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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Still Point of the Turning World

by Emily Rapp |



Emily Rapp’s little boy Ronan died last month, just before his third birthday. It was devastating, but no surprise. At 9 months old, he’d been diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare, fatal illness that rapidly dismantles its victims. This memoir of life with Ronan promises to be the saddest book imaginable, so why would you want to read it? Because Rapp writes with such radiant honesty and intelligence, pulling you close, making you care. She searches for solace in literature, religion and friends, joining forces with other “dragon mothers” and finding the strength to protect and honor Ronan while preparing to let him go. As her sweet, chubby-legged child inexorably fades, Rapp fights to redefine the meaning of parenting-and of life itself. Living in the moment is something we’re told to aim for; she does it, finding profound joy in the pure expression of love. “We made him, we loved him, end of story.”

The Accursed

by Joyce Carol Oates |



Another month, another book from prolific powerhouse Joyce Carol Oates-or at least that’s how it sometimes seems. But don’t let Oates-fatigue keep you from picking up The Accursed, her most accessible and absorbing novel since Blonde (2000). Set in the early 1900s, the book follows the fate of Princeton, N.J.’s elite as a supernatural presence descends upon them. With appearances by historical figures such as Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair, this is a brilliant Gothic mystery that has the punch of historical fiction. Currents of race, class and academic intrigue swirl under the surface, but it’s the demonic curse that propels the action. A master of sharp dialogue and vibrant descriptions, Oates casts a powerful spell. You’ll close The Accursed and want to start it all over again.

Gods and Beasts

by Denise Mina |



A grandfather is murdered by a gunman he inexplicably helps in a robbery; a once-inspiring politician denies an affair despite irrefutable evidence; two cops worried about layoffs find a trunkload of dirty money. Welcome to Denise Mina’s Glasgow, where the streets are paved with carnage and corruption and the inhabitants are all too human. At the center of this particular storm is exhausted detective Alex Morrow, who wonders if she can still be hard-nosed months after giving birth to twins. But hers is just a voice among the chorus: Victims, mental cases and thugs all have their say as three seemingly disconnected storylines converge. The result is a piercing tale that should cement Mina’s rep as one of crime fiction’s finest.