Episoder

  • Mark Braude’s new biography, “Kiki Man Ray,” visits a place of perennial interest — Left Bank Paris in the 1920s — through the life of the singer, model, memoirist and muse. On this week’s podcast, Braude says that his subject thoroughly captured the spirit of her age, “a mix of deep pain and a very deep love of life” that emerged after the First World War.

    We’re used to reading about this age, Braude says, through the eyes of Americans in Paris, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Kiki “represents something that sometimes gets overlooked,” he says, which is “the French contribution to this scene and to this moment. People like Kiki were part of the reason why expats found France and Paris so exciting.” She was “living on a completely different rhythm and in a completely different way. She was just undeniably herself, and wasn’t putting on airs. And just loved life; she just wanted to do everything and meet everyone and go everywhere, and she did.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and Elisabeth Egan talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “River of Mountains” by Peter Lourie

    “Colony” by Anne Rivers Siddons

    “The Emperor’s Tomb” by Joseph Roth

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Elisa Gabbert, the Book Review's On Poetry columnist, visits the podcast this week to discuss writing about poetry and her own forthcoming collection of poems, her fourth, “Normal Distance.”

    “When I’m writing what I would call nonfiction or an essay or just pure prose, I’m really trying to be accurate,” Gabbert says. “I’m not lying, I’m really telling you what I think. There’s very minimal distance between my persona on the page and who I really am. And then when I’m writing poetry, that persona really takes on more weight. I’m definitely creating more distance, and it really feels more like fiction or even more like theater, I might say. I’m really more creating a character that’s going to be speaking this monologue I’m writing.”

    Ian Johnson visits the podcast to talk about his review of “Golden Age,” a novel by Wang Xiaobo recently translated by Yan Yan. The novel, set against Mao’s Cultural Revolution, made waves in China when it was originally published there in the 1990s.

    “It was controversial primarily because of sex, there’s a lot of sex in the novel,” Johnson says. “The sex is not really described in graphic detail; this isn’t Henry Miller or something like that. It’s more like they’re having sex to make a point: that they’re independent people and they’re not going to be trampled by the state. And it’s very humorous — he talks about sex using all kinds of euphemisms, like ‘commit great friendship,’ stuff like that. It’s meant to be a sort of parody, a somewhat absurd version of a romance.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Elisabeth Egan and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Time Shelter” by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel

    “The Displacements” by Bruce Holsinger

    “The Annotated Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Manglende episoder?

    Klik her for at forny feed.

  • Dan Fesperman’s 13th thriller, “Winter Work,” is set just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi, East Germany’s brutal Cold War intelligence service, was busy destroying evidence. The C.I.A. was just as busy trying to learn the enemy organization’s secrets.

    “The C.I.A., initially, had people calling ex-Stasi agents,” Fesperman says on this week’s podcast. “They got a hold of a directory with home phone numbers of some of these Stasi foreign intelligence people. And they started cold-calling them — like salesmen, like these irritating calls we get at home, except for the Stasi it was the C.I.A. calling. ‘Hey, would you like to share your secrets with us? We can pay you.’ They were getting mostly hang-ups, a lot of angry lectures. And when that quickly didn’t work out, they then began visiting them door to door, which didn’t work a whole lot better.”

    Isaac Fitzgerald visits the podcast to talk about his new memoir, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts,” which recalls his troubled childhood and his eventual coming to terms with those responsible for it.

    “I was able to give my parents a little more grace in this book,” Fitzgerald says. “And part of that was recognizing that my story didn’t start with my birth; my story starts with the things that happened to them.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Memoirs” by Robert Lowell

    “Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • The acclaimed poet Diana Goetsch has now published “This Body I Wore,” which our reviewer, Manuel Betancourt, called an “achingly beautiful memoir” about “a trans woman’s often vexed relationship with her own body.” On this week’s podcast, Goetsch talks about her approach to writing.

    “My assumption always, as a poet and as a writer, is — I’m a generalist. And I just think the most idiosyncratic thing about ourselves also happens to be the most universal, if we can get to it and present it in the right way,” she says. “It was never my primary objective to give information about a transition, even if somebody’s initial attraction is prurient. They can now get that on Wikipedia or something. I particularly love artists who have what I call the common touch — Bruce Springsteen has the common touch. my old mentor William Zinsser has the common touch; the ability to say something very well, but also not exclude anyone from it at the same time.”

    CJ Hauser visits the podcast to talk about her new essay collection, “The Crane Wife,” the title essay of which became an online phenomenon after The Paris Review published it in 2019. She describes her attempt to overcome the idea that love needs to have a grand narrative attached to it.

    “In my family, we love stories. We’re sort of Don Quixote people. We’ve read so many stories and we self-mythologize and we tell stories,” Hauser says. “By the end of the book, I come out into a place of telling a kind of static love story or slow-growing love story. What does it mean to not conflate drama with love, and does love need to be dramatic? Because I think that’s a thing that I inherited.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter discusses new novels about race and racism that find freedom in satire; and Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin

    “Mating” by Norman Rush

    “Norwood” by Charles Portis

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • In “Son of Elsewhere,” Elamin Abdelmahmoud writes about growing up in Canada after moving there from Sudan when he was 12. On this week’s podcast, he talks about that experience, including his first interactions with his new peers.

    “This is not a story of bigotry, this is not a story of a classic playground bully,” Abdelmahmoud says. “Most of the demons I was wrestling with in this book were actually returning to the feelings of me needing to put certain parts of my identity on the shelf. Because sometimes you don’t really have to wait for other people to reduce you, you can do that to yourself. So I came to Canada and as I was trying to fit in, for me one of the things that became obvious fairly quickly was: I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want the attention of being the new kid, the immigrant kid. I don’t want to be different.”

    The investigative journalist and author Sally Denton visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land,” which takes readers across the border to a Mormon sect in Mexico. Denton says the idea for the book came to her in 2019, after she saw news of gunmen opening fire on a caravan of three cars from a Mormon community, killing three women and six children.

    “When I learned of this incident, it just struck me immediately as: There was more to this story,” Denton says. “This was not a case of mistaken identity, it wasn’t a case of people being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a group of women and children intentionally targeted in the most brutal and heinous way. And I was initially really moved by the tragedy, and thought it would be really important to figure out what was going on. And my main impetus was really: Why were these women and children traveling alone on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Where were the men? Why were they unarmed, why were they unescorted?”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter talks about the growing number of independent bookstores and their increased diversity; and Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Why We Did It” by Tim Miller

    “Hollywood Ending” by Ken Auletta

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • In Alice Elliott Dark’s second novel, “Fellowship Point,” Agnes Lee and Polly Wister have been friends for about 80 years. Their intertwined families own homes on a Maine peninsula, and some of the book’s drama stems from their efforts to preserve the land and keep it out of the hands of developers.

    “The issue of land, land ownership, land conservation has always been of deep interest to me,” Dark says on this week’s podcast. “I came to that pretty quickly as I was developing this story. I decided I wanted to write something like a 19th-century-style novel, and I wanted to have it be modern. Women didn’t own land in the 19th century. They didn’t make decisions about land, even if they did own it, and having women landowners dealing with these issues seemed to me a modern version of a big, older, 19th-century-type novel.”

    Katherine Chen visits the podcast to discuss her new novel, “Joan,” which imagines Joan of Arc as a born fighter who becomes an avenging warrior.

    “I think the central image that keeps us fascinated with Joan of Arc all these years later is the mental image of a woman in armor on horseback going to war,” Chen says. “I think that image keeps us enthralled to this day because it’s as startling and surprising as it is empowering.” We also remain captivated, Chen says, by the “sheer improbability” of Joan’s story.

    Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news about librarians caught in the culture war over banned books; and Elisabeth Egan and MJ Franklin talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Everything I Need I Get From You” by Kaitlyn Tiffany

    “Thank You For Listening” by Julia Whelan

    “A Word Child” by Iris Murdoch

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,” is set in the world of video game design, and follows two friends named Sadie and Sam as they collaborate on what becomes a very successful game.

    “A friend of mine described the book as being what it’s like to co-parent something that’s not a child,” Zevin says on this week’s podcast. “Sam and Sadie, they are more intimate with each other than anyone else in their lives. Yet they aren’t spouses, and he’s not her child, and yet this is the most important relationship that both of them have. So I wanted to write about that: What if the most important person in your life was really your colleague and your friend?”

    Morgan Talty visits the podcast to discuss his debut story collection, “Night of the Living Rez,” which is set on the Penobscot Indian Nation reservation in Maine, where Talty was raised.

    “I was very much aware that Indigenous fiction tries to perform for a white readership, or a largely white readership, and there are instances in books that I’ve admired by Native writers that I could see this. And I always wanted to shy away from it, because I didn’t want to keep feeding into that type of storytelling,” Talty says. “Throughout the book there’s less association with Indigeneity in the characters, so it’s the characters who are front and center, it’s their human nature that’s front and center, as opposed to maybe something cultural.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris talks about how #BookTok has become a dominant driver of fiction sales; and Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

    “I Used to Live Here Once” by Miranda Seymour

    “The Last Resort” by Sarah Stodola

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Ed Yong’s new book, “An Immense World,” urges readers to break outside their “sensory bubble” to consider the unique ways that dogs, dolphins, mice and other animals experience their surroundings.

    “I’ve often said that my beat is everything that is or was once alive, which covers billions of species, across basically the entirety of the planet’s history,” Yong says on this week’s podcast. “One thing I like about this particular topic — the sensory worlds of other animals — is that it, itself, though a singular, cohesive topic, is also the gateway to thousands of small wonders. There’s so much to learn about just in this one corner of biology.”

    Terry Alford visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “In the Houses of Their Dead,” an investigation of how Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and their families were influenced by spiritualism.

    Alford says of Lincoln: “There’s a struggle, as best I see it, in him between the rational side and the side that desires to be comforted and to be in contact with someone you loved who’s not there anymore. He really wanted that, and he said he wanted that to a number of people. But he just felt, at the end of the day, that séance-type contact with the dead was really delusional.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

    “Blood Orange Night” by Melissa Bond

    “The Hack” by Wilfrid Sheed

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, curates our Group Text column — a monthly choice of a book that she feels is particularly well suited to book clubs and their discussions. On this week’s podcast, she talks about her latest pick: “Jackie & Me,” by Louis Bayard, which imagines the friendship between Jacqueline Bouvier and Lem Billings, a close friend of the Kennedys.

    “This is rooted in reality,” Egan says, “but Bayard runs with it and imagines conversations between Lem and Jackie, and just shows this, on one hand, fabulous life of parties and museums and fun they had together, but also sets up this ticking clock where you come to understand what Jackie really has at stake, and has to lose by committing to this life with the Kennedys.”

    Matthew Schneier visits the podcast to discuss Paula Byrne’s new biography, “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym.” Pym, a British writer, began publishing novels in the 1950s.

    “She published six novels in pretty quick succession, and they’re great,” Schneier says of the first decade or so of her career. “Very clever, very witty, she was often compared to Jane Austen — which was a writer that she loved and appreciated, but also a kind of very easy comparison, whereas Pym’s ironies can be a little bit darker than some of Austen’s. And there’s a sense in her work that she is spotlighting characters who are not the Emma Woodhouses, who are beautiful and rich and effervescent. They’re what she ended up calling ‘excellent women,’ which is the title of I think her best starter novel. These women who are well brought up and very proper, a little bit pious, but can also be a little dowdy, a little dreary, a little bit easier to overlook.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter talks about the filmmaker Werner Herzog and his first novel, “The Twilight World”; and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

    “The Facemaker” by Lindsey Fitzharris

    “Meet Me by the Fountain” by Alexandra Lange

  • Few fictional characters in recent decades have been as intensely discussed as Tracy Flick. The ambitious teenage protagonist of Tom Perrotta’s novel “Election” (1998) and the ensuing film adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon, has been reconsidered in recent years as misunderstood and unfairly maligned. On this week’s podcast, Perrotta talks about Tracy’s return in his new novel, “Tracy Flick Can’t Win.”

    “I think most people, when they think about Tracy Flick — I say this in all sad modesty — they’re thinking about Tracy in the movie,” Perrotta says. “‘Election’ as a book didn’t make a huge splash, and Reese Witherspoon’s performance was so powerful that I think the debate is really around Tracy in the film. And maybe to some degree me writing this book was an attempt to reclaim my own version of Tracy.”

    Ann Leary visits the podcast to discuss her new novel, “The Foundling,” which was inspired by the real-life story of Leary’s grandmother, who worked, in the 1930s, at a public asylum that sequestered “unfit” women. Leary did a great deal of research for the book, and felt freedom in being able to bring it to bear in a work of fiction rather than history.

    “I really wanted a story,” Leary says. “I could write about the widespread practice of eugenics, but I would have to kind of stick it to the place where my grandmother worked. And what I did in my novel was read about many other asylums, because there were many others. And I was able to make a fictitious place where I used things that I’d learned from the various different institutions.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and Elizabeth Harris talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “frank: sonnets” by Diane Seuss

    “Life Between the Tides” by Adam Nicolson

    “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” by Alan Sillitoe

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Karen Jennings’s novel “An Island,” which was on the longlist for the Booker Prize in 2021, is set on a fictional unnamed island off the coast of Africa, where a man named Samuel has worked as a lighthouse keeper for more than 20 years. When a refugee washes up on shore one day, barely alive, Samuel navigates life around this stranger and flashes back to his own past, including his role in a political uprising and years that he spent in prison. On this week’s podcast, Jennings says that the book’s somewhat fable-like tone was very intentional.

    “I knew that if I were to write about any one specific country, then I would have to make it about that country: that country’s political events, that country’s culture,” Jennings says. “My plan was to make it more universal, and attempt to understand something greater, something more complex. And the only way that I could see to do that was to do it in this very pared-down, focused way, reducing most of the action to this fictional island and then to these brief moments — I guess kind of like highlights — from Samuel’s past.”

    Phil Klay, the Marine Corps veteran and acclaimed fiction writer, visits the podcast this week to talk about a new collection of his nonfiction writing, “Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War.”

    “There’s a huge problem when we’re regularly sending troops to kill people and sending troops at risk and the president is not forced on a regular basis to go before Congress to explain what the mission is, how it’s in the national interest, what it’s going to cost, what we’re trying to achieve,” Klay says. “I think that war is the most morally fraught thing we can do as a nation, and it demands more democratic accountability.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week:

    “Phil” by Alan Shipnuck

    “Here’s the Deal” by Kellyanne Conway

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • With current-day labor movements at Amazon, Starbucks and other big employers in the news, Nell McShane Wulfhart is on the podcast this week to discuss her new book about a vivid moment in labor history, “The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet.” That revolution was launched in the face of working conditions that included contracts with onerous demands about every corner of a woman’s life.

    “The age restrictions and the marriage restrictions and the pregnancy restrictions — obviously that was a big no-no — they had been part of the contracts for many years, I think for as long as stewardesses had been working,” Wulfhart says. “These restrictions were obviously designed to keep the work force as young as possible, as svelte as possible and as pliable as possible, because when you’re only working for a few years, you’re not that invested in getting better benefits or establishing a pension plan or fighting for your rights.”

    James Kirchick visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.” The sweeping story, from the days of the New Deal up through Bill Clinton’s presidency, considers the toll of homophobia in the nation’s capital.

    “It’s incalculable,” Kirchick says. “The governmental resources that were expended in this, the hundreds of thousands of man hours that went into rooting out, discovering and firing patriotic civil servants. The deep wells of knowledge that were denied this country based upon fear of gay people. We don’t know those numbers. And then there’s of course the impact that it had on individual gay people.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Gregory Cowles talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Truth and Beauty” by Ann Patchett

    “Fierce Attachments” by Vivian Gornick

    “Role Models” by John Waters

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Brian Morton, an accomplished novelist, has turned to nonfiction for the first time in his new book, “Tasha: A Son’s Memoir.” On this week’s podcast, he discusses his mother’s life, the difficulties in taking care of her toward the end of her life and what led him to write a memoir.

    “I started writing a few pages about her, and I relished the freedom to write directly, to write without having to invent any characters,” Morton says. “I love to write about fictional characters, that’s my favorite part of writing. But it takes me a very long time to sort of give birth to them. And here was my mother, perhaps the most colorful character I’ve ever written about, who was right there to be written about.”

    Rachel Careau visits the podcast to discuss her new translation of Colette’s “Chéri” and its sequel, “The End of Chéri.”

    “One of the problems with her spare style is that the sentences can lack some of the words that usually oil a sentence,” Careau says of the task of translating the books. “So they can sound a little bit bare, sometimes a little syncopated. And the sound was very important to me, and I really let the sound guide me. But it’s difficult to make that bone-on-bone style flow.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Four Treasures of the Sky” by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

    “The Last Samurai” by Helen DeWitt

    “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • The filmmaker, artist, author and general cultural icon John Waters visits the podcast this week to talk about his first novel, “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance.” The book features three generations of women in the Sprinkle family, and their very complicated (and antagonistic) relationships with one another. The first of them we meet is Marsha, an unrepentant thief and overall misanthrope; but Waters says he still wants us to root for her.

    “She’s so crazy and so terrible that you can’t believe it at first,” Waters says. “And she’s quite serious about herself, as all fanatics are. No one in this book has much of a sense of humor about themselves, which, I think, can be played funny — the same way that when I made a movie, the main thing I told every actor was, ‘Never wink at the audience. Say it like you believe every single word.’”

    Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris discusses the winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes; and Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

    “Tacky” by Rax King

    “The Last Days of Roger Federer” by Geoff Dyer

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Hernan Diaz’s second novel, “Trust,” is four books in one. Our reviewer, Michael Gorra, calls it “intricate, cunning and consistently surprising.” It starts with a novel inside the novel, about a man named Benjamin Rask, who builds and maintains a fortune in New York City as the 19th century gives way to the 20th. Diaz describes writing the uniquely structured book on this week’s podcast, and the ideas at its core.

    “Although wealth and money are so essential in the American narrative about itself as a nation, and occupy this almost transcendental place in our culture, I was rather surprised to see that there are precious few novels that deal with money itself,” Diaz says. “Sure, there are many novels that deal with class — we were talking about Henry James and Edith Wharton a moment ago — or with exploitation or with excess and luxury and privilege. Many examples of that, but very few examples of novels dealing with money and the process of the accumulation of a great fortune.”

    Paul Fischer visits the podcast to discuss “The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures,” which is about Louis Le Prince, who made what is now widely acknowledged to be the first known moving picture, and the story of his mysterious disappearance as well.

    “What was fascinating about Le Prince — and what I really loved as a film nerd myself — is that he seems to have been the first one of that generation to really have a vision for what the medium could be,” Fischer says. “There were a lot of people, like Thomas Edison or the Lumière brothers, who were working on moving-image projects as a kind of novelty toy. Their idea was, this can make a little bit of money, at least for a while, and then it will fade away. And there were people, like Eadweard Muybridge or the French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who were scientists and really thought moving images would be a way to deconstruct the way our bodies work, the way things move, the way nature worked. And Le Prince was really the first to write in his notebooks and speak to his family about this medium as something that would change the way we related to reality.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and Elisabeth Egan talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Music, Late and Soon” by Robyn Sarah

    “French Braid” by Anne Tyler

    “Poguemahone” by Patrick McCabe

    “The Butcher Boy” by Patrick McCabe

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Jennifer Egan’s new novel, “The Candy House,” is a follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Visit From the Goon Squad.” A few characters appear in both books, but the novels are also united by Egan’s structural approach — an inventive one that, in “Goon Squad,” included a chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation, and in “The Candy House,” a chapter written as a long series of terse directives to a spy.

    On this week’s podcast, Egan talks about the new book, and about why she enjoys experimenting with form.

    “To my mind, the novel was invented to be a hungry, greedy form that could pull into itself all other kinds of discourse,” Egan says. “So in the earliest novels: graphic images, letters, legal documents. As a fiction writer, one of the fun things about working with the novel is that anything is up for grabs. If I can bend it to fiction, I will, and I’m looking around me for those opportunities all the time. It’s not easy to do it, because the danger is that you just look like you’re using gimmickry. And what I find is that the only time any kind of radical structural form works is if I can find a story that can only be told that way. It involves a lot of waiting, and a lot of trial and error.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter discusses the work of the Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin; and Alexandra Jacobs and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

    “The Palace Papers” by Tina Brown

    “Liarmouth” by John Waters

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • The cartoonist Liana Finck’s new book, “Let There Be Light,” recasts the story of Genesis with a female God who is a neurotic artist.

    “At the very beginning of this book, she’s existing in a void and she just decides to make something,” Finck says. “And it’s all fun and games until she starts to feel some self-doubt and realizes that she hasn’t done well enough. She’s really kind of a self-portrait of me at that point. She’s well-intentioned, she’s happy and she’s very hard on herself.”

    Jonathan Van Ness of “Queer Eye” fame visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Love That Story.” He talks to Lauren Christensen, an editor at the Book Review.

    “As a queer person, we are told very early on what spaces you are able to thrive in. Beauty is often one of those spaces. There are just a lot of spaces that you can be directed to. And I love hairdressing and I love beauty and I love what I get to do on ‘Queer Eye,’” Van Ness says. “So I am eternally grateful to that. But also, I think that queer people who are feminine and who are flamboyant — as I’ve been called my entire life — are not also allowed to be information gatherers, are also not allowed to be seen as credible.” He continues: “Obviously I didn’t go to journalism school. I didn’t graduate college. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn and share my experiences with others.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Joumana Khatib and Dave Kim talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “In the Country of Others” by Leïla Slimani

    “Phenotypes” by Paulo Scott

    “Tamarisk Row” by Gerald Murnane

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Elizabeth Alexander’s new book, “The Trayvon Generation,” grew out of a widely discussed essay of the same name that she wrote for The New Yorker in 2020. The book explores themes of race, class and justice and their intersections with art. On this week’s podcast, Alexander discusses the effects of video technology on our exposure to and understanding of violence and vulnerability, and contrasts the way her generation was brought up with the lives of younger people today.

    “If you think about some of the language of the civil rights movement: ‘We shall overcome’ is hopeful,” Alexander says. “And if you stop there and take that literally, I would say that’s what my childhood was about. But after that comes ‘someday.’ Well, I think what we’re seeing now is that we have not yet arrived at that day.”

    Lucasta Miller visits the podcast to discuss her new biography, “Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph.”

    “I think the popular vision is of him as this rather sort of ethereal creature, a sort of delicate flower, the embodiment of loveliness, a spiritualized essence,” Miller says. “What I really wanted to do was to get back something of the real flesh-and-blood Keats, as a real complicated human being. I’m not trying to undermine him in any way. I’m just trying to make him more complex. And I love him all the same — I love him even more, as a result.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

    “It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful” by Jack Lowery

    “Private Notebooks: 1914-1916” by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • While a steady stream of disturbing news continues to come from Ukraine, new works of fiction highlight the ways in which lives there have been transformed by conflict. On this week’s podcast, the critic Jennifer Wilson talks about two books, including the story collection “Lucky Breaks,” by Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky.

    “Belorusets has been compared to Gogol in these stories,” Wilson says. “There’s a certain kind of supernatural quality to them. I think anyone looking to these books for a play-by-play of the conflict is going to be disappointed for that reason, but I think delighted in other ways.”

    Ben McGrath visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “Riverman: An American Odyssey,” which tells the story of Dick Conant, a troubled and charismatic man who disappeared while on a canoe trip from New York to Florida. Conant was in his 60s when McGrath met him, and had spent many years questing on various waterways.

    “What he learned was that there wasn’t really anything he was going to find out about himself that was going to improve things, and that the secret to finding happiness was to turn his lens outward,” McGrath says. “Rather than, in the Thoreauvian model, retreating to Walden Pond and staring into his reflection, he decided to go out into the world and to keep seeing new places and meeting new people; and by doing that, keep himself sufficiently occupied that he didn’t have to struggle too much with worrying about who he was and what his own problems were.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the literary world; and Lauren Christensen and MJ Franklin talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

    Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

    “Young Mungo” by Douglas Stuart

    “Heartstopper: Volume One,” by Alice Oseman

    Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, read by Hillary Huber

    “Catholics” by Brian Moore

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]

  • Thomas Fisher’s new book, “The Emergency,” details his life as an emergency physician at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he’s worked for 20 years. It provides an up-close look at a hospital during the pandemic, and also zooms out to address the systemic issues that afflict American health care.

    “This book was conceptualized prior to Covid,” Fisher says on this week’s podcast. “But Covid laid bare so much of what I intended to discuss from the beginning. So in some ways it was weirdly fortuitous. It gave the opportunity to discuss many of the details in much more vivid relief because we had this pandemic laying out all the things that have been a problem for so long.”

    The critic and essayist Maud Newton’s first book, “Ancestor Trouble,” details her investigations into her family’s fascinating and sometimes discomfiting history, and reflects on our culture’s increased obsession with genealogy.

    “Allowing ourselves to really imagine our ancestors, in all of their fullness — the difficult and bad things that they did, and of course the wonderful things that they did — can just be a really transformative experience,” Newton says. “I’ve come to find that the line between imagination and spirituality has become a lot more porous over the course of writing this book.”

    Also on this week’s episode, Dwight Garner and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

    We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected]