Book Article

Paperback Picks

See what we thought of ''Crossing the River,'' ''Julian's House,'' ''Burn Marks,'' and more

Paperback picks for March 22, 1991

CROSSING THE RIVER Fenton Johnson
Martha Bragg Pickett, the tenacious heroine of Johnson's first novel (1989), is so real she makes the steel magnolias of most Southern novels seem wan and wilted. Johnson's Kentucky is equally fresh — and he never overdoes the quaintness. A-

BARBARIANS AT THE GATE: THE RISE OF RJR NABISCO Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
The story of the Nabisco takeover — the biggest in Wall Street history — is the basis for the best of the big-deal books. Even more than Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, this 1990 nonfiction best-seller captures '80s avarice in all its glory. Cagey characters, punchy writing, a plot with a beat — you don't have to be a business type to understand how this cookie crumbled. A

JULIAN'S HOUSE Judith Hawkes
Curl up; this is something you've been waiting for — an intelligent page turner. Hawkes' 1989 tale of a young couple and the house that haunts them is so engaging that you never question the ghostly goings-on. If ghosts exist, this must be how they behave. A-

BURN MARKS Sara Paretsky
Paretsky's flinty, rueful private eye, V.I. Warshawski, has grown more flesh-and-bloodily complex with each of her no-nonsense investigations into insurance scams and municipal cover-ups. In 1990's Burn Marks, her sixth outing, she proves once again irascibly irresistible as family ties pull her into an ugly arson and murder case. A-

BECAUSE IT IS BITTER, AND BECAUSE IT IS MY HEART Joyce Carol Oates
Oates — possibly the finest realistic novelist of her generation — is at the peak of her remarkable powers in this 1990 novel. Set in the black and white communities of a decaying industrial city in upstate New York in the late '50s and early '60s, it is the story behind the death of ''Little Red'' Garlock, ''sixteen years old, skull smashed soft as a rotted pumpkin and body dumped into the Cassadaga River.'' A

Originally posted Mar 22, 1991