Recent Reviews

Book World: ‘Laughter’ uncovers ancient Rome’s humor

Mary Beard’s “Laughter in Ancient Rome” offers an amusing tour through the scholarship of humor.

Nonfiction longlist for the National Book Award

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is the only woman in the group of 10 writers competing for the $10,000 prize.

Ken Follett’s sweeping trilogy wraps up in ‘Edge of Eternity’

Weaving the private and the political, Follett’s doorstop of a novel captures the drama of the Cold War era.

Best new science fiction and fantasy

Novels by Lauren Beukes, Emily St. John Mandel and Robert Jackson Bennett.

‘A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing,’ by Eimear McBride

An award-winning Irish novel about a sexually abused young woman.

Poetry longlist for the National Book Award

Edward Hirsch, Louise Glück and Mark Strand are among the poets competing for $10,000 prize. Small presses make good showing.

‘My Life as a Foreign Country’ by Brian Turner

From the poet whose work gave rise to “The Hurt Locker” film, a searing memoir about war.

Narrative magazine keeps evolving

The online journal offers 180,000 registered readers stories, poems, essays, interviews, podcasts and cartoons — for free.

Young People’s Literature longlist for the National Book Award

Carl Hiaasen, Laurie Halse Anderson and Jacqueline Woodson in the running for the $10,000 prize

‘The Secret Place’: Detectives take on the Mean Girls

Tana French’s new mystery, set at a girls’ school, is the latest in her Dublin Murder Squad series.

What makes a tale alluring to Margaret Atwood?

The Booker-winning author discusses the darkness in “Stone Mattress,” nine tales that are her latest offering.

Jessie Burton’s ‘The Miniaturist’ is fine historical fiction

Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, this novel about a woman’s coming of age has the “propulsive drive of a thriller.”

A magical but mysterious tour of rock-and-roll

Critic Greil Marcus’s musical history of the genre in originals and covers of 10 songs will likely provoke debate.

Poet Mary Szybist coming to Washington

She’s the next guest for “The Life of a Poet” at the Hill Center on Sept. 17.

‘The Symmetry Teacher’ by Andrei Bitov

A writer struggles with the tricks of memory in a novel by one of Russia’s most acclaimed authors.

Are terrorists born or made?

Zak Ebrahim describes how he has taken a different, nonviolent path from his infamous terrorist father.

Secrets hidden in our digital actions

Christian Rudder sorts huge datasets to discover what we do, not what we say we do.

The ups and downs of a ’70s icon

In “Daring,” Gail Sheehy recounts her life as a journalist, author of “Passages” and celebrity A-lister.

‘The Paying Guests,’ by Sarah Waters

What at first seems like an E.M. Forster novel darkens into something by Dostoevsky or Patricia Highsmith.

Politics & Prose offers ‘a room of one’s own’

The Writers’ Cottage in Ashland, Va., offers a chance to get away for solitary composition or to work with experienced teachers.

Penelope Niven, biographer of cultural figures, dies at 75

Ms. Niven wrote major biographies of Carl Sandburg, Edward Steichen and Thornton Wilder.

‘The Story of Land and Sea,’ by Katy Simpson Smith

A family in North Carolina in the waning years of the American Revolution struggles for salvation.

‘The Dog,’ by Joseph O’Neill

A depressed lawyer takes a shady job in Dubai and never stops talking.

Three books offer a glimpse at the workplace

One is set at a law firm, another at a second-tier college — the third at a paper that resembles the Times.

Two Americans on Man Booker Prize shortlist

And Louise Erdrich named winner of the 2014 PEN/Saul Bellow Award.

Review: ‘So We Read On’ explains ‘Gatsby’s’ durability

‘How “The Great Gatsby” Came to Be and Why It Endures,’ by Maureen Corrigan

Writers for Planned Parenthood

More than a dozen writers are auctioning off books, coffee dates, even characters’ names.

The neuroscience of getting organized

An interview with Daniel Levitin about multi-tasking, time management and the role of dopamine.

‘Monogram Murders’: Poirot is revived by capable Hannah

Agatha Christie’s iconic mystery solver returns, deftly, from the dead, thanks to a best-selling British author.

Charles Bowden, chronicler of the Southwest, dies at 69

Mr. Bowden wrote gritty and lyrical accounts of drug wars and despair along the U.S.-Mexico border.

What makes for a great teacher?

Elizabeth Green argues that teachers are not born but created and the U.S. needs a culture to inspire educators.

Richard Flanagan on writing ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’

His research took him to Thailand, Japan and into his father’s harrowing past.

Book World: ‘Empire of Mud,’ by J.D. Dickey

Lively book tells about the raffish, dirty, lawless town that grew into, well . . .

‘Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory’ by Lucy Mangan

A playful compendium marks the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book.

Joseph E. Persico, historian and biographer, dies at 84

Mr. Persico wrote studies of FDR and CIA chief William Casey and helped pen Colin Powell’s memoir.

‘One Night in Winter,’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore

A political novel by Stalin’s biographer captures the nightmarish world of post-World War II Russia.

Hillary Clinton reviews Kissinger

The famous realist is surprisingly idealistic in “World Order.”

Believe it or not -- Ripley’s is back!

The 11th annual volume celebrates the weird and the wonderful. But mostly the weird.

‘Georgie & Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and His Wife’

Borges’s longtime translator, editor and friend offers an insider’s view of the famed Argentine writer’s life

An elegy for reporter James Foley

“In the Absence of Sparrows,” by Daniel Johnson, captures the American reporter’s playfulness and courage.

Washington Post Bestsellers Sept. 14, 2014

The books Washington has been reading.

The Style Blog

Ron Charles

Nonfiction longlist for the National Book Award

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is the only woman in the group of 10 writers competing for the $10,000 prize.

Ron Charles

Ron Charles

‘A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing,’ by Eimear McBride

An award-winning Irish novel about a sexually abused young woman.

The Style Blog

Ron Charles

Poetry longlist for the National Book Award

Edward Hirsch, Louise Glück and Mark Strand are among the poets competing for $10,000 prize. Small presses make good showing.

Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda

‘The Paying Guests,’ by Sarah Waters

What at first seems like an E.M. Forster novel darkens into something by Dostoevsky or Patricia Highsmith.

Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda

‘Georgie & Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and His Wife’

Borges’s longtime translator, editor and friend offers an insider’s view of the famed Argentine writer’s life

Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda

‘The Derek Smith Omnibus,’ by Derek Howe Smith

The collection includes four stories from the Golden Age of mysteries.

Jonathan Yardley

Jonathan Yardley

Mata Haris of the Civil War

In “Liar Temptress Soldier Spy,” Karen Abbott reports on female spies during the Civil War.

Jonathan Yardley

Jonathan Yardley

The truth about Parisian resistance to the Nazis

Ronald C. Rosbottom depicts the limits of the Parisian response to Nazi occupation.

Jonathan Yardley

Jonathan Yardley

The friendship between two world leaders

In “Harold and Jack,” Christopher Sandford depicts the ties that bound Harold Macmillan and Jack Kennedy

Literary Calendar

Going Out Guide: Upcoming events

Going Out Guide: Upcoming events

Get the latest on readings, signings and author appearances in the D.C. area.