The Book Report: Washington Post critic Ron Charles (March 17)

By Washington Post book critic Ron Charles

This month’s books take us from pre-Civil War America to the modern-day politics, the rise of Silicon Valley, and the future of the planet.



For 140 years, people have been reading, praising and condemning “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Well, get ready to see Mark Twain’s classic in a strikingly different light.

Percival Everett, the author of “Erasure” (the novel that inspired the Academy Award-winning film “American Fiction”), has just published a new book called “James” (Doubleday).

It retells “Huckleberry Finn” from the perspective of Huck’s enslaved friend, Jim. And believe me, that one change changes everything.

With this comic, sometimes terrifying story, Everett delivers a sharp satire of racism, and more than one shocking surprise. 

READ AN EXCERPT: “James” by Percival Everett

“James” by Percival Everett (Doubleday), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

Also by Percival Everett: “Dr. No” (Book excerpt)


Hogarth Books

“Great Expectations” – no, not that one – is a new novel by Vinson Cunningham, a theater critic for The New Yorker. Inspired by his own experiences, it tells the story of a young man who gets a job as a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of a Black senator from Illinois. Now, the candidate is never named, but you’ll figure it out from Cunningham’s pitch-perfect descriptions.

The real subject, though, is this thoughtful narrator, raised in a Pentecostal church, looking at the candidate and his wealthy donors, and trying to figure out what kind of man he’ll become in a nation woven from money and faith.

READ AN EXCERPT: “Great Expectations” by Vinson Cunningham

“Great Expectations” by Vinson Cunningham (Hogarth), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

Vinson Cunningham at The New Yorker


Random House

Téa Obreht has written magical tales involving tigers in the Balkans and camels in the Arizona Territory. Her new novel, “The Morningside” (Random House), is set in a future ravaged by climate change.

An 11-year-old girl named Silvia has immigrated with her mother to an island city that will remind you of New York. There they live with Silvia’s aunt who’s in charge of a once-grand high-rise apartment building.

But unable to go to school, Silvia turns her curious mind to her strange neighbors – particularly one woman who owns three unusual dogs that may turn into men during the day. 

READ AN EXCERPT: “The Morningside” by Téa Obreht

“The Morningside” by Téa Obreht (Random House), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and


Simon & Schuster

Kara Swisher has been chronicling the wonders and shenanigans of Silicon Valley since people were dialing up AOL to hear “You’ve got mail.”

Now, in her new memoir, “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story” (Simon & Schuster), Swisher takes us through her journey as a reporter who not only covered the rise of the Web, but became one of its leading voices – even as she became increasingly disillusioned with the arrogance of Internet billionaires and their reckless empires.

All the usual suspects are here – Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and others – along with Swisher’s signature bravado and insightful criticism.

READ AN EXCERPT: “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story” by Kara Swisher

“Burn Book: A Tech Love Story” by Kara Swisher (Simon & Schuster), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

Kara Swisher, host of the podcast On with Kara Swisher and co-host of Pivot

For more suggestions on what to read, contact your librarian or local bookseller. 

That’s it for the Book Report. I’m Ron Charles. Until next time, read on!

For more info: 

For more reading recommendations, check out these previous Book Report features from Ron Charles: 

Produced by Robin Sanders and Roman Feeser.

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