Washington Post book critic Ron Charles

If you’re looking for something to read next, here are a few titles I’ve been enjoying lately:

Pantheon books

The United States holds about two million of our countrymen in prisons and jails. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya has written a novel so shocking and moving that it may just awaken us to the full dimension of this tragedy.

“Chain Gang All-Stars” (Pantheon) is a devastating satire of our criminal system and our enthusiasm for violence. The story presents a world where prisoners are used as players in a deadly and lucrative sports competition called BattleGround.

Can any player survive this competition?

Can a society survive that treats people the way we do?

READ THE PASSAGE: “Chain-Gang All-Stars” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenia

“Chain Gang All-Stars” Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya (Pantheon), in hardcover, e-book and audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indie




Tom Hanks has long been one of the most beloved and talented actors in the country. Now he’s also going to be a best-selling author. His new book is called that “The Making of Another Major Cinematic Masterpiece” (Knopf).

It’s a love letter to the industry and an utterly charming story about the strange interplay of luck and hope, and especially all the hard work that goes into bringing an idea to the screen.

READ THE PASSAGE: “The Making of Another Masterpiece” by Tom Hanks

“The Making of Another Major Cinematic Masterpiece” by Tom Hanks (Knopf), in hardcover, large print, e-book, and audio, available May 9 via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indie

Follow through Tom Hanks on Instagram


Anonymous press

There is April National Poetry Monthand World Autism Awareness Monthand the two items go together beautifully “The Story of a Poem” (Unnamed Press), Matthew Zapruder’s new memoir about raising an atypical child.

When Zapruder, a famous writer, discovered that his son would take a completely different path in life, suddenly everything about fatherhood, success and the future had to be radically rethought.

“What is the connection,” asks Zapruder, “between composing poems and learning to be the father of this atypical child?”

In his memoir, the answers to these questions are raw, thoughtful, and deeply inspiring.

READ THE PASSAGE: “The story of one poem” by Matej Zapruder

“The Story of a Poem” Matthew Zapruder (Unnamed Press), in hardcover and e-book formats, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indie



River embankment

I know it’s hard to imagine, but “The Last Animal” (Riverhead Books) by Ramona Ausubel is like a cuter, poignant version of Jurassic Park.

It’s about a scientist and her two daughters who get involved in an illegal scheme to recover a baby woolly mammoth that the world hasn’t seen in about ten thousand years.

This story about a shaggy elephant is as much about surviving family grief as it is about living in a world doomed to climate change. And yet “The Last Animal” flies with all the incredible buoyancy of a pterodactyl.

READ THE PASSAGE: The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel

“The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel (Riverhead Books), in hardcover, large print, e-book and audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indie


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

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

For more information:

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

Produced by Robin Sanders and Roman Fizer.


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