, 2015
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In What Comes Next and How to Like It (Scribner), the new memoir by Abigail Thomas, a lifelong friendship accompanies the author as she ascends into old age. Betsy Burton says the book is "moving, wise, and vastly comforting."