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Arts & Culture

Critics Pick Top Ten Must Reads For The Fall

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

This morning on These Days, two local critics gave us their book recommendations. Lucia Silva is the manager of The Book Works in Del Mar and seems to read everything! Bob Pincus is the visual arts critic and the books editor at the Union-Tribune, and while Bob reads a lot, he's constantly on deadline (oh, so very familiar), so it's a thrill that he was able to make time for us. These two always recommend the best stuff, so take note and head to your local independent bookseller to stock up!

"A Gate at the Stairs"

By Lorrie Moore


Moore's first novel in 15 years is getting rave reviews. It tells the story of a young Midwestern woman who leaves the family farm to go to college. Once there, she accepts a nanny job for a sophisticated, yuppie couple who have recently adopted an African-American child. The novel addresses post-9/11 anxiety, the war in Iraq, family, race, and loss.

"Collected Stories by Raymond Carver"

This comprehensive collection of Carver stories from the Library of America series is unique because it includes some Carver stories before they were heavily edited by his former editor Gordon Lish. The unedited works come at the end of the collection and raise questions as to the role of the editor and authorship. Any way you shake it, this is an important collection from one of America's greatest short story writers.

"This Is Where I Leave You"

By Jonathan Tropper


This comic family drama about siblings who gather to sit shiva for their dead father is ready-made for the big screen. The narrator, a radio producer who has recently lost his wife, his job, his house and now his father, tries to comprehend his circumstances in the midst of a forced family reunion.

"The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws"

By Margaret Drabble

A memoir about depression structured around the author's love of jigsaw puzzles. Margaret Drabble is an accomplished English novelist and the sister of A.S. Byatt, from whom she is famously estranged.

"Big Machine"

By Victor LaValle

This urban fantasy mashes lots of genres in its confines. It's the story of Ricky, a middle-aged janitor who is called to become the member of a secret organization called the Unlikely Scholars, a group with renegade terrorists in its ranks. The novel becomes an exploration of good and evil, destiny and faith, and cross-cultural romance. It's been called provocative and "wildly original."

"Homer and Langley"

By E.L. Doctorow

Joyce Carol Oates calls him the "great chronicler of American mythology" and this time Doctorow blends fact and fiction in a story about the Collyer brothers, two men of privilege who lived as recluses in New York City. The Collyers compulsively hoarded things, and eventually their apartment was packed with clutter and completely unsanitary. This true story captivated Americans when the brothers were found dead in the apartment surrounded by 100 tons of rubbish.

"Five Stories of Music and Nightfall"

By Kazuo Ishiguro

A new collection of short stories from the author of "Remains of the Day" and "Never Let Me Go."

"A New Literary History of America"

Edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollers

A 1,128 page collection from the editors at Harvard University Press that attempts to chronicle literary history through 220 essays by scholars, writers and historians. The definition of "literary history" is broad, including films, television, political addresses, memoirs, comics, art, theater, and more.


By Philippe Claudel

This novel has been described as an adult fairy tale. A stranger is murdered in a small, idyllic French village just after WWII. Brodeck, who survived life in a concentration camp, is charged with writing a report about the murder absolving his neighbors and the villagers. Apparently, the novel is dark and atmospheric, but also full of wonder. Author Philippe Claudel also wrote and directed last year's French film "I've Loved You So Long" (which was amazing due in large part to Kristin Scott Thomas' performance).

"The Sixties"

By Jenny Diski

A memoir by British writer Jenny Diski about her experiences of London in the 1960s. She writes about the cultural mores of the time, including drugs, fashion and sex (and how free love was really exhausting!). She concludes however, that the 60s cultural revolution was ultimately a disappointing one. She writes: "the single focus on our inner selves," produced "[n]o new ideas, no great books or paintings or poetry," only "an album cover or two." Ouch.