Jan 012011
 

Using the medium of the graphic novel to great effect, Jason Lutes’s Berlin: City of Stones and Berlin: City of Smoke offer a history of the city in a way that’s accessible and yet mind-opening. All the benefits of a good novel are here: three-dimensional characters, a dynamic plot and a well-drawn setting.

As in the best graphic novels, the pictures expand the story in a most satisfying way. These two volumes were originally part of Lutes’ ongoing comic book series, called, quite simply, Berlin; they offer the reader a history of Germany in the 1930s, in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power and the outbreak of World War II. Comparisons, as the saying goes, are odious, but this is equally good — though very different — from Art Spiegelman’s iconic Maus. (Nancy Pearl, NPR)

Jan 012011
 

Tash Aw’s brilliant novel Map of the Invisible World explores the lure of home and family. It takes place in 1965, during a particularly bloody crackdown on Dutch citizens in Sukarno’s Indonesia. Karl, who moved back to his island home from a sojourn in America, is arrested by the Indonesian police.  Margaret, an American professor who knew Karl in the U.S., and Adam, his adopted son, both travel to Jakarta to search for him.

Aw’s first published work of fiction, The Harmony Silk Factory, provided a strong hint of his talents — and his second book confirms them. So, remember, you read it here first: I believe that someday Aw will win a well-deserved Nobel Prize for Literature. (Nancy Pearl, NPR)

Jan 012011
 

This super-sad, super-funny novel not only showcases its author’s super-caffeinated comic gifts, but also uncovers his abilities to write movingly about love and heartbreak. Set in the near future in a toxic New York City, this is a novel that manages to mash up an apocalyptic satire with a tragic romance and make the whole thing wondrously work. (Michiko Kakutani)