Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from June 15–19 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
Adapted from the adult best-seller The Boys in the Boat (2013), this quietly compelling story tells of the University of Washington rowing team that competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While every race story is essentially the same, the accounts of these races are riveting—all the more so near the end of the narrative, when readers have come to know the oarsmen and their personal stories.
The State We’re In: Maine Stories, by Ann Beattie
Beattie’s new collection of stories, her first original volume since Follies (2005) and following the spectacular retrospective gathering, The New Yorker Stories (2010), is graced by a slyly clever title. The “state” these 15 stories are anchored to is Maine, jutting up away from the rest of the country in rocky, woodsy splendor, which does nothing to keep out the human volatility found everywhere else (“No day failed to contain the unexpected”), while the states of mind her fumbling characters find themselves in range from depressed to enraged to resigned.
Terrible Typhoid Mary, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Little is known about Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, apart from what can be garnered from case studies and wildly sensational newspaper articles, but Bartoletti impressively fills in the gaps with illuminating historical context and lively descriptions of events. At the turn of the twentieth century, typhoid could swiftly kill thousands, and the public health department would go to great lengths to stave off an epidemic.
Smek for President!, by Adam Rex and read by Bahni Turpin
The wildly inventive Turpin, who read the 2011 Odyssey Award winner The True Meaning of Smekday, returns to narrate Rex’s deliriously funny, action-packed sequel, which mixes creative lowbrow humor with sly social satire. The story finds 13-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci and her extraterrestrial pal, an endearing Boov named J.Lo, feeling low, because although he helped save earth from the Grog, the alien remains a social outcast on his home planet.
One Man against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, by Tim Weiner
To whatever degree Richard M. Nixon’s reputation has been restored since his leaving office, this book is a major and definitive counter. It is thorough, devastating, and brilliantly convincing, perhaps the best profile of that complex man and his era we have had. A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and National Book Award–winning author (Legacy of Ashes, 2007), Weiner is a highly credible reporter who here masterfully handles a great wealth of detail, much recently declassified, and lays the whole mess out with exceptional clarity.