Reviews of the Week, with Haruki Murakami, Joshua Rivkin, Carole Boston Weatherford, and More!

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 October 15–19 below.


Monday, October 15

 Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami

For Murakami, the journey to connecting often begins in a hole in the ground. As much of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle​ (1997) takes place with the protagonist sitting in the bottom of a well, so the portrait-painter hero of this novel, recently abandoned by his wife, is jolted out of his lethargy by what he finds in a mysterious hole near his rental home on a mountaintop outside Tokyo. A mysteriously ringing bell alerts the narrator to the hole, which leads in turn to his discovery of a painting called Killing Commendatore, hidden in the attic of the house by the former resident, a famous Japanese painter.


Tuesday, October 16 

 The Roots of Rap, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Starting with its attention-getting cover, this picture book does an excellent job of capturing the essence of rap. Written in free verse, the text effortlessly pays homage to the four pillars of hip-hop culture: rap music, graffiti, break dancing, and DJing. The spare, four-line verses embody all the right ingredients, blending together creative wordplay, clever allusions, expressive storytelling, and shout-outs to other artists, all delivered in a rhythmic beat.


Wednesday, October 17

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh, read by Julia Whelan

The premise of this critical darling is a bit of a hard sell: a beautiful young woman has the resources to prepay her New York expenses while she self-medicates into sleeping through the year. Award-winning audiobook narrator Whelan handles the beautifully written ennui, snark, and desperate need for escape of the unnamed protagonist with aplomb.


Thursday, October 18

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker, by Maria Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Though the subtitle of Rockliff’s newest biography touts Alice Guy-Blaché as the first woman filmmaker, some consider her the first filmmaker period; yet, her name is considerably less well-known than film pioneers Georges Méliès and the Lumière brothers. Rockliff sets the record straight as she reveals Alice’s innovative use of a newfangled camera to tell entertaining stories through moving pictures.


Friday, October 19

 Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, by Joshua Rivkin

Rivkin brings his sensibility and prowess as a poet and essayist to this unusually reflective, stealthily dramatic inquiry into the enigmatic life and work of artist Cy Twombly (1928–2011). Rivkin’s fascination with Twombly’s atmospheric paintings and how they capture motion and emotion in layered scribbles, loops, drips, lines from poems, incisions, and vortexes—often massive works that evoke windows, veils, water, wind, war, desire and despair, time and memory—led him on an arduous 10-year quest.


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