Thursday, February 2, 2023

Supernatural Western, Hoops Wisdom, Circus History: Mitch Kaplan’s Latest Book Picks

This month’s picks offer absorbing accounts of a complicated queer family, the birth of the American circus and a Heat star’s three-plus decades of wisdom.


With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Miami’s own Kristen Arnett, whose Twitter handle identifies her as a “writer, librarian, lesbian willie nelson,” returns with his this sophomore novel, two years after her breakout hit Mostly Dead Things. Critics have lauded the piercing and authentic humor of With Teeth, an unsentimental look at queerness and developmental disability in a complicated 21st century family. Sammie, who works from home, tries to raise her autistic-coded son Samson while her jet-setting, breadwinner wife Monika is mostly absent. Her marriage teetering, and mostly afraid of her son, Sammie finds emotional (and maybe sexual?) release in supporting characters, some of whom offer colorful first-person chapters amid the generally third-person account of Sammie’s modern life. Autographed copies are available through Books & Books.

The Ten Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin

Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers have already been showered upon this lightning bolt of a debut from Tom Lin, a graduate student at the University of California, Davis. The post-Civil War supernatural western follows an orphaned son of Chinese immigrants who is raised as an enforcer by the leader of a California crime syndicate. His attempts to extricate himself from that life and pursue happiness with his paramour, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, are cut short when the tycoon captures and conscripts him into brutal labor on a railroad. With revenge on his mind, Ming Tsu hatches a plan to escape, with help from a blind clairvoyant and a troupe of magic-show performers with special powers. That’s a lot of plot—and more than enough elements to make this the summer’s most potentially riveting beach read. Read it now, before it becomes a movie or miniseries.


Battle For the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus by Les Standiford

The American circus isn’t much in fashion anymore; abusing animals for our entertainment isn’t as kosher as it once was. But there was a time when it captivated the imaginations of millions, and led to a cinematic rivalry between its chief progenitors. Prolific Pinecrest resident Les Standiford, whose previous historical investigations explored Mar-a-Lago, Henry Flagler’s railroad and the origins of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, finds in Battle For the Big Top a quintessential and cutthroat story of American entrepreneurship, in which the innovations of Bailey, Barnum and Ringling exceeded their individual egos and created an institution. This book drops next week; Books & Books can supply autographed copies for preorder.


Letters to a Young Athlete by Chris Bosh

If you’ve been wondering how Miami Heat All-Star and two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh has been spending his days since a rare medical condition ended his basketball career prematurely, here is a partial answer: an elegant memoir with an epistolary structure inspired by two of his favorite books, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Wynton Marsalis’ To a Young Jazz Musician: Letters From the Road. In it, Bosh shares the wisdom he has accrued throughout his inspiring journey from his teenage years in Dallas, balancing hoops with his high-school robotics club, through his ascent to the Heat’s Big Three powerhouse and the existential moment when his playing career ended “in a doctor’s office in the middle of the afternoon.” A forward by Pat Riley begins the journey.

For more of Boca magazine’s arts and entertainment coverage, click here.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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