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Some of the best new books out right now

Aug 14, 2017

CultureCast book editor Loretta Williams discussed several books in our latest episode, including the finalists of the prestigious National Book Awards. 

Here is a list of the finalists, and a bonus book -- hard to find in print -- that Loretta recommends. 


"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

Loretta considers this book a true literary masterpiece. Loretta says this work of historical fiction looks at history we think we know -- the underground railroad that helped slaves escape the South and head towards freedom in the North -- and show us that we perhaps don't know it at all. 


"News of the World" by Paulette Jiles

Loretta says the author of this book, a poet by trade, employs beautiful writing and evokes a long ago Texas so vividly that the reader can feel like they experienced the landscape in person. But, Loretta found fault with the book's use of a captivity narrative involving Native Americans that were referenced repeatedly in the book, but not fleshed out as and fully explored as characters and a culture. 


"And Then We Heard the Thunder" by John Oliver Killens

This is the only book on our list this week that wasn't on the National Book Award finalists list. It is in fact a book written decades and hard to find in print today. But, if you can find it, Loretta says it is a great read that connects thematically to "The Underground Railroad" and explores further the ideas of that previous book.  Killens's book explores World War II's African-American soldiers as they return after the war to find that they had more freedom before they returned back home. 


"The Throwback Special" by Chris Bachelder

How much do you love NFL football? This novel explores the annual ritual of 22 men who gather to reenact a gory play from 1985 in which an NFL player was badly injured. In the process of telling the tale of that gathering, we get to meet the men of this group and learn about men's lives in our current age. 


"The Association of Small Bombs" by Karan Mahajan

The New York Times book review called this book "smart, devastating, unpredictable and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout." It is about the inner lives of both the terrorists that are attracted to the violence of terror, and the fallout of that violence for the people they harm. 


"Another Brooklyn" by Jacqueline Woodson

A celebrated young adult novelist, this is Woodson's return to the adult novel genre. The book explores the protagonist's return to Brooklyn after her father's death. The Washington Post says the book "mixes wonder and grief so poignantly."