Ambition is the name of the game on this week’s list of recommended books. “Ramp Hollow” tells the centuries-long story of Appalachia. A biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of “Little House on the Prairie,” doubles as a sweeping work of Western American history. John Banville attempts no less than channeling Henry James, in a sequel to “The Portrait of a Lady.” With a month left to go before New Year’s resolutions, the lesson to take from these authors might be: Aim high.
Daily Books Editor and Staff Writer
RAMP HOLLOW: The Ordeal of Appalachia, by Steven Stoll. (Hill and Wang, $30.) Stoll’s book is a powerful and outrage-making analysis of the forces, over centuries, that have shaped Appalachia. “ ‘Ramp Hollow’ is not ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ redux,” our critic Dwight Garner writes. Stoll “does not relate his own story, and his book is not especially warm to the touch. But as economic history it is gravid and well made.”
THE WATER WILL COME: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, by Jeff Goodell. (Little, Brown, $28.) In “The Water Will Come,” Goodell, whose previous books include “Big Coal” and “How to Cool the Planet,” visits cities around the globe in peril because of climate change. “After this year’s calamitous flooding in Houston and the Caribbean, ‘The Water Will Come’ is depressingly well-timed,” our critic Jennifer Senior writes, “though I’m guessing all good books about this subject will be from now on.”
THE LOVER, WARTIME NOTEBOOKS and PRACTICALITIES, by Marguerite Duras. (Everyman’s Library, $30.) In this collection of three books, our critic Parul Sehgal writes, “We get as complete a portrait as we can hope for: the writer the world knows (‘The Lover’ was a global best seller); the one performing her public role (she’s very much the literary grande dame in the chatty essays in ‘Practicalities’); and the one at work, spurring herself on in notebooks that an editor called Duras’s ‘workshop, gymnasium, kitchen, treasure chest.’ ”
PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser. (Metropolitan/Holt, $35.) This thoroughly researched biography of the “Little House” author, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017, perceptively captures Wilder’s extraordinary life and legacy, offering fresh interpretations of Western American history along the way.