The Book Review-logo

The Book Review

New York Times

The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at


New York, NY


The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at



Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Writing About NASA's Most Shocking Moment

The year 1986 was notable for two big disasters, both of them attributable to human error and bureaucratic negligence at competing super powers: the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in the United States. The journalist Adam Higginbotham wrote about Chernobyl in his 2019 book, “Midnight in Chernobyl.” Now he’s back, with a look at the American side of the ledger, in his new book, “Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space.” On this week’s episode, Higginbotham tells host Gilbert Cruz why he was drawn to both disasters, and what the Challenger explosion revealed about weaknesses in America’s space program. “There was certainly a lot of hubris and complacency that led into this accident,” Higginbotham says. “In complex decision-making processes like those leading to the Chernobyl accident and the Challenger disaster, those concerned with making the decisions start off with a series of extremely carefully governed and defined practices for what constitutes acceptable risk and normal behavior. And then gradually over time, they subtly and almost unconsciously expand what they deem to be acceptable without even realizing it."


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Fantasy Superstar Leigh Bardugo on Her New Novel

In the world of fantasy fiction, Leigh Bardugo is royalty: Her Grishaverse novels are mainstays on the young adult best-seller list, her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy has been adapted for a Netflix series and her adult novels “Ninth House” and “Hell Bent” established her as a force to reckon with in the subgenre known as dark academia. Now Bardugo is back with a new fantasy novel, “The Familiar,” and it’s also her first work of historical fiction: Set during the Inquisition in 16th-century Spain, it deals with literal royalty (King Philip II of Spain) through the story of a young scullery maid who happens to possess some magical abilities. This week on the podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks with Bardugo about her career, her writing process and her decision to write a historical novel


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Colm Toibin on His Sequel to 'Brooklyn'

Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel “Brooklyn” told the story of a meek young Irishwoman, Eilis Lacey, who emigrates to New York in the 1950s out of a sense of familial obligation and slowly, diligently begins building a new life for herself. A New York Times best seller, the book was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Saoirse Ronan — and now, 15 years after its publication, Tóibín has surprised himself by writing a sequel. “Long Island,” his new novel, finds Eilis relocated to the suburbs and, in the opening scene, confronting a sudden crisis in her marriage. On this week’s podcast, Tóibín talks to Sarah Lyall about the book and how he came to write it.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Book Club: Dolly Alderton's 'Good Material'

How to explain the British writer Dolly Alderton to an American audience? It might be best to let her work speak for itself — it certainly does! — but Alderton is such a cultural phenomenon in her native England that some context is probably helpful: “Like Nora Ephron, With a British Twist” is the way The New York Times Book Review put it when we reviewed her latest novel, “Good Material,” earlier this year. “Good Material” tells the story of a down-on-his-luck stand-up comic dealing with a broken heart, and it has won Alderton enthusiastic fans in America. In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Emily Eakin and Leah Greenblatt. Caution: Spoilers abound!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

100 Years of Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster is not growing old quietly. The venerable publishing house — one of the industry’s so-called Big 5 — is celebrating its 100th birthday this month after a period of tumult that saw it put up for sale by its previous owner, pursued by its rival Penguin Random House in an acquisition bid that fell apart after the Justice Department won an antitrust suit, then bought for $1.62 billion last fall by the private equity firm KKR. With conditions seemingly stabilized since then, the company is turning 100 at an auspicious time to celebrate its roots and look to its future. On this week’s episode, Gilbert is joined by Simon & Schuster’s publisher and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, to talk about the centennial and what it means. “It was a startup 100 years ago,” Karp says. “It was two guys in their 20s. Richard Simon and Max Schuster. They were just a couple of guys who loved books. And they made a decision that they wanted to read every book they published. … The first book was a crossword puzzle book. It was a monster success. They’d actually raised $50,000 from their friends and family. They didn’t need it. They returned the money. And the company was up and running.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Looking Back at 50 Years of Stephen King

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie.” In the decades since, King has experimented with length, genre and style, but has always maintained his position as one of America’s most famous writers. On this week’s episode, host Gilbert Cruz talks to the novelist Grady Hendrix, who read and re-read many of King’s books over several years, writing an essay on each as well as King superfan Damon Lindelof, the TV showrunner behind shows such as “Lost” and “The Leftovers.” Some of the books discussed in this episode: "Carrie," "Cujo," "Duma Key," "From a Buick 8," "The Tommyknockers," "The Stand," and "The Long Walk." Some of the articles referenced: Grady Hendrix's Stephen King essaysWhen Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J.J. Abrams met Stephen KingStephen King reviews Tom Perrotta's "The Leftovers"


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Books That Make Our Critics Laugh

Earlier this month, the Book Review’s staff critics — Dwight Garner, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai — released a list of 22 novels they have found reliably funny since Joseph Heller’s landmark comic novel “Catch-22” came out in 1961. On this week’s episode, they tell Gilbert Cruz why “Catch-22” was their starting point, and explain a bit about their process: how they think about humor, how they made their choices, what books they left off and what books led to fights along the way. (“American Psycho” turns out to be as contentious now as it was when it was first published.) “There are only a very few number of books in my lifetime that have made me laugh out loud,” Jacobs says. “And some of them no longer make me laugh out loud, because the thing about humor is it’s like this giant shifting cloud, this shape-shifting thing that changes over the course of our lives and also the life of the culture.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Talking to Tana French About Her New Series

If you're familiar with Tana French, it's likely for her Dublin Murder Squad series of crime novels that kicked off in 2007 with "In the Woods." But her new book, "The Hunter," a sequel to 2020's "The Searcher," takes place outside of that series. In this episode of the podcast, speaking to Sarah Lyall about her shift to new characters, French said, "I wasn't comfortable with sticking to the detective's perspective anymore. I think from the perspective of a detective, a murder investigation is a very specific thing. It's a source of power and control. It's a way that you can retrieve order after the disruption that murder has caused. But I kept thinking there are so many other perspectives within that investigation for whom this investigation is not a source of power or control or truth and justice. It's the opposite. It's something that just barrels into your life and upends it and can cause permanent damage."


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Talking ‘Dune’: Book and Movies

Frank Herbert’s epic novel “Dune” and its successors have been entrenched in the science fiction and fantasy canon for almost six decades, a rite of passage for proudly nerdy readers across the generations. But “Dune” is experiencing a broader cultural resurgence at the moment thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s recent film adaptations starring Timothée Chalamet. (Part 2 is in theaters now.) This week on the podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks to The Times’s critic Alissa Wilkinson, who covers movies, culture and religion, about Herbert’s novel, Villeneuve’s films and the enduring hold of Fremen lore on the audience’s imagination. “There’s a couple things that I think are really unsettling in ‘Dune,’” Wilkinson says. “One is, the vision of Frank Herbert was, I believe, to basically write a book that questioned authoritarians and hero mythology genuinely, across the board. Any kind of a hero figure he is proposing will always have things and people come up alongside that hero figure that distort their influence. Even if they intend well, if they’re benevolent, there’s still all of this really awful stuff that comes along with it. So Paul is a messiah figure — we believe he wants good things for most of the book — and then he turns on a dime or it feels like he might be turning on a dime. You can never quite tell where anyone stands in this book. And I think that is unsettling, especially because so many of the other kinds of things that we watch — the superhero movies, “Star Wars,” whatever — there’s a clear-cut good and evil fight going on. Good and evil don’t really exist in ‘Dune.’” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Book Club: Let’s Talk About ‘Erasure,’ by Percival Everett

It’s not often that the Academy Awards give the publishing world any gristle to chew on. But at this year’s Oscars ceremony — taking place on Sunday evening — one of the Best Picture contenders is all about book publishing: Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” is adapted from the 2001 novel “Erasure,” by Percival Everett, and it amounts to a scathing, satirical indictment of publishers, readers and the insidious biases that the marketplace can impose in determining who tells what stories. Obviously, we recommend the movie. But even more, we recommend Everett’s novel. In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Joumana Khatib, also from the Book Review, and Reggie Ugwu, a pop culture reporter at The Times. Caution: Spoilers abound for both the book and the movie. Have you read “Erasure” or seen “American Fiction,” or both? We’d love to know what you thought. Share your reactions in the comments and we’ll try to join the conversation. We’ll get you started: Joumana Khatib: “I’d read Percival Everett before. I love watching his mind on the page. He’s funny, he's irreverent, he’s sarcastic. There’s nobody that writes like him. And I have to tell you that ‘Erasure’ totally blew me away, just because of the sheer number of textures in this book. … It’s obviously a parodical novel. It’s obviously unbelievably satirical and it’s just outrageous enough that it keeps the momentum without feeling schlocky or shticky.” … Reggie Ugwu: “He has a great sense of pace, like he never wastes time. … You can tell that it’s the work of a very sophisticated and mature writer who knows exactly what to leave on the page and exactly what he can cut. There are some moments where I marveled when he would just leap the plot forward in a few lines.” Send your feedback about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general, to


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Tommy Orange on His "There There" Sequel

Tommy Orange’s acclaimed debut novel, “There There” — one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018 — centered on a group of characters who all converge on an Indigenous powwow in modern-day Oakland, Calif. His follow-up, “Wandering Stars,” is both a prequel and a sequel to that book, focusing specifically on the character Orvil Red Feather and tracing several generations of his family through the decades before and after the events of “There There.” This week, Orange visits the podcast to discuss “Wandering Stars” as well as the book he has read most in his life, Clarice Lispector's "The Hour of the Star." Orange explained how he decided to write a historical novel while sticking with the characters and story line from his earlier book. “I got drawn in by this part of history because it was so specific to my tribe,” Orange says. “I don’t necessarily love reading historical fiction, but if it’s driven from the interior and it’s character driven, it’s compelling to me. So figuring out the types of humans they might have been or things they might have thought or felt, that was a way for me to try to figure out how to make them real. and that’s sometimes on a sentence level and sometimes on a, like, what are their motivations or what are they doing in their day-to-day lives? What do they want?”


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice

Tricia Romano’s new book, “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” is an oral history of New York’s late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as the nightlife columnist. Our critic Dwight Garner reviewed the book recently — he loved it — and he visits the podcast this week to chat with Gilbert Cruz about oral histories in general and the gritty glamour of The Village Voice in particular. “You would pick it up and it was so prickly,” Garner says. “The whole thing just felt like this production that someone had really thought through, from the great cartoons to the great photographs to the crazy hard news in the front to the different voices in back. It all came together into a package. And there are still great writers out there, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. No one has really taken over, to my point of view. ... There’s no one-stop shopping to find the great listings at every club and every major theater, just a great rundown of what one might be interested in doing.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Let's Talk About 'Demon Copperhead'

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “Demon Copperhead,” a riff on “David Copperfield” that moves Charles Dickens’s story to contemporary Appalachia and grapples engagingly with topics from poverty to ambition to opioid addiction, was one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2022. And — unlike an actual copperhead — “Demon Copperhead” has legs: Many readers have told us it was their favorite book in 2023 as well. In this week’s spoiler-filled episode, MJ Franklin talks with Elisabeth Egan (an editor at the Book Review) and Anna Dubenko, the Times’s newsroom audience director, about their reactions to Kingsolver’s novel and why it has exerted such a lasting appeal.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

4 Early-Year Book Recommendations

The early part of a year can mean new books to read, or it can mean catching up on older ones we haven’t gotten to yet. This week, Gilbert Cruz chats with the Book Review’s Sarah Lyall and Sadie Stein about titles from both categories that have held their interest lately, including a 2022 biography of John Donne, a book about female artists who nurtured an interest in the supernatural, and the history of a Jim Crow-era mental asylum, along with a gripping new novel by Janice Hallett. “It’s just so deft,” Stein says of Hallett’s new thriller, “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.” “It’s so funny. It seems like she’s having a lot of fun. One thing I would say, and I don’t think this is spoiling it, is, if there comes a moment when you think you might want to stop, keep going and trust her. I think it’s rare to be able to say that with that level of confidence.” Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode: “Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne,” by Katherine Rundell “The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World,” by Jennifer Higgie “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels,” by Janice Hallett “Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum,” by Antonia Hylton (Briefly mentioned: "You Dreamed of Empires," by Álvaro Enrigue, "Beautyland," by Marie-Helene Bertino, and "Martyr!" by Kaveh Akbar.)


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

'Killers of the Flower Moon': Book and Movie Discussion

Former New York Times film critic A.O. Scott joins to talk both David Grann's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which continues to sit near the top of the bestseller list, and Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated film adaptation. Spoilers abound for both versions. (Also, for history.)


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Talking the Joys and Rules of Open Marriage

Molly Roden Winter and her husband, Stewart, have been married for 24 years. But since 2008, by mutual agreement, they have also dated other people — an arrangement that Winter details in her new memoir, “More: A Memoir of Open Marriage.” In this week’s episode, The Times’s Sarah Lyall chats with Winter about her book, her marriage and why she decided to go public. “I didn’t see any representations of either people who were still successfully married after having opened it up or people who were honest about how hard it was,” Winter says. “The stories that were coming out were either, ‘Oh, we tried it. It didn’t work,’ or ‘We’re born polyamorous and it’s just the best and I just feel love pouring out of me 24/7.’ Neither of those things was true for me. I felt like I had learned something really profound through this journey of opening my marriage, and I wanted to share it."


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Our Early 2024 Book Preview

It's gonna be a busy spring! On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz talks with Tina Jordan and Joumana Khatib about some of the upcoming books they’re anticipating most keenly over the next several months. Books discussed in this week’s episode: “Knife,” by Salman Rushdie “James,” by Percival Everett “The Book of Love,” by Kelly Link “Martyr,” by Kaveh Akbar “The Demon of Unrest,” by Erik Larson “The Hunter,” by Tana French “Wandering Stars,” by Tommy Orange “Anita de Monte Laughs Last,” by Xochitl Gonzalez “Splinters,” by Leslie Jamison “Neighbors and Other Stories,” by Diane Oliver “Funny Story,” by Emily Henry “Table for Two,” by Amor Towles “Grief Is for People,” by Sloane Crosley “One Way Back: A Memoir,” by Christine Blasey Ford “The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir,” by RuPaul


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Steven Soderbergh on His Year in Reading

Every January on his website, the prolific director Steven Soderbergh looks back at the previous year and posts a day-by-day account of every movie and TV series watched, every play attended and every book read. In 2023, Soderbergh tackled more than 80 (!) books, and on this week's episode, he and the host Gilbert Cruz talk about some of his highlights. Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode: "How to Live: A Life of Montaigne," by Sarah Bakewell "Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,'" by Lee Unkrich and J.W. Rinzler "Cocktails with George and Martha," by Philip Gefter The work of Donald E. Westlake "Americanah," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "Pictures From an Institution," by Randall Jarrell "Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will," by Robert M. Sapolsky


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Book Club: 'The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store'

James McBride’s novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” was one of the most celebrated books of 2023 — a critical darling and a New York Times best seller. In their piece for the Book Review, Danez Smith called it “a murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel” and praised its “precision, magnitude and necessary messiness.” On this week’s episode, the Book Review editors MJ Franklin, Joumana Khatib and Elisabeth Egan convene for a discussion about the book, McBride, and what you might want to read next.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How to Tell the Story of a Giant Wildfire

John Vaillant’s book “Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World” takes readers to the petroleum boomtown of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in May 2016, when a wildfire that started in the surrounding boreal forest grew faster than expected and tore through the city, destroying entire neighborhoods in a rampage that lasted for days. On this week’s episode, Vaillant (whose book was one of our 10 Best for 2023) calls it a “bellwether,” and tells the host Gilbert Cruz how he decided to put the fire itself at the center of his story rather than choosing a human character to lead his audience through the narrative. “It was a bit of a leap," he says. "It was a risk. But it also felt like, given the role that fire is increasingly playing in our world now, it really deserved to be focused on, on its own merit, from its own point of view, if you will.”