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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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People PICK

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

by Melissa Fay Greene |



Love knows no bounds-and no borders-in journalist Greene’s ebullient valentine to her family of nine children. When their oldest son goes off to college, Greene and her husband, Donny, decide to repopulate their emptying Atlanta nest with a Bulgarian boy, then a girl and three boys from Ethiopia. Differences are embraced as the kids adjust: Never taught imaginative play, Jesse tries to beat a toy weasel to death with a broom; goatherd Sol keeps spears in the tree house. Greene doesn’t ignore her new kids’ roots, taking the Ethiopians to their homeland and not only locating one son’s grandmother but starting her off in the chicken farming business. “Who made you the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?” a friend quips, but Greene doesn’t apologize. Instead, she shows what it means to knit together a family that “steers by the light … of what feels right and true.”

The Pale King

by David Foster Wallace |



When the Infinite Jest author committed suicide in ’08, he left behind this incomplete novel, now cobbled together for publication with chapters in seemingly random order. Sections of the book, which mostly deals with frustrated IRS examiners, glow with Wallace’s trademark brainiac wit-“Rain Man” as stand-up comic-but many chapters about regulations or traffic are intentionally boring and overachieve on that score. A moving tale of father-son accountants, told largely without postmodern tomfoolery, could have been the heart of a book of depth and social insight, but that thread is abandoned as Wallace returns to his stem-winders. By the end, readers may feel they’ve been held hostage.