FICTION The Refugees By Viet Thanh Nguyen Grove Press 209 pages, $25 In America, “where possessions counted for everything, we had no belongings except our stories.”  - Viet Thanh Nguyen The author dedicates this book of short stories to “all refugees, everywhere.” And for good reason: Our brothers and sisters are in need of validation. Puli…

NONFICTION City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War By John Strausbaugh Twelve 423 pages, $30. The City of New York holds a curious fascination for countless Americans, author John Strausbaugh among them. For some, it’s the excitement of the bright lights and tall buildings.  For others, it’s the tremendous wealth pulsing t…

“Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman, Norton, 293 pages, $25.95 In a recent edition of the classic “Bulfinch’s Mythology,” 292 is the number of pages devoted to Greece, Rome and the mythology of Southern European climes. Twenty-seven is the number of pages devoted to myths of the snowy North – without England, that is. As old Thomas Bulfinch smartly noted, no on…

Dick Hirsch has been sharing his dry and occasionally wry sense of humor for decades  in columns. The 84-year-old Buffalonian began writing columns in 1957 for the Buffalo Courier-Express. Later, he hosted and produced three TV shows on PBS -- "Call 17," "In Person" and "Man in the News" -- from 1968 to 1987. He also worked 25 years for a printing company, and owned a …

PICTURE BOOK Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Floyd Cooper; Harper, $17.99. Ages 4 to 8.  ... The illustrious Walter Dean Myers, a five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner, teams up with acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper, also a Coretta Scott King Award-winner, for this excellent illustrated biography of the great aboli…

A gritty street lawyer who represents addicts and crime lords and works out of a bulletproof van. A how-to book on the Japanese art of decluttering your home and your life. A teenager's struggle for identity in post-apocalyptic Chicago. The diaries of a wimpy middle schooler. Readers just couldn't get enough of them. They represent some of the hottest reads for…

YOUNG ADULT City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 401 pages ($18.99) Ages 12 and up. ... Debut author Natalie C. Anderson used her background as a relief worker in Africa in crafting this pulse-pounding thriller of refugees, street gangs, murder, corruption, sacrifice and resilience set against the vivid backdrop of the fictional cit…

NONFICTION The Way Of The Strangers: Encounters With The Islamic State By Graeme Wood Random House 317 pages $28 What’s the big deal about this book? There are at least two important reasons for reading it. First, Canadian author Graeme Wood makes the case that “The Way of the Strangers” outlines “the definitive, electrifying account of the str…

FILM High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic By Glenn Frankel Bloomsbury $28, 400 pages Many an Oscar aficionado considers 1952’s "The Greatest Show on Earth," Cecil B. DeMille’s three-ring  soap-operatic salute to big-top entertainment,  as the worst pick ever for best picture among the 88 titles that have been so hono…

MEMOIR My Life, My Love, My Legacy By Coretta Scott King, as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds Henry Holt and Company 358 pages, $30 "On Thanksgiving Night 1942, when I was fifteen years old, white racists burned our house to the ground," Coretta Scott King reveals first in this inspiring and still shocking memoir. Her father had built the house with hi…

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders, Random House, 341 pages, $28 There has seldom been a time in American literary history when a book about Lincoln was a bad idea. As H.L. Mencken, among so many, have observed, there are few subjects which remain so dear to the American heart and mind. This novel is, to be sure, the most significant Lincoln book in a while. To…

NONFICTION The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars By Daniel Beer Knopf 368 pages, $35.00 In Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization,” Europe rediscovers culture in the ruins of Greece and Rome. In Daniel Beer’s “The House of the Dead,” the Tsars bury Russia in the rubble of a penal system. Penal colonies were a convenient way of dealing with…

In late December, just days after Rex Ryan was fired as coach of the Buffalo Bills, Marv Levy told an Albany radio station he would “consider it” if asked to come back and lead his former team. The Hall of Fame coach quickly qualified his answer: “I’d do it,” he said, “but I’m not deluding myself to think an offer would come.” That quick exchange create…

“Huck Out West” by Robert Coover, Norton, 308 pages, $26.95 It isn’t supposed to work this way: some of the finest work by formerly committed experimental postmodernists is not supposed to come out of them in their mid-80’s. They’re supposed to be ignorable, unambitious old geezers now lucky to still be stringing sentences together--artists content to sit on a…

NONFICTION Somewhere In France:  the World War I Letters and Journal of Private Frederick A. Kittleman By Thomas J. Schaeper State University Of New York Press 141 pages, $16.95 Professor of history Thomas J. Schaeper of Saint Bonaventure University has achieved a stellar place in the annals of writing about the history of war. He does this with his excelle…