THERE GOES GRAVITY

by Lisa Robinson |

MEMOIR

A little history, a little criticism, and a ton of gossip: That’s the recipe for Robinson’s compulsively readable chronicle of her years as one of America’s preeminent rock journalists. Robinson was embedded in the ’70s tours of the Stones and Led Zeppelin; she spent virtually every night at CBGB when Talking Heads and the Ramones played there. Bowie and Michael Jackson were her friends. Indeed, they all were, which means this is not the book for you if you want your rock heroes to remain gods. Robinson is interested in the human scale, and in the simplest, most matter-of-fact prose, she tells us the way these guys talk (Michael Jackson had a normal man’s voice when not talking to the press) and the way they think (Mick Jagger was a little huffy about having all the band’s business responsibilities). And really, there’s good reason for simplicity here. When you’ve got someone like Lady Gaga fretting that “if I sleep with someone, I feel like they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina,” why gild the lily?

—REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

THE OTHER LANGUAGE

by Francesca Marciano |

STORIES

Travel junkies, Italophiles and readers who enjoy exquisite observations about how humans interact with the unfamiliar will relish this transporting collection of short stories. From a young Roman girl exploring the pull of lust on a Greek holiday to a long-married couple confronting their adulterous impulses in India to a woman visiting an ex-lover who’s exiled himself to a small East African island, many of the protagonists are Italians voyaging abroad. But the book transcends physical travel, celebrating the power of encountering new cultures, personalities and truths, and ultimately discovering different versions of ourselves.

—REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

FAMILY LIFE

by Akhil Sharma |

NOVEL

The Mishra family arrives in Queens from Delhi in the late 1970s and begins the classic immigrant struggle, witnessed through the bewildered eyes of 9-year-old Ajay. Then an accident destroys his brother’s mind and with it that fragile family life. Ajay grows up ignored by his drunk dad and tortured by guilt. Yet this isn’t a wallow; dark humor twines through Sharma’s unforgettable story of survival and its costs.

—REVIEWED BY MARY POLS

THE LAST PIRATE

by Tony Dokoupil |

MEMOIR

To his fellow marijuana smugglers, ’80s kingpin Anthony Dokoupil was the Old Man. To the author, he was a mostly absent father leading a double life. Now “Little Tony” combines a history of the drug wars with keen reportage on his dad’s wild days as a pot baron and his eventual “swan dive to the scummy bottom.” Big Tony’s descent is tragic, but his son’s quest to understand him will fill you with hope.

—REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

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