The Testaments Gets the Spotlight, Sept. 4, 2019 | Book Pulse

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood gets global coverage. Dorothea Benton Frank has died. Belletrist picks What Red Was by Rosie Price as its September book, while the Read with Jenna book for the month is The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. Ursula Le Guin’s "Earthsea" series is set for TV and The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand is headed to FOX. Watchmen will debut on Oct. 20, on HBO.

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The Testaments Meets Its Moment

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese: Random House) gets reviewed in multiple outlets:

The NYT brings back Michiko Kakutani to weigh in and she writes it is “compelling … a contrived and heavily stage-managed premise — but contrived in a Dickensian sort of way with coincidences that reverberate with philosophical significance. And Atwood’s sheer assurance as a storyteller makes for a fast, immersive narrative.”

The Washington Post declares “the story is full of revealing backstories — but readers hoping for a complementary classic of dystopian literature may be disappointed. “The Testaments” is not nearly the devastating satire of political and theological misogyny that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is. In this new novel, Atwood is far more focused on creating a brisk thriller than she is on exploring the perversity of systemic repression.”

NPR decides the “book builds its social commentary on gender and power into a plot-driven page turner about these women's machinations as they deal with their stifling circumstances.”

Entertainment Weekly gives it a B+ and says “The pacing is flawless. The prose is lean, mean, and charged.”

In further coverage, Time has a feature. NPR has an exclusive excerpt of Atwood reading the novel. The Guardian has an excerpt of the print book.


The NYT reviews Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Biblioasis; LJ starred review): “unspools as a 426,100-word sentence that stretches over 1,000 pages — occasionally interrupted by a more traditional story, albeit one from the point of view of a mountain lioness. It seems designed to thwart the timid or lazy reader but shouldn’t. Timid, lazy readers to the front! Ellmann’s unnamed narrator, a mother of four living in Ohio, has a cutting power of observation and a depressive charm.” The Children’s Books column looks at animal books.

The Washington Post reviews The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood (G.P. Putnam’s Sons: Penguin): “a sweet, quirky family caper about a drug dealer who witnesses a sword fight to save LaReigne, who actually wants to be a white supremacist’s moll.” Also, Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (Random House; LJ starred review): “an alternately cerebral and goofy novel.”

USA Today reviews Cold Storage by David Koepp (Ecco: Harper), giving it three stars and calling it “engaging … If you find profound anxiety fun … imbues the novel with a mordant sense of humor, which gives [it] a welcome vibrancy and lightness.”

NPR reviews The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine (Sarah Crichton Books: Macmillan): “While not as moving as Schine's last novel, The Grammarians is filled with delightful zingers.”

Briefly Noted

Belletrist picks What Red Was by Rosie Price (Hogarth: Random House) as its September book.

The Read with Jenna book for the month is The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall (S. & S.; LJ starred review).

The NYT has a roundup of “New & Noteworthy” titles.

Paste picks “The Best Young Adult Books of September 2019.”

Eater selects “The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019.” Lit Hub picks its best too. Also from Lit Hub, “5 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Watch For in September.”

BuzzFeed names “4 Books We Absolutely Loved Last Month.”

WIRED’s Book of the Month is Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac (W.W. Norton). It is also getting coverage by the Intelligencer, NPR, and Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair has authors suggest their favorite books for the fall.

People looks inside Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum by Dr. Seuss, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (Random House Books for Young Readers).

The Dragon Awards are announced. Locus has the winners and shortlist.

NPR interviews Caitlin Zaloom, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost (Princeton).

The Verge interviews Randall Munroe, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems (Riverhead: Penguin).

The NYT features Chanel Miller, Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking: Penguin).

The Cut interviews Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House (Grove Press).

The NYT profiles Jack Thorne, the force behind Cursed Child and now His Dark Materials.

NBC features The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: Penguin).

Book Marks asks Laura van den Berg to answer their questionnaire.

Entertainment Weekly profiles David Yoon, Frankly in Love (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: Penguin; SLJ starred review).

Shondaland has an essay by Robin Page, Small Silent Things (Harper Perennial).

Vox writes about “The cult of Sally Rooney.”

Vulture is starting a monthly newsletter about books, Read Like the Wind.

Berlin has a new, hot book bag. The NYT has details.

The Strategist asks what Mary H.K. Choi, Permanent Record (S. & S. Books for Young Readers) “Can’t Live Without.” Also, she talks snacks with Eater.

Dorothea Benton Frank has died. The news is getting reported by The Post and Courier.

SF writer Brad Linaweaver has died. As has author Terrance Dicks. Locus has obituaries.

Authors on Air

BuzzFeed lists “14 Things You Should Know About The Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Movie.”

Today features The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith (Broadway Books: Random House), sending sales soaring. CBN gives a big boost to I Am Yours: Prayers for God's Girl by Wynter Pitts (Harvest House).

Deadline reports that Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series is set for TV. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand is headed to FOX as a TV drama. Christine Leunens’s Caging Skies is the book behind the film Jojo Rabbit. A trailer is out. David Ignatius’s The Quantum Spy gets optioned for series development.

Watchmen will debut on Oct. 20, on HBO.

Just Mercy gets a trailer.

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Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt is LJ’s readers’ advisory columnist, contributing The Reader’s Shelf, Book Pulse, and Wyatt’s World columns. She is the coauthor of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 3d ed. (ALA Editions, 2019). Contact her at

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