The Book Report: Reviews from Washington Post critic Ron Charles (January 31)

By Washington Post book critic Ron Charles

The New Year is off to a quick start with some great books. Here are just a few you might enjoy:


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“Black Buck” by Mateo Askaripour (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a coming-of-age story designed to look like a self-help manual. It’s about a young Black man named Darren who gets a job offer from a hot new website.

Suddenly, Darren finds himself the only Black person in an office where everybody is desperate to prove how much they love diversity. With a touch of the TV show “Silicon Valley” and the old musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Black Buck” is an irresistible comic novel about the tenacity of racism in corporate America.  

Read an excerpt from “Black Buck”

“Black Buck” by Mateo Askaripour (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound



Back in 2003, the actor Ethan Hawke was vilified for cheating on his wife, Uma Thurman. Now, divorced and remarried, Hawke has written a novel inspired by that experience, and as much as you might want to hate it, it’s really good.

“A Bright Ray of Darkness” (Knopf) opens when a young Hollywood star is caught cheating on his wife just as he’s about to make his Broadway debut in a production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV.” This is a witty, wise and heartfelt novel about a spoiled young man finally growing up.

Read an excerpt from ” A Bright Ray of Darkness “

“A Bright Ray of Darkness” by Ethan Hawke (Knopf), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound


St. Martin’s Press

Kristin Hannah’s new blockbuster “The Four Winds” (St. Martin’s Press) is about a single mother named Elsa and her two children trapped in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.

Desperate to save her family and find work, Elsa takes them to California, but there they find a state already overrun with starving workers pitted against cruel farm owners. 

With this stirring melodrama, Hannah takes readers back to the land of John Steinbeck’s classic, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Read an excerpt from “The Four Winds”

“The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Press), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound



If you think this winter’s been cold, consider the plight of 16th-century Dutch explorer William Barents. He tried twice to find a northeast route to Asia but turned back. On the third try, his ship got caught in the Arctic ice, where he and his men spent a year battling frostbite, starvation and polar bears.

Now this adventure comes back to life with all its freezing thrills in a new book by journalist Andrea Pitzer, called “Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World” (Scribner).  

“Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World” by Andrea Pitzer (Scribner), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound

For these and other suggestions to get you through the long winter, contact your local bookstore or library. The doors may be closed to help fight the pandemic, but the staff is online and eager to help.

Until next time, read on!

For more info: 

Story produced by Robin Sanders, Roman Feeser and Charis Satchell.

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