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 January 11–15 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
Monday January 11
A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, by Stephen Harrigan
Harrigan’s (Remember Ben Clayton, 2011) newest epic adds to his reputation as a stellar historical novelist. Set in Illinois, mostly in the 1830s and 1840s, this tale takes a powerfully astute look at the public and private sides of the young Abraham Lincoln and the agonizing struggles he endured trying to reconcile the two. Paralleling his character development is that of Springfield, the prospective state capital, where hogs roam the dirty streets and speculators and politicians muscle in, seeking to “live a life of consequence.”
Tuesday January 12
The Magical Fantastical Fridge, by Harlan Coben
Having conquered adult and YA best-seller lists, Coben dashes after the youngest crowd with a picture book so bizarre—indeed, almost incomprehensible—that it’s actually sort of impressive. You can almosthear Coben’s lightbulb go off: What if a bored kid imagined that he got sucked onto the refrigerator door and had to navigate all the family ephemera posted there? That’d be wild, right? Well, yes.
Wednesday January 13
True Crimes, by Kathryn Harrison
Eleven years and four books—two novels (Enchantments, 2012; Envy, 2005), a biography of Joan of Arc, and an inquiry into a horrific family murder (While They Slept, 2008)— later, Harrison returns to memoir, the form that made her famous with The Kiss (1997), a true tale of incest. Harrison is mesmerizing in this set of linked essays as she matches the supple clarity and vital force of her polished prose to stunning candor.
Thursday January 14
Mr. Fahrenheit, by Michael T. Martin
Martin’s follow-up to his breakneck, yet surprisingly moving, horror novel, The End Games (2013), trades zombie tropes for alien ones in this invigorating piece of sci-fi nostalgia. A post–football game hangout with high-school magician Benji—aka Benji Blazes—and his three best buds goes wonky when they shoot a UFO right out of the sky and it crashes beneath lake ice.
Friday January 15
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War 1936–1939, by Adam Hochschild
Why does a civil conflict in Spain in the 1930s, bloody as it was, still resonate for Americans? The answer lies in the subtitle of this dramatically personal book by the celebrated author of To End All Wars (2011) and King Leopold’s Ghost (1998). Americans remain interested in the Spanish Civil War, which eventually placed General Francisco Franco at the helm of what became a decades-long and highly repressive dictatorship, because Americans had a hand in helping the forces fighting Franco.