Reviews of the Week: George Saunders, Lane Smith, Sharon Olds, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and/or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from October 17 through October 21 below, so that you can revisit the week’s best books.


odesMonday, October 17

by Sharon Olds

An audaciously explicit poet of the body and female desire, the often controversial, always technically exhilarating Olds won the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Stag’s Leap (2012). Her new collection—and what a bit of alliterative pleasure Olds’ Odes is—is a rampaging, rollicking play on this venerated form and a retrospective look at her signature themes.



Tuesday, October 18perfectday

A Perfect Day, by Lane Smith

Two-time Caldecott Honor Book awardee Smith tackles the animal world with gusto and joy as he describes the perfect day in the outdoors. Smith’s innovative textured artwork and pen drawings give a visceral feel to the sunny day, and his muted palette complements the variety of surfaces and patterns. The humorous surprise ending will make children squeal as they ponder the concept of perfect.

Wednesday, October 19lincoln-in-the-bardo

 Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Even though Saunders (Tenth of December, 2013), the much-heralded author of distinctively inventive short stories, anchors his first novel to a historical moment—the death of President Abraham Lincoln’s young son, Willie, in February 1862—this is most emphatically not a conventional work of historical fiction. The surreal action takes place in a cemetery, and most of the expressive, hectic characters are dead, caught in the bardo, the mysterious transitional state following death and preceding rebirth, heaven, or hell.

Thursday, October 20list-of-cages

 A List of Cages, by Robin Roe

Fourteen-year-old Julian is a damaged boy, taciturn and withdrawn, painfully shy and still bereft from the death of his parents when he was a child. A poor student with illegible handwriting, he is often the subject of teachers’ scorn and classmates’ teasing. His home life is even worse: he is the ward of his uncle by marriage, a cold, distant, dangerous man who often punishes Julian cruelly. Things begin to gradually change when he encounters Adam, a teenager who had once been Julian’s foster brother before the uncle took custody.

Friday, October 21marlena

 Marlena, by Jule Buntin

In Buntin’s vivid debut, Cat, now a New York City public librarian in her thirties, tells the story of the friendship that changed her forever. Fifteen and stinging from her parents’ recent divorce, Cat has already decided that she’ll be different in freezing, rugged Silver Lake, Michigan, from the nerdy, do-gooder “Cathy” she was back in Pontiac. On cue, wild, beautiful, unpredictable Marlena, her new neighbor, appears.




About the Author:

Courtney Eathorne is a former Booklist intern, current reviewer, and a hungry, hungry bookeater. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Playwriting and can be seen leading food-and-beer bicycle tours around the city of Chicago with Bobby’s Bike Hike. Follow her reading and eating on instagram at @ceathorne.

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