Author: Nicole Charbonnet

Another Brooklyn

“Another Brooklyn” is a fantastic novel. Both this and “News of The World” are poetic, but I’m a total sucker for Woodson’s type of James Agee lyricism. Throw in an exploration of how memory works and I’m an instant fan. …Read More

News of The World

Although Alexis de Tocqueville made some amazingly perceptive and prescient observations, I consider his predictions regarding American literature to be completely lame (despite the the Nobel Prize committee’s prejudiced adherence to them for the last few decades). De Tocqueville predicted, …Read More

Play All

“Play All” by Clive James is a very funny and great review of television. After being diagnosed with leukemia, James began to binge watch TV series box sets. He chronicles his experience and is a wonderful critic. Although I don’t agree …Read More

Here I Am

I was impressed by Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel, “Here I Am.” While I have always liked Foer’s fiction, I have never been amazed by it. He has always been a facile writer and here as usual, he constructs dexterous …Read More

The Fire This Time

I don’t understand why some people don’t get it. Just the other day, Surowiecki summarized it here, echoing Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Anderson’s “White Rage,” Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told,“ …Read More

The Hidden Life of Trees

Don’t read “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben unless you want to cry more as you walk, bike or drive around. I happen to live in New Orleans and teared up as drove up Louisisana Avenue today. It’s …Read More

The Romanovs

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “The Romanovs:1613-1918” is very fun look at three centuries of dynastic power. I can do no better summarizing this book than Montefiore does himself in the prologue: ”…the Romanovs were actually the most spectacularly successful empire-builders since …Read More

The Sport of Kings

“The Sport of Kings” by C. E. Morgan is both a wonderful and a deeply flawed novel. It’s set in Kentucky and is about horse racing, but delves deeply into human bloodlines, and thus is about race and racism as …Read More

The Republic of Spin

In “The Republic of Spin,” David Greenberg starts with McKinley and chronicles the following 100 plus years of publicity behind presidential elections. This is a must read for anyone interested in presidential history, political machinations and election strategy. Who knew …Read More

Sex with Shakespeare

This book was not at all what I expected. What I was hoping for was a book that focused on sex in Shakespeare, but in “Sex with Shakespeare” Jillian Keenan gives more of an account of her fetishes. Instead of …Read More

Lab Girl

There is a new literary genre of which I am very fond, which is a hybrid of memoir and nonfiction. “H is for Hawk” is a perfect example, “The Soul of an Octopus” another. I love learning about a subject …Read More

Zero K

Neither as stunning as “The Names” nor as dense as “Underworld,” DeLillo’s most recent novel, “Zero K,” still shines. His facility with language makes him one of my favorite living writers. As usual, the sentences glow. The plot unfolds around …Read More

The Industries of the Future

I wanted more from “The Industries of the Future” by Alec Ross. Many of his main points are obvious: robots are coming as are cyberattacks, digitization, precision agriculture and genomics. I really wanted to learn about trends much deeper and …Read More

Eligible

Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible” is an updated, retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.” That it’s an inferior version is predictable, although Sittenfeld was a good bet to pull it off. Sittenfeld’s “Prep” and “Sisterland” were both quite enjoyable and I consider her …Read More

Most Blessed of the Patriarchs

Just as I have found much more pleasure investigating the charms of the Cabernet over the Pinot grape in the years since “Sideways” (exulted in the majesty of the latter and denigrated the former), the contrarian in me made me …Read More

Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

This book by Joshua Greene is about what is actually going on when we contemplate moral dilemmas. Using brain scans of people answering philosophical questions about human morality along with conclusions from evolutionary theory and psychological experiments, Greene concludes that …Read More

Listen Liberal

“Listen Liberal” by Thomas Frank explores the question of why Democrats have forfeited their historic focus on inequality. It’s a fair attack on the Left from the Left. Frank blames liberals for abandoning the economic needs of everyday people and …Read More

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

One of the things I like most about “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” is how Carlo Rovelli compares profound discoveries in science to masterpieces in art. We go to movies, plays, museums and concerts to make connections, refine the way …Read More

Why the Right Went Wrong

“Why the Right Went Wrong” by E. J. Dionne is a history of the Republican Party since the ‘60s. This very timely book chronicles the path of the Right from Goldwater to the Tea Party. Beginning with Goldwater’s “The Conscience …Read More

Innocents and Others

I love Dana Spiotta’s novels. “Eat the Document” was good, and “Stone Arabia” was great. Her recent book, “Innocents and Others,” is wonderful as well. Meadow and Carrie are good friends and successful filmmakers, but describing the book as being …Read More

Originals

I loved Adam Grant’s first book “Give and Take” because it promoted kindness as a strategic advantage and revealed how generosity is a better path to success than selfishness. With “Originals,” he again combines cutting-edge research and interesting ideas to …Read More

Better Living Through Criticism

In “Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth,” A. O. Scott examines criticism. Art is criticism and criticism can be art. He exposes the human craving for expanded consciousness and the frustration of occupying …Read More

In Other Words

  Instead of reading “In Other Words” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I wish I had spent the time rereading her wonderful book “Interpreter of Maladies.” “In Other Words” is about her relationship to language. She learns Italian, moves to Italy and …Read More

Destiny and Power

It has been a while since I read the book, but one of the things I remember about “No Ordinary Time” is that Doris Kearns Goodwin basically gives FDR a superhero cape and simultaneously anoints him a saint. Although reading …Read More

Dark Money

If your family fortune comes from doing things like building a huge Luftwaffe fuel refinery for the Nazis, maybe you are just born with a natural attraction to the dark side. If your privately owned company annually makes billions of …Read More

A Manual for Cleaning Women

Grace Paley explained, “You write from what you know but you write into what you don’t know.” From the little I know about Lucia Berlin’s life, a lot of the stories in “A Manual for Cleaning Women” are rooted in …Read More

“When Beauty Strikes”

David Brooks has been bothering me for a while. “The Road to Character” was insipid, and now on top of all the self-righteous moralizing and curmudgeonly grumping about younger generations, he is now a specialist in art theory and complaining …Read More

Youth

  I love Sorrentino’s directing style, so am willing to overlook aspects of his films that don’t work, or are not perfect. In “Youth” my problem was with Harvey Keitel. Although I very much respect his performances in numerous other …Read More

The Etymologicon

When he was teaching me how to drive, my father would remind: “Be sure to use your single.” Since then, I’ve noticed that many people confuse “signal” and “single.” So many, that I suspect that over time the meanings will …Read More

Best of 2015

I read many mediocre or disappointing books that came out this year, and some bad ones as well. The list below, however, includes the wonderful, memorable ones that stood out from the crowd and surprised, enlightened and at times astounded …Read More

The Soul of an Octopus

This cephalopod is a master of predatory tactics as well as strategy. The most intelligent of invertebrates has a great memory, can use tools, possesses amazing navigation skills and even artistic talent (ability to camouflage and blend in with surroundings). …Read More

Jacqueline Humphries

“Alpha 3” Jacqueline Humphries has a wonderful, not-to-be-missed show, up at the Contemporary Arts Center in NOLA until late February. I’m a longtime fan and appreciate her persistent spirit of experimentation. I also admire her dogged dialogue with abstraction, the …Read More

The Story of the Lost Child

“The Story of the Lost Child” is the fourth book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. These novels are among the best fiction I have read in the last few years. Even though each novel works on its own, as a …Read More

Between the World and Me

If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best nonfiction books of the year and among the most honest and beautiful books I’ve read in a while. If there’s …Read More

Heart of a Dog

I thought Laurie Anderson’s film “Heart of a Dog” was going to be about the recent loss of her husband Lou Reed. While definitely a film about loss, I was completely mistaken as Reed isn’t directly mentioned. Instead, Anderson’s dog, …Read More